Tag: Boston

Charles Ramsey and Ruslan Tsarni Should Get A TV Show

One of the almost refreshing things to emerge from the Boston bombing was Ruslan Tsarni. Uncle Ruslan didn’t waste a moment in front of the cameras, blasting his nephews as losers, expressing his love for America and conveying his embarrassment for what had happened. It was rare to see someone not going with the default “more in sorrow than anger” mood that tends to characterize these events. He said what I think a lot of people were thinking.

By now, you’ve heard about the three girls who were imprisoned in a basement in Ohio. A video interview with the neighbor who discovered and rescued one of the girls is rapidly going viral. It is worth a watch as he expresses amazement and what happened and uncorks a number of great spontaneous lines (“I knew something was wrong when a little, pretty white girl ran into a black man’s arms. Something is wrong here. Dead giveaway.”)

I was thinking about this in the car this morning and realized just why those two videos are so much fun. It’s because genuine emotion and spontaneous expression are so rarely shown in the media. Our culture has become relentlessly programmed and focus-group tested. From “reality TV” that isn’t real to movies that are statistically tweaked for mass appeal, there’s a whole industry out there designed to crush spontaneity.

Our politicians have become so sanitized and so on-message that they have made the Information Age boring as hell. Everyone has the same talking points, everyone is on a script. Barack Obama is the apotheosis of this: everything he says sounds it has been passed through the political equivalent of Autotune.

Yeah, America. Boo, cynicism. Government can’t solve everything but it can solve many things. Bipartisanship. It’s all Bush’s fault.

Of course, Obama also illustrates why the media has become so dominated by focus-group blahness. On the rare occasions when Obama does speak off the cuff, he often sticks his foot in it (red lines, bitter clingers, etc.)

Chris Christie is the opposite of this in many ways. He’s always saying what he thinks and, often, what everyone knows deep down. But his honesty is often a double-edged sword. The same statements that make conservatives cheer make liberals cringe. And when he earnestly praised Obama’s Sandy response, the outcry was fierce. Rand Paul is the same way, often saying exactly what he means and contradicting his own party. But this has also made him enemies on the Left, particularly with some of his bumbling comments on racial issues.

But, as human beings, we are far closer to the Christie/Paul model than we are to the Obama one. No one sees an event — whether it’s something trivial or something momentous — and carefully maps out their feelings. They react. Sometimes they overreact. Sometimes they say things they don’t really mean. Sometimes they say and do things that contradict what they really believe. But we’re not media creatures and never have been.

Tsarni and Ramsey are a great contrast against a media that’s constantly wringing its hands over what drives men to do evil things and always telling us that horrible things could happen at any moment. Basically, neither man seems to give a shit about being “on message”. Uncle Ruslan was angry and appalled by the bombing. He didn’t somberly pontificate on what drove his nephews to kill and maim a bunch of innocent folk. He was outraged and said so. Charles Ramsey didn’t worry about whether someone would think his comments were racially insensitive. He was dumfounded by what had happened and said so.

More of this, please. Life isn’t scripted. Why should everything in the media be?

Three More Arrests

I’m slammed today at work, but here’s a thread to discuss the arrests today in Boston that are apparently related to the marathon attack. Right now the charge is lying to investigators. That sounds less like something they’ll be prosecuted for than it a is a charge to take them into custody while the feds figure out what to really charge them with. Reports are that they helped destroy evidence. But it’s not clear that they knew what they were doing (Tsarnaev called them when he became a suspect and asked them to throw out stuff). I suspect that Dershowitz is right and what the feds are really after is getting these guys to talk about what they may or may not know about a larger terror connection.

Updates as events warrant.

Ken from Popehat is on it:

Very briefly, the affidavit alleges that Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov saw emptied-out fireworks in accused bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s room, concluded that he was one of the Boston Marathon bombers, and decided to dispose of the container of hollowed-out fireworks, apparently to protect Tsarnaev. Phillipos, the FBI alleges, gave multiple statements and initially lied about what he knew of actions by Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov.

Sounds serious.

The Tsarnaev Follies

The last week has had a number of interest revelations about the two men who bombed Boston and, apparently, intended to bomb New York as well. I’ve been accumulating these articles for a week and waiting for a common thread to emerge. And I think I’ve found it.

The first thing that emerges from the reporting is that Uncle Ruslan had it right the first time he spoke to the press: these guys were losers. The elder Tsarnaev was on welfare for a while and only got off because his wife was apparently working two jobs. He has some vague boxing ambitions but doesn’t seem to have put the effort in that athletic success requires. The younger one was in school but was a genial pothead at best. While it’s possible they had some training — certainly the bombs showed an unusual degree of sophistication — they bumbled around quite a bit. They lingered around Boston, had a single gun to take on the cops and the elder brother died when his younger panicked brother accidentally ran over him trying to flee the police. Indeed, this is common in terrorists:

In describing the “adversary,” the case studies far more commonly use words like incompetent, ineffective, unintelligent, idiotic, ignorant, inadequate, unorganized, misguided, muddled, amateurish, dopey, unrealistic, moronic, irrational, foolish, and gullible. Many of the cases suggest that there is little exaggeration in the 2010 film, Four Lions, the impressive dark comedy about a band of hapless home-grown British terrorists.

Amazingly, the Boston perpetrators apparently thought they could somehow get away with their deed even though they chose to set their bombs off at the most-photographed spot on the planet at the time. Moreover, although they were not prepared to die with their bombs, they do not seem to have had anything that could be considered a coherent plan of escape. This rather bizarre inability to think about the aftermath of the planned deed is quite typical in the case studies. (Also commonly found: an inability to explain how killing a few random people would advance their cause.)

We don’t see it this way because we usually hear about terrorist success stories: 9/11, Boston, 7/7, etc. We don’t hear much about terrorists blowing themselves up with poorly designed bombs, groups hugs or stumbles over errant sheep. So I think the critical question here is not how these guys became radicalized or how they became bitter or whether their mommy hugged them enough as babies. The question is how they were able to succeed where so many of their idiotic misguided brethren failed. Was it training? Was it luck?

The other thing to emerge is that this didn’t exactly come out of left field. We received multiple warnings from the Russians who had wiretapped his mother and heard some vague jihadist murmurings. The elder brother was, in fact, on a watch list but was later taken off.

So why didn’t we pay more attention to him? Well, there are watch lists and there are watch lists. Philip Bump:

The terror watch list, as it’s known, isn’t really a watch list. For one thing, it isn’t regularly watched. For another, it’s not one list. It’s more of a set of hierarchical, integrated databases which are checked under various circumstances, most notably when individuals want to travel. According to Reuters, after he was interviewed by the FBI in 2011, Tsarnaev was added to the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, or TIDE, which is compiled by the National Counterterrorism Center. It’s a list that comprises over half a million names. “Because of its huge size,” Reuters reports, “U.S. investigators do not routinely monitor everyone registered there, said U.S. officials familiar with the database.”

In other words, there’s a sort of pyramid of terror investigation. At the bottom of the pyramid are hundreds of thousands of people who’ve come to the government’s attention for some reason. As the FBI and other agencies look into behavior and patterns, people can move up the pyramid — fewer people evincing more suspicious behavior — winnowing to a point once held by Osama bin Laden. Or, after a determined time, people can drop out of the pyramid entirely if they don’t behave in a way that raises suspicion. That’s the track Tsarnaev was on.

This is a problem we had on 9/11 and a problem we have had since. Our government is collecting astonishing amounts of information and considers the terrorist potential of hundreds of thousands of people. But it doesn’t really seem to have a good way — 12 years on from 9/11 — of figuring out which pieces of information are useful. Afterward, we can go back and say, “Ah, here, here and here. Why didn’t we see it?” But the ability of all that intelligence to predict terrorism seems limited at best.

(There are some other issues that I regard as meaningless, such as the judge advising Dzhokhar of his right not to testify against himself.)

I was contemplating all this last night and it finally came together. These guys were nobodies. One was a bum, the other was on his way to bumhood. They were flagged as potential risks but didn’t do anything to really grab the FBI’s attention. There are questions that still need to be asked: how did they learn to build the bomb and did the FBI miss anything important? Could this have been prevented with a better approach? All that will come out.

However, based on the current information, this seems to reinforce the reality that, in the end our citizens are our best line of defense. Our citizens have succeeded where other have failed. It was citizens who stopped United 93. It was citizens who stopped Richard Reid. It was citizens who stopped the undie bomber. It was citizens who stopped the Times Square Bomber. And it was citizens who snapped the pictures and gave the testimony that nailed these guys. Homeland Security will never design a system that can catch everyone, even if we didn’t care about civil liberties. No matter how intense a police state we create, dangerous people will slip through the cracks. Our last and best line of defense is 300 million people keeping their eyes open.

Shocker in Boston

Are you sitting down? You may be amazed to learn that the two men who blew up a marathon and had an extended shootout with cops did not have licenses for guns! In fact, they were ineligible to have gun permits (one was too young; the other had a domestic abuse conviction). In fact, some of the weapons they used may have been illegal in Massachusetts!! As Thrill pointed on Twitter, their bombs probably weren’t licensed either.

Just shocking.

Also, I have it on good authority that keeping wildlife, an amphibious rodent, for uh, domestic, you know, within the city – that ain’t legal either.

Not Giving In

One of the worst temptations after a high-profile crisis like Boston is to surrender some of our freedom for the illusion of safety. Perhaps this was justifiable after 9/11, when he had 2800 dead and weren’t sure what Al-Qaeda’s capabilities were. But even in that case, we can see now, after ten years, that we gave too much. Warrantless wiretapping, surveillance, no-fly lists, TSA, torture, the spectre of drones in American cities, the Patriot Act. The last time we gave an inch, the government took about ten miles.

In the wake of Boston, many pro-“security” pols are already beating the drums for more restrictions on our freedom. They are as shameless and as opportunistic as those who called for immediate gun control in the wake of Sandy Hook. They are hoping that, in the passion of the moment, we will give them something they have wanted for a long time whether or not it would have prevented this tragedy.

But the idea that we should have a 9/11-type surrender of freedom after Boston is simply absurd once you push aside the emotions of the last week. As horrible as the attack was, it killed and maimed fewer people than a good night on America’s highways. As scary as it is that terrorists might start going after “soft targets”, there are literally tens of thousands of mass gathering throughout the year in the United States. We simply can not protect all of them, no matter what we do. And, as we have found out with the powers we gave the government after 9/11, any powers we give the government now will quickly be used for other purposes.

In Boston, at least one bad idea was used and several more have been proposed in the interest of “public safety”. To tackle three of them:

Lockdown: For years, we have had a growing problem with schools locking down the minute they sense some danger, real or imagined. In Boston this week, we had the strange case of a (mostly) voluntary lockdown put out by the Governor. This lockdown included MTBA, which basically mandated the lockdown for anyone without a car (with corresponding hurt to the working poor).

Murderers, rapists and muggers are always on our streets. But for one idiot kid, we shut down a major American city? If I were him, I would have been delighted to see millions of people inconvenienced because the police couldn’t find me. The cost of the lockdown has been estimated between $1 and $3 billion (although I think those are wild overestimates). Was it worth that? Was it worth the precedent? Ironically, the kid was found because the lockdown was lifted and one man ventured out of house and saw something in his boat.

The motto for this week was “Boston strong”. And the people of Boston have indeed shown a sterling resilience. I’ve heard many say they plan to go to the marathon next year as a show of defiance. But what is strong about telling people to hide in their homes and not go out?

I was living in Baltimore when the Beltway Sniper was on the loose. We didn’t have any killings up there (although it turned he was staying there). But the sense of tension and fear was very palpable. Much more so than this week because no one had any idea who the sniper was. But we got out and went to work. The idea of shutting down anything simply wasn’t on.

Look, I get the flip side: if he’d had more guns and bombs, he might have gone into a public square and slaughtered dozens. But that danger always exists. Criminals have weapons. Terrorists have bombs. That we knew this one guy was dangerous does not make any other day of the week safe. If you know of a specific danger, you can call in more cops and warn citizens. In an extreme case, you can use the National Guard. In short, you can increase the number of alert and armed people who are out there and improve the odds. But having everyone cower in their homes? It’s not only a violation, it’s an ineffective one.

(More on this from Popehat.)

Surveillance:

One thing being pushed in the wake of Boston is more public surveillance. We are being told that we need more security cameras and more police access to security cameras.

Never mind that the clearest video of these guys came from a private store’s camera. Never mind that more images came from the public. Never mind that, with ubiquitous smart phones, it’s almost impossible not to be photographed every day. Never mind that the public cooperates any time something like this happens. Never mind that cameras have never delayed or stopped a terrorist attack: London is one of the most heavily surveilled cities in the world but that didn’t stop the 7/7 attacks. No, we need more cameras say the police staters.

The police state supporters have always wanted more cameras. They have been pushing them on us for decades using any crisis — the War on Drugs, 9/11, Boston — to push for more. They are constantly walking through the blood of the slain in their efforts to get everyone on camera every day. Of course, these cameras are rarely used for counter-terrorism. Like the Patriot Act powers, they are mostly used for ordinary crime, including drug crime. And we frequently find that they are abused for purposes that have no relation to crime.

I would think that the ease with which these guys were identified and the images that came in from the public would indicate that we have enough surveillance already.

Justice:

Remember when Rand Paul filibustered the Senate over the use of drones, worrying that the President’s power to kill would be extended into this country against American citizens? Remember how crazy everyone said he was, how paranoid?

Well, guess what? Lindsey Graham and John McCain are now calling for an American citizen captured on American soil with no obvious ties to any terrorist organization to be treated like an enemy combatant. They want to deny him a lawyer, deny his Miranda rights and basically detain him indefinitely.

Now do we see why Ron Paul wanted clarity on drones? Now do we see why he wanted clarity on targeted killing? Now do we see why we shouldn’t have opened the door to indefinite detention and denial of rights with Jose Padilla? Once you have started to carve out areas of the law that are exempt from Constitutional rights, those areas will expand and expand until they enclose everything.

No extremist links have been alleged in this case, let alone proven. There is no evidence that he is tied Al-Qaeda or any other group. There is little evidence this was part of a larger conspiracy. It’s not even clear what, if any, role their religion played in this. But McCain and Graham simply want him declared an enemy combatant because … well, because he’s a Muslim who killed and maimed a bunch of people. They now want the “battlefield” to enclose the entirety of the United States.

Constitutional rights are not popular the best of times. Every time a high-profile criminal is caught, some subset of the population gets annoyed that he gets a lawyer and jail time instead of being strung up at dawn. If the Bill of Rights were ever up for a vote, I doubt it woud get 50%. That is why those who do value civil liberties, who claim to revere the rights and liberties enshrined in our Constitution must never give an inch.

I don’t object to a temporary delay in Mirandizing this guy to make sure there are no more bombs out there (and, indeed, the FBI has apparently made some related arrests this morning). But once that is done — preferably within a day or two — he should be Mirandized and given a lawyer. He should be tried in a criminal court and thrown in jail for the rest of his life (Massachusetts has a death penalty on the books but has not used it for thirty years).

Mataconis:

We have courts because they are essential to the protection of the rule of law and the rights of individual citizens, and they are the method by which we dispense justice under rules that are designed as much to protect us as they are to protect criminal defendants. Treating Tsarnaev, a naturalized American citizen who has lived in this country since he was eight years old, treated no differently from men who were captured on battlefields in Afghanistan and are currently sitting in the prison complex at Guantanamo Bay where they are likely to remain for a very long time, is a perversion of that system of justice in the name of a haphazard system of non-justice that has risen up in the years since the September 11 attacks. If Tsarnaey is treated as an “enemy combatant” then it would mean that any American citizen could potentially receive the same designation if the government so chose, and that they could be subjected to the same deprivations of rights, including lack of access to counsel for extended periods of time. That’s a perversion of justice and a perversion of liberty.

Lindsey Graham and others in the Republican Party would have us believe that this weeks events in Boston were part of a war that began nearly twelve years ago with the attacks of September 11th. At the very least, this judgment is premature because we have absolutely no idea what the real story behind the Boston Marathon attacks actually is. We don’t know if the Tsarnaev brother were motivated by religion, by a political agenda, by an unspecific generalized hatred of the society they’d grown up in based on the fact that they hadn’t achieved what they believed they were entitled to, or by just a desire to cause destruction and pain to people. Even if the attacks were based on some kind of religious/political motivation, we don’t know if they were acting alone or if they were surrogates for others, either domestic or foreign. Ascribing, at this early date, these attacks to a “Global War On Terror” is both premature and, quite obviously, based only on the fact that they are Muslim men. That is clearly not sufficient grounds to strip an American citizen of his rights and throw him in the rat hole that is Guantanamo Bay.

Our legal system has served us well, although admittedly at times imperfectly, for two centuries now. Sacrificing the values it represents in the name of the “war on terror” would be a fatal error.

Bingo. Mirandize him, give him a lawyer, put him on trial. Those are his rights as an American. No matter what he’s done.