Yesterday reports emerged that Tamerlan Tsarnaev may have been radicalized by a Muslim friend known as “Misha” … and by the Alex Jones conspiracy website Infowars. (More)

Homegrown Radicalism

We don’t yet know the whole story behind the Tsarnaev brothers’ attack on the Boston Marathon last week. According to law enforcement sources speaking anonymously to the New York Times, Dzokhar Tsarnaev has denied that any foreign or domestic group was involved in the plot:

The investigation into the bombings is still in its earliest stages, and federal authorities were still in the process of corroborating some of the admissions that law enforcement officials said were made by the surviving suspect in the attacks, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19. But they said some of his statements suggested that the two brothers could represent the kind of emerging threat that federal authorities have long feared: angry and alienated young men, apparently self-trained and unaffiliated with any particular terrorist group, able to use the Internet to learn their lethal craft.

The Washington Post offered a similar report:

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe an ongoing investigation, said Dzhokhar and his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was killed by police as the two attempted to avoid capture, do not appear to have been directed by a foreign terrorist organization.

Rather, the officials said, the evidence so far suggests they were “self-radicalized” through Internet sites and U.S. actions in the Muslim world. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has specifically cited the U.S. war in Iraq, which ended in December 2011 with the removal of the last American forces, and the war in Afghanistan, where President Obama plans to end combat operations by the end of 2014.

“How did USA-hating Tsarnaev brothers become US citizens?”

Many people have been asking that question, in various ways, over the past few days. The BPI Squirrel offered one such question on Twitter:

Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s citizenship was held up because he had been interviewed by the FBI in 2011, but Dzokhar Tsarnev became a U.S. citizen on September 11, 2012, the eleventh anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and the same day as the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. That date was sheer coincidence, as naturalization ceremonies are scheduled in advance by the Immigration Service. Yet Judicial Watch said the date of the ceremony added insult to injury.

“The federal government trying to connect me to tragedies.”

Tamerlan Tsarnaev seems to have been the leader of the plot. A former Golden Gloves regional boxing champion, he turned toward a more fundamentalist strain of Islam sometime after 2009. The details are still sketchy, but family members cite an as-yet-unidentified friend known only as “Misha” as Tamerlan’s spiritual mentor. But that AP story hints at another source of radicalization, the Alex Jones conspiracy website Infowars:

Tamerlan took an interest in Infowars, a conspiracy theory website. Khozhugov said Tamerlan was interested in finding a copy of the book “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” the classic anti-Semitic hoax, first published in Russia in 1903, that claims a Jewish plot to take over the world.

“He never said he hated America or he hated the Jews,” Khozhugov said. “But he was fairly aggressive toward the policies of the U.S. toward countries with Muslim populations. He disliked the wars.”

One of the brothers’ neighbors, Albrecht Ammon, recently recalled an encounter in which Tamerlan argued about U.S. foreign policy, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and religion.

Ammon said Tamerlan described the Bible as a “cheap copy” of the Quran, used to justify wars with other countries.

“He had nothing against the American people,” Ammon said. “He had something against the American government.”

Jones both embraced and denied the connection yesterday:

“It’s just standard,” Jones said. “Anyone you talk to is familiar with my show. When I go out in public, half the people I meet in this country and in other countries too say they listen to my show. The show is bigger than the mainstream media admits.”

Jones – whose site has peddled conspiracy theories about the Boston Marathon bombing and suggested that Tsarnaev is innocent – conceded that Tsarnaev “may have actually been a listener.”

“He could be a listener,” Jones said. “It could be true. I’ve talked to the family and most of them are listeners. My show is anti-terrorism and my show exposes that most of the events we’ve seen have been provocateured.”
[…]
“I’ve seen this before,” Jones said. “The federal government trying to connect me to tragedies. That’s the media and the government’s own conspiracy theories.”

“I don’t care if a drone kills him or a policeman kills him.”

That’s how Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said the government should handle a liquor store robbery, in an interview on the Fox Business Network reported by The Hill:

Here’s the distinction — I have never argued against any technology being used against having an imminent threat an act of crime going on. If someone comes out of a liquor store with a weapon and $50 in cash, I don’t care if a drone kills him or a policeman kills him, but it’s different if they want to come fly over your hot tub, or your yard just because they want to do surveillance on everyone, and they want to watch your activities.

Yes, that’s the same Sen. Paul who said this in his much-ballyhooed filibuster last month:

I will speak as long as it takes, until the alarm is sounded from coast to coast that our Constitution is important, that your rights to trial by jury are precious, that no American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty by a court.

Needless to say, Sen. Paul promptly backtracked in a statement released yesterday:

My comments last night left the mistaken impression that my position on drones had changed.

Let me be clear: it has not. Armed drones should not be used in normal crime situations. They only may only be considered in extraordinary, lethal situations where there is an ongoing, imminent threat. I described that scenario previously during my Senate filibuster.

Additionally, surveillance drones should only be used with warrants and specific targets.

Fighting terrorism and capturing terrorists must be done while preserving our constitutional protections. This was demonstrated last week in Boston. As we all seek to prevent future tragedies, we must continue to bear this in mind.

“They shouldn’t just drop a hellfire missile on your café experience.”

But here’s the bigger point: in his filibuster, Sen. Paul repeatedly warned that the U.S. government might use to kill Americans at coffee shops. He even tweeted about that dire threat in the midst of his own filibuster:

Like Jones, I’m sure Sen. Paul would deny any connection between his paranoid, anti-government raving and the radicalism of Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Yet both bring us back to the question tweeted above: “How did USA-hating Tsarnaev brothers become US citizens?”

I think that question has it backward. We should frame the question in the other direction: “Why do so many Americans hate our government?

No, I don’t blame Alex Jones or Sen. Rand Paul for inspiring the Boston bombings. I blame them – and others, like New Hampshire state Rep. Stella Temblay (R) – for nurturing the fear and hatred of government that fertilizes the homegrown radicalism of “angry and alienated young men.”

Of course they don’t intend to inspire such terrorists. Jones, like many others, sells anti-government paranoia for profit. Senator Paul and Rep. Temblay, like many others, peddle it for political gain.

They sow the wind, and we reap the whirlwind.

+++++

Happy Wednesday!