Brother’s Keeper: Did Older Sibling Lure Bombing Suspect Into Plot?

Here are the key details we know so far about the Tsarnaev brothers, who are suspected of executing the bombings near the finish line of the Boston marathon on Apr. 15, which killed three and injured more than 180.

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The dramatic arrest of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on Friday night brought the entire city of Boston a collective sense of relief, with crowds streaming into the streets to chants of USA. But the end of the manhunt was in many ways just the start of the process for investigators trying to piece together what may have motivated Tsarnaev, 19, and his older brother Tamerlan, 26, who was killed by police early Friday morning. And details emerging over the first 24 hours since police captured the younger Tsarnaev in a backyard boat in Watertown, Mass., reinforce the growing perception that his older brother was the primary driver of the attack.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was hospitalized in serious condition on Saturday night from a gunshot wound, was by most accounts a smart, well-adjusted guy in high school. Three years ago, he won a $2,500 scholarship from the city of Cambridge when he was a senior at the prestigious Cambridge Rindge & Latin School. He even went to his senior prom — and seemed to enjoy it. Classmate Sierra Schwartz told the New York Times he was “accepted and very well liked.” But while he was a good student in high school, he suddenly started to struggle in college at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, and a transcript obtained by the Times said he failed seven classes over three semesters. Still, even after Monday’s bombing, Tsarnaev returned to the UMass Dartmouth campus, attending classes and socializing in the dorms, according to the Boston Globe.

(MORE: FBI to Face Questions Over Past Probe of Older Bombing Suspect)

On the other hand, the Tsarnaev family appeared to have long known something was wrong with Tamerlan, an unemployed college dropout. Ruslan Tsarni, one of the Tsarnaev brothers’ uncles who lives in Montgomery Village, Md., argued in interviews with the Today show and CNN that “outside influences” clearly “brainwashed” Tamerlan, specifically an Armenian man who also lived in Cambridge and recently converted to Islam. He started to notice Tamerlan’s transformation as early as 2009, he told NBC’s Savannah Guthrie:

I was shocked when I heard his words, his phrases, when every other word he starts sticking in words of God. I question what he’s doing for work, [and] he claimed he would just put everything in the will of God … It wasn’t devotion, it was something, as it’s called, being radicalized.

His family was not the only one to notice Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s transformation. The Russian FSB intelligence service told the FBI in 2011 about information that he was a follower of radical Islam, two law-enforcement officials said on Saturday.

(MORE: Joe Klein: Lessons From Boston)

According to an FBI news release, a foreign government said Tsarnaev appeared to be a strong believer and that he had changed drastically since 2010 as he prepared to leave the U.S. for travel to the Russian region to join unspecified underground groups.

The FBI did not name the foreign government, but the two officials said it was Russia. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about the matter publicly.

The FBI said in response, it interviewed Tsarnaev and his relatives, and did not find any domestic or foreign terrorism activity. The bureau said it looked into such things as his telephone and online activity, his travels and his associations with others.

Tsarnaev did indeed end up traveling to Russia for about six months in 2012; his father told the Times that he had gone there to renew his passport, but ended up staying longer. The question is whether something happened during this extended trip that gave Tsarnaev the idea to carry out the bombing at the Boston Marathon. “They have been framed,” his father told the Times.

The brothers’ mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, also could not believe the brothers came up with this plot on their own because they knew that the FBI had been on their trail for the past “three to five years,” according to an interview with Russian state-TV news station Russia Today obtained by Reuters. “And being a mother, what I can say is that I am really sure, I am, like, 100% sure, that this is a setup,” she said.

(MORE: Reddit Crowdsourcing Good for Crime Solving?)

Women who knew Tsarnaev’s wife Katherine Russell as early as 2008 and 2009 told NPR’s Laura Sullivan that he always had a strange disposition. They say he became more “religious” around 2008, when he stopped drinking and smoking and forced Russell to “cover herself.” One friend said she saw Russell wearing a hijab at a Whole Foods about a year ago and acting “fearful.” Another described Tsarnaev as a short-tempered, very “controlling” and “manipulative” person who would call Russell names, such as “slut” and “prostitute.” While Tsarnaev was arrested for domestic assault and battery in 2009 — which may have prevented him from becoming a U.S. citizen like his younger brother — Sullivan says that complaint involved a different woman.

Friends say Russell — who also has a 3-year-old daughter with Tamerlan — distanced herself from her family, which may explain why the Russell family said they didn’t know Tamerlan well in a written statement handed to a reporter outside their North Kingstown, R.I., home on Friday night: “Our daughter has lost her husband today, the father of her child … In the aftermath of the Patriots’ Day horror, we know that we never really knew Tamerlane [sic] Tsarnaev.”

Just as friends say Tsarnaev had a lot of control over his wife, his family says he had a lot of control over his little brother. Peter Tean, 21, who was on the high school wrestling team with Dzhokhar, told the New York Times that Dzhokhar took up wrestling to be more like Tamerlan, a talented boxer, who competed in the Golden Gloves national Tournament in 2009: “He’s done these violent sports because his brother’s a boxer. He really loves his brother, looks up to him.” Tamerlan would even take Dzhokhar to Friday prayer, their father Anzor told the Times. Neighbors also told the newspaper that they would often see the duo hanging out in the Cambridge area, where Dzhokhar had an apartment on Norfolk Street.

(MORE: The Brother Bombers: Did Sibling Psychology Contribute?)

There was no immediate word on Saturday on when Dzhokhar Tsarnaev might be charged and what those charges would be. The twin bombings killed three people and wounded more than 180.

The most serious charge available to federal prosecutors would be the use of a weapon of mass destruction to kill people, which carries a possible death sentence. Massachusetts does not have the death penalty.

U.S. officials said an elite interrogation team would question the Massachusetts college student without reading him his Miranda rights, something that is allowed on a limited basis when the public may be in immediate danger, such as instances in which bombs are planted and ready to go off.

The American Civil Liberties Union expressed concern about that possibility. Executive director Anthony Romero said the legal exception applies only when there is a continued threat to public safety and is “not an open-ended exception” to the Miranda rule, which guarantees the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney.

The federal public defender’s office in Massachusetts said it has agreed to represent Tsarnaev once he is charged. Miriam Conrad, public defender for Massachusetts, said he should have a lawyer appointed as soon as possible because there are “serious issues regarding possible interrogation.”

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said on Saturday afternoon that Tsarnaev was in serious but stable condition and was probably unable to communicate. Tsarnaev was at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where 11 victims of the bombing were still being treated.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report

MORE: Immigration Reform’s First Big Test: The Boston Bombing

114 comments
beamaut
beamaut

Maybe Tamerian's change 2 or 3 years ago had more to do with his love life.  It had to be about that time he met the women who became his wife and it is well known what happens to the brain when certain biological events occur. 

WriterWeegs
WriterWeegs

Appreciate this piece very much. I've been reading all about the brothers and the story has engulfed me, as it has millions. Reading through Dhzokhar's Tweets, I was struck by how intelligent and how funny he can be, but also how red flags were flying months ago. For whatever reason, he apparently felt unable to release himself from the grip of this extremism. On no level is it excusable. This is a tragedy that goes beyond comprehension. Yet, I do think it's really critical that this young man be treated fairly in a court of law, that the connection between what he actually did and what the FBI thinks he did is ironed out. I also hope that through this nightmare, the US can gain a better understanding of what led to the Apr. 15 bombings. My heart goes out to the families of all who died, and those who lost limbs and are suffering at hospital. I'm in Milford, CT and feel very connected to Boston.

TheMovingFinger
TheMovingFinger

We must stand back and take a look at the woods and not just the trees. What is common to acts of terrorism around the world? Why is Islam the favoured terror platform for people of different ethnicities, nationalities and grouses? The answer must lie in Islam itself. Political correctness will not help. Nor will West's irrational fear and visceral hatred of "others" which only help Islamists justify their actions. We are witnessing a "clash of civilizations" for ultimate domination of the world. West is not helping, alternating between extreme political correctness and extreme fear and loathing of the "other".

TheMovingFinger
TheMovingFinger

The terrorist appears to have been named after the first President of Chechnya, Jokhar Dudayev who took the Russians.

Art
Art

The acquaintance that the uncle called was Armenian, not the person who radicalized the nephews...Jesus Christ. such bad journalism. Get the facts straight before you write anything

mickey66049
mickey66049

I just got this message from "laurossman": 

mickey66049 His citizenship has nothing to do with Miranda rights. The police read those rights to everyone they arrest, including illegal immigrants. Miranda rights are not something reserved for U.S. citizens and certainly not reserved for terrorists.

Then why isn't he being read those rights?

gp72908
gp72908

This tragedy could have been averted if the FBi and Homeland had surveilled this guy after getting a heads up from Russia ,practically telling them this guy was dangerous and a threat,heads should roll big time in this case. This war with these fanatics is not going to be over for a long,long time decades and decades ,we can never let something like this slip by again because of blatant negligence .   

AliVonGoldberg
AliVonGoldberg

Such a nice boy.  Lured into the jihad.  Big brother probably told him there was a pot roast in the cooker.

theguitarman
theguitarman

This man is responsible for his own actions. He made his choice. As a society, we overextend ourselves to make the guilty innocent!

This is already a media frenzy and will probably be another OJ situation. He's caught, time to move on to news of the day, instead of

biographical shows. The politicians should be working on our problems, instead of making appearances and giving their unsubstancial

opinions about issues they are ignorant about!  




CrossWinds
CrossWinds

Matthew 23:15....

15 "How terrible it will be for you, legal experts and Pharisees! Hypocrites! You travel over sea and land to make one convert. But when they’ve been converted, they become twice the child of hell you are.

mihrjan
mihrjan

Ms. Waxman and Time staff: Why don’t you take the time to read the article/transcript that accompanies the NBC Today Show interview video, which you higlight in this piece?

http://www.today.com/news/uncle-mentors-radicalized-older-boston-bombing-suspect-6C9529666#so-quickly-so-quietly-witness-describes-bombing-suspect-capture-6C9527075

“Tsarni said a family acquaintance told him there was an outside influence on Tamerlan.

“'He said there is someone who brainwashed him, some new convert to Islam,’ Tsarni said. ‘I would like to stress (the acquaintance was) of Armenian descent.’”

I believe a correction is in order.

Skimaan
Skimaan

It struck me when some news outlet reported that the younger brother played Xbox games with his friends. Violent video games could have played some role in how he's committed the terror act.

mickey66049
mickey66049

He's an American citizen, entitled to his Miranda rights. What harm could it do to read them to him, especially while he's intubated and can't speak? If he is indeed convicted by a criminal court--difficult, given all the publicity--then he faces life in prison, during which we can find out more about his motives and his reason for committing this horrible crime. If he is tried by a military tribunal, with no public defender assigned, and sentenced to death, we won't be able to find out what his motives were, ho helped him, or anything else about the crime. In fact, his conviction might be overturned by a higher court, precisely because of the lack of a defender and his Miranda rights.

dklloyd
dklloyd

Violent crimes are committed by people of all faiths.The recent murder of Texas DA  was committed by an American couple,The husband was a Justice of the Peace with recent robbery convictions.

Hollywooddeed
Hollywooddeed

I don't really care what his motivation was, older brother or something else.  At the age of 19, he knew exactly what he was doing.

timecomment
timecomment

unless video shows otherwise isn't it possible that the little brother had no idea what was going on?  i read that he ran over his big brother's corpse to make his getaway, perhaps he was just too stupid to realize what was in the backpack?  the fact that he went back to school and acted like nothing happened for 2 days sounds like he maybe was duped rather than coerced.  we'll have to wait and see in court, if a public trial is allowed.  sounds like Graham and McCain are hoping to make it all secret though.

CoreyMorrell
CoreyMorrell

I think the investigation will conclude that this kid was brainwashed by his older brother. He was a US citizen, popular student at a an Ivy League school, and was not even a practicing muslim. His older brother was the exact opposite, a loser in life who just could not seem to get it together and decided to take out his frustrations on his adopted country and used radical Islam as an excuse. Too bad he was so arrogant and self centered that he decided to sacrifice his little brother too. People need to remember that brainwashing is an actual psychological condition and anyone can be conditioned to commit an act they would not otherwise do. If proven it would mean this kid was just another victim in all this as surely if he had been one of the people hurt by the explosions. I just hope this kid can actually get a fair and impartial trial and hope that the justice system will not listen to the blood thirsty mobs who would wave the flag, chant USA, USA and throw the Bill of Rights and this kid to the wolves because they want to pretend this is somehow an an attack by a foreign enemy in time of war by an enemy combatant. Everyone needs to keep an open mind, be compassionate and understanding, and let the justice system do its job.

tomsquawk
tomsquawk

good article; got everybody fighting

Murgen_
Murgen_

@gp72908 I don't think the Tsarnaev's were the only being surveyed by the FBI. In fact, there must be thousands of people, American fanatics or not that are under FBI's scrutiny.

emmakeynes
emmakeynes

@AliVonGoldberg I agree with you. I think he was being manipulated and influenced by his older brother, but that doesn't let him off the hook. He's not innocent even if his brother did have a lot of control over him: he did help set off two bombs, rob a store, carjack a car, throw bombs at the police, fire at the police, and evade capture.

Even so, he's just a kid. I don't think he should get a death penalty. He's just a boy. People do stupid things when they're 19, although not nearly as stupid as setting off bombs at a huge event. At 19 you're easily influenced, and I don't believe he deserves the death penalty. The brother, yes, but him, no. Maybe a long time in prison, but not the death penalty. Personally, I think spending years and years in a little cell would be torture. Worse than the death penalty. But that's just my opinion.

Murgen_
Murgen_

@Skimaan Yes, violent video games and violent media, in general, desensitize people to violence, hence making them more prone to commit it.

timecomment
timecomment

@Skimaan yep, and WWI was due to those little green army men kids used to play with.  

DeweySayenoff
DeweySayenoff

@Skimaan Skimaan, he went to high school.  I'll bet it was high school that had an influence.  He was bullied because he wasn't a "real American".  Or how about being exposed to traffic?!  Yeah, that's it!  Traffic is awful.  It makes you want to hurt people!  No, WAIT!  It's barking dogs.  All those Bostonian dog owners who let their little mutts just yip and yap all day long!  He's an animal lover who hates inattentive pet owners!

-/sarcasm-

It seems to me that one must be disposed to committing violent acts to begin with in order to commit them at all.  The difference between my inference and yours is that mine has proof while yours has been discredited.  Please know whereof you speak before posting.

laurossman
laurossman

@mickey66049 His citizenship has nothing to do with Miranda rights. The police read those rights to everyone they arrest, including illegal immigrants. Miranda rights are not something reserved for U.S. citizens and certainly not reserved for terrorists.

GaryWilson1
GaryWilson1

@mickey66049 Miranda rights only pertain to using the statements then made as evidence in a court of law against HIM.  

If you have tons of other evidence (such as the video tape of him actually placing the bomb on the scene which hasn't been released yet by the FBI) you aren't really going to need to present any such confession to convict him.  And without a lawyer telling him to shut up, he may be more likely to lead investigators to any other devices or conspirators, which why the public safety exception is allowed.  And those statements he makes may be used in court proceedings against others.

Murgen_
Murgen_

@Hollywooddeed Well, so many people don't know what they are doing at the tender age of 50, so...

rpearlston
rpearlston

@Hollywooddeed Someone has never seen the movie "The Manchurian Candidate".  I'd suggest renting it to help you to learn whereof you speak.

CoreyMorrell
CoreyMorrell

@Hollywooddeed It is very clear you are not a psychiatrist or even have the most basic understanding of human psychology. I could brainwash you into committing any act I wanted you to and I could do it to any other person on the planet as well. The fact that he was 19 means nothing. All I would need is enough time and exposure to you to get the job done. I hope you never get to serve on a jury since you already know everything about a case and would vote to convict before the trial even starts. Luckily we have voir dire and it keeps closed minded people like you out of the courtroom.

rpearlston
rpearlston

@timecomment Or perhaps he ran over his brother's body (it would have been obvious that he was dead) out of panic because he was still being shot at.  Yes, he went back to school and acted as though nothing had happened and he did that for 2 says.  What would you expect him to do?  And panicking when you are under attack is very human.

Murgen_
Murgen_

@CoreyMorrell Lets just remind these people two words: Timothy McVeigh.

Can't get more American than that.

rpearlston
rpearlston

@CoreyMorrell Thank you for taking a step back so that you could look at and comment on the situation with sober thought.

While I personally doubt that the younger brother will be acquitted in this case.  Despite the fact that the older brother was the real problem, younger siblings do hero-worship their older ones, something that makes it difficult (not impossible, but difficult) to say no.  Because saying no wasn't out of the question, because contacting the authorities about his brother wasn't out of the question, he will be found guilty, after a fair but lengthy trial.  That statement is not out of blood-lust, but out of common sense.

GaryWilson1
GaryWilson1

@CoreyMorrell What ivy league school?  He flunked 7 classes at UMass at Dartmouth and was known as a stoner!  

MelissaLamphere
MelissaLamphere

@CoreyMorrell I was glad to see this article because it is exactly what I was thinking when I started hearing more details of the situation and the things being said by family members. So many assumed, right away, that because both were Muslim that they were terrorists. Yes, many Muslims are extremist but not all think and practice their religion in that way. Muslim religion actually doesn't condone violence in anyway, other than equal punishment for the crime committed. I know this is a horrendous crime but until all the facts are in, I can't help having empathy. I am sorry I am a human being with an open mind. 

jforest
jforest

@Murgen_ @gp72908 Yes but of the "thousands" under FBI scrutiny, one man interviewed and let go by the FBI did set off bombs. I would like to know why the FBI and Homeland Security--with all the money and resources they get from taxpayers--dropped the ball a couple of years ago. Unfortunately we may never know because there is no accountability in law enforcement or government.

mickey66049
mickey66049

@DeweySayenoff , I was bullied in elementary school for having a British accent, to the point where I stopped speaking aloud, and would only whisper to my teachers. I never raised my hand in class. Ironic, because I became a professor of linguistics. I did not feel the need to make a bomb to kill people, innocent or guilty; I just wanted to run and hide with the classmates who didn't torture me.

mlake
mlake

@CoreyMorrell @Hollywooddeed 

Do we remember how young a 19 year old can be?

The horrors of the bombing exist, and I am deeply saddened for the victims. Somehow I am deeply saddened for this 19-year-old as well. Does anyone feel this way?

MelissaLamphere
MelissaLamphere

@CoreyMorrell @Hollywooddeed Seems they had a very close and loyal relationship between one another, as well as to other family members, so it is very well possible at age 19, which is still a young age, that he could have been strongly influenced or brainwashed by his older brother. He may have known very well it was wrong but his loyalty to his brother, who seemed to be a very controlling influence on others, may have been strong enough that he didn't think twice or he could have acted out of fear of his brother. We can assume all we want why he did this but we will never know, we can not get inside his head. Having an open mind doesn't minimize the situation or excuse it in any way. Thinking with a closed mind though can actually make things worse, especially when people insinuate things. That is what the media does and it just confuses things and adds to the problem. I agree with Corey, I hope you never have to be on a jury because going in with an already formed opinion on the situation, without knowing all the facts, is not only ignorant but unfair and may send an innocent person to jail/prison. 

Murgen_
Murgen_

@jforest @Murgen_ @gp72908 They are still too many to keep a constant observation of everything they do. Plus a lot of those surveyed never get to do anything wrong so its hard to tell who under FBI's scrutiny will actually do something.

MelissaLamphere
MelissaLamphere

@Hollywooddeed @MelissaLamphere @CoreyMorrellArm chair quarterbacking? lol I was agreeing with a previous post and stating my opinion, not defending and assisting. I have no superiority over anyone or anything. You initially commented as if you had it all figured out and I appear to have an "air of superiority"?.....hmmm I was just being honest and straight forward. I may have been rude for pointing out certain things but it doesn't make me any better or worse than anyone else. You stated your opinion and I stated mine.

 

MelissaLamphere
MelissaLamphere

@Murgen_ @Hollywooddeed @MelissaLamphere @CoreyMorrell I just took a sip of tea when I read that and about choked to death laughing. By the way, I have to admit that I did have my pinky out while sipping me tea. I am still struggling with that wedgie though but will work on it when I get out of my armchair lol 

MelissaLamphere
MelissaLamphere

@Hollywooddeed @CoreyMorrell I think what he meant was, he may have been brainwashed and didn't know what he was doing and you may not be able to understand the concept of that because you aren't a psychiatrist and may not understand human psychology. 


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