We Could've Stopped the Boston Bombings

We Could've Stopped the Boston Bombings
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The Tsarnaev brothers were two Muslims from southern Russia near the breakaway Muslim republic of Chechnya. Their motivations quickly became clear. CNN reported a week after the bombings that "Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, wounded and held in a Boston hospital, has said his brother -- who was killed early Friday -- wanted to defend Islam from attack."

Just before he was captured, when he was hiding out inside a pleasure boat, Dzhokhar wrote a long self-justification on the inside of the boat, including the line: "When you attack one Muslim, you attack all Muslims."

It came to light soon after the bombings that on a Russian language social media page, Dzhokhar had featured a drawing of a bomb under the heading "send a gift," and just above links to sites about Islam. Tamerlan's YouTube page contained two videos by Sheikh Feiz Mohammed. According to a report in the Australian in January 2007, in a video that came to the attention of authorities at the time, Feiz Mohammed "urges Muslims to kill the enemies of Islam and praises martyrs with a violent interpretation of jihad."

Tamerlan also said, "I'm very religious." His friend Donald Larking affirmed this. "Tamerlan Tsarnaev was my friend and we talked about everything from politics to religion," according to Larking. "He was very, very religious. He believed that the Qur'an was the one true word and he loved it." Tamerlan did not drink alcohol because Allah forbade it -- "God said no alcohol" -- and his Italian girlfriend had converted to Islam, as his American wife did later. Even his name indicated the world he belonged to. Apparently Tamerlan Tsarnaev was named for the warrior Tamerlane, the fourteenth-century conqueror of much of Asia, who was as noted for his brutality as for his piety. In 1398, he massacred a hundred thousand Hindus in Delhi, and he killed ninety thousand more people in Baghdad in 1401, all the while adhering devoutly to the religion of Muhammad.

The Boston Marathon bombs were similar to IEDs that jihadis used in Afghanistan and Iraq, and Faisal Shahzad, who tried to set off a jihad car bomb in Times Square in the summer of 2010, also used a similar bomb. The instructions for making such a bomb had even been published in al Qaeda's online Inspire magazine. Not only were the motivations of the Tsarnaev brothers abundantly clear; it is likely that the Tsarnaevs were actually tied in somehow to the international jihad network -- as was indicated by how they fought off Boston police early on the Friday after the Marathon bombings with military-grade explosives. The question of where they got those explosives has never been answered. Nor has it ever been explained where the brothers got the military training that they reportedly displayed during the fight against police before Tamerlan was killed and Dzhokhar was captured.

The Obama administration's missteps can't just be chalked up to innate incompetence. The essential problem is willful ignorance -- a refusal to face the reality of Islamic jihad. The depth of the denial is made clear by the fact that the Russian government actually had Boston jihad bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev under surveillance and even shared concerns about his contacts with jihad terrorists with the FBI (According to a Homeland Security official, the Saudis had also warned the FBI in writing about Tsarnaev, a claim that the Saudi ambassador in Washington immediately and heatedly denied).

Yet even after the bombing should have awakened the authorities to the glaring shortcomings of their investigation of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, President Obama seemed at a loss to imagine how the FBI might have made better use of the Russian intelligence: "It's not as if the FBI did nothing. They not only investigated the older brother, they interviewed the older brother...are there additional things that could have been done in the interim that might have prevented it?"

One additional thing -- among many -- that could have been done was an investigation of the mosque attended by the Tsarnaevs. And not just by them. The Tsarnaev brothers were not the only jihad terrorists to attend the Islamic Society of Boston (now the Muslim American Society of Boston) mosque. Aafia Siddiqui, aka "Lady al-Qaeda," who was convicted of trying to murder American soldiers and may also have been plotting a jihad terror attack against an American city, was also a member of that mosque, as were convicted jihad terror plotter Tarek Mehanna and his accomplice, Ahmad Abousamra. The renowned Muslim Brotherhood sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who has praised Hitler and called upon Muslims to finish the führer's job of putting the Jews "in their place," was a trustee of the Islamic Society of Boston and has addressed the mosque congregation during fundraisers. Another imam who has addressed the Boston congregation, Yasir Qadhi, has called for the replacement of the U.S. Constitution with Islamic law and said that the "life and prosperity" of Christians "holds no value in the state of Jihad."

On June 12, 2013, as the scandal of the Obama administration's massive surveillance of law-abiding Americans was breaking, it was revealed that there was one place where people could be safe from surveillance: inside a mosque. Investor's Business Daily reported that "the government's sweeping surveillance of our most private communications excludes the jihad factories where homegrown terrorists are radicalized.

"Since October 2011, mosques have been off-limits to FBI agents. No more surveillance or undercover string operations without high-level approval from a special oversight body at the Justice Department dubbed the Sensitive Operations Review Committee."

This panel "was set up under pressure from Islamist groups who complained about FBI stings at mosques. Just months before the panel's formation, the Council on American-Islamic Relations teamed up with the ACLU to sue the FBI for allegedly violating the civil rights of Muslims in Los Angeles by hiring an undercover agent to infiltrate and monitor mosques there."

And specifically: "The FBI never canvassed Boston mosques until four days after the April 15 attacks, and it did not check out the radical Boston mosque where the Muslim bombers worshipped."

So the Federal Bureau of Investigation was warned by at least one foreign government that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was a jihadist. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was attending a Muslim Brotherhood-linked mosque founded by a principal al Qaeda financier. And the FBI sent agents to that mosque -- not to investigate Tsarnaev or any other possible jihad activity there, but to engage in "outreach" to Muslims and spend time "talking to imams."

If anything illustrated the Obama administration's abject failure to take the jihad threat seriously, that was it. The only thing that would have completed the picture would have been if Robert Mueller had been holding Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's photo on the cover of Rolling Stone.

Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and New York Times bestselling author of Arab Winter Comes to America: The Truth About the War We're In.

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