An FBI Double Agent?

by Russ Baker

by Russ Baker: FBI:
Knew About Saudi 9/11 Hijacker Ties — But Lied To Protect ‘National Security’

Amid the swirl
of mysteries surrounding the alleged Boston bombers, one fact, barely
touched upon in the mainstream U.S. media, stands out: There is
a strong possibility that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the older of the two
brothers, was a double agent, perhaps recruited by the FBI.

If Tsarnaev
was a double agent, he would be just one of thousands of
young people coerced by the FBI, as the price for settling a minor
legal problem, into a dangerous career as an informant.

That he was
so coerced is the easiest explanation for two seemingly incompatible
incidents in his life:

The first is
that he returned to Russia in 2012, ostensibly to renew his Russian
passport so he could file an application for US citizenship.

The second
is that Tsarnaev then jeopardized his citizenship application with
conspicuous, provocative – almost theatrical – behavior
that seemed more caricature than characteristic of a Muslim

False Notes

While walking
around in flashy western clothes in the Russian Republic of Dagestan,
he visited his cousin, Magomed Kartashov, a prominent Islamist leader,
already on the Russians’ radar. The two reportedly spent hours discussing
Tsarnaev’s wish to join a terrorist cell there in the Caucasus.
Later, Russian authorities asked Kartashov if he had tried to incite
Tsarnaev with “extremist” views. Kartashov said it was the other
way around: he had tried to convince Tsarnaev that “violent methods
are not right.”

Experts agree
that Tsarnaev could not have expected such provocative activity
to escape the notice of the vigilant Russian authorities.

Back in America,
Tsarnaev again called attention to himself as a radical Muslim.
Just one month after he returned from his trip, a YouTube page that
appeared to belong to him featured multiple jihadist videos that
he had purportedly endorsed.

And in January
2013, he got himself thrown out of a mosque in Cambridge for shouting
at a speaker who compared the Prophet Mohammed to Martin Luther
King Jr. Tsarnaev rarely attended this mosque, but he must have
known it was moderate. (He had done something similar the previous
November at the same mosque.) Typically, jihadists are trained to
blend in, to be as inconspicuous as possible. Did Tsarnaev go to
this mosque with the express intent of smoking out possible radicals?

The key to
Tsarnaev’s puzzling behavior may lie in the answer to another question:
when exactly did Tsarnaev first come to the attention of the FBI?
The timeline offered by the agency, and duly reported in the mainstream
media, has been inconsistent. One story line focused on the FBI’s
response to an alert from Russian authorities.

Eric Schmitt
and Michael S. Schmidt of the New York Times, wrote, on April 24,

first Russian request came in March 2011 through the F.B.I.’s office
in the United States Embassy in Moscow. The one-page request said
Mr. Tsarnaev ”had changed drastically since 2010” and was preparing
to travel to a part of Russia “to join unspecified underground groups.”

The Russian
request was reportedly based on intercepted phone calls between
Tsarnaev’s mother and an unidentified person (The Guardian
[London], April 21, 2013). According to another source, several
calls were intercepted, including one between Tsarnaev and his mother.

So was it the
Russian alert in March
that first prompted the FBI to investigate Tsarnaev? This
conclusion seems undermined by another report in the Times – written
four days earlier by the same two reporters plus a third—
that dated the agency’s first contact with Tamerlan and family members
at least two months earlier, in January

If the FBI
interviewed Tsarnaev before the Russians asked them to, then
what prompted the agency’s interest in him? Were his contacts here
as well as in Russia considered useful to American counterintelligence?

The Canadian

Although it’s
not known why the Russians were intercepting phone calls involving
the Tsarnaevs, one reason might have been Tamerlan’s connection,
direct or indirect, with a Canadian terrorist named William Plotnikov.
According to USA Today, a Russian security official told
the AP that

had been detained in Dagestan in December 2010 on suspicion of having
ties to the militants and during his interrogation was forced to
hand over a list of social networking friends from the United States
and Canada who like him had once lived in Russia, Novaya Gazeta
reported. The newspaper said Tsarnaev’s name was on that list,
bringing him for the first time to the attention of Russia’s
secret services.

According to
a slightly different version, Plotnikov, “while under interrogation
in the militant hotbed of Dagestan, named Tsarnaev as a fellow extremist.

The similar
backgrounds of Plotnikov and Tsarnaev make it likely that they had
indeed been in contact. Both were recent immigrants from the former
Soviet Union. Both had successful boxing careers in North America,
and both surprised their friends by converting to Islamist extremism.

Plotnikov was
a member of the Caucasus Emirate, an al-Qaeda ally, and the Royal
Canadian Mounted Police had been searching for him since 2010. By
2011 the United States had joined the Russians in targeting this
terrorist group as an al-Qaeda ally, and had offered $5 million
for information leading to the capture of the group’s leader
Dokka Umarov. (Moscow Times, May 27, 2011)

Plotnikov was
killed in July 2012 in a shootout between militants and police in
Dagestan. Tsarnaev left Dagestan for America two days after Plotnikov
was killed.

US and Russia
Share Concerns

hopes for a Russian passport would have been put at risk by his
openly provocative behavior in Dagestan —unless he was acting
as an informant. But for which government, the U.S. or Russia?

The United
States and Russia have two shared concerns in the “arc of crisis”
stretching from Afghanistan to the Caucasus — terrorism and drugs.
The two problems are interrelated, because drugs, especially in
the Caucasus, help finance terror operations. This vitally affects
Russia, both because it has one of the highest heroin death rates
in the world, and even more because some of its member republics,
like Dagestan, are up to 80 percent Muslim. This shared concern
has led to a successful joint US-Russia anti-drug operation in Afghanistan.

Was Tamerlan
Tsarnaev caught up in a similar counter-intelligence operation?

The FBI’s
Dysfunctional Informant Program

One of the
more controversial features of the FBI’s informant program is the
frequency with which FBI agents coerce young people into the dangerous
role of informant, as a price for settling a minor legal problem.
Tsarnaev fits the mold. His successful career as a boxer
was interrupted and his application for U.S. citizenship was held
up (and perhaps denied) because “a 2009 domestic violence complaint
was standing in his way.” This alone would mark him as a candidate
for recruitment.

Thousands of
vulnerable young people avoid our overcrowded prisons by agreeing
to become snitches, sometimes wearing a wire. In this way a person
whose only crime may have been selling marijuana to a friend can
end up risking his career and even his life. And for what?

According to
Sarah Stillman in The New Yorker,

snitch-based system has proved notoriously unreliable, fuelling
wrongful convictions. In 2000, more than twenty innocent African-American
men in Hearne, Texas, were arrested on cocaine charges, based on
the false accusations of an informant seeking to escape a burglary
charge. This incident, and a number of others like it, prompted
calls for national legislation to regulate informant

After 9/11,
the coercive techniques of the FBI drug war, along with half of
the agents using them, were redirected to surveillance of Muslims.
The emphasis was no longer on investigation of specific crimes,
but the recruitment of spies to report on all Muslim communities.

In 2005 the
FBI’s Office of the Inspector General found that a high percentage
of cases involving informants contained violations of the FBI’s
own guidelines. Its report noted that since 2001 the rules had been
loosened to reflect the new emphasis on intelligence gathering and.
by extension, the bureau’s urgent need for informants.

to the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School, … nearly
every major post-9/11 terrorism-related prosecution has involved
a sting operation, at the center of which is a government informant.
In these cases, the informants – who work for money or are seeking
leniency on criminal charges of their own – have crossed the line
from merely observing potential criminal behavior to encouraging
and assisting people to participate in plots that are largely scripted
by the FBI itself. Under the FBI’s guiding hand, the informants
provide the weapons, suggest the targets and even initiate the inflammatory
political rhetoric that later elevates the charges to the level
of terrorism.

A writer for
Mother Jones,
Trevor Aaronson, also investigated the FBI’s
informant-led terrorism cases for over a year; he too found that
in a number of cases, “the government provides the plot, the
means, and the opportunity.”

the rest of the article

25, 2013

Baker is an award-winning investigative reporter. He has written
The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, The Nation,
The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Village
Voice and Esquire and dozens of other major domestic and
foreign publications. He has also served as a contributing editor
to the
Columbia Journalism Review. Baker received a 2005
Deadline Club award for his exclusive reporting on George W. Bush’s
military record. He is the author of
of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, the Powerful Forces That Put It in
the White House, and What Their Influence Means for America

(Bloomsbury Press, 2009); it was released in paperback as
of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, America’s Invisible Government and
the Hidden History of the Last Fifty Years
. For more information
on Russ’s work, see his sites,

© 2013

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This article originally appeared on: Lew Rockwell