Tuesday Reads

woman-reading-porch

Good Morning!!

I have a mixture of links for you today, with no overall theme whatsoever. There is news happening out there, but somehow it still feels like a slow news month so far. Maybe it’s just because it feels like nothing is really happening that will change the “malaise” in the country, to use Jimmy Carter’s term. The economy doesn’t really seem to be improving for 90 percent of us, and the bottleneck in Congress feels unbreakable. So here are some stories that caught my eye.

From The New York Times: Scientists Warn of Rising Oceans From Polar Melt.

A large section of the mighty West Antarctica ice sheet has begun falling apart and its continued melting now appears to be unstoppable, two groups of scientists reported on Monday. If the findings hold up, they suggest that the melting could destabilize neighboring parts of the ice sheet and a rise in sea level of 10 feet or more may be unavoidable in coming centuries.

Global warming caused by the human-driven release of greenhouse gases has helped to destabilize the ice sheet, though other factors may also be involved, the scientists said.

The rise of the sea is likely to continue to be relatively slow for the rest of the 21st century, the scientists added, but in the more distant future it may accelerate markedly, potentially throwing society into crisis.

“This is really happening,” Thomas P. Wagner, who runs NASA’s programs on polar ice and helped oversee some of the research, said in an interview. “There’s nothing to stop it now. But you are still limited by the physics of how fast the ice can flow.”

Read details about the two studies at the NYT link. Richard B. Alley, scientist not involved in the studies noted that what’s happening in Antarctica is only one source of future climate change disasters.

He added that while a large rise of the sea may now be inevitable from West Antarctica, continued release of greenhouse gases will almost certainly make the situation worse. The heat-trapping gases could destabilize other parts of Antarctica as well as the Greenland ice sheet, potentially causing enough sea-level rise that many of the world’s coastal cities would eventually have to be abandoned.

“If we have indeed lit the fuse on West Antarctica, it’s very hard to imagine putting the fuse out,” Dr. Alley said. “But there’s a bunch more fuses, and there’s a bunch more matches, and we have a decision now: Do we light those?”

So it’s not as if we actually have the rest of the century to deal with the problem. Maybe the right wing nuts should start building an ark.

Childe Hassam - Two Women Reading

From Politico: Chamber of Commerce gives ultimatum to GOP.

The GOP shouldn’t even field a presidential candidate in 2016 unless Congress passes immigration reform this year, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue said Monday.

“If the Republicans don’t do it, they shouldn’t bother to run a candidate in 2016,” Donohue joked at an event on infrastructure investment in D.C. “Think about that. Think about who the voters are. I just did that to get everybody’s attention.”

Republicans have focused on an immigration overhaul as a way to woo Hispanic voters, who have increasingly drifted to Democrats over the past two election cycles. Growing Hispanic populations in Nevada, Texas and elsewhere could make those states more amenable to Democrats in the future.

Apparently, Donohue still thinks he can light a fire under the asses of the Tea Party nuts in the House. Good luck with that.

Politico also reports that John Boehner may be tiring of the frustrating job of Speaker of the dysfunctional House of Representatives: John Boehner can’t promise another 2 years as speaker.

The Ohio Republican, speaking to a luncheon here [San Antonio, TX] sponsored by a group of local chambers of commerce, said he can’t “predict what’s going to happen” and stopped short of fully committing to serving another full two-year term.

“Listen, I’m going to be 65 years old in November,” Boehner said. “I never thought I’d live to be 60. So I’m living on borrowed time.”

It’s extraordinarily rare for Boehner to sit down for an open-ended, live interview, but he did so here with the Texas Tribune’s Evan Smith, a mainstay of the Lone Star State’s journalism scene. He touched on issues ranging from immigration to Benghazi to his quiet campaign to persuade Jeb Bush to run for president….

Boehner’s noncommittal response about his future will reverberate from here all the way back to Capitol Hill and K Street. His future has been a topic of constant chatter among political types. Even people inside his orbit privately wonder why the Ohio Republican would want to serve another term wielding the speaker’s gavel, given the tumultuous political climate in Washington. Last week, Boehner beat back two primary opponents to ensure his House reelection.

Much more interesting Boehner news at the link.

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Texas plans to execute death row prisoner Robert James Campbell today, and they aren’t the least bit concerned about the recent horrifically botched execution in Oklahoma. From the NYT: Confronted on Execution, Texas Proudly Says It Kills Efficiently.

HUNTSVILLE, Tex. — If Texas executes Robert James Campbell as planned on Tuesday, for raping and murdering a woman, it will be the nation’s first execution since Oklahoma’s bungled attempt at lethal injection two weeks ago left a convicted murderer writhing and moaning before he died.

Lawyers for Mr. Campbell are trying to use the Oklahoma debacle to stop the execution here. But many in this state and in this East Texas town north of Houston, where hundreds have been executed in the nation’s busiest death chamber, like to say they do things right.

For two years now, Texas has used a single drug, the barbiturate pentobarbital, instead of the three-drug regimen used in neighboring Oklahoma. Prison administrators from other states often travel here to learn how Texas performs lethal injections and to observe executions. Texas officials have provided guidance and, on at least a few occasions, carried out executions for other states.

Even the protesters and television cameras that used to accompany executions here have, in most cases, dissipated. “It’s kind of business as usual,” said Tommy Oates, 62, a longtime resident who was eating lunch last week at McKenzie’s Barbeque, about one mile from the prison known as the Walls Unit. “That sounds cold, I know. But they’re not in prison for singing too loud at church.”

That’s Texas’ claim to fame now, I guess–efficient executions. Practice makes perfect.

The LA Times broke some news this morning about deceased alleged Boston Bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The paper has learned that the gun Tsarnaev use in a shootout with police in Watertown, Massachusetts a few days after the Marathon bombing was linked to a drug gang in Portland, Maine. 

When police confronted Tamerlan Tsarnaev four nights after the Boston Marathon bombing last year, he leaped from his car with a 9-millimeter semiautomatic pistol and opened fire….

The tale of that handgun, a black Ruger P95, Serial Number 317-87693, offers new insights into the Boston tragedy and holds warnings of other potential dangers.

Its journey from a street gang that peddled crack cocaine in Portland, Maine, to the grisly shootout in a Boston suburb tells much about illicit drug and gun trafficking in New England, and perhaps more about Tsarnaev.

Authorities believe Tsarnaev’s ties to the illicit drug trade in Maine helped finance his six-month trip to the southern Russian republics of Chechnya and Dagestan in early 2012, where he became radicalized. Drug money, they say, also may have helped him buy components of the bomb that killed three people and injured more than 260 on April 15, 2013.

The Times learned about this from records “obtained” from the Justice Department records. The gun had originally been purchased legally by an LA man named Danny Sun, Jr. living in Portland, Maine. It’s not clear exactly how Tsarnaev got the gun, but the serial numbers had been fined down. Police were able to “raise” the serial number using with “forensic techniques.”

Curiouser and curiouser. Last June, I wrote a post in which I argued for a drug connection to the Tsarnaev brothers and a horrific September 11, 2011 triple murder in Waltham, Massachusetts; but I suspected a connection with an international drug ring centered in Watertown, Waltham, and Newton. I have continued following this story closely for the past year. Now this. I don’t know what to think. I only know that this background of the Boston Marathon bombings is incredibly complex and mysterious.

woman-reading Childe Hassam 1885

I don’t know how many people have been following the latest discussions about net neutrality. This is going to be an important week in the fight between internet users and the Cable giants. Here’s the latest  from Radio survivor: FCC Chair Wheeler Shuffles Open Internet Deck Ahead of Meeting.

This is a tough week to be Tom Wheeler, Chairman of the FCC. This Thursday he has an open meeting where he plans to present his Open Internet proposal to the full Commission. As details have come to light a very broad coalition of companies, organizations and legislators–from 150 tech firms like Netflix and Google to the ACLU and NOW–have expressed strong criticisms of it.

At issue are proposed rules that would permit some companies to pay internet service providers for a so-called fast-lane into consumers’ homes. No matter how much Wheeler has tried to assure everyone that the Commission will seriously police for instances where an ISP degrades content from competitors or sources that haven’t paid for an express lane, critics remain unconvinced. That’s because Wheeler’s proposed standard says “commercially reasonable” discrimination of internet traffic is OK, but “commercially reasonable” is a vague and ill-defined standard that seems to have loopholes big enough to drive a truck through.

Because of the backlash even two of his fellow Commissioners, Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel and Republican Ajit Pai, have called for a delay of Thursdays vote on the proposal. There is no indication that Wheeler is heeding their call.

Wheeler is actually talking about regulating the internet like a “common carrier,” like it does phone companies. In other words, internet provider would be treated like public utilities. I’m not holding my breath though. From Politico: Tom Wheeler scrambles to salvage net neutrality plan.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler is on the clock and scrambling to salvage his controversial net neutrality plan as the commission counts down to a crucial vote on Thursday.

According to FCC officials, he circulated his latest revisions Monday — trying to pick up the two votes he needs to pass the notice of proposed rule-making to ensure an open Internet.

In the most significant change, Wheeler will seek public comment on whether the FCC should reclassify broadband as a communications utility, giving the agency authority to regulate Internet rates and services as it does with telephone companies, according to commission officials. Net neutrality advocates favor that option as more robust, but it’s opposed by telecoms that fear it will give the government too much power over their business.

Wheeler’s original plan sparked outrage after details emerged that it would allow Internet-service providers, such as AT&T and Verizon, to charge companies like Netflix, Amazon and Google for faster delivery of content. The revised proposal keeps that basic approach but would seek comment on whether a “fast lane” should be banned. It also proposes a new ombudsman position at the FCC to act as a net neutrality advocate for startups and consumers.

So the “fast lane” is still included in the plan. I can’t see how that would be a benefit to ordinary internet users. I guess we should enjoy what we have for now, because the internet as we know it is in serious danger. This is an important story!

So . . . those are my offerings for today. What are you reading and blogging about?

 


Tuesday: “I Was There, But I Didn’t Do The Murders”

Ibragim Todashev and Reni Manukyan (courtesy of The Guardian)

Ibragim Todashev and Reni Manukyan (courtesy of The Guardian)

Good Morning!!

This morning public radio station WBUR in Boston broadcast a detailed report about the killing of Ibragim Todashev in his apartment in Orlando, Florida, on May 22, 2013, reportedly by an agent from the FBI office in Boston.

Todashev was a friend of alleged Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The FBI claims that before he died, Todashev confessed that he and Tsarnaev had participated in a grisly triple murder that took place on September 11, 2011 in Waltham Massachusetts. For some more background, here is a post I wrote about the case on May 30 of last year.

The WBUR report by David Boeri provides the most detail yet on this confusing and frustrating story. You can listen to the 13-minute broadcast here and/or read the written report, Interrogation Turned Deadly: Questions Remain In Todashev Shooting. Until now, the FBI has stubbornly stonewalled the media and Congress, even refusing to allow the release of Todashev’s autopsy.

According to the report, WBUR learned the names of the FBI agents and Massachusetts State troopers who were present in Todashev’s apartment at the time of the shooting, but agreed not to reveal the names because it would put the agents and troopers in danger.

Todashev’s widow Reni Manukyan, from whom he was separated, was also interviewed for the story.

If you’re at all interested, I highly recommend reading the whole article at WBUR, because it is too long and detailed to summarize, and excerpts won’t do it justice.

But here are some new details about how the shooting happened. Keep in mind that for weeks leading up to the final day of Todashev’s life he had repeatedly been interviewed by FBI agents, called on the phone by them, and tailed by them everywhere he went. Todashev’s girlfriend had was also being held on immigration charges and was being pressured to inform on him.

Inside the condominium unit, I have learned from law enforcement sources, Todashev faced an agent assigned to the Boston office of the FBI and two Massachusetts State Police troopers — one of them assigned to the Middlesex district attorney. Middlesex County has responsibility for investigating the unsolved triple murder in Waltham in 2011. With the troopers’ arrival, it appears the focus of interest was changing from terrorism to murder….

In Orlando, the interrogation of Todashev was extraordinarily long.

“The fact that there were multiple officers present there questioning him for a period of hours clearly indicated that Mr. Todashev did not feel that he was free to leave,” said Thomas Nolan, who chairs the criminal justice department at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh. Nolan was also a Boston police officer for 27 years.

“Mr. Todashev was obviously not free to leave if he chose so,” Nolan added. “So he was in effect in custody here.”

At this point the agent(s) should have read Todashev his Miranda rights, but the FBI won’t say whether that happened. They may have decided that since Todashev had “invited” them into his home, they could continue questioning him until he told them to stop or asked for an attorney. If so, they apparently made the wrong decision.

“If you’re beginning to accuse somebody of a triple murder back in Massachusetts, that’s going to generate stress and crisis and conflict,” said Tom Shamshak, a police trainer, instructor in investigations at Boston University and former Massachusetts police chief.

There was a challenge and a danger in being in Todashev’s home, because it was his home— where he was most comfortable, and where, if there were any weapons, he knew where they were and the police did not. The one place police would know there were weapons was the one place they are told in training to avoid when making accusations and where they dread going when responding to calls of domestic disputes: the kitchen, which has knives….

“The accusatory tone in an interrogation … it’s hot,” Shamshak said. “So you have a hot, volatile back-and-forth with the officers: ‘I don’t want to hear that. I know you did it.’ It’s like a volcano.”

And, at some point in the long night of a very long interrogation, Todashev broke, according to law enforcement sources familiar with accounts of what happened who requested anonymity because they do not have permission to speak publicly.

“I was there, but I didn’t do the murders,” Todashev said, according to those sources. Under the heat, they say, Todashev blamed Tsarnaev for the murders.

That was what the agents had been waiting for. Next, they tried to get Todashev to write out a confession and sign it; but they claim Todashev lost control, flipped over the table, knocked the agent down, “came at him with a ‘pipe,'” and according to the agent, “would have split his skull.” And so,

Sources say the FBI agent fired in two bursts. With a burst of three bullets, Todashev went down, according to this account. Then, to the amazement of the agent and the trooper, the ultimate fighter Todashev came up again. The agent fired four more. It was 12:15, the official time of death, Manukyan says.

I’ve already quoted too much from the story, so please go read the whole thing if you’re interested–it’s absolutely riveting. Congratulations to David Boeri and WBUR for getting so much detail–apparently from sources who were present at the scene of Todashev’s shooting. Perhaps this will put enough pressure on the FBI for them to release their own report.

I have a few more news items for you, but I’ll post them in the comment thread. I’ve already had a horrible WordPress glitch today that made me have to rewrite part of this post, and I’m way behind in my real-world schedule. So, please join me in the comments!


Thursday Reads: Hot and Bothered Edition

HeatWave-8747

Good Morning!!

Today is day 5 of the latest heatwave, which isn’t scheduled to break here in southern New England until Sunday. I don’t think I’m capable of writing very much today–we’ll see how it goes.

From USA Today: Heat wave scorches central, eastern USA

A killer heat wave brought the hottest weather of the summer to much of the nation Wednesday, and at least two more days of broiling temperatures are forecast before cooler weather slides in over the weekend.

About 130 million people are sweltering through the heat wave in the Midwest and Northeast this week, reports AccuWeather meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.

High daytime and nighttime temperatures, high humidity, intense sunshine and lack of wind will continue to make these areas “seem like the middle of the tropics,” he said.

High temperatures in the 90s are again likely Thursday and Friday all the way from the Plains to the Northeast. Heat advisories and warnings are in place from the Dakotas to New England.

Boston Bombing Aftermath

Quite a few people in New England are all hot and bothered about the August 1 cover of Rolling Stone–a glamorous photo of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The photo accompanies a long article by Janet Reitman, who has a reputation as a good investigative journalist.

The cover copy suggests that Reitman will reveal how sweet little Dzhokhar became “radicalized” into a “monster” who participated in the Boston Marathon bombing. I  read the article, and was disappointed to find that it is mostly a rehash of material that was covered long ago in The Boston Globe and The New York Times. Reitman appears to have interviewed some of Tsarnaev’s high school friends, but again they offered no new insights. Reitman had scheduled an appearance on MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, who was born and raised in Boston. In the wake of the controversy, Reitman cancelled, which is also disappointing. Why not go on and defend her story?

I can’t say I’m all that bothered by the cover, since the photo was also featured long ago in The New York Times and other publications, but I can respect that for survivors of the bombings it seems pretty dismissive of their suffering to glamorize the perpetrator. Here are a few links on the topic–see what you think.

Erik Wemple at The Washington Post: To Rolling Stone detractors: Please

Slate: Rolling Stone’s Boston Bomber Cover Is Brilliant

The Boston Globe: Why Boston reacted right to Rolling Stone

Time: Drugstores, Supermarkets Boycott Rolling Stone Over Boston-Bomber Cover

In other news related to the Boston bombing suspects, friends of three men who were brutally murdered  in Waltham in September 2011 have been talking to the media. Susan Zalkind, a friend of Erik Weissman appeared on the Rachel Maddow show this week.

Susan Zalkind, a close friend of Eric Weissman who was found murdered with two of friends in a Harding Avenue home in September 2011, appeared on the Rachel Maddow Show on Tuesday to discuss her investigation and reactions to the case, which is officially under investigation. However, authorities reportedly believe accused Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his friend Ibragim Todashev committed the murders as a drug ripoff. Tsarnaev was killed during the April 19 shootout with police in Watertown. The Federal Bureau of Investigation shot and killed Todashev in his Florida home in May after allegedly attacking agents. Todashev had been in the process of writing a confession implicating himself and Tsarnaev in the murders.

Other friends of the three murdered men talked to CNN, and High Times Magazine has the video. Friends believe that police didn’t take the investigations of the murders very seriously once they concluded that the three men were drug dealers.

Meanwhile, the FBI is refusing to release the Todashev autopsy. From Russia Today:

The FBI has ordered a Florida medical examiner’s office not to release the autopsy report of a Chechen man who was killed during an FBI interview in May over his ties to one of the suspected Boston Marathon bombers.

The autopsy report for Ibragim Todashev, 27, killed by an FBI agent during an interrogation which took place in his apartment on May 22 was ready for release on July 8. However, the FBI barred its publication, saying an internal probe into his death is ongoing.

The FBI has informed this office that the case is still under active investigation and thus not to release the document,” according to statement by Tony Miranda, forensic records coordinator for Orange and Osceola counties in Orlando.

The forensic report was expected to clarify the circumstances of Todashev’s death.The Bureau’s statement issued on the day of the incident provided no details of what transpired, saying only that the person being interviewed was killed when a “violent confrontation was initiated by the individual.”

Back in May Ibragim Todashev’s father showed pictures of his dead son’s body at a press conference in Moscow, revealing he had been shot six times.

“I only saw things like that in movies: shooting a person, and then the kill shot. Six shots in the body, one of them in the head,” Abdulbaki Todashev said.

Student Loan Interest Rates

A group of Senators have made a deal on student loan interest rates, according to Politico.

Key bipartisan Senate negotiators met in Majority Whip Dick Durbin’s Office late Wednesday and emerged confident that they could finally put the vexing issue behind them.

“It would save students in 11 million families billions of dollars,” said Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). “We’d like to be able to do this together and we hope that we can come to a decision right away because families need to make their plans.”

Alexander, the top Republican on education issues, said their proposal would apply retroactively to students who have already drawn federal loans at higher rates which went into effect on July 1.

A Senate aide familiar with the talks said the bill could go on the floor as soon as tomorrow. Leadership aides said that’s implausible but not impossible. Otherwise the bill would get a floor vote early next week.

Of course Republican members of the House will probably have different views on this. I have no idea if this is a good plan or not, and I’m too hot to care. I won’t live to see my student loans paid off, that’s all I know for sure.

Michael Hastings Fatal Crash

Russ Baker’s site Who What Why recently published an interesting (and not too wacky) article on the car crash that killed Michael Hastings. It’s written by Michael Krikorian, a former LA Times crime reporter base on footage from surveillance cameras that caught some of the accident. Krikorian doesn’t offer conspiracy theories–just reports of what he saw at the accident scene, his reactions to the videos caught on cameras a his girlfriend’s pizza restaurant nearby, and some reactions from experts to whom he showed the tapes. The  most mysterious questions seems to be why Hastings was driving so fast. And why didn’t he apply the brakes when he started to skid?

Four seconds into the start of the tape, a minivan or SUV goes by the front of restaurant. Three seconds later, another vehicle goes by, traveling from the restaurant front door to the crash site in about seven seconds. At 35 seconds into the tape, a car is seen driving northbound and appears to slow, probably for the light at Melrose.

Then at 79 seconds, the camera catches a very brief flash of light in the reflection of the glass of the pizzeria. Traveling at least twice as fast as the other cars on the tape, Hastings’s Mercedes C250 coupe suddenly whizzes by. (This is probably the “whoosh” that Gary, the Mozza employee, heard.)

The car swerves and then explodes in a brilliant flash as it hits a palm tree in the median. Viewed at normal speed, it is a shocking scene—reminiscent of fireballs from “Shock and Awe” images from Baghdad in 2003….I think it’s safe to say the car was doing at least 80….

Highland has a very slight rise and fall at its intersection with Melrose. It’s difficult to tell by the film, but based on tire marks—which were not brake skid marks, by the way—chalked by the traffic investigators, it seems that the Mercedes may have been airborne briefly as it crossed the intersection, then landed hard. Tire marks were left about 10 feet east of the restaurant’s valet stand….

About 100 feet after the car zooms by on the tape, it starts to swerve. At about 195 feet from the camera, the car jumps the curb of the center median, heading toward a palm tree 56 feet away.

About halfway between the curb and the tree, the car hits a metal protrusion—perhaps 30 inches tall and 2 feet wide—that gives access to city water mains below. This is where the first small flash occurs. This pipe may have damaged the undercarriage of the car, perhaps rupturing a fuel line.

Check the story out and see what you think. It appears the police have closed the book on the case except for waiting for tox screens on Hastings to come back.

Edward Snowden Updates

Glenn Greenwald continues to lecture all and sundry that Snowden isn’t the story–the focus should be on the NSA leaks. Meanwhile, he continues to publish about three times as many articles on himself and Snowden as on the leaks. Yesterday’s offering was about e-mails between Snowden and a retired ultra-conservative/libertarian Senator from New Hampshire, Gordon Humphrey. You can read the full e-mails at the link, but one thing Snowden wrote became the subject of much speculation yesterday.

My intention, which I outlined when this began, is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them. I remain committed to that. Though reporters and officials may never believe it, I have not provided any information that would harm our people – agent or not – and I have no intention to do so.

Further, no intelligence service – not even our own – has the capacity to compromise the secrets I continue to protect. While it has not been reported in the media, one of my specializations was to teach our people at DIA how to keep such information from being compromised even in the highest threat counter-intelligence environments (i.e. China).

You may rest easy knowing I cannot be coerced into revealing that information, even under torture.

Did this mean that Snowden believes himself to be impervious to torture? According to tech experts and hacker types, it means that he has encrypted the data in such a way that even he cannot get at it by himself. Here’s an article in the Christian Science Monitor that explains this in somewhat simple terms. Author Dan Murphy writes:

I think his good intentions, as he sees them, are fair to assume. But his certainty that it is impossible to compromise what he knows seems questionable. Presumably he has digital files that are encrypted in some fashion. But if the files are accessible at all, there has to be a key.

Or even imagine a Escherian progression of unbreakable locks containing the key to the next unbreakable lock in the progression, which in turn contains the next key. Layers of difficulty are just that – problems to be overcome. Assertions of insurmountably seem specious as long as a key or set of keys exists and someone hasn’t destroyed the first one in the sequence.

And if Snowden’s claims are to be believed, a key to whatever data he has does exist. Greenwald says Snowden’s NSA files have been set up for release in the event Snowden is killed by the US. Greenwald hasn’t said what the mechanism would be and what precisely would be released beyond, “if something does happen to [Snowden] all the information will be revealed and it could be [the US government’s] worst nightmare.”

That implies that there is some process, known to some people or persons, that allows for access. And while state of the art encryption can foil technical efforts to break it, it’s hard to see how gaining access to the knowledge of others is impossible. Spy agencies use trickery, bribery, coercion, and sometimes worse to pry out others’ secrets. Yet Snowden was insistent in his letter to Senator Humphrey….

Greenwald implies today that what Snowden meant was that he doesn’t know how to get at the files himself. But then, who does?

If the answer is “no one,” then it’s hard to square with his claim of a release being made in the event of his death. If the answer is “someone” or “some group of people,” then his confidence that secrets can’t be compromised seems misplaced. (I asked a number of people who know more about encryption than I about this; the answer always circled back to “the key is the vulnerability.” Perhaps there’s something we’re all missing?)

Here’s another article from Wired that speculates on the so-called “dead man’s switch.”

I’ve got lots more on Snowden, but I’m running out of space and I think I may be the only one here who still cares what’s going on with him. I can post some more links in the comments if there’s any interest.

Now it’s your turn. What stories are you following today? Please post your links on any topic in the comments.


Another Update to the Ever-Expanding Boston Bombing Story

Ibragim Todashev and Reni Manukyan

Ibragim Todashev and Reni Manukyan

I thought I should put up another update, because there has been a lot more walking back of the reports that came out yesterday, not only about whether Ibragim Todashev was holding a knife when he supposedly “lunged” at an FBI agent, but also whether Todashev had even been questioned about involvement in the 2011 triple murder in Waltham MA with which Massachusetts officials have been trying to connect Tamerlan and Dzhokhor Tsarnaev.

This morning The Wall Street Journal reported that Reni Manukyan who is married to Ibragim Todashev–the man who was shot while being interrogated by several law enforcement officers in Orlando, Fl early yesterday–claim neither she nor her husband were ever asked about the murders.

Reni Manukyan, a 24-year-old assistant hotel-housekeeping manager who married Ibragim Todashev at a mosque near Boston in July 2010, says agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrived at her house in Atlanta and her mom’s house in Savannah, Ga., on Tuesday night, the same time they started questioning her late husband at his home in Orlando.

Ms. Manukyan says the FBI agents who came to her house asked about alleged Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev, whom she says her husband met after moving to the Boston area from Russia in 2008.

But she says the agents never asked about a Sept. 11, 2011, murder in Waltham, Mass., in which three victims—25-year-old Brendan Mess, 31-year-old Erik Weissman and 37-year-old Raphael Teken—were found dead with their throats slit and bodies covered in marijuana and cash….

“They never, ever—in all the interviews that I had and all the interviews that he had—never did they mention anything about a murder,” Ms. Manukyan said in a telephone interview. “Everything was about the bombing and about him knowing Tamerlan. They would show me a picture of Tamerlan or Tamerlan’s wife or some other guys that I haven’t a clue who they are, but nothing about a murder—nothing ever.”

She says that agent question her several times as they did her husband, and that he couldn’t have been involved in the murders since he doesn’t drink or use drugs of any kind. She doesn’t even think he was in Boston in September of 2011.

Khusen Taramov

Khusen Taramov

The Boston Globe also has a story that walks back a number of yesterday’s reported leaks from investigators. According to the Globe, Todashev’s close friend and former roommate Khusen Taramov also claims Todarov was never questioned about the Waltham murders. He

said the two had been interviewed many times by FBI agents, and had been followed for weeks by an unmarked law enforcement vehicle since the Marathon bombings.

Taramov, a fellow Chechen and immigrant from Russia, said his slain friend had been called almost daily by agents since the bombings, but Todashev had been assured that the Tuesday night interview would be the final one.

“They told us they needed just one more interview,” he said. “They said the case was closed after this.”

Fearful it would make them look suspicious, neither he nor Todashev had a lawyer present during the FBI questioning, Taramov said.

Taramov, who said he had spent nearly every moment with Todashev since the bombing, insisted that his friend had never been asked about the triple slaying in Waltham.

“We told each other everything, everything,” Taramov said. “He never said anything about any murder and they never asked him anything about that. Just about the bombings and [Tamerlan] Tsarnaev.”

Manukyan and Taramov both say that Todashev did not have radical beliefs. He was just a normal Muslim. So what the heck is going on here?

At the Atlantic, Alexander Abad-Santos does a very good job of tracing down yesterday’s reports on whether Todashev had a knife before he was shot and whether he was questioned about and/or admitted to the Waltham murders and where these reports originated. Abad Santos writes:

A confession would have solved the triple homicide, and it would have cemented Tsarnaev’s role in that crime. Since reading Dzhokhar Tsarnaev his miranda rights, investigators haven’t been able to extract information about the Tsarnaevs as freely as they’d like — or at least it hasn’t spilled out in public as much as the people of Boston would like to hear. A confession might have been a big piece in the puzzle of the Tsarnaev brothers. Instead, we’re left with a Jack Bauer-style tale of secret confessions turned deadly, with more questions than answers.

What’s perhaps more puzzling is that the story doesn’t seem to add up: What new piece of information makes a guy who has been cooperating with FBI agents for the last month or so turn on them? Could the seizure of the computer have led to more revelations? Could the threat of jail time have dawned on him? And even more macabre, one of Todashev’s friends told NBC Orlando that he had been questioned with Todashev by agents on Tuesday night — and that Todashev felt like he was going to die. “He felt inside he was going to get shot,” Khusen Taramiv said. “I told him, ‘Everything is going to be fine, don’t worry about it.’ He said, ‘I have a really bad feeling.'”

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Jerelyn at Talk Left also breaks down the various reports and speculates about what might have happened. She also calls attention to another bit of information–that Todashev had a girlfriend named Tatiana Gruzdeva (this may be her Facebook page), and she was arrested by ICE on May 16 and is currently in custody for immigration violations.

Anyone with a shred of empathy could certainly understand why someone who has been shadowed by the FBI for the past month, interrogated repeatedly for hours, and then accused of murder–plus his girlfriend has been turned over to immigration authorities (a common FBI tactic to get information)–might get angry and perhaps make a sudden move. But did he really have to die when there were at least four law enforcement officers in the room with him at the time?

Jerelyn:

FBI interviews aren’t usually recorded. I doubt we’ll ever know what transpired during the interview. We’ll only get self-serving statements by law enforcement that justify their actions.

That some of these law enforcement officials use the words “implicated himself” as opposed to “confessed” in relation to the killings doesn’t mean Todashev acknowledged a role in the killings. If he was in Boston, it could mean something as little as Tamerlan called him that night and asked him to pick him up and give him a ride, or that Tamerlan later gave him some items that would link Tamerlan to the killings. Since Tamerlan is dead, he can’t defend himself against the murder charges law enforcement seems determined to attach to him. (Neither can Todashev.) Even if they find Tamerlan’s DNA at the home of the murdered men, it doesn’t mean he was involved in the murder. Since Tamerlan and one of the victims were good friends, if the DNA is just found somewhere in the home or on clothes or a drinking cup, it could have been deposited prior to the day of the killings.

I am not buying the unconfirmed report that he suddenly went beserk when asked to sign a written confession. Or that he confessed to the murders. He may have said something that the agents believed to be incriminating, but that doesn’t mean Todashev intended it that way or agreed with their interpretation.

I don’t doubt that he “got volatile” at the end — FBI agents don’t execute people for no reason. (Whether the shooting was an overreaction is another question.) But as to what set him off, it could be that after whatever he said that the agent thought was incriminating, the agent told him he was being arrested for the murders, and he reacted angrily because he believed he was being unjustly accused.

There’s more. You can read it at the link.

At this point, all we know for sure is that a witness with valuable information about Tamerlan Tsarnaev is dead. We don’t know who killed him or even whether more than one of the officers present shot him. A team of FBI agents will determine if the shooting was justified, but most likely they’ll find a way to absolve their fellow officers.