Six Questions the FBI Should Answer to Ease Public Skepticism About the Boston Marathon Bombings
Photo Credit: By Aaron "tango" Tang from cambridge, ma, usa (DSC03211 Uploaded by russavia) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
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“There are those,” the writer begins, ”who believe the bombs and blood were staged, the amputees and others injured were actors in some kind of Hollywood production designed to justify martial law.”
David Abel’s lead is a splendid Straw Man ploy: dismiss an idea by seizing upon an absurd exaggeration, like looking at a reflection in a funhouse mirror.
For validation, Abel quotes Jeanne Kempthorne, a Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer who worked from 1992 to 2003 as an assistant U.S. attorney in Boston. She slapped aside skeptics.
“It’s just human nature,” Kempthorne told the paper. “There will always be flat-earthers or grassy knoll types, people who will go to great lengths to dispute the obvious or find conspiracies or come up with evidence-free speculation.”
But what she calls evidence-free speculation others call collaborative deduction.
A fast-forward evolution is happening in criminal justice as citizen gumshoes use the Internet and social media to wheedle out clues and, yes, even evidence.
In one instructive example, a blogger named Alexandria Goddard used evidence collected from social media to help expose the sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl last summer in Steubenville, Ohio.
“The authorities” view this as meddling by amateurs. But online gatecrashing by “grassy knoll types” is certain to increase as law enforcement agencies like the FBI, once viewed as virtually infallible, have grown increasingly furtive, under cover of the surveillance state.
We asked Martin Garbus, one of the country’s premier constitutional attorneys, about the issue of public trust for law enforcers. He suggested that Americans have been taught a lesson by recent revelations of wholesale spying on citizens by the National Security Agency.
“There is no more reason to think that the FBI will do the right thing,” Garbus told us, “than there is to think that the NSA will do the right thing.”
William Keating seems to agree, and he doesn’t seem like a kook. He is a Democratic U.S. Congressman who represents southeast Massachusetts, including Cape Cod, New Bedford and Plymouth. But he has respectful skepticism about law enforcement, learned on the job.
Like Kempthorne, Keating is a former prosecutor, having served 12 years as district attorney for Norfolk County, Massachusetts, before he was elected to Congress in 2010. He is a member of both the House Homeland Security and Foreign Affairs committees.
For three months, Keating has doggedly pursued answers about the Boston bombing from the FBI. He wants to know when the FBI recognized that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the dead bombing suspect, was a threat to national security and why it did not share its intelligence with the Boston Police Department and other law enforcement agencies.
It would be charitable to describe the Bureau’s response as “less than forthcoming.”
So on July 31, Keating sent a wrathful three-page, 1,200 word letter letter to James Comey, the newly confirmed FBI director, demanding answers to seven questions related to the bombing investigation. Keating, who traveled to Russia in late May to investigate the case on his own, said he found the Russian intelligence agency, the Federal Security Service, to be more forthcoming than the FBI.
Keating complained that the FBI has three times declined invitations to appear before the House Homeland Security Committee to answer questions publicly. And in an Orwellian plot twist, FBI officials replied the next day–but not by contacting Keating. They planted a response in the New York Times.