The Boston Bombing Anniversary: A Legacy of Unanswered Questions

Here we are, on the third Boston Marathon since the one we will never forget. Two powerful bombs ripped through the assembled crowd, killing Krystle Campbell, Lu Lingzi, and Martin Richard, and wounding many others. Later, a policeman was shot to death.

The images are seared into our memories. So, too, is the extraordinary government response: an American city totally locked down while armored vehicles, helicopters, and police in full combat gear patrolled the streets of greater Boston.

Four days after the bombing, the Tsarnaevs were cornered and there was a gun battle. In the end, one young man was dead, and his younger brother badly injured.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Tamerlan Tsarnaev

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, FBI Suspects 1 and 2Photo credit: FBI

We were told that law enforcement had identified the perpetrators, who had acted entirely on their own. The surviving brother was eventually put on trial, convicted, and sentenced to death.

At the trial, his government-appointed counsel stated that he was guilty, and he himself admitted his guilt, and said that he was sorry. But that is all he said. To this day he has never explained how he and his brother ever became terrorists.

He couldn’t tell us if he wanted to. Since his arrest he’s been held under unusual Special Administrative Measures (SAMs), which prevent him from communicating with the outside world. Strikingly, SAMs have also been imposed on his attorneys. The government maintains that SAMs are necessary to prevent prisoners from inciting others to commit acts of terrorism.

But what others? The FBI insists the two brothers were lone wolves, unconnected to any larger network.

Family members say they were told to keep their mouths shut. And they were warned not to challenge the credibility of the investigation or the prosecution.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s silence suggests that he, too, was told that worse would come if he were to explain what actually happened, and why. That is, if he even knows.

His uncle seemed to think he knew: he fingered the brothers as likely to be the bombers. And what is even more weird, this uncle had married into a prominent CIA family, and they were surrounded by odd characters connected in various ways to America’s national security leviathan.

Certainly, they were not like typical terrorists.They did not blow themselves up, they made no political statement. They did not flee Boston. In fact, they seemed to continue with their normal lives in the hours and days following the explosions — right up to the moment the FBI posted their images and asked the public to help identify them.

What happened after that, and why, remains a mystery. We have been told that the brothers killed an MIT police officer on an empty campus — yet another victim of this tragedy — but if they were his murderers, they still did not flee. The brothers apparently spent the next hour and a half driving, fairly slowly, in circles around the suburbs of Boston, mostly in the company of a man they purportedly carjacked, before they ended up focusing on Watertown, where they appeared to be waiting for…something or someone.

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