Times Examines How Reddit Smeared Missing Philly Student as Boston Bomber

The New York Times Magazine has a long piece examining how Reddit promoted the false theory that Sunil Tripathi—a then-missing, now-known-to-be-deceased Philadelphia student at Brown University—was actually one of the Boston bombers. The photo used as “evidence” in the court of Reddit opinion turned out to be of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, but the theory grew from Reddit speculation to Twitter-fueled raging rumor in a matter of hours, spilling into the mainstream media.

Nobody comes off well in the piece, with the exception of Tripathi’s family. His parents, Akhil and Sangeeta, are quoted here:

At 5:16 a.m., Pete Williams of NBC announced that Sunil Tripathi was not a suspect, but speculation on Twitter continued. Around 6:45 a.m., after the Tripathis had received hundreds of threatening and anti-Islamic messages (though they are not Muslim) and after Suspect No. 1 was announced dead from injuries sustained at the shootout in Watertown, Mass., The Associated Press revealed the full name of Suspect No. 2: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. But the Tripathi family’s troubles were not over. Akhil’s colleague, who had been helping with the search, called a homeless shelter in Philadelphia to see if Sunil had been there and was told that the shelter did not aid terrorists. According to the Tripathis, the private missing-persons organization that was working with the family informed them that Sunil’s association with the Boston bombings had ruined their business. Still traumatized, the Tripathi family decided to redouble their efforts to get out the word about Sunil’s disappearance. This meant going back to the same media who had been calling them all night. “We were very hurt and very scared and very angry,” Sangeeta said, “but we couldn’t afford to share those opinions with the media, because we were looking for Sunil. You realize how the power dynamics are so strong. We had to keep all of our anger and displeasure off the record.

“Almost every news outlet that came to us said the same three things,” Sangeeta added. “The first was, ‘How was that night?’ The second was, ‘Is Sunny still missing?’ And the third was, ‘This is a silver lining because now you’re getting his name out.’ It was interesting to see how formulaically they processed that arc. The costs to somebody who is in a fragile state are immense and not undone by a casual apology,” she said. “This is precedent-setting for what will happen for other individuals.”

Tripathi’s body was found April 23. It’s a devastating story. The Times concludes: “The Sunil Tripathi debacle isn’t really a ‘new media’ problem, much as those who think of themselves as members of the “old media” might like to see it that way. This is what media is now, a constantly evolving interaction between reporters working for mainstream companies; journalists and writers compiling and interpreting news for online outlets; and thousands of individuals participating on their own in the gathering and assembling and disseminating of information.” It doesn’t always work.

2 Republican Senators Are Worried that PA Terrorists Are Getting Welfare

Are there any Pennsylvanians on the federal terrorist watchlist receiving welfare assistance? And if so, how can we prevent them from getting it? Those are the questions two Republican state senators–Joe Scarnati and David Argall–posed to the state’s Department of Welfare chief this week. They asked, by the way, because the Boston Marathon bombing suspects received state aid in Massachusetts, which for obvious reasons, set off a conservative firestorm. Here’s the problem with such a policy.

1. It’d be very hard, politically and legally, to change the welfare laws in the state to exclude people for being suspected of terrorist proclivities. Governor Corbett’s means-testing was controversial enough…

2. If such a policy were enacted, said suspected terrorists would stop receiving welfare benefits. And soon enough they would figure out they were on the federal terrorist watchlist. Which would defeat much of the point of having them on the list at all.

[Pittsburgh Trib-Review]

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Scribbled A Note Explaining Motives Inside the Watertown Boat

When he was trapped inside of the Slip Away II in Watertown three weeks ago, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev scrawled a note on the cabin wall. Explaining his and his brothers’ motives, he wrote that his victims were “collateral damage,” just as U.S. wars in the Middle East had killed innocent Muslims. “When you attack one Muslim, you attack all Muslims,” Tsarnaev wrote. He also wrote that he didn’t mourn the death of his older brother Tamerlan, a “martyr” whom he’d soon be joining in heaven. [CBS News]

Dzhokhar: Brothers Bombed Because of Wars in Middle East

The New York Times has landed what appears to be an enormous scoop, relaying what Dzhokhar Tsarnaev testified to F.B.I. officials immediately after he regained consciousness following his capture two weeks ago. According to unnamed federal officials, here’s what the 19-year-old suspect told them.

  • The Tsarnaev brothers were plotting an attack in protest to the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and what they perceived as an anti-Muslim conspiracy.
  • They acted alone.
  • They had initially planned an attack on July 4th, but finished constructing their explosives early, so pushed up the date to Patriots Day.
  • They considered suicide bombings.
  • They were influenced by the preachings of radical Islamist and American citizen Ankar Al-Alwaki, whom the United States killed in Yemen using a drone strike.
  • They learned how to make their pressure-cooker explosives from an article in Inspire, Al-Qaeda’s online magazine, called “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom.”

Dzhokhar spilled all this before he was read his Miranda Rights–remember, the “public safety exception” was invoked–which could play a big role if this case ever goes to trial. [NY Times]

Tsarnaev Update: One Brother’s Lover Speaks Out

Yesterday brought us the news that three additional suspects had been charged with relatively minor crimes in the Boston Bombing case. Today, we’ve learned a little bit more about the women in the Tsarnaev brothers’ lives. Dzhokhar, 19, was apparently the heartthrob of UMass-Dartmouth, a former flame tells Mother Jones:

I met him standing outside a building and honestly, his face was enough to capture my heart,” she explained, noting that lots of women fawned over him. “I walked right up to him and I was like, ‘Oh my God, you are adorable. Can we hang out?’ I’m very forward.”

As things progressed…

He wanted to go further than I did, and that made me uncomfortable, and I realized that that’s not the kind of person that I wanted to be around,” she says. “I don’t think that’s necessarily being a terrorist. I think that’s just called being a hands-y teenaged boy.”

His deceased brother Tamerlan, meanwhile, placed a phone call to his wife Katherine Russell a few hours after the F.B.I. released photos of the two brothers on Friday, April 26th, shortly before he died. Investigators do not yet know what the two discussed.

Boston Police: Three More Arrests In Bombings

[Update 3 p.m.] The Wall Street Journal makes the newly charged conspirators sound like small fries:

U.S. prosecutors on Wednesday charged two men with destroying evidence after the Boston Marathon attacks and a third man with lying to investigators about his involvement in the matter.

Prosecutors alleged the two helped dispose of a laptop computer and backpack containing fireworks belonging to Mr. Tsarnaev. A third person charged, Robel Phillipos, a 19-year-old U.S. citizen, is accused of lying to federal investigators.

[Original story] Right now, this is all we know:

NPR reported Tuesday that investigators were looking at a dozen or so people who might’ve helped the Tsarnaev brothers carry out the attack on the marathon. “Officials (said) that among those being investigated are two students from Kazakhstan who were friends of the Tsarnaev brothers. The two students were arrested in New Bedford, Mass., shortly after the bombings and are being held on immigration charges.”

What Does a Terrorist Look Like?

Two weeks ago, the American public sat with bated breath to learn of the identities of those behind the Boston Marathon explosions.

Long before law enforcement learned the names of suspected bombers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the media and the public clamored for information that would help to orient their grief: Were the perpetrators “dark skinned,” as it had initially been reported? Read more »

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Transferred from Hospital to Comfy Prison

19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been transferred from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center to Federal Medical Center Devens, 35 miles northwest of Boston. It’s a low-security prison designed for people who still need medical assistance. As New York notes, it’s “been described as ‘agreeable’ and ‘fairly pleasant,’ with an outdoor basketball court and an arts and crafts building.” It also houses convicted insider trader Raj Rajaratnam. [NY Mag]

Boston Magazine Releases Extraordinary Marathon Cover

The sneakers you’re looking at were all worn in the 2013 Boston Marathon. It’s an inspired cover, and the story behind it is nearly as remarkable as the shot itself. (Disclosure: Boston Magazine is a subsidiary of the same corporation that owns Philadelphia Magazine.)

The magazine’s May issue was days away from shipping last Monday when the bombings occurred. Finding a new cover feature was imperative. Once the staff decided on the shoes idea, as Editor John Wolfson describes it, the staff went into overdrive:

We figured we’d need about 100 or so shoes, and we had very little time to get them. We were also going to have to interview every person who submitted a pair of shoes so we could tell his or her story. We immediately sent out tweets and Facebook posts asking runners to submit their shoes. At the same time, people from every department here at Boston magazine started reaching out to friends and family members asking for shoes.

And then, for about a half-day, the shoes were in the hands of one man, Brian Struble, the design director who co-created the concept.

On Thursday morning, Struble loaded up his car with 120 shoes and drove them down to New York, to be shot by the renowned photographer Mitchell Feinberg. The shoot captured perfectly what had drawn me to the concept in the first place.

To me the cover is about two things: perseverance and unity. By itself, each shoe in the photograph is tiny, battered, and ordinary. Together, though, they create something beautiful, powerful, and inspirational. Remove just one shoe and you begin to diminish, in some small way, the overall effect. Collectively, they are the perfect symbol for Boston, and for our response to the bombings.

[Boston Magazine]

This post has been updated.

Bloomberg: Tsarnaev Brothers Planned Times Square Bombings

Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, according New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, carjacked a Mercedes last Thursday night in order to drive it to New York City and set off explosives in Times Square.

They had six bombs in their possession – one pressure cooker bomb like those used to attack the Marathon and five pipe bombs. But [NYPD Commissioner Ray] Kelly said the plan “fell apart” when the brothers realized they were low on gas and ordered the carjack victim to stop at a gas station – and he escaped.

Kelly and Bloomberg got their information from Dzhokhar, who told this to the F.B.I. before being read his Miranda rights and clamming up. This contradicts an earlier report relayed by Kelly that the Tsarnaevs were headed to New York “to party.” A witness told the Globe that Tamerlan, the elder brother, told the driver of the Mercedes: “We just killed a cop. We blew up the Marathon. And now we’re going to New York. Don’t [expletive] with us.” [Boston Globe]

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