CBS: Tsarnaev laptop recovered

The missing laptop in the Boston Marathon bombing has been found, according to CBS and WTOP. Authorities hope that the laptop might provide clues to any other accomplices, or at the least to the pattern of radicalization that led to the bombing:

Investigators found the bag last week in a New Bedford landfill,CBS News’ Elaine Quijano reported. Sources tell CBS News the laptop has also been recovered.

So far, there’s no evidence the three had knowledge of the Boston plot in advance. However, one of them did say that about a month before the attack Dzhokhar Tsarnaev casually mentioned he knew how to make a bomb, Quijano reported.

None of the men entered a plea in court Wednesday. If convicted, Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov could face up to five years in prison. Phillipos could face up to eight years.

WTOP quotes from NBC’s Pete Williams:

A laptop tied to the Boston bombing suspects has been recovered and could provide important clues as authorities look into how the suspects were radicalized.

Pete Williams, NBC justice correspondent, says the FBI has the laptop, although investigators have not spoken publicly about the computer.

Both Williams and Bryan Bender, national security correspondent for the Boston Globe, spoke with WTOP on Thursday about the latest developments in the investigation.

“The laptop could be critical in learning how they became radicalized and how they learned to make the bombs,” Bender says. “(Investigators believe the suspects) became more religious, they became more inspired to do this attack through internet sites, perhaps by communicating with some jihadists overseas.”

The laptop would always have attracted the attention of investigators, but the fact that the Tsarnaevs discarded it makes it a lot more interesting.  There are easier (and less expensive) ways to erase data from a hard drive than by dumping it in a landfill if all you want to do is avoid embarrassment over your web-surfing history.  Throwing away a working laptop is a rather extreme act for a college student presumably living on a limited budget, and that means Dzhokhar had something on there he really needed to hide.

Whatever that was, it will come as a surprise to Tsarnaev’s former fling.  Mother Jones interviewed a UMD student who claims she had a (very) brief romance with the bomber, and says she’s shocked by his involvement.  He never expressed any strong religious views with her:

She got to know the group, she said, while hanging around campus with them, smoking pot and listening to music. She says her romantic relationship with Tsarnaev lasted for about two weeks. “I met him standing outside a building and honestly, his face was enough to capture my heart,” she explained, noting that lots of women fawned over him. “I walked right up to him and I was like, ‘Oh my God, you are adorable. Can we hang out?’ I’m very forward.”

Her nascent romance with Tsarnaev soon soured, though, after he invited her to come to his dorm room alone. “He wanted to go further than I did, and that made me uncomfortable, and I realized that that’s not the kind of person that I wanted to be around,” she says. “I don’t think that’s necessarily being a terrorist. I think that’s just called being a hands-y teenaged boy.”

She said she remains skeptical that Tsarnaev had a religious motive for carrying out the attack, as has been suggested in the context of his older brother’s apparent radicalization. “He never mentioned anything about religion,” she said. If he had been devoutly religious, he probably wouldn’t have become romantically entangled with her, she added, because she practices a different Eastern religion. “I just can’t see him being a radical jihadist just because of the nature of who he was. I don’t doubt that he did it, but the ‘why?’ behind it—I’m having difficulty believing the news.”

If anything, Tsarnaev’s friend Kadyrbayev may have been more religious, in her view. She described a falling out she had with Kadyrbayev a few months after meeting him. “I went out to a party and he made a comment about how my dress was kind of inappropriate because it was kind of revealing,” she says. “Other than that, I never got the vibe that he was a very conservative fellow.”

She told MJ’s Gavin Aronsen that Dzhokhar was definitely the leader of his little clique, which may explain why the three ended up as accessories after the fact:

Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov, the woman said, were part of a group of about five Russian-speaking friends at the university whom Tsarnaev was never without. “They all sort of idolized Jahar,” she said, using the name she and others knew Tsarnaev by. “Dias was probably the one closest to him.” She said that of the friends, Tsarnaev was the most popular and in touch with campus social life. “I cannot speak to the nature of their relationship because of the language barrier, however I did observe that Jahar was always the leader in his group.”

That may help explain why the two would’ve helped Tsarnaev dispose of evidence after the marathon bombing, as authorities now allege. Whether they did so, and what knowledge they may have had about the bombing, remains unclear.

But was it entirely after the fact?  The FBI will be understandably interested in that question.  CBS’ Jack Ford says that the initial charges here will be used for leverage to get more information from the three accomplices about Tsarnaev, but don’t think that they aren’t looking at why these three were so interested in erasing evidence after the bombing:

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