In response to a motion from Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s attorneys to suppress information gathered from his hospital interrogation, the Department of Justice has filed a response that once again raises questions as to whether the Boston Marathon bombers had at least philosophical assistance from organized terrorists. The defense team wanted Tsarnaev’s responses thrown out because of the medication taken by Tsarnaev after his capture and the pain he was enduring during the long hours of interrogation. As part of their response, the DoJ revealed that Tsarnaev had written a statement taking credit for the bombing on the inside of the boat in which he hid, and that the FBI felt that the language looked pretty familiar — and explained why they invoked the national-security exception at the beginning of the interrogation.

Boston’s CBS affiliate covered the release late last night:

* The note Tsarnaev wrote in pencil on the inside of the boat where he was found hiding underscored the possible involvement of a terrorist group. Tsarnaev wrote:

I’m jealous of my brother who ha[s] [re]ceived the reward of jannutul Firdaus (inshallah) before me. I do not mourn because his soul is very much alive. God has a plan for each person. Mine was to hide in this boat and shed some light on our actions. I ask Allah to make me a shahied (iA) to allow me to return to him and be among all the righteous people in the highest levels of heaven. He who Allah guides no one can misguide. A[llah Ak]bar!

The US Government is killing our innocent civilians but most of you already know that. As a [UI] I can’t stand to see such evil go unpunished, we Muslims are one body, you hurt one you hurt us all. Well at least that’s how muhhammad (pbuh) wanted it to be [for]ever, the ummah is beginning to rise/[UI] has awoken the mujahideen, know you are fighting men who look into the barrel of your gun and see heaven, now how can you compete with that. We are promised victory and we will surely get it. Now I don’t like killing innocent people it is forbidden in Islam but due to said [UI] it is allowed. All credit goes [UI].

Stop killing our innocent people and we will stop.

This writing, which bears hallmarks of al-Q’aeda-inspired rhetoric, suggested that Tsarnaev might have received instruction from a terrorist group. In addition, the fact that Tsarnaev used the word “we” (i.e. “We are promised victory and we shall surely get it. . . . Stop killing our innocent people and we will stop.) suggested that others might be poised to commit similar attacks and that Tsarnaev was urging them on.

* Before hiding in the boat, Tsarnaev smashed both of his cell phones to avoid being located through them. One of them appeared to be a “burner” phone: it contained a SIM card purchased the day before the Marathon and was used by Tsarnaev on April 15 to coordinate the attacks with his brother. These basic elements of apparent terrorist tradecraft provided additional grounds for believing that Tsarnaev had received training and direction from a terrorist group.

In short, the facts and circumstances known to law enforcement at the time they interviewed Tsarnaev provided ample reason to believe that the Tsarnaevs did not act alone; that others might have radicalized them, directed them, trained them, assisted them, and/or concealed them; and that these others might be planning or poised to carry out additional attacks. Finding out if there were other bombs, other bombers, or others plotting similar and coordinated attacks was a public safety matter of the utmost urgency.

Indeed. The defense wanted to argue that Tsarnaev had already assured them that nothing else was going on, but one can forgive the FBI and the DoJ for not just taking Tsarnaev’s word for that. As the DoJ argues in the beginning of the motion, the Supreme Court has already ruled that public safety and national security take precedence over waiting for a suspect to feel better before interrogation (Chavez v Martinez). Besides, the prosecutors don’t plan on using those initial statements in court anyway.

The length of the interrogation was necessitated by a tracheostomy, which slowed down the ability to ask questions and get clear answers, the DoJ further argued:

Suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev “readily admitted his own involvement” in the 2013 bombings at the Boston Marathon “from the moment the agents began questioning” him, federal prosecutors said in a court filing Wednesday.

The prosecution refuted the defense’s claims that such statements – made from Mr. Tsarnaev’s hospital bed at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston in the hours after his arrest – are inadmissible in court because the federal agents had not informed him of his right to an attorney. …

The prosecution further insisted that “the length of the questioning was not designed to break down Tsarnaev’s will to resist so that he would confess,” but rather was necessitated by the suspect’s need for frequent breaks and difficulty speaking due to a tracheostomy.

ABC follows up today on the possibility of coordination:

But ABC News reported last month that many senior current and former counterterrorism officials — including former Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis, Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul and former Joint IED Defeat Organization director Army Lt. Gen. Michael Barbero — remain skeptical that the Tsarnaevs built their bombs solely from instructions they found posted online.

A side by side comparison last year of the pressure cooker IED design found in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s 2010 debut issue of “Inspire” magazine with evidence collected in Boston showed significant differences in the design and construction, according to analysis by the FBI’s Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center, ABC News reported last month. …

Searches afterward of their residences, vehicles and other places they had frequented found no trace of the fine black powder siphoned from fireworks that were used in their IEDs, “again strongly suggesting that others had built, or at least helped the Tsarnaevs build, the bombs,” the government filing stated.


This motion by the defense looks like a clear loser, but then again, so does their case. The DoJ motion still doesn’t clearly answer the question it raises — what help, if any, did the Tsarnaevs get from organized terrorists? Perhaps the trial will answer that question in the end.