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Russian intelligence and the Boston Marathon bombing

Special to WorldTribune.com

By Cliff Kincaid

The claim that the Russians somehow “warned” the U.S. about Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s radical Islamic connections has been accepted by most news organizations and commentators as established fact. But while U.S. intelligence agencies have a lot to explain, the Russian security services have been treated with kid gloves and even as the “good guys” in this affair.

Russian media, including the English-language propaganda channel Russia Today (RT), have been insisting that the U.S. is to blame for the Boston bombings because vague “warnings” from Moscow were ignored.
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It is reminiscent of when Lee Harvey Oswald, a pro-Castro Marxist who had traveled back and forth to Russia, assassinated President John F. Kennedy, and the Russian KGB promptly launched a disinformation campaign in the media blaming right-wingers in Dallas and the CIA for the murder. The Soviets — and the Cubans — were determined to obscure their links to the assassin.

The obvious question in this case is: If the Russian intelligence agencies were suspicious of the brother’s terror ties, why did they not arrest and imprison him?

The Moscow regime of Vladimir Putin, a former Soviet KGB officer, rules with an iron fist and has supposedly been waging a vicious war against Muslim terrorists within its own borders. So why would they let a suspected terrorist from America come and go at will? And why, if Tamerlan Tsarnaev had a grudge against the Russians over their handling of those Muslim regions in Russia, did he attack the U.S. and not Russia?

There is something about the Russian angle that doesn’t add up.

The claim about Russian “warnings” to the U.S. ignores the sensational evidence uncovered in the 2007 book, Blowing Up Russia, that the Russian security forces are behind much of the Islamic terrorism that supposedly originates in the Muslim regions of Russia. The book was “banned in Russia,” where journalists investigating the Kremlin get threatened or even murdered.

The book’s co-author, Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian intelligence agent, not only blamed Moscow for Islamic terrorism, but said that Al Qaida terrorist leader Ayman Al Zawahiri had been trained by the KGB and was an agent of the Russian security services. Litvinenko died in 2006 in London, where he had fled from the Russian regime, as a result of being poisoned by Russian intelligence on the orders of Russian President Putin. A film, “Poisoned by Polonium,” examines how the highly radioactive substance Polonium was used to kill him.

He gave an interview to a Polish newspaper in 2006 and said, “The bloodiest terrorists in the world were or are agents of the KGB-FSB.” The FSB is Russian’s Federal Security Service, a successor to the KGB.

“I can definitely say that the center of global terrorism is not in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan or the Chechen Republic,” he said. “The terrorist infection is spread worldwide from Lubyanka Square and the Kremlin cabinet.”

In other words, the Soviet-sponsored international terror networks of the 1980s did not go away, despite the collapse of the Soviet economic system.

In the U.S., after the Boston bombings, radio talk-show host Alex Jones made headlines by claiming that the attacks were a “false flag” intelligence operation staged by the U.S. Government, so that the bombings could be blamed on Islamists and the “war on terror” could expand at home and abroad.

But what if there were a Russian government hand in the bombings? What if Tamerlan Tsarnaev were a Russian agent?

The FBI says that it “reviewed its records and determined that in early 2011, a foreign government [Russia] asked the FBI for information about Tamerlan Tsarnaev.” The FBI says, “The request stated that it was based on information that he was a follower of radical Islam and a strong believer, and that he had changed drastically since 2010 as he prepared to leave the United States for travel to the country’s region to join unspecified underground groups.”

The statement said, “The FBI requested but did not receive more specific or additional information from the foreign government.”

It now appears, however, that the Russians had far more “information” about Tsarnaev than the FBI had. It looks like they did not share that information but were trying to determine what, if anything, the FBI and CIA knew about him.

The request was made before his reported trip to Russia in 2012. Yet Russia apparently already knew by then that he was “a follower of radical Islam and a strong believer” and wanted to join “underground groups.” How did Russia know this? We have since been told by the media that Russian “authorities” have turned over wire taps from 2011 of the Tsarnaev family talking to the older brother.

If the Russians had clean hands they would not be resorting to sensational claims about his travels and contacts in Russia, such as the report on the Russia Today (RT) propaganda channel that he was then under the control of the FBI. This appears to be the real “false flag” campaign.

Consider the report in the Russian government newspaper, Izvestia, that Tamerlan Tsarnaev attended “seminars” organized in Georgia, the former Soviet republic, by the U.S.-based Jamestown Foundation, where he was “recruited and trained in staging terrorist acts” against Russia.

The Jamestown Foundation “categorically rejects the content and premise” of the Izvestia report, the think tank said in a statement. “The story presented in the Izvestia article is entirely false and groundless. Our organization has never had any contact with the Tsarnaev brothers, and we have no record or knowledge of either of them ever attending any Jamestown event in Washington, DC, or elsewhere. Furthermore, Jamestown has never hosted any seminars to train terrorists or subversive agents.”

Significantly, the Jamestown Foundation has published an article by Valery Dzutsev, drawing attention to the sympathetic coverage of the parents of the Tsarnaev brothers by official Russian media. He writes, “On April 28, one of the country’s major TV channels, NTV, featured an interview with the mother of suspects, Zubeidat Tsarnaev, in which she again insisted that her sons had been ‘framed.’ The substantive part of the interview revealed little that was new, but what was interesting was the very fact that she was featured on a major Russian TV channel. This is normally not the way relatives of suspected terrorists are treated in Russia.”

To the contrary, he notes, “Russian media are threatened by the law against ‘propagating terrorism,’ and featuring a suspected terrorist’s mother would count as such an act.”

The article goes on to say, “If the Russian security services had prior information about Tamerlan’s attempt to join the North Caucasian insurgency, then they surely cannot trust his parents. Yet the Russian security services appear to be courting the parents instead of persecuting them. Zubeidat and Anzor Tsarnaev reportedly left Dagestan for Moscow. While in Dagestan, the police protected Anzor Tsarnaev from excessive contacts with journalists. This level of protection for someone whose sons are accused of terrorist activities, not only abroad, but also domestically, is highly unusual in Russia.”

In another example of this approach, Russia Today (RT) has featured an interview with a “journalist” by the name of Assed Baig, who specializes in writing about “anti-Muslim violence” perpetrated by the U.S. and other countries. He tells RT that U.S. authorities “thought that the Tsarnaevs were only a threat to Russia, not the U.S.” In other words, the allegation is that Tsarnaev was possibly an American agent. This comports nicely with the claims made by Alex Jones, who has gone to Russia’s defense in the past, such as when Moscow invaded Georgia and blamed the West for allegedly interfering in that former Soviet region. Jones has been a frequent guest on RT.

Soon after the bombings, an RT “team” flew to Dagestan, with the obvious permission of Kremlin authorities, to speak to Tsarnaevs’ parents and neighbors. While airing claims that the FBI was in control of Tsarnaev, even while he was traveling in Russia, RT has conspicuously failed to investigate what exactly Moscow knew about his time there and his “underground” connections. This subject is out of bounds for the Kremlin-funded “news” channel, which never investigates the activities of the Russian security services.

However, in an article, “How Vladimir Putin Could Help Boston,” left-wing writer Fred Kaplan stumbled on the truth, writing, “Russian intelligence services are all over Chechen radicals. That means that if—and this is a very big if—the Tsarnaevs had ever been in touch with Chechen radicals or with Islamists elsewhere who have ever been in touch with Chechen radicals, then Putin’s spy agencies have a record of it.”

The FBI has a lot to answer for in its handling of this terrorist, as he traveled to and from Russia, but Moscow knows more about Tsarnaev than Putin is telling us.

It seems incredible that a Russian agent would organize the bombing of a sporting event in Boston, with the inevitable negative fallout that would result from revelations about a Russian connection. Former KGB officer Konstantin Preobrazhensky told me that Russian involvement in the Boston bombings would be extremely counter-productive for Moscow, and would jeopardize and risk exposure for other Russian intelligence operations in the U.S.

On the other hand, the Russian media are acting as if Moscow is guilty of some role in the terror attacks, and that the world’s attention must therefore be diverted elsewhere.

As Dzutsev puts it, “The Russian security services’ gradual leaking of information invites more questions than it answers. Much more information will have to be released in order to understand why the Tsarnaev brothers turned so violent in Boston.”

One thing is certain: Obama has used the attacks to seek closer cooperation with the Putin regime.

At his news conference on Tuesday, Obama said, “The Russians have been very cooperative with us since the Boston bombing. Obviously, old habits die hard; there are still suspicions sometimes between our intelligence and law enforcement agencies that date back 10, 20, 30 years, back to the Cold War. But they’re continually improving. I’ve spoken to President Putin directly. He’s committed to working with me to make sure that those who report to us are cooperating fully in not only this investigation, but how do we work on counterterrorism issues generally.”

It looks like Obama is satisfied with the propaganda coming from Moscow.

Cliff Kincaid is the Director of the Accuracy In Media Center for Investigative Journalism, and can be contacted at cliff.kincaid@aim.org.

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