News from North America, Wednesday 24th April 2013

LA Times: “Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has told investigators that he and his older brother planned the Boston Marathon bombings only a week or so before the race, that they were operating alone, and that they received no training or support from outside terrorist groups, officials said Tuesday.

His comments appear to support investigators’ theory that the attack was hastily conceived by two siblings who were self-radicalized.

Writing answers from his hospital bed because he was shot in the throat, the 19-year-old accused bomber also said that his slain older brother, Tamerlan, was ‘upset’ by the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and that anger was the motivation to plant two crude homemade bombs along the crowded race route.”

Reuters: “A top Obama administration official said on Tuesday that an immigration bill starting to move through Congress would fix some border control weaknesses that may have contributed to last week’s Boston Marathon bombings.

The immigration to the United States of two ethnic Chechen brothers who are suspects in the bombings has become a point of controversy in the early debate over the legislation, with some conservatives saying that Congress should now go slower.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano repeatedly was asked at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing about the Boston violence that killed three and injured more than 250, as the panel was wrapping up its hearings on a comprehensive immigration bill.

Napolitano told the panel that the legislation will ‘strengthen security at our borders.’”

BBC News: “Two suspects in an alleged al-Qaeda-backed plot to derail a Canadian passenger train have challenged the case against them.

In a Montreal court, Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, said the case against him was based only on ‘appearances’.

A lawyer for Raed Jaser, 35, said he would ‘defend himself vigorously’, outside his hearing in Toronto.

Officials said the alleged plot had support from al-Qaeda in Iran, although there was no sign of state sponsorship.”

The Atlantic: “After last week’s deadly bombing in Boston, news that Toronto foiled its own terrorist attack might have come as a relief.

A plot to blow up a rail line between Canada and the U.S. was thwarted on Monday, and Canadian police have arrested two suspects, Chiheb Esseghaier, of Montreal, and Raed Jaser, of Toronto.

But the most surprising part of the story might be how the suspects were discovered: They were turned in, reports say, by leaders of their own community.”

Washington Post: “In the years before the Boston Marathon bombings, Tamerlan Tsarnaev fell under the influence of a new friend, a Muslim convert who steered the religiously apathetic young man toward a strict strain of Islam, family members said.

Under the tutelage of a friend known to the Tsarnaev family only as Misha, Tamerlan gave up boxing and stopped studying music, his family said. He began opposing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He turned to websites and literature claiming that the CIA was behind the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and Jews controlled the world.”

Huffington Post: “Federal officials have dismissed charges against Paul Kevin Curtis, a Mississippi-based Elvis impersonator originally charged in connection with mailing ricin to lawmakers, because an ‘ongoing investigation has revealed new information,’ a federal official said in a court filing late Tuesday.

Curtis was released from jail earlier Tuesday. His attorney scheduled a press conference for Tuesday evening.

FBI agents were searching the home of another Mississippi man, Everett Dutschke, on Tuesday afternoon. Curtis’ lawyer said a grand jury had indicted Dutschke.”

ABC News: “A former personal secretary to Osama bin Laden got a strong rebuke from a judge on Tuesday as he was sentenced to life in prison for a second time after claiming the Sept. 11 attacks and Superstorm Sandy were ‘God’s punishment’ for injustice by the United States against him and others.

‘You, sir, in my judgment, are a committed terrorist who has betrayed his country,’ U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan told Wadih El-Hage after listening to the claims of the Lebanese-born man who became a U.S. citizen.”

Five Thirty Eight: “Public opinion surveys conducted since the bombings last week at the Boston Marathon indicate that most Americans — while convinced future attacks are quite likely — don’t feel personally threatened by terrorism, and an increasing share of the public is skeptical about sacrificing personal freedoms for security.

Concern about another terrorist episode in the United States has increased after the events in Boston, which led to the deaths of four people and wounded more than 260. But there has not been the upsurge in concern over such an attack that there was in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, in New York City. The post-Boston polls have also shown that Americans’ personal sense of threat — as opposed to the generalized threat that the country faces — remains low.”

Comment: Ottawa Citizen: ‘Case shows many challenges facing security officials’ by Ronald Crelinsten. “Monday’s stunning announcement that the RCMP and its partner agencies have broken up a plot to derail a Via passenger train came just on the heels of the first major homegrown terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11 and during the continuing story about the involvement of at least two young Canadians in the terrorist attack on a natural-gas plant in Algeria last January.

The range of terrorist plots and attacks underscores the challenge faced by counterterrorism practitioners in their efforts to protect the public from threats and violence. The fact that this particular plot appears to have been thwarted shows that our security forces are clearly doing something right.”

Comment: Foreign Policy: ‘Inspiration Inflation: We’re all to blame for giving al Qaeda’s magazine more credit than it’s due’ by J.M Berger. “NBC News reported this morning that the surviving Boston Marathon bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, told investigators that he and his elder brother, Tamerlan, learned to build their bomb by reading Inspire, which is published by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

At this point, it doesn’t really matter if NBC’s report is accurate or if Tsarnaev’s claim is true. Inspire has become the worst kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, in which our collective worries about terrorism magnified our enemies’ reach.”

Comment: San Diego Free Press: ‘Why Bomb the Boston Marathon(part two)? The Devil is in the Details’ by Chip Berlet. “Being an observant Muslim or even a “fundamentalist” Muslim who resents U.S. foreign policy actions in the Middle East and South Asia does not mean that one automatically supports theocracy, violence, or terrorism. The problem is maximized when Fundamentalism is tied to a totalitarian worldview, especially when mixed with apocalyptic or millennial excitement.

It depends on your version of your religion as to whether or not you see the return of the Messiah in the End Times as requiring some earthly assistance, including the use of force to ‘hasten the end.’ Most of the devout pray to hasten the return of the Messiah…but a few use bombs such as those that exploded in Boston.”

Comment: The Guardian: ‘America’s greatest asset against radicalisation: Muslim Americans’ by Ed Husain. “Rightwing pundits are exploiting Boston to revive their pet policies on immigration control, and fueling hatred of Islam. Ann Coulter demanded Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s wife to be jailed for merely wearing a hijab, and Sean Hannity wanted to waterboard the suspect. Both wanted to kill, not arrest, try, and convict. No, do not dismiss them as ‘marginal’ – they opine on prime-time television in America’s largest cable television network, Fox News.

Many on the American left have an altogether different impulse: denial and deflection. Melissa Harris-Perry and her guests at MSNBC thought Islam had as much to do with Boston bombings as Ben Affleck movies. She was wrong.

Cooler heads must prevail. Between bigotry and denial, there is a sensible middle ground that offers ways forward.”

Comment: LA Times: ‘U.S. a nation of Islamophobes? Hardly’ by David A. Lehrer and Joe R. Hicks. “Three of Robin Abcarian’s Perspective columns last week concerned the ‘new worries’ of some American Muslims that the ‘torrent of post-9/11 harassment and hysteria will be repeated.’ Abcarian started writing about these ‘worries’ even before the suspected Boston Marathon bombers were identified as, in fact, Muslim Americans…

In fact, the evidence shows that American attitudes toward Muslims are the polar opposite of what Abcarian would have you believe. Between 100 and 200 anti-Muslim hate crimes have been committed against Muslims per year since 2002, according to the FBI — this, in a nation of about 315 million people and thousands upon thousands of crimes. Those crimes occurred over a period in which there was the Times Square bomber, the attempted “underwear bombing” of a passenger place, the Ft. Hood massacre and numerous other dreadful acts and planned acts linked in some way to radical Islam. Just this week Canadian authorities announced they had stopped a planned terrorist attack on a busy passenger train.”

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