Commentary Magazine


Topic: Boston marathon attack

The Bombs Didn’t Have Permits Either

The latest tidbit from the investigation of the Boston Marathon bombing should interest those Americans who have been pondering whether proposed gun control laws would actually deter or stop criminals from obtaining weapons. The Associated Press informs us that the Tsarnaev brothers did not have legal permits for the guns they used in their shootouts with police, when they killed one and wounded another officer:

Cambridge Police Commissioner Robert Haas tells The Associated Press in an interview Sunday that neither Tamerlan Tsarnaev nor his brother Dzhokhar had permission to carry firearms. He says it’s unclear whether either ever applied and the applications aren’t considered public records. But he says the 19-year-old Dzhokhar would have been denied a permit because of his age. Only people 21 or older are allowed gun licenses in Massachusetts.

No doubt we’ll learn more about how the Tsarnaevs got their guns as well as their bomb-making materials in the future as the investigation proceeds, but this makes perfect sense. People who are accumulating an arsenal of weapons to carry out a crime—whether they are habitual criminals and/or gang members or potential terrorists–aren’t limited to licensed gun dealers or even private sellers at gun shows, which would have only been required to perform background checks on purchasers if the Toomey-Manchin bill had passed. It also goes without saying that the pressure cookers and the ball bearings used as shrapnel that the brothers used in their bombs were also not registered with the authorities.

Read More

The latest tidbit from the investigation of the Boston Marathon bombing should interest those Americans who have been pondering whether proposed gun control laws would actually deter or stop criminals from obtaining weapons. The Associated Press informs us that the Tsarnaev brothers did not have legal permits for the guns they used in their shootouts with police, when they killed one and wounded another officer:

Cambridge Police Commissioner Robert Haas tells The Associated Press in an interview Sunday that neither Tamerlan Tsarnaev nor his brother Dzhokhar had permission to carry firearms. He says it’s unclear whether either ever applied and the applications aren’t considered public records. But he says the 19-year-old Dzhokhar would have been denied a permit because of his age. Only people 21 or older are allowed gun licenses in Massachusetts.

No doubt we’ll learn more about how the Tsarnaevs got their guns as well as their bomb-making materials in the future as the investigation proceeds, but this makes perfect sense. People who are accumulating an arsenal of weapons to carry out a crime—whether they are habitual criminals and/or gang members or potential terrorists–aren’t limited to licensed gun dealers or even private sellers at gun shows, which would have only been required to perform background checks on purchasers if the Toomey-Manchin bill had passed. It also goes without saying that the pressure cookers and the ball bearings used as shrapnel that the brothers used in their bombs were also not registered with the authorities.

The draconian gun laws on the books in Massachusetts did nothing to stop the Tsarnaevs from finding the weapons they used to carry out their terrorist attack or their deadly shootouts with police. More gun legislation, even the reasonable Manchin-Toomey attempt to close background check loopholes that would not have violated anyone’s Second Amendment rights, wouldn’t have stopped them from killing Officer Sean Collier, let alone killing three persons and wounded 150 others at the Marathon.

Advocates of gun restrictions tell us that even if they save a single life they are worth it, and that is a powerful argument. But the facts of most criminal cases, be they the mass slaughter in Newtown or the atrocities carried out by the Tsarnaevs in Boston, show that such laws have a minimal impact on violent crime while substantially burdening law-abiding citizens who wish to legally own firearms. To say that is not to argue against all gun restrictions, but it should cause us to put the outrage over the demise of the latest attempt to pass gun control laws in perspective.

The self-righteous anger exhibited by President Obama and the stage-managed use of the families of the Newtown victims is geared to exploit the deep emotions Americans feel about that crime. But the connection between such laws and the prevention of gun violence remains tenuous. Boston shows us once again that criminals will find ways to obtain guns no matter what the laws say. That shouldn’t deter us from seeking to prevent felons and the mentally ill from getting guns, but it ought to cause those politicians inclined to grandstand on the issue to pipe down a bit. Gun laws didn’t stop the Tsarnaevs from getting all the firepower they needed. Nor will it stop the next madman who wants to perpetrate another Newtown. And it’s time to stop pretending that they will.

Read Less

Difference Between Prudence and Prejudice

In the aftermath of the conclusion of the traumatic week of terror in Boston, the inevitable questions about the religious motivations of the two Chechen immigrants who were the perpetrators are being asked. Unfortunately, many of them are certain to be obfuscated. While everyone needs to be careful not to associate the millions of honest, hard-working and loyal Americans who are Muslims with the crimes of the Tsarnaev brothers, the politically correct impulse to ignore what appears to be the latest instance of homegrown Islamist terrorism could lead to a repeat of the same mistakes that were made after the Fort Hood shooting, when the government went out of its way to ignore the implications of the murderer’s reasons for committing the crime.

As former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey wrote this past weekend in the Wall Street Journal, there is good reason to worry that the FBI interrogators of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev have been infected with the same determination to refuse to think clearly about jihadist ideology that has characterized much of the way the mainstream media thinks about terrorism.

As Mukasey writes:

At the behest of such Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated groups as the Council on American Islamic Relations [CAIR] and the Islamic Society of North America, and other self-proclaimed spokesmen for American Muslims, the FBI has bowdlerized its training materials to exclude references to militant Islamism. Does this delicacy infect the FBI’s interrogation group as well?

Read More

In the aftermath of the conclusion of the traumatic week of terror in Boston, the inevitable questions about the religious motivations of the two Chechen immigrants who were the perpetrators are being asked. Unfortunately, many of them are certain to be obfuscated. While everyone needs to be careful not to associate the millions of honest, hard-working and loyal Americans who are Muslims with the crimes of the Tsarnaev brothers, the politically correct impulse to ignore what appears to be the latest instance of homegrown Islamist terrorism could lead to a repeat of the same mistakes that were made after the Fort Hood shooting, when the government went out of its way to ignore the implications of the murderer’s reasons for committing the crime.

As former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey wrote this past weekend in the Wall Street Journal, there is good reason to worry that the FBI interrogators of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev have been infected with the same determination to refuse to think clearly about jihadist ideology that has characterized much of the way the mainstream media thinks about terrorism.

As Mukasey writes:

At the behest of such Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated groups as the Council on American Islamic Relations [CAIR] and the Islamic Society of North America, and other self-proclaimed spokesmen for American Muslims, the FBI has bowdlerized its training materials to exclude references to militant Islamism. Does this delicacy infect the FBI’s interrogation group as well?

The real issue right now is not so much the legal question of whether Tsarnaev is designated as an enemy combatant or just a garden-variety domestic terrorist—though that is an important issue—so much as whether Americans understand that pro-jihad Islamist adherents are a source of such fearful crimes. The most important thing for Americans to realize right now is that there is a difference between prudent monitoring of sources of Islamist propaganda and prejudice against Muslims who deserve the full protection of the law.

The stories being reported about the behavior of the Tsarnaevs make it all the more important that police forces not be deterred from intelligence work because of efforts by groups like CAIR to silence efforts to discuss Islamism. If Tamerlan Tsarnaev was, as the Boston Globe reports, disrupting events at his local mosque when moderate speakers appeared, it bears asking whether greater vigilance might have connected the dots between this behavior and this man’s trips to Russia that had already triggered interest on the part of Moscow’s intelligence agencies and the FBI.

Aggressive surveillance and investigations of possible meeting places for potential homegrown Islamist terrorists by New York City police have been bitterly criticized in the past. But as much as we must be careful about second-guessing law enforcement agencies for having missed any potential warnings about the Tsarnaevs, what happened in Boston last week should reinforce the need for the NYPD to keep thinking about terrorism, and for other departments to emulate their practices.

Above all, it is vital for this case to be discussed frankly without the knee-jerk impulse to ignore the role of religion in this atrocity. Being able to do so should not be considered prejudicial by definition, as those groups like CAIR have tried hard to establish. Our problem is not just the terrorist threat these Islamists clearly constitute to the safety of the United States—as Boston has again demonstrated—but that too many in our government seem unwilling to face up to the implications of the growth of a hateful ideology with Muslim Brotherhood origins and connections to al-Qaeda and other terror groups. That has occurred because of the influence of CAIR as well as the predilection of some in the foreign policy establishment to embrace the Brotherhood elsewhere. Until we address these problems, we will find ourselves asking the same questions after the next Islamist terror attack on our soil.

Read Less

Still Waiting for Answers in Boston

Americans awoke on Friday to the news that one of the two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing was dead and that the other was still on the run as a massive manhunt shut down the greater Boston area. Reports also indicate that the pair, brothers, turn out to be of Chechen origin. This information does shoot down the preferred scenario of Salon and other liberals that have openly expressed the hope that the Boston terrorists would turn out to be “white Americans” who perhaps could be linked to conservative causes.

There is a long history of Chechnya being a source of Islamist terrorism, both against Russia and elsewhere. But until we learn more, this is not the time to jump to any conclusions about the motives of these killers or whether they fit the model of the Ft. Hood killer, an American who was inspired by Islamist ideology to carry out a deadly attack. An American media that has been bursting with impatience all week hoping to be able to put this tragedy in some perspective or to use it promote some sort of political agenda will just have to keep waiting.

As we watch coverage of the attempts by law enforcement agencies to find the remaining suspect who is still on the loose, our prayers remain with the families of the victims, which now include a police officer who was killed during the night in a shootout with the terrorists. Above all, let’s hope there will be no more casualties before this story is completed.

Americans awoke on Friday to the news that one of the two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing was dead and that the other was still on the run as a massive manhunt shut down the greater Boston area. Reports also indicate that the pair, brothers, turn out to be of Chechen origin. This information does shoot down the preferred scenario of Salon and other liberals that have openly expressed the hope that the Boston terrorists would turn out to be “white Americans” who perhaps could be linked to conservative causes.

There is a long history of Chechnya being a source of Islamist terrorism, both against Russia and elsewhere. But until we learn more, this is not the time to jump to any conclusions about the motives of these killers or whether they fit the model of the Ft. Hood killer, an American who was inspired by Islamist ideology to carry out a deadly attack. An American media that has been bursting with impatience all week hoping to be able to put this tragedy in some perspective or to use it promote some sort of political agenda will just have to keep waiting.

As we watch coverage of the attempts by law enforcement agencies to find the remaining suspect who is still on the loose, our prayers remain with the families of the victims, which now include a police officer who was killed during the night in a shootout with the terrorists. Above all, let’s hope there will be no more casualties before this story is completed.

Read Less

The Constitution Project’s Dangerous Complacency on Terror

It is ironic that the Boston Marathon bombing occurred the same day that a Washington think tank called the Constitution Project unveiled a report, signed by a bipartisan group of retired worthies, excoriating many of the tactics used to fight terrorism. The headline finding, which earned front-page coverage in the New York Times, is that “U.S. forces, in many instances, used interrogation techniques on detainees that constitute torture.”

I cannot help but agree with this conclusion: Bush administration whitewash about “enhanced interrogation techniques” notwithstanding, many of the measures employed by interrogators on a small number of terrorism suspects, such as the use of waterboarding, did amount to torture as commonly understood. Where I part company with the self-righteous commission is in its excoriation of administration officials for ordering steps that they believed necessary to defend the United States and which arguably were necessary if one believes the testimony of former officials that “enhanced interrogation techniques” were responsible for uncovering Osama bin Laden. Instead of showing any understanding for or sympathy toward the mindset of those charged with protecting us after 9/11, however, the commission writes:

Read More

It is ironic that the Boston Marathon bombing occurred the same day that a Washington think tank called the Constitution Project unveiled a report, signed by a bipartisan group of retired worthies, excoriating many of the tactics used to fight terrorism. The headline finding, which earned front-page coverage in the New York Times, is that “U.S. forces, in many instances, used interrogation techniques on detainees that constitute torture.”

I cannot help but agree with this conclusion: Bush administration whitewash about “enhanced interrogation techniques” notwithstanding, many of the measures employed by interrogators on a small number of terrorism suspects, such as the use of waterboarding, did amount to torture as commonly understood. Where I part company with the self-righteous commission is in its excoriation of administration officials for ordering steps that they believed necessary to defend the United States and which arguably were necessary if one believes the testimony of former officials that “enhanced interrogation techniques” were responsible for uncovering Osama bin Laden. Instead of showing any understanding for or sympathy toward the mindset of those charged with protecting us after 9/11, however, the commission writes:

The nation’s most senior officials, through some of their actions and failures to act in the months and years immediately following the September 11 attacks, bear ultimate responsibility for allowing and contributing to the spread of illegal and improper interrogation techniques used by some U.S. personnel on detainees in several theaters.

Nowhere does the report offer any credit to those same officials for preventing more attacks on the American homeland. Nor does the report seriously entertain the possibility–which I think a probability–that the use of torture was related to the success in defending our homeland from follow-up attacks.

This is a sign, in my view, of the dangerous triumphalism and complacency which has taken control of the public discourse because there were no more 9/11s and because the architects of those attacks have been either captured or killed. Perhaps the Boston Marathon bombing will instill some renewed urgency into the public debate about countering terrorism, but I doubt it–bad as the Boston bombing was, it was not deadly enough to change our mindset in the way that 9/11 did.

We are feeling secure now, and in our security we are seeing a tendency, exemplified by the Constitution Project, to turn on those who were responsible for fighting al-Qaeda at a time when it appeared to be a far more potent threat than it is today.

The project’s report seeks to undo many of the steps taken to fight al-Qaeda, with a majority of its members urging that the U.S. declare formal hostilities with al-Qaeda to be over at the end of 2014 when U.S. combat troops withdraw from Afghanistan–a step that would necessitate closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and releasing or transferring its detainees. If only we could elicit a binding commitment from al-Qaeda to stop fighting us after 2014!

This measure was opposed by a minority of the panel (presumably the Republicans), but the entire group signed on to say “that the United States has violated its international legal obligations in its practice of the enforced disappearances”–otherwise known as the “rendition” of terrorist suspects begun under the Clinton administration. By calling the capture of these suspected terrorists “enforced disappearances” the panel seems to be suggesting that U.S. actions are similar to those of the Argentinean junta during its “Dirty War” which left tens of thousands of Argentineans dead.

This is only a small sampling of the problems with the Constitution Project report, which seems to be written as if the terrorist threat is over and we are now in a postwar period. The Boston bombing shows otherwise. I only hope we do not experience even more convincing refutations of our complacency anytime soon.

Read Less