I don’t think the authorities are going to arrest Katherine Russell Tsarnaeva just because she had a conversation with her husband Tamerlan Tsarnaev after it became known that he was a suspect. It is not clear that that would be actionable, and more importantly, she is a somewhat sympathetic figure, a grieving widow with a 3-year old child. Going after her with a vengeance, as with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his ethnic friends, could risk loss of the good will the case against them now enjoys with the public. But that does not mean her existence can’t be used for propaganda purposes.
Consider the context. The arrest of the friends a few days ago, together with the publication of a supposedly damning photo of them together with the surviving Tsarnaev, did generate wall-to-wall cable coverage for half a day or so, but that quickly died down in favor of fare like the Jodi Arias case and an NBA player coming out. Leaking the claim that the brothers were going to attack the 4th of July to the New York Times on Thursday night did not generate anywhere near as much play (possibly because the story itself said that the FBI doubted “Tsarnaev’s” claim that the bombs were ready too early to wait for that event).
Meanwhile, the problems of the case have not gone away. It is true that the State Medical Examiner has effectively backed the official story of Tamerlan’s death as a result of a shootout coupled with being run over, in spite of a the existence of a video (discussed in my previous posts on this case) that appears to show him being taken into custody in a fairly healthy state. However, both his family and, it appears, Dzhokhar’s defense team have now demanded an independent autopsy, and who knows what that will show.
And although the nutty conspiracy theories that have inevitably turned up (such as the claim that the entire bombing was staged, with phony victims taken to an “Israeli-controlled” hospital) are easy to dismiss, some other problems with what happened that day are not. Already a few days afterward the conservative Washington Times wondered (h/t Provelt) what personnel from federal government security contractor Craft International were doing at the marathon in full gear, one of whom was seen using some kind of measuring instrument after the explosion. Did they expect something to happen? And although the websites that habitually bundle all contrary evidence of whatever credibility into a single alternative narrative, such as this one (h/t wingspan), have certainly been active in this case, some of the bundled components are not easy to dismiss, such as one already double amputee made to look like his injury occurred at the event. Other bundlers have included claims that witnesses said they had been told to expect a drill, with nothing to worry about.
Was the Boston bombing perhaps a drill gone bad?
Well, after waiting some six years, suddenly three days ago the Rhode Island police released a mugshot of Katherine Russell associated with a 2007 shoplifting arrest. The charge itself was dismissed after she paid a fine and did community service, but photographs are forever in our digital age, and this one did get considerable play on cable yesterday.
And then there was this “bombshell.” The authorities engineered another leak, this time to the Washington Post, that questionable material had been found on Tsarnaeva’s computer as well as her husband’s, specifically al-Qaeda’s Inspire magazine and “other radical Islamist” material. (You and I can be radical, but one can’t be radical while being Muslim, just as you and I can walk down the street in some areas of NYC as long as we’re not African-Anerican or Latino.) WaPo dutifully front-paged the article yesterday, and this morning I just saw the irrepressible Rep. Peter King (R-NY) tell CNN that in his understanding the FBI thinks more people are part of the “conspiracy.”
Married couples regularly use each other’s computers, but of course that does not matter when you are dealing with “radical Islamist terrorists.”
I wonder what’s next.
Update Monday, May 6, 9:00 AM Eastern. The specific example cited above of “one already double amputee made to look like his injury occurred at the event” has been discredited; see the diligent work by shekissesfrogs at comment #82 below.