The Todashev Killing and the House of Cards
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Sometime in the evening of May 21 a contingent of law enforcement officials arrived at the apartment of 27-year-old Ibragim Todashev (pronounced Ibrahim To-DAH-shev). The FBI says that the group consisted of an FBI agent, two Massachusetts state troopers, and “other law enforcement personnel.” So there were at least four of them, and we may presume that they were all armed. Their interest in Todashev was occasioned by the fact that he was an acquaintance of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the elder of the two Chechen-immigrant brothers accused in the Boston marathon bombing. Todashev, like Tamerlan Tsarnaev, had been a mixed martial arts fighter and had lived for a time in the Boston area. Their common professional interests and heritage had apparently brought them together, at least casually.
All we know for certain as to what transpired in the apartment that night is that Todashev was shot dead sometime after midnight and after a protracted period of interrogation. Unfortunately, the only witnesses we have are the perpetrator or perpetrators of the Todashev killing. It is an understatement to say that their reports have been inconsistent and unreliable. This is from the first report in the May 22 Washington Post:
According to federal law enforcement officials, the man was being interviewed about whether he and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the bombing suspect, were connected to a two-year-old triple slaying when he attacked an FBI agent. There were conflicting accounts of what happened in the moments before the man was shot.
One federal law enforcement official said the man, a professional martial-arts fighter, was shot after trying to grab the FBI agent’s gun. Two other officials said the man reached for a knife and was shot as he attacked the agent. All three officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the episode is under official review.
Mind you, the only possible sources for these conflicting accounts were members of this rather small team of police officers and agents on the scene. There are three living, breathing human beings behind those stories that The Post gathered. The Post people know precisely who they are, as do other mainstream media folks who were told similar stories initially, but they are not telling us. Even at the time, it looked for all the world like a case of guilty parties who were unable to get together on their stories, but we will have to wait a very long time for anyone in the mainstream media to point this obvious fact out.
Rather, our press seems to have perceived its role to be smoothing out and selling the federal authorities’ jagged and ugly story. Consider, even, how The Post begins its article:
A Chechen man linked to one of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects was fatally shot early Wednesday in an unusual encounter with the FBI and other law enforcement officers in his apartment in Orlando.
Nowhere is the natural readers’ misapprehension corrected that “early Wednesday” means at the beginning of a usual workday when in fact it was in the wee hours of the night, which we might say was only technically Wednesday because it was after midnight, albeit perhaps well after midnight. Wikipedia says that Todashev was questioned for eight hours before he was shot to death, but it has two contradictory footnotes after the passage in which the assertion is made. One is from the Boston Globe that says that the interrogation began with a 7:30 appointment and the other is from The New York Times that says the killing took place only two hours into the interview. Since there is all-around agreement that the killing took place after midnight and it is unlikely that the interrogation began after 10 pm, the Boston Globe account appears to be closer to the likely truth. But why can’t even one of these reporters ask their “authoritative” anonymous sources just when the interrogation began and when it ended with Todashev’s slaying?
It’s bad enough that they don’t even report the most basic facts, but nowhere in any of the mainstream accounts or in what sparse commentary there has been, is there any indication of the plain uncivilized Soviet-style brutishness of the harassment that Todashev had undergone up to the time of his killing. He fell under suspicion, we have been told, because one telephone exchange some weeks before the Boston Marathon bombing had been found in Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s telephone records. This latest hours-long grilling without a lawyer present was but the final episode of Todashev’s harassment. We discover from this interview of Todashev’s very close friend, fellow Chechen Khusen Taramov, that Todashev had been interrogated at least five times before and that one session that they endured together lasted some three and a half hours. Here is how Todashev’e widow, Reniya Manukyan, described what had been going on:
"He was just getting tired of it because every single interview would ask him the same questions all over again and he would just say, 'I don't have anything else to tell you.' They would keep calling him, and tell him to come to the office, and they'd ask the same questions about the bombing and Tsarnaev," she said.
None of those interrogations, said Taramov, even touched upon the subject of the 2011 triple murders in Waltham, Massachusetts, that more anonymous sources later said Todashev was about to sign a confession to.
The Changing Story
Apparently, at some point the FBI realized that it was going to be in a bit of a pickle if it was ever asked to come up with the knife that it had been reported that Todashev had, so exactly one week later, on May 29, The Washington Post :
A Chechen man who was fatally shot by an FBI agent last week during an interview about one of the Boston bombing suspects was unarmed, law enforcement officials said Wednesday.
That’s just the opening line of the article, but it’s really all that one needs. A careful reader can easily detect that the new account of what happened that night is not the fruit of probing reporting. Rather, it is just the putative reporters’ relaying of the now changed unofficial “official” story. The source, once again, is allowed to remain anonymous.
As it turns out, the aforementioned friend Taramov did the real shoe-leather journalism that we should hope these eyes and ears of the people would be performing. Even with the changed story, these media lapdogs had left us with the impression that the shooting had been a pure case of self defense, with an unfortunate fatal shot having been fired, sort of along the lines of the unfortunate Trayvon Martin episode just a few miles to the north in Sanford, Florida. Taramov had gone to the morgue and had photographed Todashev’s bullet-riddled body. On top of that, he had sent the photographs to Todashev’s father in Chechnya and the father had held a well-attended press conference in Moscow in which he denounced the FBI for the “execution style“ killing of his son. The photographs of the body showed six apparent bullet holes in the torso and one in the crown of the head.
At this point, the greatest suspicion as to why the authorities had initially been unable to agree upon what happened that night would seem to have been validated. The actual truth was much too incriminating. Couldn’t at least four American law enforcement officials subdue one smallish Chechen without resorting to shooting him SEVEN TIMES, even if he did know martial arts? What with all the conflicting and changed stories, the tales of FBI harassment by Todashev’s friend and his widow, the very difficult to believe story that for some reason Todashev had decided to forego the chance ever to live as a free man again by confessing to a triple murder, and now with the evidence of a fusillade of bullets to the torso and a kill shot to the top of the head, who could possibly believe that this was not just a case of cold blooded murder? If he had actually participated in that triple murder, why had he cancelled his flight back to his home country in order to give that one last interview to the FBI?
John Miller to the FBI’s Rescue
Somebody had some serious explaining to do, and CBS News had just the man for the job, former chief spokesman for the FBI, John Miller. Bear in mind that before reading, and as we urge you to do, listening to his report, neither CBS nor Miller has had exactly a sterling record in reporting on this incident. They headlined their initial report, “Boston bombing suspect’s friend Ibragim Todashev killed in FBI shootout,” reminding us of the similar “shootout” that the news initially reported when the unarmed Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was taken into custody. “The FBI has not commented on the relationship between Todashev and Tsarnaev but confirmed that Todashev died in the shootout,” the early CBS report stated. That report also stated, “An official told CBS News that Todashev came at the agent with a knife.”
With the passage of a week and with the new information in CBS and Miller were singing this tune, which sounds a bit like it might have been inspired by an episode of NCIS. It gets off to a bad start by calling the encounter with the FBI agent a “standoff” and continues with this:
CBS News senior correspondent John Miller, formerly a deputy director at the FBI, detailed the incident that will now go before the review board.
According to Miller, moments before the shooting, Todashev was “writing out on a pad a confession to his involvement in the triple murder” when the Massachusetts state trooper “noticed that Todashev was getting more and more agitated,” Miller said.
“As the agent looked down at that text, that’s when the table went over. Todashev came over the table and picked up apparently a metal broom handle or some object like that…and charged the agent. The agent was knocked back, came up with his gun, fired two or three times. Todashev came back at him and he fired more times.”
“The Massachusetts state trooper never even got his gun out because of the tight space and the crossfire,” Miller added, “It would have been too dangerous.”
Miller’s colleagues, seemingly satisfied with this latest story, in which Miller, like the rest of U.S. network news, continued to mispronounce the victim’s name nine days after the event, were polite enough not to ask him what happened to the account of Todashev coming at the agent with a knife. “The FBI has convened a shooting incident review group to conduct an investigation into whether the shooting can be justified as a reasonable use of force,” CBS blithely informed us, and added as a further reassurance to the public that there would be (presumably non-FBI) people from the Justice Department on that board.
This “former” FBI chief spokesman Miller has clearly taken on the role of leading salesman for the story that the Tsarnaev brothers carried out the Boston Marathon bombing. In this report, dropping all presumption of innocence until guilt is proven, Miller tells us that the Tsarnaev brothers learned how to make their pressure cooker bombs from Al Qaeda’s online Inspire magazine, which told them, as well, to place them in crowded areas (to generate maximum revulsion against their cause? ed.). Anonymous “sources” also gave Miller the belated scoop that while cowering in that boat while the authorities locked down the city in search of him, young Dzhokhar Tsarnaev somehow found the time and the instrument for writing a confession on the interior wall. Was he inspired by that online magazine to do that as well? In John Miller’s propaganda world, the question is not as ridiculous as it may sound. Toward the end of that May 31 interview, encouraged by the CBS moderator, he tells us in so many words that Al Qaeda as an organization has confessed to the bombing by making its latest issue something of a gloating “victory lap,” both for the Boston Marathon bombing and the beheading of a British soldier in London. Such an eagerness to confess, if we are to believe Miller, has seldom been witnessed since the heyday of the Moscow Show Trials.
The FBI’s Waterloo in Boston?
These latest FBI shenanigans have come at a particularly bad time for the agency. That is because the trial of the longtime fugitive crime boss of Boston, James “Whitey” Bulger has just started. As reported by The Washington Post on June 14, Massachusetts superintendent of state police, Thomas Foley, was called to the stand by Bulger’s attorney, Hank Brennan:
Brennan called attention to Foley’s 2012 book, “Most Wanted: Pursuing Whitey Bulger, the Murderous Mob Chief the FBI Secretly Protected,” particularly this passage: “The feds stymied our investigation of Whitey, got us investigated on bogus claims, tried to push me off the case, got me banished to a distant barracks, phonied up charges against other members of the State Police, lied to reporters, misled Congress, drew in the president of the United States to save themselves, nearly got me and my investigators killed.”
Brennan got Foley to confirm those assertions on the stand.
When it comes to slain potential witnesses, the Boston office of the FBI has a record. Working hand and glove with Bulger over a number of years, they might not have done the actual killing themselves, but they did pass along information to Bulger that put the finger on people who were a threat to him, and he took care of the rest.
John Miller’s slick sales job notwithstanding, the FBI is having a hard time wrapping up the case against the designated perpetrators. They clearly have a problem with the fact that the younger Tsarnaev was not killed by the hail of bullets that were rained upon him as he lay cowering, unarmed, in that boat. Unless they can persuade this sweet-faced, popular, thoroughly Americanized teenager to plead guilty to escape the death penalty, á la James Earl Ray, there will have to be a trial, and the evidence for Tsarnaev’s guilt appears to be very weak. Those news videos of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, or someone who just happened to look very much like him, being taken into custody quite healthy and alive after having been forced to strip naked also appear to be a real problem for the FBI’s official story, which is either that he was killed in a shootout with police or was run over by his brother as he successfully fled in a car.
Painting the elder Tsarnaev as a dangerous Muslim ideologue was apparently deemed insufficient for his necessary demonization. It also had its pitfalls. Who could really believe that when the FBI put out its photographs of the two “prime suspects” for the public to help identify them, it didn’t already know full well who they were? Tamerlan also had to be painted as a murderous brute who had participated in that triple murder in 2011. The only “evidence” they appear to have for that is that one of the victims was a friend of his and he had not gone to the funeral. The strange kind of “game” that the friend Taramov perceived the FBI agents were playing with their repeated interrogations seemed to be playing was apparently ultimately this: They wanted to browbeat a “confession” out of Todashev that he and Tamerlan were the guilty parties in that killing. Ultimately, they failed to get it out of the living man. Now they tell us that they have it, and there is no longer a living Ibragim Todashev to contradict them. Their continuing spokesman, Miller, has now told us that Todashev had scrawled such a confession in his own hand. As we write these lines it is quite easy to imagine that the FBI is now hard at work finding Todashev writing samples that can be used as a model for constructing the “confession” should they ever need to produce it.
The Criminal FBI
Is our vaunted Federal Bureau of Investigation really capable of such an outrage? If you think not, then maybe you need to go back and read that statement by the police superintendent Foley again. Or maybe you need to be reminded of their shooting of Vicki Weaver as she held her baby in her arms at Ruby Ridge or of their immolation of the Branch Davidian men, woman, and children at Waco. If that’s not enough, perhaps you need to be reminded of their role in the murder of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton and their framing of another Panther leader Geronimo Pratt for a murder that they knew he did not commit. More recently, we might cite their ongoing role in the cover-up if not the outright murder of Kenneth Trentadue at the Federal Transfer Center in Oklahoma City in 1995. Consider as well the words of Miguel Rodriguez one time lead investigator for Kenneth Starr in the examination of the death of Deputy White House Counsel, Vincent W. Foster, Jr.:
The Independent Counsel themselves, and the FBI, beat me back, and in fact threatened me. They told me to quote, this is a quote, “back off.” It was either “back off or back down.” They used both of them.
You know it’s—I have been communicated with again and told to you know, to be careful where I tread.
I can tell you this, that ah, ah, that it has not only to do with my career and reputation, um, they’ve also had to do with my personal health and my family.
These examples only begin to scratch the surface of FBI outrages when high level politics is involved, and from the mainstream media attention it has received alone, we know that the Boston Marathon bombing is the highest level politics. It is part and parcel of the phony Global War on Terror for which we are to adopt the role of international military aggressors while sacrificing our historic liberties at home. The chance that our national secret police would actually conduct an honest justice-seeking investigation in a matter such as that is precisely nil.
In his initial report on the Whitey Bulger trial on June 13, Michael Rosenwald of The Washington Post had a very revealing passage:
The terrifying richness of Bulger’s life laid bare in a courtroom threatens to embarrass the FBI and Justice Department, which Bulger said promised him immunity for his crimes. But the trial is also about a largely bygone time. Big gangster trials are a rarity these days. The FBI has largely moved on from organized crime—if there even is much left—to focus on terrorism.
We might contrast that observation with a passage from the 1990 book Blue Thunder by Thomas Burdick and Charlene Mitchell:
The popular stereotype of organized crime is outdated…. The ill-fitting black suits have been cast off for Savile Row styles. The dingy neighborhood bars have lost out to four-star gourmet eateries. The Brooklyn accents have given way to Ivy League tones. Street smarts are being enhanced by law degrees and MBAs. This is today’s mob. At its disposal is a sophisticated network of lawyers, bankers, businessmen, and officials who help them manage global operations that are woven into the fabric of legitimate society…
Meyer Lansky had once said about the mob: “We’re bigger than U.S. Steel.” At the time, U.S. Steel was the largest corporation in the world. Since then, the steel company has gotten smaller. The mob is bigger and more powerful than ever…
The underground empire has become the invisible empire. And no amount of armed security at the gates of government is going to keep it out.
So the FBI has moved on from fighting a real danger to fighting a completely ginned-up imaginary one, and it is doing it by employing the mob’s own methods, if not it’s own men.
John Miller strikes us as the sort of person who would have no problem with any of this. Although he’s supposed to be a news man now, charged with the responsibility of informing the public, he and his colleagues apparently see nothing at all wrong with the fact that, while there is now a Wikipedia page about the deceased victim that chronicles his every peccadillo, we have not even been told his slayer’s name, and probably never will be. We have seen what kind of a record the FBI has in political cases such as this—although Miller and his crowd would be the last to remind us of it—but what about the record of the actual slayer? We don’t know because we don’t even know who he is. He is being treated with the delicacy of a rape victim. It gives a whole new meaning to the term “secret police.”
Nobody in the press seems to have any objection to the fact that, very conveniently for itself, the FBI uses 19th century technology in its interrogations. They make notes by hand of what they are told by people they interrogate and then they type them up. There is no legal requirement that they make either audio or video recordings of their interviews. In two important cases with which this writer is familiar, the JFK assassination and the death of Vincent Foster, there are numerous examples of serious discrepancies between what witnesses say they said and what FBI agents report that they said, always in favor of the official narrative. Don’t expect John Miller to be calling for any change in that state of affairs.
Miller, whom we might well regard as the very face of what has become of American mainstream news, is also clearly smugly satisfied with the fact that the FBI is apparently going to get away with investigating itself in this killing. The local authorities are giving this crime a pass and the press and the politicians are all practicing the first of the Seventeen Techniques for Truth Suppression. They have dummied up. It’s apparently quite okay with the lot of them that, with the historic powers of citizens’ grand juries having been eliminated in 1946, there’s virtually no chance that justice will be done in this matter or that the authorities will even have to do very much to make it appear that justice was done. Shining too strong a light on this latest FBI outrage might reveal too much about the frame-up character of the entire Boston Marathon bombing “investigation,” and neither the press nor the politicians want that.
On John Miller’s Wikipedia page we might find a clue as to why he seems to fit so comfortably into the prevailing government-media power elite. We find there that Miller’s Manhattan-based syndicated journalist father was a close friend of famous mobster Frank Costello and that Costello’s wife was Miller’s godmother. Now let’s have another look at Miller preening in front of the CBS camera. Is that a Savile Row suit he’s wearing?
June 20, 2013
See also “The Ballad of Ibragim Todashev.”