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FBI Intelligence Failure in Vetting Tsarnaev

Today, the L.A. times reported chillingly that the FBI had received a report on Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s radical Islamist proclivities from the Russian intelligence service before his 2012 trip to that country’s restive Muslim republics, Dagestan and Chechnya. Yet after examining his background and interviewing him face to face, the U.S. security agency gave him a clean bill of health:

U.S. authorities acknowledged that an unnamed government had contacted the FBI to say the 26-year-old ethnic Chechen “had changed drastically” since 2010 and was preparing to leave the United States “to join unspecified underground groups,” according to an official statement from the FBI.

There are a number of ways to approach this information and interpret it, none of them flattering to the FBI. Either it had a terrible relationship with the FSB and didn’t trust what it had been told by them; the agency conducted a slipshod investigation of Tsarnaev; it didn’t consider Chechen terrorism a likely threat to the U.S.; or based on the impression the Chechen-American gave to the interviewing agent, he didn’t view him as a serious threat.

At least some of the information available to the FSB–Tsarnaev’s participation on Russian-language, Chechen web forums–would’ve been accessible to U.S. investigators as well. The Russians may’ve had domestic informants providing them some of the data they offered to the FBI.

In hindsight, it’s clear that the FBI botched an opportunity to probe more deeply into Tsarnaev’s beliefs and activities to determine whether they posed a domestic threat. Had they done so, they might have disrupted the carnage that Boston suffered this week.

In all the hoopla in the aftermath of this crisis–the flag-waving, back-slapping, Muslim-baiting–I’ve heard nary a word about the security lapse that allowed this tragedy. While it’s natural to take the simpler, less troublesome approach in situations like this, we do so at our risk. It’s critical to learn lessons from this failure and how to avoid it in future.

There are, understandably, Muslims and progressives who are leery of labeling this as a terrorist attack. Doing so falls into every Islamophobic trap known to man. Figures like Pam Geller, Robert Spencer and David Yerushalmi are having a field day, since it confirms their fondest dreams and prejudices. Rep. Peter King dredges up new anti-Muslim lies claiming there have been “sixteen” terror plots against New York since 9/11, “all of them” by Muslims. He adds more fuel to the fire here:

“We’re at war with Islamic terrorism. It’s coming from people within the Muslim community by the terrorists coming from that community, just like the mafia comes from Italian communities.”

Further, NPR falsely reports there have been no acts of terror in the U.S. since 9/11.

It’s certainly reasonable to heed the cautionary warnings from Ali Abunimah asking us only to report what we know, and not to fuel the worst prejudices of Americans and their ill-informed media mandarins with idle speculation.

But on the other hand, to me it makes little sense to parse definitions of terror as Ali has done, and to claim that nothing we know now about the Tsarnaevs and their motivations fits those definitions; therefore we should hold off on jumping the gun.

My reporting style is different. I agree that it’s important to report accurately, especially when tempers are high and there is so much at stake. But if we fail to report what seems obvious and right in front of our faces, we run the risk of failing our readers and our political cause.

We may wish, as David Sirota wrote in his blog, that the Marathon bombers had been white guys, but they weren’t. We may have hoped that this was an act whose motivations were more generic and neutral, so as not to fan the flames of prejudice against Muslims here and world-wide.

Tsarnaev brothers

Tsarnaev brothers, Tamerlan and Dzhokar, with their younger sister

But from every indication, including the L.A. Times report linked above which associates the older brother with “radical Islam,” I don’t see how we do our cause any service by denying what seems either inevitable; or at the least highly likely. Add to this, the story told in that article about Tamerlan’s explosion during the imam’s sermon at a Cambridge mosque, when the latter held out Martin Luther King as a figure worthy of emulation. The suspected Islamist shouted that King shouldn’t be held out as a worthy model since he wasn’t Muslim. For this outburst, he was ejected from the prayer service.

I would far prefer to, while being cautious and responsible in my reporting, accept what appears likely (that this was an act of terror, no matter how misguided) and draw the proper lessons from it. I would far rather explain why it happened and what we might learn about our own behaviors that might lessen the chance of it happening again.

For example, I’d like Americans to ponder this loving image of the younger Tamerlan and Dzokhar with their younger sister which is the exemplar of innocence and devotion. Let’s try to contemplate how two such loving boys could turn into such monsters. What happened to them? Where did such angels go and why?

That seems a worthy enterprise. One that will do some good, lessen the hate, and make the world, if not a vastly better place, then at least a little less bad than it otherwise might be.

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{ 57 comments… add one }
  • Daniel April 21, 2013, 1:20 AM

    Mr Silverstein, I think you take a judicious approach to this matter. It’s important to be both cautious and sober. While we still can know very little for certain — and should be clear about that — and while we must not jump to any conclusions, it is not unreasonable to begin to make some tentative assumptions. The ones you’ve made so far appear plausible to me.

    A remark on the article: I believe you may be mistakenly quoting Rep. Peter King — truly one of the worst specimens even among other race-baiters — I think he did not actually claim that there have been sixteen terror plots in the US since 9/11, all of them by Muslims.

    The claim he made was: “There have been 16 terror plots against New York [since Sept. 11, 2001], all Islamist-based.”

    This is according to Politico’s Kate Glueck — the story can be found here: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/04/peter-king-politically-correct-90369.html?hp=l2

    This repulsive man, calling upon the authorities to put aside “political correctness”, continued: “We’re at war with Islamic terrorism. It’s coming from people within the Muslim community by the terrorists coming from that community, just like the mafia comes from Italian communities.”

    Regardless of his quote, his numbers should be contrasted with those reported by CNN’s Peter Bergen, who cites the New America Foundation:

    “In the years since the 9/11 attacks, dozens of extremists have plotted to use explosives to further their causes in the United States.

    Of the 380 individuals indicted for acts of political violence or for conspiring to carry out such attacks in the U.S. since 9/11, 77 were able to obtain explosives or the components necessary to build a bomb. …

    Of those, 48 were right-wing extremists, 23 were militants inspired by al Qaeda’s ideology, five have been described as anarchists and one was an environmentalist terrorist.”

    http://edition.cnn.com/2013/04/16/opinion/bergen-bombings

    So by Peter King’s logic, is America also “at war” with right-wing extremism? Are these domestic enemies coming from “the Christian” or “the white” or “the right-wing” community? Should these communities be “monitored” and people from them “captured” as well?

    • Richard Silverstein April 21, 2013, 1:26 AM

      @Daniel: Thanks for that correction concerning Peter King. I read that article quickly earlier today and missed that distinction that he was talking about terror plots against New York and not the U.S.

  • Yonatan April 21, 2013, 1:48 AM

    Contrast this with two men injured with life threatening and disfiguring injuries in a bomb explosion in Oregon on Sunday 14 April (the day before Boston). The police obtained a search warrant and searched their home, finding materials and instructions for making bombs. A total blackout other than in local media.

    The police approach – “This is not a case of kids just seeing how much noise they can make, you know or foolishly experimenting with gun powder or something like that,” Wolfe said. So that’s the unanswered question. Why do we have these types of devices? Why are there more at their home? And what’s their plan? What’s their end game? … Are they just seeing if they can make it? Do they have a target in mind? Are they trying to inflict harm on other people? Those are the questions.”

    My guess is that these two were not dark skinned or Muslim.

  • Daniel April 21, 2013, 1:53 AM

    I also suspect you needn’t worry about people ignoring the FBI’s role, or failure, in all of this — if for no other reason than the chance to attack Obama, sectors of Congress will be salivating over the opportunity to probe this matter.

    Here is a TIME story discussing that prospect, ‘Why the FBI, White House Will Face Hard Questions About Their Boston Bombing Interviews’ by Massimo Calabresi:

    http://swampland.time.com/2013/04/20/why-the-fbi-white-house-will-face-hard-questions-about-their-boston-bombing-interviews/

    I have also read about the suggestion that the FBI were supposedly justified to take the FSB alert with a grain of salt, if that is what they did, since the Russians have very much their own agenda when it comes to people with ties to Chechnya. That is undoubtedly true, but it appears equally true that the FBI, as you say, dropped the ball when it comes to Tsarnaev specifically.

  • pabelmont April 21, 2013, 4:35 AM

    Just curious. Before 9-11, the FBI et al. had warning about airplanes-as-weapons and seems to have ignored them. Here, more ignoring. One reading is that the amount of threat-material is V*A*S*T and the FBI sorts the needles from the straws in this haystack as well as it can. The FBI cannot, simply cannot, give a 10-man 25-day investigation to each allegation of possible-terrorist-tendancy. (And the NSA spying on all emails, all telephone calls of certain kinds, adds immeasurably to this VASTness.) In the last 30 years, I imagine that the great bulk of terrorism has been drugs-trade-related and occurred in or in connection with Central and South America. And the USA and its media generally ignored it all. Then the USA’s far-flung military empire began to be attacked and these attacks (and other attacks) were called terrorism and the FBI and media and CIA and so on beat the drums for a war on terror — always meaning on Islamic terrorism and usually meaning terrorism mounted as a response to USA’s generally unwelcome Darth-Vader-like imperium (which USA’s flaks call being policeman to the world). And our CIA/FBI concentrated its “terrorism” detection on Islamic folks from the oil regions, ignoring Chechens and Chinese Islamics and so on. Because the USA doesn’t dislike terror, and has performed it routinely since Hiroshima and through VietNam, but likes to speak (to its American audience) of a “war on terrorism” by which it means a perpetuation of USA’s military empire in the Islamic oil-world.

    And hence, why should the FBI have been any more concerned with Chechens than with –say — Columbians or Guatemalans?

  • mary April 21, 2013, 8:13 AM

    “But from every indication, including the L.A. Times report linked above which associates the older brother with “radical Islam,” I don’t see how we do our cause any service by denying what seems either inevitable; or at the least highly likely. Add to this, the story told in that article about Tamerlan’s explosion during the imam’s sermon at a Cambridge mosque, when the latter held out Martin Luther King as a figure worthy of emulation. The suspected Islamist shouted that King shouldn’t be held out as a worthy model since he wasn’t Muslim. For this outburst, he was ejected from the prayer service.”

    “The suspected Islamist”???? I see now. And this rubbish about speaking up at a khutbah, makes him a terrorist…

    We haven’t heard anything from the younger brother yet.

    Sorry, Richard. Major fail on your part to maintain objectivity and refrain from exposing subconscious Islamophobia on your part. I’ve read your blog for five years and have always greatly respected you. I’m sorry I misjudged you. Saying I’m disappointed doesn’t begin to describe this. I will no longer be reading your blog.

    • Daniel April 21, 2013, 9:42 AM

      Mary, as I needn’t even point out, you are entitled to your own opinions and to make your own judgments. But for what it’s worth, I think you may be overreacting in this instance. Yesterday, in response to another commenter, I wrote the following in a comment of my own:

      ‘Please note my disapproval of your casual use of the term “Islamists” when describing extremists who visit acts of murderous terror upon innocent civilians. Islamism is a very wide political movement and does not mean fundamentalism or extremism; to suggest that by conflating the terms is like implicitly equating right-wingers with Nazis or leftists with Stalinists. Your words could be misconstrued that way.’

      I stand by that very firmly, regardless of who uses such language. But I don’t read Silverstein’s text in that way — I must admit I didn’t even notice that particular phrasing the first time I read the post. And I read it as nothing more than an unclear formulation. I think Silverstein’s activity on this blog and what he’s written before make it extremely clear that he does not harbour Islamophobia, whether conscious or subconscious, and I must disagree with the characterization that he does. It may be fair to criticize the language, or even a percieved habitual thought pattern, but to draw the conclusion that someone is a narrow-minded bigot — as you seem to suggest — based on such a wording, would be hasty in any case and fairly absurd in this case. In fact, I’m fairly sure that Silverstein would agree with my comment as cited above.

      But if you truly are offended, of course, that is your right.

      • Richard Silverstein April 21, 2013, 1:06 PM

        Thanks for this comment, Daniel. I do agree with what you’ve written. I used the term “Islamist” as a synonym for Islamic fundamentalist. This may’ve been inexact. I don’t see “Islamist” as a synonym for “terrorist.” If that is what you thought my use of the term conveyed, it wasn’t my intent.

        But I do believe it’s likely that the Tsarnaevs’ acts were terroristIc and derived from religious-ethnic-political motives. I base this on the combined materials I’ve read about the two boys, their statements and acts.

        This does not mean that I believe Islam is a religion prone to terrorism, nor that its principles promote terror. Those are personal judgments and acts of terror are the responsibility of the perpetrator/s.

        That being said, the story of specific incidents of terror are composed of a complicated set of factors. We need to explore all of them in order to understand what happened and why.

    • Oui April 21, 2013, 9:53 AM

      See Daniël above and my bloober on previous article. Your quote of Richard where he uses the term “Islamist” is odd and perhaps “fundamentalist” would be more accurate. I’m sorry you have been misled all those years. One may be critical of a friend and don’t have to agree always.

    • Richard Silverstein April 21, 2013, 12:53 PM

      Saying that I exhibit “unconscious Islamophobia” is beyond ludicrous. I understand that you find my position on this matter personally offensive to you. But I can’t trim my sails as a blogger so as not to offend you.

      I have to make the best judgments I can in such situations about how to report a sensitive story. It isn’t easy for me or for you as the reader. But the world is a complicated place in which things happen, some of which we like and some which we don’t.

      I’m sorry that for you this incident has caused you to cross a threshold. I value/d you as a participant in the community here & a supporter of my goals in writing the blog.

      But if my calling the Tsarnaevs “suspected Islamists” or “suspected terrorists” is so offensive that you must turn your back on that, I don’t see much I can do other than to wish you well & Godspeed.

  • Fred Plester April 21, 2013, 11:48 AM

    In the FBI’s defence:
    The Russian intelligence and security services are inclined to view everyone from the predominantly muslim former soviet republics migrating to the West as international terrorists, and if the FBI didn’t delve deeply enough here, we need to know how many other cases the FSB and SVR expected them to follow up before we find the FBI culpable.

    Also, the FBI found no evidence of terrorist intent in 2011, and at the time that might very well have been a completely accurate assessment.

    If MI5 and the Metropolitan Police Service arrested or monitored everyone whom the FSB say they ought to, there would be widespread anger and discontent. The Obama administration, though, has not only been notably uncritical of Russia in foreign policy terms, but has also cooperated with them far more closely on “anti-terrorism” than Britain has. To everyone on the other side of the fence, this makes America look like Russia’s accomplice.

    Thus far, the Russian state has murdered far more people on the streets of Britain than Muslim terrorists of former Soviet origin (it’s very hard to name someone who the latter have killed in fact) and it probably is a mistake to cooperate with Russia as unthinkingly as Obama has been doing, because it’s making enemies of quite large numbers of people who have no historical or geo-political reason at all to be enemies of America.

  • Scott Shepard April 21, 2013, 3:04 PM

    Richard,

    The Russians knew that the older brother ‘had changed’ before he left the United States. On the news this weekend, the wise pundits are routinely suggesting that Tamerlan ‘learned’ to hate America, and to attack it, during his six month trip back to Russia. So which was it? It seems evident that Russia caught on to Tamerlan because of web activity, since the Russians were not following him around in Boston, to see what he was doing. If they believe that he went back to Russia already with a militant frame of mind, what he did while in Russia is only a lesser part of the story.

    Too many of the commentators would prefer to blame the bad people in Russia for ruining this decent boy. And this distrust toward Russian intelligence is not going to help anything. We know that the Russians have undisguised hostility toward Muslims, in large part connected to the Chechen situation. Perhaps, if Putin had had the wisdom to release that break away republic years ago, the world would look a little different today.

    But the fact is Tamerlan developed a hate on for the US, apart from what he thought of Russia. He could have chosen to stay in Russia, and joined a terror unit over there in order to attack Russians. That would have made much more sense to many analysts. But he didn’t.

    He became hateful enough toward America to come back to do his business here, which certainly was not going to assist in any way Chechnen independence .

    I don’t care if he calls himself a devout Muslim. Men call themselves Christians and then mail toxic chemicals to politicians. If he was thrown out of his mosque for bigotry, he was not much of a Muslim. But he was certainly a man with a lot of anger, and we need to explore his issues.

  • Deïr Yassin April 21, 2013, 5:54 PM

    “Boston bombing will boost U.S. support for Israel, says Netanyahou aide”.
    Reminds me of Bibi with his ‘it will be good for Israel’ just after 09.11. I’m not into conspiracy theories but this is the kind of stuff that makes their day.
    http://www.haaretz.com/blogs/diplomania/boston-bombing-will-boost-u-s-support-for-israel-says-netanyahu-aide.premium-1.516721

  • Ken Houghton April 21, 2013, 7:06 PM

    “The Boston Marathon Bombing: Is It Good for the Jews?” #slatepitches

    (buries head in hands)

  • Bob Reynolds April 22, 2013, 1:05 AM

    I’m surprised that no one has mentioned all of those plots that the FBI
    foiled. The ones where they targeted someone using an FBI informant
    to stir the pot and then supplying the fake explosives and other material.
    Plots that essentially existed only because of the FBI.

    Here they had someone who apparently had red flags waving and
    blew it. And where was the CIA in this? Here was someone about to
    go overseas where there had been a warning from another intelligence
    agency. Were they made aware of this by the FBI? Did they accumulate
    any intelligence on this individual? We shouldn’t forget the failures of both
    the CIA and the FBI in 9/11. Their failure to act and to keep one another informed.

  • eli aroch April 22, 2013, 3:55 AM

    It’s easy blaming the FBI for not doing their jobs in hindsight.
    But let’s understand what this means:
    If you scrutinize all Muslim Americans with jihadi inclinations based on their YouTube channels, twitter, Facebook, whatever, you’ll have to put in custody tens of thousands of people, most of them will likely never actually perpetrate an act of terrorism.
    Even if you just put them on a watch list, the amount of FBI manpower and energy required for this, will collapse the organization.
    I’m not saying we should do nothing, but you can’t ignore the cost of marking tens of thousands of Americans as suspects of potential terrorists. And I haven’t even mentioned the moral dilemmas involved here…

    • Richard Silverstein April 22, 2013, 12:12 PM

      How many Muslims do you expect will be labelled as potential terrorists by Russia’s FSB? Not many. I’m suggesting not that masses of Muslims be targeted in this way,but that when the FBI gets a legitimate tip from a credible intelligence source like the FSB, it is duty bound to do a far more intense form of vetting than it did.

      • Daniel April 22, 2013, 12:46 PM

        I have to agree with Eli on this, to some extent. Fred Plester also raised some important points earlier.

        Russia has tried to flatten Chechnya in two shockingly brutal wars; and, infamously, Chechens have enacted atrocious retribution upon Russia in kind. There is incredible suspicion and vitriol between the two sides. Without being an expert on the subject, Mr Silverstein, I’m inclined to believe that Russia’s intelligence and security services keep a very close and probably excessively severe eye on any Muslim radicals within their purview, perhaps on all Islamists. I doubt it would be ethical or even wise for American intelligence to adopt equally severe standards (assuming they’re not already doing so).

        As Eli says, unless the FSB had any real substance in their concerns — apart from radical opinions expressed in social media, and so on — then the FBI may have been right to ignore them. Furthermore, as Fred Plester pointed out, the FBI’s assessment that he was not dangerous in 2011 may well have been correct at that time. His true radicalization may have come later.

        Of course, it’s hard to avoid the frustrating possibility that the FBI somehow lapsed in their vigilance. Still, in an open society, vigilance cannot be infinite and all-encompassing.

        Before we judge everyone’s role in this, we simply must know more. The most salient questions seem to be:

        – How often does the FSB warn the FBI in this manner about extremists and/or Chechens? Are thousands of such warnings given every year, usually emptily, or was it a rare and conspicious event?
        – Was the warning serious and substantive or just a routine matter based on ethnic profiling and other irrelevant factors?
        – What evidence or proof did the FSB offer? Is it true the FSB refused an FBI request for additional information?
        – How was the FBI interview/examination conducted?
        – What did the FBI do about Tsarnaev after 2011?

        Hopefully journalists will uncover some of the answers as we go along, though I’m not holding my breath.

        Here’s an even more disturbing thought: what if the FBI questioning of Tsarnaev in itself, percieved as a form of persecution or prejudice, actually contributed to his resentment towards America, to his resolve and radicalization? Recall the Merchant of Venice:

        “Thou call’dst me dog before thou hadst a cause; / But, since I am a dog, beware my fangs.”

        • Richard Silverstein April 22, 2013, 1:55 PM

          @Daniel: There are many important questions to be asked as you rightly note. But the most important points to remember right now are:

          1. The FSB asked the FBI to vet a U.S. resident who it believed posed a danger of being involved in radical militant Islam
          2. The FBI did investigate but found nothing suspicious.
          3. The suspect then appears to have to fulfilled the warning offered by the FSB and become a terrorist & successfully killed four people and wounded 170.

          You can delve into all the issues you correctly noted as being of interest. But you mustn’t lose sight of the 3 points above (especially number 3).

          • Daniel April 23, 2013, 2:07 AM

            Quite so.

  • bluto April 22, 2013, 6:30 AM

    great article on the Neocon support of the Chechen jihad, the ‘Syrian rebel’ Al Qaeda factions, the ‘Libyan rebel’ Al Qaeda factions, and their support of MEK and others.

    I’m so sick of this Israeli-style game of creating terrorists and then using them as justifcation for their ‘War on Terror in Palestine’

    ‘Chechen Terrorists and the Neocons’
    http://original.antiwar.com/colleen-rowley/2013/04/21/chechen-terrorists-and-the-neocons/

  • Oui April 22, 2013, 4:36 PM

    ‘Confusion and inconsistencies': How US plans to distract public from real truth about Boston

    (RT.com) – The United States is having to quickly wake up to the possibility that Chechens are not the ‘freedom fighters’ Western media has been categorizing them as, especially when it came to the Republic’s relationship to Russia. But even the newly formed perceptions may not be enough when it comes to investigating the motives and planning behind the Boston bombing, according to Sibel Edmonds, who is also a founder of the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition.

  • Elad R April 22, 2013, 6:17 PM

    @Richard Strange reading such a post from you.
    You out of all people ,who insist on separating facts from ideology, nails the FBI for not following “guilt by association”.
    The information released shows the FSB tipped the FBI that Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s was associating himself with radical Islamist throughout his last visit to the region, they may have monitored his on line activity as well and saw Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s posted few radical comments, maybe a video or two but nothing more then that.

    What did you want the FBI do ? read his his Miranda rights and arrest him ? based on what ?

    Don’t get me wrong, i think that fact that the FBI didn’t do so, is based on the fact that this country is wrapped in PC malarkey, and the FBI should have jailed Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s, and anyone who associates himself with the same social media sites. However you have always presented a much different picture.

    • Richard Silverstein April 22, 2013, 6:58 PM

      I wanted the FBI to do its job which is to protect the American people from attack as opposed to go on witch hunts against people about whom there is no suspicion, except that they may be Muslim or left wing. They failed in this.

      It is my job to point out intelligence failures. It’s your job to act as apologist for spies & spooks whether Israeli or American.

      • Elad R April 22, 2013, 7:50 PM

        @ Richard
        I understand your POV completely, let me ask you this :
        What do you think the role of public opinion with the FBI decision ?
        You & others scream gevalad anytime anybody will point out the radical tendencies which are integral part of the Muslim religion.

        President Obama ordered the government to change terms – an you no longer can use the term Jihad or Islamic Extremism to define people like the Tsarnaev’s brothers or their acts in the Boston Marathon.

        It was so ridiculous and outrages, but the DOD wrote a big 86 page report after the 2009 Fort Hood incident in which 13 people were killed and 30 wounded by a US Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan who associated himself – no different then the Tsarnaev’s brothers – with radical/extreme Muslim prominent figures. The DOD didn’t mention those terms (Jihad or Islamic Extremism) once to describe the Major acts, they did however mentioned the term “workplace violence” sixteen times.
        http://www.defense.gov/pubs/pdfs/DOD-ProtectingTheForce-Web_Security_HR_13jan10.pdf

        Gauging all that is very obvious, I think that the US will be facing a real problem with the young Muslim immigrants. I don’t know what the right way to approach this is, obviously not all Muslims are born equal / will strap a bomb onto their chests, But being PC about the issue will end up with blood.

        • Richard Silverstein April 22, 2013, 9:16 PM

          If someone from the FBI came to me or the American people and said: I know you think we’re being overbearing, but if we hadn’t been more intrusive than you’d like we wouldn’t have caught Tamerlan Tsarnaev as we did in 2011 before he commenced his terror plans. I think I’d tend to be pretty forgiving.

          When you say “you” never use terms like jihad or Islamic extremism, I have no idea to what you refer. Those terms are used all the time in U.S. political discourse. And you certainly can’t be talking about this blog because I use these or simnilar terms (though carefully) regularly.

          Your comment above reads like something you cut & pasted from a hasbara manual. Which pro Israel publication did it come from?

          I hate the term “PC.” It’s a garbage term and meaningless except to far right individuals.

          • Elad R April 22, 2013, 10:03 PM

            @ Richard, i have no idea what a comment – based on my observation as someone who been residing in the US for the past 8 years or so, has anything to do with pro Israel publication.

            Do we (Israel and the US) face some similar problems ? absolutely, similar ways of life and very similar values and culture raise the same reaction from the same group of people who share a very nasty ideology. it may be a bit inconvenient for you to realize it as it pulls the rug under most of your arguments, but it’s true. Oh, and by the way, US / Israel actions has nothing to do with it and contribute zilch to ther existence of the phenomena. After all the PLO was founded by an Egyptian 2 years before the eruption of the six days war.

          • Richard Silverstein April 22, 2013, 11:51 PM

            @Elad R: Sorry, but I don’t see “similar ways of life and very similar values and culture” between Israel and the U.S. In fact, we’re quite different. Much more different than most Israelis prefer to admit. When we do act in concert (like banishing Palestine from the UN or denouncing the Goldstone Report), it invariably turns out badly for both parties. Nor are we or should we be allies in fighting Islam. I’d leave that to your ultranationalist friends in Tel Aviv and elsewhere who envision a holy war against the Muslim hordes.

            When anything you write “pulls the rug” out from under my arguments, I’ll be the first to let you know. Hasn’t happened yet. But I’m reassured by the fact that you’ll keep trying.

          • Elad R April 23, 2013, 8:16 AM

            @ Richard,
            1. To your surprise, The west is cooperating heavily in it’s war against terror. The tip the FBI received from the Russian’s is one minor example.
            2. No one at least not me – envisions a holy war – Jihad is an Islamic prerogative.

            Technical question – these blue notes mess up the entire site flow & they are hard to follow and respond to, is there any other solution ? (what’s the name of this WordPress Plugin?)

          • Daniel April 23, 2013, 2:04 AM

            “Do we (Israel and the US) face some similar problems ? absolutely, similar ways of life and very similar values and culture raise the same reaction from the same group of people who share a very nasty ideology.”

            This is the most transparent and tired of hasbara talking points. What Israel has most in common with the US is the Jim Crow era, going back more than half a century into the past. Do you think that’s something America is proud of? I’m not even going to bother to take the rest of this argument apart because it’s so laughable.

            “Oh, and by the way, US / Israel actions has nothing to do with it and contribute zilch to ther existence of the phenomena.”

            Not only does everyone else here know this to be the most bizarre and outrageous falsehood — so do you. I suggest you don’t embarrass yourself by repeating such things again.

        • Daniel April 23, 2013, 1:50 AM

          “… the radical tendencies which are integral part of the Muslim religion.”

          This is xenophobic, chauvinist, garbage. Yes, people will call you out on it, because it’s not just false, it’s also slander, and it’s destructive to keep painting a group of people as innately hostile.

          It is THIS — the ignorant and malicious bigotry — that creates the danger with “young Muslim immigrants”; not what you call “PC malarkey”, which contrary to your claims is a process of defusing the tensions created by fearmongering supremacists like yourself.

          But go ahead. “Point out”, as you claim to be able to, what these “radical tendencies” that are an “integral part of the Muslim religion” are. I can’t wait to hear them.

          • Elad R April 23, 2013, 8:08 AM

            @ Danie,
            You are right, “This Bigotry” (as oppose to radical ideology) as you call it, is what made US Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan press the trigger, kill 13 and wound 30. It was “This Bigotry” as you call it who made the Tsarnaev’s brothers plant the bombs who killed 3 wound 150 + people and shoot a police office in another incident.

            Those who carry the extreme Islamic ideology are far away from the poor brainwashed terrorist stereotype, about time the west will realize it. If you didn’t yet, just look at who the Canadian arrested just yesterday preventing them from blowing the Toronto – NY train line.

            Any physiologist will tell you that the first phase in solving an issue is recognizing it’s existence. You may, in the name of blaming the victim – as you do so well, keep ignoring it, you will eventually wake up, So will the rest of the Western civilization.

          • Richard Silverstein April 23, 2013, 1:21 PM

            Now you’ve come to the end of your rope here as a commenter. This comment crosses the line into overt racism, a severe comment rule violation. I simply do not tolerate it.

            What’s interesting in particular about your comment is its flight into magical thinking. That is, everyone knows Newton’s Third Law of Motion: for every action there’s an equal & opposite reaction. What Jewish racists like you believe is that Muslim hate originates not in a preceding action, but rather from Islam itself.

            This is just as offensive as those who claim that the evils of Zionism derive from the innate evils of Judaism. And there are many who claim this.

            Both Jewish & Muslim hate derive from the false belief that the other’s evil is innate to their religion & doesn’t originate in the actions of the “Other.”

            There are of course tens of thousands of instances in which Israel & the U.S. have killed or maimed Muslims. Yet you foolishly & blindly ignore this violence & discount it as the “equal and opposite reaction” of Newton’s Law.

            You will read my comment rules very carefully (even if you’ve already done so). You will not espouse anti-Muslim bigotry here. This is a first warning. The next time you cross the line you will either be moderated or banned outright.

          • Elad R April 23, 2013, 8:09 AM

            * Should have been any psychologist of course, sorry for the mistake.

          • Daniel April 23, 2013, 9:01 AM

            I’m still waiting for you to point out “point out the radical tendencies which are integral part of the Muslim religion.” Or maybe you don’t actually have a single example?

            While you’re at it, please tell me what victims I’m blaming, as you accuse me of doing.

  • Strelnikov April 22, 2013, 8:26 PM

    “We know that the Russians have undisguised hostility toward Muslims, in large part connected to the Chechen situation. Perhaps, if Putin had had the wisdom to release that break away republic years ago, the world would look a little different today.” – Scott Shepherd

    The fear in Moscow under Yeltsyn was that if Chechnya successfully broke away, other republics of the Russian Federation would walk away as well, leading to a “super Yugoslavian” breakdown (there are 22 republics in the Russian Federation) because the central government was strapped for cash and looking very weak. Remember that Russia backed Serbia in the Yugo wars, and watched as Serbia lost gained ground in Bosnia and Croatia, then lost Kosovo and Montenegro. They wanted none of it, and thus we have two bloody Chechen wars whose fallout, in part, was the Tsarnaev brothers. I wish the Fibbies had done their job better.

  • Nimrod April 22, 2013, 11:55 PM

    Do you think they should release him if he starts a hunger strike?

    • Richard Silverstein April 23, 2013, 1:42 AM

      @Nimrod: If we release him as part of a prisoner exchange and then arbitrarily rearrest him as Israel did to Samer Issawi, then hell yeah!

      • Elad R April 23, 2013, 8:19 AM

        Samar Issawi, violated his release agreement which he personally signed . What happens in the US to someone who violated his parole ? He goes back to jail, are there are any restrictions applied to a parolee ? hell yeah! including travel restrictions.

        • Daniel April 23, 2013, 9:07 AM

          His “violation” was to enter the West Bank.

          However, it was not a “parole”. It was the release of a political prisoner.

          But since you say the agreement has been violated, I suppose Gilad Shalit should be sent back to his dungeon cell too.

          • Elad R April 23, 2013, 10:25 AM

            It was a release of a terrorist, and not entering the west bank was the condition he agreed to.
            So what are you saying ? he deliberately lied ? You think those who lie should receive a trophy ?

          • Richard Silverstein April 23, 2013, 9:13 PM

            There should be no restriction on freedom of movement of exchanged prisoners unless Hamas can stipulate the same for Gilad Shalit.

          • Elad R April 23, 2013, 9:30 PM

            @ Richard, are you applying for the position of Hamas negotiator ? This is what Hamas and each prisoner agreed to.
            If they negotiated in good faith they should adhere to the agreement, if they didn’t negotiate in good faith, you shouldn’t support them.

          • Richard Silverstein April 24, 2013, 1:31 AM

            @EladR: You suggest I should consider applying as Hamas’ negotiator. You may recall what happened to the last guy in that job–blown to bits by your friends in the IDF. So I think I’ll pass.

            I have my own opinions about deals negotiated by Israel & I will express them. Forbidding Issawi from entering the West Bank was a ridiculous condition. For Israel to claim he entered the West Bank in order to plan a terror attack without offering a shred of evidence is also another sham.

          • Daniel April 23, 2013, 11:06 AM

            You don’t make someone sign a paper as a condition of their release. That is called coercion — perhaps you are familiar with the term. Let me exemplify and illustrate the point, since you find it so hard to understand: in 20th-century Europe, there were countries — not Germany, other countries — where, as part of national eugenics programs, they detained “genetically flawed” women in closed institutions and then made them sign an agreement to be sterilized, so they could not procreate and contaminate the gene pool, before being released. If they did not sign, they were not released.

            This practice of making people sign something under duress, in exchange for their freedom, has been universally condemned by civilized legal scholars everywhere, and such signatures are now inadmissible in any serious court of law. These are the tactics of fascist police states, much like threatening violence against someone unless they “freely and voluntarily” agree to something. It is absurd, and to any sane observer, laughable.

            It is very simple: Either you have a right to detain someone, and you keep them — or you don’t, and you release them. After Israel agreed to the prisoner exchange deal it no longer had a right to detain Samer Issawi; and it had no right to coerce a worthless agreement to an arbitrary and tyrannical infraction upon his freedom of movement. And it had even less right to invoke this absurd and coerced “agreement” when incarcerating him yet again. This is chutzpah, not legitimacy.

          • Elad R April 23, 2013, 11:54 AM

            Excuse me what you stated about the agreement is pure BS.
            As part of the agreement there was a set of caveats which both Hamas and Egypt agreed to.
            There was a list of specific people who were ban from entering the Judea and Samaria, A group that was deported to Gaza and a group that was deported overseas, Each of the prisoners had to agree to the terms.
            Your claim is that this agreement wasn’t negotiated in good faith. Do you think this agreement shouldn’t be followed to the letter by the different parties ? Was that Taqiyya ? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taqiyya

          • Richard Silverstein April 23, 2013, 9:10 PM

            Was that Taqiyya

            By raising yet another anti-Muslim canard you’ve once again violated the comment rules. You are now moderated. Your next violation will be your last.

          • Elad R April 23, 2013, 9:16 PM

            If you want to Ban me, please do so
            But at least check the time stamp on the posts before you are doing so.
            You wrote your – Anti Bigotry blue post at 1:21 PM after that i never wrote anything which can be considered Anti Muslim. My comment about Taqiyya was written at 11:54 AM. Big difference.
            You may not like my politics, but this indicates you are an extreme sore debater.

          • Richard Silverstein April 24, 2013, 12:25 PM

            You’re confusing two comments I wrote. I moderated you after my first comment. Later, I banned you after the Takiya comment.

            I note that you failed to address the substantive charge of anti-Muslim bias leveled against you. Not really the way to approach this if you’d wanted to be reinstated.

            If I’d wanted to shut you down purely for your political views I’d have done so after your first few comments. Yet I didn’t.

          • Daniel April 23, 2013, 1:24 PM

            I’m aware of the caveats in the agreement; the agreement was between the major parties. Issawi and his fellow prisoners cannot be held responsible for it — that would be absurd. Israel was not negotiating with the prisoners; Israel was negotiating with Hamas. And so if Israel has a complaint about a violation of the agreement then they should address it to Hamas; it is Hamas and Egypt which should be held accountable if they promised something they were not able to uphold. Perhaps they should raise a case against them in the International Criminal Court?

            “Each of the prisoners had to agree to the terms” — this is precisely the coercion I mentioned above, and I’m sure you realize that yourself. Such “agreement” is null and void and self-evidently ridiculous. Samer Issawi was a prisoner and not valid as a party to any agreement upon which his freedom was conditioned.

            But as I said, Israel can always send Shalit back to Hamas if they think the prisoner exchange has been invalidated by Issawi’s actions.

        • Richard Silverstein April 23, 2013, 1:11 PM

          Israel had no right to impose an arbitrary travel restriction on Issawi & then punish him with a 20 yr jail sentence for breaking it. Doing so was arbitrary & capricious. Do not tell me that the U.S. would treat him the same way since Issawi would never have gone to jail here in the first place because his basic human rights & dignity would never have been violated & driven him to militancy.

          • Elad R April 23, 2013, 3:14 PM

            You mean in the US the basic human rights and dignity of anyone are always kept ?
            I was under the impression the police didn’t read the Miranda rights to young Tsarnaev’s.

            It’s extremely naive to think the “occupation” is the cause for it all, how do you explain the fact the PLO was created by an Egyptian born Arafat 2 years before the six days war – which started the occupation – even took place ? In case you have forgotten PLO stands for Palestine Liberation Organization. So what was Arafat liberating in 1965 if the reason to all the turmoil in the word is what started in 1967 ?

          • Richard Silverstein April 23, 2013, 9:01 PM

            No, basic human rights are NOT always observed here. In fact, they’re violated far too often. But when they’re violated, there are many NGOs and activists who raise a powerful voice in opposition. That’s how a strong movement against drones has arisen.

            As for the Miranda rights issue, there was questioning of the suspect without reading him his rights. But after the police ascertained there was no ongoing terror threat they did indeed read him his rights & appointed him a lawyer. And unlike in Israel, we’ll actually allow him to see his lawyer and plot a defense strategy. Then that lawyer will actually get to see the evidence amassed against his client & rebut it in court. That’s also unlike Israel.

            I have no interested in debating historical events going back to 1965.

  • Oui April 23, 2013, 2:31 AM
  • BruceT April 25, 2013, 4:53 AM

    “I have no interested in debating historical events going back to 1965.”

    Huh? How can you say this? The whole premise of this blog is about the history of the conflict. Are you not interested in the events of 1948? How about the origins of Zionism? How convenient of you to “lose interet” just in time for Elad’s excellent point! So please answer the question: what was Arafat “liberating” in 1964 (not 65)? What do the P and the L in PLO represent?

    Lastly, how on earth can you ban Elad for talking about taqiya? It is an absolutely true point. For you to systematically erase Islam as a factor in this conflict, and tie everything to the so-called “Occupation”, and seeing everything as a reaction to that, is giving you an extremely inaccurate view of the conflict. If you want to solve it, or at least improve things (and not make things even worse!) you need to drop this false “Occupation” paradigm.

    • Richard Silverstein April 25, 2013, 12:27 PM

      No. The whole point for YOU of this blog is to debate interminably the “history of the conflict.” But that isn’t the point of the blog. The point of the blog is to read my take on issues I find important & then conduct a discussion based on those posts.

      In fact, the type of historical debate you’re hoping for is specifically listed as something I do not encourage, unless it’s specifically the subject of a post, which it wasn’t in this case.

      You clearly haven’t read the comment rules. A condition for participating, especially if you violate them, is to do so. So do so, right now.

      I don’t get into arguments with commenters about my editorial decisions regarding other commenters. That’s my prerogative, not yours.

      Since you brought up Taqqiya, which is not only off-topic, but a banned subject due to its racist connotations, you yourself are now moderated.

  • Mark Beisbol August 31, 2013, 10:10 PM

    Let’s face it, the US sucks at counter terrorism. Most of the time the FBI, CIA, NSA, DOD, et. al., are falling all over themselves to be political sycophants. This is the real problem – politics! I am firmly convinced that the majority of elected officials could care less about the imminent casualties of innocent people, it is only about how these tragedies can be used to bolster their political careers. Do they honestly expect us to believe the farce of senate hearings whose only purpose is to appease an angry country and then do nothing about it. You know, have everyone leading the hearing act tough with the defendent(s), admonish the failing party, and then invite them for a beer. Senate and congressional hearings are the side show at the DC circus. I, for one, am deeply offended by the hood winking, lack of intelligent leadership, and the continual failures to protect the American people.

    As stark examples the 9/11 hearings were all show and no go. Secondly, the Boston Marathon bombings should never have happened.

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