Tsarnaev charged with using weapon of mass destruction

6:52 PM, Apr 22, 2013   |    comments
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Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokar Tsarnaev (AP)

(USA Today) -- Dzhkokhar Tsarnaev was arraigned in the hospital Monday on federal charges in connection with the Boston Marathon bombings that left 3 people dead and more than 180 injured.

The U.S. attorney's office in Massachusetts said that Tsarnaev, 19, was charged with use of a weapon of mass destruction against persons and property in U.S. resulting in death. 

Two U.S. officials say the evidence suggests the Tsarnaev brothers were motivated by religion and worked alone.

READ | Federal criminal complaint against Tsarnaev

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Tsarnaev, 19, was unable to speak because of a possibly self-inflicted gunshot wound to his throat but was answering some of the investigators' questions in writing from his hospital bed at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Tsarnaev, who became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2012, was arrested Friday night after an intense five-day manhunt that kept Boston-area residents in a tense lockdown.

The other suspect in last Monday's attacks, Dzhokhar's 26-year- brother Tamerlan, was killed during a confrontation with police Thursday evening as the pair of suspects were stopped while driving through Watertown in separate cars.

Tamerlan, a legal U.S. resident, suffered gunshot wounds and injuries from detonating a suicide-bomb vest, but may have succumbed to injuries received when Dzhohkar ran over his body as he fled the scene in a carjacked SUV.

If convicted of the most serious terrorist-related charges, Tsarnaev could face the death penalty under federal statutes, although his age could be a mitigating factor in final sentencing.

Investigators initially chose not to read Tsarnaev his Miranda rights against self-incrimination, opting instead for a rare public safety exception in questioning him. Such exceptions are permitted if there is a need to protect the public from immediate danger.

ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero says the exception applies only when there's a continued threat to public safety and is "not an open-ended exception" to the Miranda rule.

Otherwise, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said on Monday Boston bombing suspect Dzokhar Tsarnaev will not be tried as an enemy combatant.

"He will not be treated as an enemy combatant," Carney said. "We will prosecute this terrorist through civilian system of justice. Under U.S. law, United States citizens cannot be tried in military commissions. It is important to remember since 9/11, we have used the federal court system to convict and incarcerate hundreds of terrorists."

Carney noted that the federal courts have been used as the venues for the prosecution of Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani-American citizen for the failed May 2010 Times Square car bombing and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian man known as the "underwear bomber" who tried to blow up a Detroit-bound flight on Christmas Day 2009.

He added, "The system has repeatedly proven it can successfully handle the threat we continue to face."

The latest turn in this case comes on a day when U.S. lawmakers raised questions about whether authorities missed warning signs about the immigrant brothers - and as Boston regained a semblance of normalcy nearly a week after the horrific attack.

Reps. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, and Pete King, R-N.Y., said Sunday that they want federal officials to explain why the elder brother was not pursued further after he was questioned by authorities in 2011.

The Russian government had asked for an investigation of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who died in a shootout Friday, out of concern that he had ties to militant separatist groups in southern Russia.

McCaul and King noted in a letter to the heads of the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director National Intelligence that the Boston bombings marks the fifth time in recent years that someone under FBI investigation has gone on to be involved in a terrorist attack. Other suspects that the FBI have questioned - but not detained - that have gone on to take part in violence include U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who would become al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's chief propagandist, and Nidal Hasan, the U.S. Army major charged with killing 13 people in 2009 at Fort Hood in Texas.

"They raise the most serious questions about the efficacy of federal counterterrorism efforts," McCaul and King wrote.

In addition, Sen. Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said Monday that a misspelling of Tamerlan Tsarnaev's name allowed his 2012 trip to Russia to go undetected by the FBI.

Graham said the suspect's six-month trip to Russia "never went into the system," despite warnings from Russia to the United that about Tsarnaev's radical Islamic leanings.

"He went over to Russia, but apparently when he got on the airplane, they misspelled his name, so it never went into the system that he actually went to Russia," Graham said during an appearance on Fox News, as quoted by Politico. Graham indicated that he got the information after speaking with FBI's assistant director.

Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a former FBI agent, defended the bureau's work.

"They had information from a foreign intelligence service that they were concerned about his possible radicalization," he said on the NBC's Meet the Press. "The FBI did their due diligence and did a very thorough job of trying to run that down, and then asked for some more help from that intelligence service to try to get further clarification, and unfortunately that intelligence service stopped cooperating." Rogers did not identify the intelligence agency.

At no time prior to the bombing were Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his brother, Dzhokhar - among the thousands contained on government watch lists - seen as potential terror suspects.

Philip Mudd, a former FBI and CIA counterterrorism official, said the Boston attacks more closely resemble "Columbine than any connection to al-Qaeda."

Referring to the 1999 Colorado high school shooting that involved two young attackers, Mudd said the Boston case similarly involves attackers armed with commonly available weapons and explosives who worked in a "closed cluster" that is most difficult for law enforcement to penetrate in advance.

Though authorities continue to search for possible broader international connections, Mudd said key aspects of the operation - the acquisition of widely available materials, the absence of an apparent escape plan, little attempt to conceal themselves and the apparent lack of major funding - all point to a more self-contained plot.

"These guys didn't even bother to obscure their faces," Mudd said.

Authorities are also trying to figure how and when the suspects may have been radicalized. While family members have said Tamerlan Tsarnaev had trouble adjusting to life in the USA, his brother, by all accounts, was popular and acclimated in Boston.

The suspect's uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, recalled in an interview with WUSA-TV in Washington that he had a falling out with Tamerlan Tsarnaev in 2009 after the young man spoke about "not ... having a sense in life" and that he believed his actions should be dictated by "God's will."
The two brother's activity on the Internet also suggest they had developed an interest in radical Islamist figures some time ago.

In August 2012, soon after authorities believe he returned from a six-month visit to Russia, the elder Tsarnaev created a YouTube channel with links to a number of videos with ties to radical Islamist causes. One features the firebrand Australian cleric Feiz Mohammed.

A militant group in war-torn Chechnya - Mujahideen of the Caucasus Emirate Province of Dagestan - took the step of issuing a statement on Sunday to disassociate itself with the Boston bombing suspects.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was active on Twitter, where most of his postings appeared to be innocent messages to friends. But the SITE Intelligence group, which monitors Islamist websites, notes that he followed someone with the account "Al_firdausiA," which translates to "the highest level of Paradise, Allah willing." Among that user's tweets was a message encouraging readers to listen to an audio series by the late radical terrorist Awlaki.

(USA Today)

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