Tag Archives: Boston bombings

Miranda Rights, “Public Safety” and the Police State


Attorneys in the Boston bombing case are jockeying with the judge over whether or not testimony garnered from Dzhokhar Tsarnaev during thirty-six hours of FBI questioning while he lay in a hospital bed recovering from a gunshot wound—his jaw wired shut and heavily doped up on pain medication—will be admissible as evidence against him in his upcoming trial. The FBI unrelentingly questioned the younger Tsarnaev without reading his Miranda rights to him even though he repeatedly answered in writing that he wanted an attorney present during their interrogations.

Tsarnaev’s lawyers (via the Boston Globe) state that Tsarnaev ““wrote the word lawyer 10 times, sometimes circling it” and that “At one point, he wrote: ‘I am tired. Leave me alone.’ . . . His pen or pencil then trails off the page, suggesting that he either fell asleep, lost motor control, or passed out.”” In the Tsarnaev investigations the FBI justify their unremitting questioning without granting Tsarnaev his right to a lawyer being present on the grounds of protecting “public safety”. While it may have been protective to find out if there were other bombs before bothering with an attorney, the judge is pondering if what Tsarnaev told investigators under duress may be used as evidence against him—a completely other matter. While no one should feel sympathy for a terrorist who attacked our citizenry—we should all be concerned if this same law enforcement tactic can be applied to any U.S. citizen—ourselves included and then the evidence that is obtained under duress without an attorney present can then be used to convict us.

The same grounds of “public safety” were used and accepted by a judge in another case that I was involved in a few years ago where the defendant, Annette Morales Rodriguez, was also clearly guilty of a heinous crime. Rodriguez who had gruesomely cut a fetal child out of another woman leaving her for dead, while she attempted to pass the baby off as her own stillborn child, was questioned under rather unusual duress. While I found her crime horrifying, I also found it extremely disturbing that Rodriguez was picked up and escorted by Milwaukee police to a local hospital and subjected to two gynecological exams, the latter that she clearly, and unequivocally, refused but was subjected to anyway. At the same time—while Rodriguez, a former rape and incest survivor and very mentally ill person, was begging not to be subjected to another gynecological exam, a Milwaukee police official questioned her about her crime. Not surprisingly, Rodriguez, broke under the pressure of having to undergo yet another forced vaginal exam and admitted her crime. While arguments can also be made in her case for aggressively questioning her and not delaying to wait for her attorney, the judge didn’t seem to have any problem with allowing Rodriguez’s confession obtained under this level of duress to be admitted into the court as evidence. I found that so disturbing I wrote a book about it telling her story (Fetal Abduction: A True Story of Multiple Personalities and Murder).

When I hear these cases I begin to wonder about the potential abuses of government power when security services and law enforcement personnel can question us under medical duress—including medication and invasive bodily searches—without a warrant, while we attempt to refuse, and without reading our rights to us or supplying a lawyer if we ask for one. And I find it doubly horrifying that what is gained under this level of forced interrogation methods alongside what some might call “soft torture” –can be used against us in trial—and this all in the supposed service of “public safety”!

It seems to me if this sort of thing is allowed, it is not only our bodies and minds under potential assault by security professionals trying to do their jobs—perhaps at our grave expense if we are innocent—which is why in the United States constitution we have the Fourth Amendment to protect us. In the above examples, innocence is clearly not the case—but the same reasoning and behaviors could have been applied to a wrongly accused and innocent suspect—resulting in questioning under medical duress and even an invasive internal bodily search all without a warrant!

Add to that, it is not only ourselves that can today be interrogated in such a manner, but it appears that our cell phones and electronics can also be searched without warrants. The U.S. Supreme Court will soon hear two such cases that involve the warrantless searches of cell phones made pursuant to arrest. In the case of Riley v. California, David Riley was arrested for an expired registration at which time loaded guns were found in his car. A warrantless search of his cell phone then led to a further arrest and conviction for attempted murder. The California appeals court claimed that neither search required a warrant and likened the search of a cell phone to the evidence found in wallets and personal papers that have long been subject to examination pursuant to an arrest.

The second case, United States v. Wurie involves the warrantless search of Wurie’s cell phone following an arrest for drug dealing. In his case, the federal court in Boston threw out the evidence found during the warrantless search and Judge Norman H. Stahl wrote in his opinion that, “Today, many Americans store their most personal ‘papers’ and ‘effects’ in electronic format on a cellphone, carried on the person.”

Indeed when current law supposedly protect us from our doors being broken into and our homes being invasively searched without a warrant it seems contradictory that our electronic items are now potentially open to unchecked law enforcement access—akin to breaking down the doors to some of our most privately held information.

Is computer search and seizure the new frontier? That’s what Professor Orin Kerr of George Washington University School of Law and an expert in search and seizure is claiming. When viewed alongside the cases arguing “public safety” as a rationale for questioning individuals while under duress—without reading them rights or granting them access to their attorney, and judges (at least in the case I served on) accepting police evidence obtained under such severe duress as evidence to convict—it seems we are rapidly losing our rights.

If Rodriguez could convict herself through a confession obtained during a refused but, carried out nonetheless, invasive bodily search—all in the name of “public safety”—I wonder have we not effectively surrendered our rights in the hopes of being kept “safe”? And are we not just the opposite of “safe” when our own law enforcement teams can invade our computers, cell phones and even our bodies to obtain evidence that will then appear in court and used against us? For me, this is a harbinger of a police state.

Anne Speckhard, Ph.D. is Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University in the Medical School, forensic expert, researcher, public speaker and author of Talking to Terrorists. She conducted psychological autopsies of over half of the one hundred and twelve Chechen suicide terrorists, interviewed hostages from Beslan and Nord Ost and has interviewed over four hundred terrorists, their family members and supporters in various parts of the world.



How Does My Neighbor Become a Terrorist? The Chechen Boston Bombers – Delving into the Minds of Terrorists to Try to Understand their Motivations

The two Chechen brothers who are suspects in the Boston bombings—Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26—now dead, and his younger brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19—who was captured and remains in serious condition at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, raise important questions of how the terrorism in the Chechen conflict appears to have ended up being played out here as well.  Having interviewed over four hundred terrorists, their family members, close associates and even hostages worldwide—including those from Chechnya, I have some ideas as to how these young boys may have been radicalized.

Both boys, Chechen by ethnicity came to the U.S. a decade ago from Kyrgyzstan via Dagestan in 2002 and 2003, where they had lived in a Chechen enclave in the town of Tormok.   Tamerlan (who arrived at age 15) and his father especially appear to have been struggling to succeed as new immigrants in Boston.  While Tamerlan became a successful Golden Gloves boxer he never made a living from it, nor achieved his dream of making it to the Olympics, and when funds became a problem he was forced to drop out of community college.  His father a talented auto mechanic also never found steady work, reportedly got a brain tumor and separating from his wife, returned back to Dagestan. Dzhokhar (who arrived at age 9 or 10), appears well liked, charismatic but to have been struggling in university.  He also had been researching his Chechen roots—perhaps trying to understand where he came from.

Tamerlan’s mother reports that in 2008 he became more religious—probably referring to his turning to a conservative form of Islam, and his uncle reports that in 2009 that Tamerlan called the uncle an infidel and stated that that God had a plan for him—that he no longer needed to be concerned about work or studies.  During that same time period Tamerlan was arrested for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend.  In 2010 he married and had a baby.  He had grown a beard, begun keeping the five Islamic prayer times and his wife also covered herself in manner not normal for mainstream Chechens—he was clearly deeply religious, but only the infidel comment give signs of extremism at that point. 

In January 2012, Tamerlan Tsarnaev travelled to Dagestan, a republic in the Russian Federation adjacent to Chechnya, where his father currently resides—and flew back to the United States in July, according to a U.S. official.  During his six months in Dagestan we don’t know what happened but after returning in 2012 Tameran put up a video of a Chechen militant calling for militant jihad as well as some other terrorist videos.  The Chechen militant featured in the video was later killed in a violent confrontation in Dagestan with Russians.

Tamerlan also put up videos of the Syrian regime’s brutal killing of civilians in response to their rebel movement.  Evidently Tamerlan became enamored of, and was drawn into glorifying what began as the Chechen secular independence movement—an insurgency that transitioned into the Chechen “jihad” and which then spread into a terrorist insurgent movement through out the region—via what in 2005 was announced by Chechen rebel leader Baseyev as the New Caucasus Front. 

And perhaps because of what he knew about the crushing of the Chechen rebel movement by the heavy handed Russians, Tamerlan easily identified, felt empathy for, and was enraged by what is now going on in Syria.  And from his empathy and identification with the traumas of others—alongside what must have been exposure to militant jihadis—either in Dagestan or over the Internet or elsewhere—Tamerlan it seems was drawn into the larger militant jihadi movement and was ultimately convinced (or convinced himself) that he should attack inside the U.S.

The insurgent group in the Caucasus is now led (after the death of Baseyev) by Doku (Abu Usman) Umarov. Designated as a terrorist organization by the United States its stated goal is to withdraw from Russia to establish the Caucasus Emirate in the region. Recently designated by the U.S. as terrorist organization and terrorist leader, Umarov responded by saying the U.S. move was a concession to the Russians and concluded, “I am the enemy of all of the enemies of Allah.”  However, the Chechen or wider Caucasus group have never specifically named the U.S. as a target, struck outside of Russia or plotted directly against the U.S. 

Indeed in an official statement in response to the Boston bombings the Dagestani militant group declared, “The command of the Vilayat Dagestan Mujahidin… declares that the Caucasus fighters are not waging any military activities against the United States of America. We are only fighting Russia,” This was stated via the Kavkazcenter.com website.

Chechens as individual militants however have long been involved in Al Qaeda activities in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan and throughout Europe—including some recent arrests in both Spain and France, and activity in Belgium. And the wider militant jihadi movement (al Qaeda and all it’s affiliates)—and the ideology propagated by Al Qaeda to which Chechens as individual fighters have adhered and been active individually in globally—does name the U.S. as an enemy.  It appears that this wider movement is what Tamerlan was drawn into—either in his trip to Dagestan or via the Internet.

Tamerlan’s methods also point in this direction, as the pressure cooker bombers that he and his brother allegedly used appear to have come straight out of the pages of the summer, 2010 issue of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s Inspire magazine entitled “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom”. This is a handbook Tamerlan could easily have accessed via the Internet or a method he could have learned in Dagestan.

The Inspire magazine article describes the pressurized cooker as an effective method for bomb-making, instructing online followers to: “Glue the shrapnel to the inside of the pressurized cooker then fill in the cooker with the inflammable material.”  These instructions for multiple methods of attack—including starting fires, creating explosions, even causing road accidents—were also placed online again this year in the Lone Mujahid Pocketbook, a summary of tips for the do-it-yourself jihadist again. In both cases the call is for “lone wolf” terrorists to rise up from inside the U.S. and attack here using simple methods inflicting damage in a “thousand wounds strategy” and was put out by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.   

While many of the Chechen terrorists have used suicide operations—following the Chechen rallying cry of “Victory or Paradise”—believing that their death equates into Islamic “martyrdom”, these boys did not elect that path.  The fact that the brothers had additional explosives and even a third pressure cooker bomb leads one to believe that they wanted to live, to fight another day.  Or potentially, if they got caught—they planned to stage a standoff dying in an explosion while killing those who came to arrest them.  It’s the usual modus operandi among Chechen terrorists who have had such standoffs in Dagestan and Chechnya in the past, and we saw the same activity with the Madrid train bombers, the husband of Muriel Degauque and others involved in the militant jihadi movement.

While we still don’t know the exact path the radicalization of Tamerlan took, the Russians had identified him over two years ago to the FBI as a “follower of radical Islam and a strong believer,” and informed U.S. officials that Tsarnaev “had changed drastically” since 2010 and was preparing to leave the United States “to join unspecified underground groups,” (this according to the FBI unofficial statements). 

Yet when the FBI interrogated Tsarnaev and his family members in 2011, as well as scoured his Internet accounts they found no evidence of terrorist related activity and they evidently dropped their investigation asking the Russians to continue sharing information about him, which the Russians apparently did not do.

The young men by all accounts were not displaying to others any other type of extremist activity.  The head of their local Muslim center in Boston told news outlet RIA-Novosti, “The brothers were members of our community in Cambridge. They wouldn’t come very often and they had never expressed any radical views.”

And when questioned, their father Anzor Tsarnaev also seems amazed.  Although having conducted research interviews investigating how nearly half of the 112 Chechen suicide bombers got on the terrorist trajectory, my collaborator (Khapta Ahkmedova) and I found the same disbelief among their Chechen parents who also had no idea of their family members involvement with local terrorist cells. 

Described as gentle, smart, peace-loving by their friends and family in Dagestan and also in the U.S. it appears that the boys, if indeed the perpetrators of the Boston attacks, held their hatred well hidden inside.  That these alleged terrorists had two sides to their personalities should not be a surprise.  First generation immigrants often feel that they have two selves—one identified to the cultural roots of their past who speaks the indigenous language at home and another that is the more assimilated self that takes on the host culture.  For many first generation immigrants these two selves can feel divided and pulled in differing directions.

In the UK some friends of the London metro bomber, Mohammed Siddiqui Khan were aware of his radicalization after he traveled back to Pakistan, while others felt completely astounded by the “killer” side to his personality.  I found the same interviewing family members of Palestinian suicide bombers and terrorists—often complete shock to find their family member radicalized to that extent.  Yet when I dug deeper I often found the roots in those from conflict zones usually related to traumatic loss and a desire for revenge. And for those not from conflict zones the radicalization was often connected to exposure by terrorist recruiters to graphic imagery of traumas inside conflict zones—images that terror groups are adept at using to manipulate their potential recruits to create empathy, identification and a sense of duty to fight in behalf of other Muslim victims.  In the case of these boys they had one foot in both regions.

That a young Chechen traveling back to Dagestan and potentially exposed to extremists there or trolling the Internet and exposing himself to AQ type messaging could be manipulated to become sympathetic to the global militant jihadi narrative that Muslims worldwide are under attack coupled with the call to attack western powers, is also not exactly surprising.  It happens in Europe, Canada and has happened here also with others coming from war torn areas—although in other cases the domestic plots have been thwarted or the actors traveled to attack outside the U.S.—as for example, in the case of the Somalis who left to join al Shabbab.

We also have evidence that Tamerlan was alienated and felt alone in the U.S.  He reportedly said, “I don’t have a single American friend,” in a photo essay about his love of boxing, adding “I don’t understand them.”  Yet at his boxing club he is said to have introduced to the owner there, a young man as his best friend who later was brutally killed in a still unsolved murder case that appears drug related.  Perhaps Tamerlan was deeply affected by that murder as well?  His father leaving, his friend murdered could certainly leave him feeling even more alone and vulnerable.  We also know that he had problems curbing his temper and had been hauled up on a domestic violence charges for striking his girlfriend.

While we still need to learn exactly what their paths for radicalization were, we can see that in this Internet age, the traumas that occur in one part of the world quickly travel through and influence actors far from them—particularly if they have any relation to them by family, ethnicity or roots—and when terrorist groups and their perverted ideologies become part of the mix that can become dangerous indeed.

Anne Speckhard, Ph.D. is Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry in the Georgetown University Medical School and author of Talking to Terrorists: Understanding the Psycho-Social Motivations of Militant Jihadi Terrorists, Mass Hostage Takers, Suicide Bombers & “Martyrs”. In the last decade she interviewed over four hundred terrorists, suicide bombers, terrorist supporters, family members, close associates and hostages.  She also conducted psychological autopsies with a Chechen colleague on over half of the 112 Chechen suicide bombers investigating what put them on the terrorist trajectory and what motivated them to explode themselves.