Traitors (UPDATED)

I’ve spent quite a bit of time processing what I know about the Tsarnayev brothers this weekend. I didn’t want to jump to conclusions or make emotionalist, rhetorical statements on my blog when I was upset and enraged that once again a terrorist attack could happen in our country. I needed time to cool off and examine the facts with a level head.

I was and am incensed! Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnayev were immigrants from Russia – just like me.

They came to this country with their families (ostensibly seeking freedom) – just like me.

They went to school here, grew up here, went to college here, had opportunities they would have never had in their country of origin – just like me.

But whereas I finished school, graduated from Johns Hopkins, served in the American military and continue to serve my nation the best way I know how – not just as a job, but as a “thank you” to the country that gave me so much and provided me with so many opportunities…

…these two monsters chose to spit on their adopted home and murder Americans.

They chose to ignore all the opportunities and freedoms they received here and to take up arms against the United States.

They chose to become terrorists – to murder innocent men, women and children – and to shoot police officers in the back of the head.

These were their choices. These two were legal adults. They became citizens of this nation. They swore an oath to be true to this nation’s laws.

And then, after taking advantage of all this country had to offer, they murdered innocent civilians in cold blood.

They are traitors. They are terrorists.

And I have come to the conclusion that they are enemy combatants, despite having become US citizens, and ought to be treated as such.

That decision was not easy for me to reach, because ultimately, I’m someone who is about rule of law, blind justice and human rights.

And as I think about what these two did, I can’t help but compare them to another traitor – Ana Montes.

In the aftermath of 9-11, it was easy to forget Ana Montes, who was probably one of the most prolific and dangerous spies America has ever seen. A lengthy article in the Washington Post this weekend recounts the saga of Ana Montes – her background, her crimes, her betrayals, her state of mind, and her motives.

Ana Montes was born in the United States.

She was a committed leftist, who hated the US government and saw it as an oppressor.

She methodically gained access to the highest classified information, and not only passed it on to the Cubans, but used her status as a top-notch analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency, to advocate for a softer US approach to Cuba and understate the danger Cuba posed to the United States.

Ana Montes did it, because she shared an ideological link with the communists.

And while we don’t know what motivated the Tsarnayev brothers, I think it is safe to assess that at least the older Tsarnayev was motivated by religious ideology – radical Islam.

Ana Montes did it for her radical leftist ideology.

The Tsarnayev brothers appear to have done the same. ITAR-TASS reports the elder Tsarnayev took a trip to Dagestan and Chechnya and took an interest in radical Islam. His own comments on the Internet certainly confirm this, as do the Russians.

The FBI admitted that in 2011 they received a request “from the intelligence services of a foreign state,” which said that Tamerlan Tsarnayev is a supporter of radical Islam, and that, according to unconfirmed information, starting from 2010, he was preparing to leave the United States in order to “join an unnamed underground group” in the Russian Federation. However, a probe conducted in this connection detected “no evidence of terrorist activity.” In summer 2011, the FBI passed the collected data to the Russian authorities, requesting for “more specific additional information.” The US intelligence agencies have not received an answer to the request.

“Many experts in the United States say that jihad in the North Caucasus is not part of the global jihad, therefore the North Caucasus underground groups should be treated in a way different from al-Qaeda,” expert at the Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies Vasily Kashin told the Vedomosti newspaper. “But the biography and actions of the Tsarnayev brothers have shown that this is not so,” Kashin said.

In the view of the expert, they are no different from people coming from Pakistan, Somalia, Arab countries and other troubled regions with passports of Western countries who travel to conflict zones, are inspired with the ideas of jihad there and are regarded by Western intelligence agencies as the main source of recruitment of terrorists.

Ana Montes was not a terrorist. She compromised assets, influenced US policy and betrayed her nation. But she was not a terrorist.

Montes spied for 17 years, patiently, methodically. She passed along so many secrets about her colleagues — and the advanced eavesdropping platforms that American spooks had covertly installed in Cuba — that intelligence experts consider her among the most harmful spies in recent memory. But Montes, now 56, did not deceive just her nation and her colleagues. She also betrayed her brother Tito, an FBI special agent; her former boyfriend Roger Corneretto, an intelligence officer for the Pentagon specializing in Cuba; and her sister, Lucy, a 28-year veteran of the FBI who has won awards for helping to unmask Cuban spies.

The Tsarnayev brothers were and are terrorists. They targeted innocent men, women and children at a public event. They caused panic. They prompted a near-shutdown of the city and caused terror among the populace. They caused us to lose confidence in our leaders.  Conspiracy theories about a “false flag” operation were tossed out before the blood was cleaned from the streets, and while these theories are mostly viewed as garbage by anyone with half a brain cell, they are out there – they’re on the forefront of people’s mind – and they’re propped up by the measures authorities took to catch the remaining terrorist, Dzhokhar Tsarnayev after the death of his older brother. This is exactly what terrorism is.  And they should be treated as such.

Both sets of traitors caused unspeakable damage.

Both sets were American citizens (Montes was natural born, while the younger Tsarnayev took the citizenship oath in 2011 – on September 11, of all dates).

I do understand the continued quest to assign a motive to these traitors’ actions. The Washington Post feature went to great lengths to explain Montes’ background, an abusive father, a love for the underdog, the desire to retaliate against authoritarian and the “arrested psychological development” due to her father’s explosive temper.

And yet, Montes’ sister and brother are both respected FBI agents. They are not traitors, and they appear to be – by all accounts – horrified by what their sister did, despite being raised in the same authoritarian home until their mother finally divorced their father and raised her four kids on her own. They appear to have gone to great lengths to elicit sympathy for Montes, who was described as lonely and aching for love and respect.

Spying was lonely. Montes could confide only in her handlers. Family gatherings and holidays with her two FBI siblings and their FBI-employed spouses became tense affairs. At the beginning, the Cubans provided enough of a social life. “They were emotionally supportive. They understood my loneliness,” Montes told investigators. But as she turned 40, Montes became despondent. “I was finally ready to share my life with someone but was leading a double life, so I did not feel I could live happily,” she revealed. The Cubans set her up with a lover, but after a couple of days of fun, she realized she would not find happiness with a “mail order” groom.

Ana’s alienation only grew when, by strange coincidence, [her sister] Lucy began working on the biggest case of her career: a massive crackdown on Cuban spies operating in the United States. It was 1998, and the Miami field office had uncovered a Cuban spy ring based in Florida, the so-called Wasp Network. More than a dozen members strong, the Wasp Network was infiltrating Cuban exile organizations and making inroads into U.S. military sites in Florida upon its capture. For Lucy, the Wasp case marked the crowning achievement of her career. The FBI had called on her to translate hours of wiretapped conversations of Cuban spies who were trying to penetrate the U.S. Southern Command base in Doral. Lucy earned praise from the FBI brass and an award from a local Latin chamber of commerce. But she never shared the news with Ana. Although Ana was one of the preeminent Cuba experts in the world and should have been ecstatic that her sister had helped expose a Cuban spy ring, Lucy was convinced Ana would just change the subject. “I knew she would have no interest in hearing about it or talking about it,” Lucy said.

But Lucy’s triumph became Ana’s despair. Ana’s handlers suddenly went dark. They refused to contact her for months as they assessed the fallout from the investigation. “Something that gave me fulfillment disappeared,” she later told investigators. Ana bottomed out. She experienced crying spells, panic attacks and insomnia. She sought psychiatric treatment and started taking antidepressants. CIA-led psychologists would later conclude that the isolation, lies and fear of capture had triggered borderline obsessive-compulsive traits. Montes began showering for long stretches with different soaps and wearing gloves when she drove her car. She strictly controlled her diet, at times eating only unseasoned boiled potatoes. At a birthday party at Lucy’s home in 1998, Ana sat stone-faced and barely spoke. “Some of my friends thought she was very rude, that there was something seriously odd with her. And there was. She was cut off from her handler,” Lucy said.

Meanwhile, as more details begin to emerge about the Tsarnayev brothers, sources are beginning to blame the older Tamerlan, who was indoctrinated into radical Islam, for corrupting his impressionable, younger brother.

But you know what? None of this matters to me.

Psychologically, the traitors are an interesting study. From a profiling standpoint, it’s nice to know and understand a little about their motives.

But overall, as far as I’m concerned, there’s no excuse.

Ana Montes was solely responsible for her actions. She was a radical socialist, who wanted to challenge the capitalist country where she was born. She did this on her own. Her father was not responsible for her actions. She was. Montes’ sister Lucy refuses to make excuses for her sibling.

…While her late father did have a frightening temper, Lucy also remembers him as a compassionate man with solid values. “We all grew up in the same household, we all had the same parents, so you can’t blame everything on what happened at home,” Lucy said. “If there’s one thing my father taught us, it’s respect for the law and authority. It never even entered my mind that my sister would be capable of such a thing, because we weren’t raised that way.”

Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnayev were raised in this country from childhood. They enjoyed the rights and freedoms this nation affords more than any other country on earth, and they spit on it. They spit on a nation that gave them refuge, opportunities and freedoms they would not have had in their homeland. But they chose to place bombs at the feet of innocents and watch as a little boy lost his life. Dzhokhar stood feet away from a little boy and his family and callously placed a bomb that ended a child’s life.

There is no amount of rationalization that will mitigate this fact. None.

I don’t care how young and impressionable he was. Placing a bomb at the feet of a child should be considered morally repugnant, no matter what kind of influence your big brother had! And if that didn’t occur to Dzhokhar, he shouldn’t be inhabiting this earth.

I disagree with some of my friends who assert that Tsarnayev should be treated like a criminal.  The definition of “enemy combatant,” according to is:  any member of the armed forces of a state with which another state is at war; also, any person in an armed conflict, including terrorism, who could be properly detained under the laws and customs of war.

Tsarnayev took up arms against the United States.  He engaged in an act of terrorism against US citizens. And he took part in a jihad, a war waged by the radical Muslims against the United States and its citizens. This was not just a simple crime, and shouldn’t be treated as such.

They were not just traitors to this country, but they also waged war against it as part of a larger radical jihad.

Not only do they not qualify as common criminals, but they also do not deserve the Constitutional rights meant to protect the citizens of the nation they betrayed.

I’m not a lawyer. My opinion is about as informed as anyone else’s on the matter. But these are my thoughts, for what it’s worth.

UPDATE: It doesn’t really matter what I think. Tsarnayev will not be charged as an enemy combatant.

Marathon Complaint

Using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death.

Malicious destruction of property by means of an explosive device resulting in death.


13 responses

  1. In your understandable anger, which I share, I think perhaps you might be approaching the issue the wrong way. I submit the primary concern isn’t how he should be treated to protect him, but rather to protect the rest of us.

    Every US citizen enjoys Constitutional protections–even traitors–rights you and I have sworn to uphold. Honoring their rights doesn’t make us weaker.

    In this case, both the civil and military systems are perfectly capable of administering justice, but using the civil system has one huge benefit for us all that the military system just can’t offer: protecting Americans in America from arbitrary indefinite detention without a trial and due process.

    We must zealously protect our present rights from encroachment, that they may still be there for future generations. It is especially important to do so when we are seeing red.

    As an aside, I don’t think you used enough colorful language in this piece. 🙂


    1. Oh, man! I can’t win! When I do curse, I get sanctimonious assholes coming over here telling me I would win over a lot more folks if I toned down the language; when I do tone it down, I get you guys telling me I just don’t curse enough! :p


      On a more serious note – this is why I brought up Ana Montes. She’s a traitor as well, but the criminal system dealt with her as the criminal system should. She did not wage war on the United States, which is the difference in my view.

      I am acutely sensitive about protecting our rights from encroachment, but my assessment is that this particular enemy combatant is not entitled to those rights based on his actions.

      Both are traitors, but only one is a terrorist.

      I would love to hear other people’s opinions on this. As I said, I thought long and hard about this over the weekend, and it was far from easy to arrive at my current thoughts on this. So if you would pass this on to others and encourage them to comment, I’d greatly appreciate it. I would like to have a wide gamut of views on this one.


    2. Cursing is a valuable part of language, properly used to convey emotion and opinion. While it may not be good manners everywhere, I’d say it is certainly appropriate on a personal blog. Besides, when we come here to read your blog, we know what to expect, and have come to expect it. 🙂

      Also, as to the update noting the charges, I suspect those charges will be amended (increased) as time progresses. My understanding is that prosecutors have to charge a suspect within a certain time, but they have the ability to file amended and additional charges later.


    3. “Under certain circumstances, urgent circumstances, desperate circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer.” – Mark Twain


  2. We need to flat out stop the bullshit of treating terrorism as a criminal act. Terrorism is a classic example of asymetric WARFARE. Reagan had the right approach. Clinton came into office and terrorism began to be treated like a criminal act. Bush fought against it like we are at war, which we are. Obama refuses to acknowledge it a form of war. Tsarnaev is an enemy combatant, even though he is a US citizen. Through his ass in a deep dark hole and throw away the key. Or due as they due in muslim countries. Behead the SOB in public square!


  3. One of your very best articles ever, Nicki. Here’s my 2-cents worth:

    1. Democrats exude weakness which emboldens our enemies. Declaring the Boston Bombing a domestic issue and refusing to slap on a “domestic terrorist” label on the perps simply continues the appeasement melody. It also fails to see the systemic nature of international terrorism.

    2. The international connections to your post here are fascinating. Notice how we deal with the messengers and not the message. In the good old days of European monarchy, disloyalty to the crown got a two-fold response: Swift and public execution of the spies, and; war against the nation responsible for the espionage. We do neither and the world laughs at us.

    3. It’s high time we energized our own spy networks as both counter-espionage and infiltration arms of our military power. But what did we do to the Pakistani doctor who helped us get Bin Laden? Did that send a message about what we do to our friends in unfriendly places?

    4. Our military complex is still so busy playing with toys and thumping its chest from Iraq and Afghanistan that we are prepared for neither a nation state conflict or COIN at a strategic level. In the wake of using up our military forces we now cut off their funding and undermine their ability to refit and prepare for the next conflict? Once again, our political leadership is lost in its own hubris.

    5. All of this is an eddy in the current of the downfall of America. Like Rome and all the great world powers, we are crumbling from within. The end result will be catastrophic for us unless there is a renewal of America – which is an idea: liberty. Jefferson said that tree must periodically be watered with the blood of patriots. But given our current national leadership, they aren’t willing to invest anything or lead. They are managers with no principle beyond themselves.

    In sum: all of this reveals that the soul of America is weak and the nation, as a result, is dying.



  4. A minor quibble: “They caused us to lose confidence in our leaders.” That confidence never existed in the first place.


  5. One word…de-naturalization…look it up in the legal codes. The suspect just recently received naturalization on 11 Sep 2012. Through a legal process he could potentially be reverted from citizen to combatant. Here are the grounds:

    Belonging to a subversive organization or group within five years after you become a naturalized citizen can lead to revocation of your citizenship. Terrorist groups are the textbook example of a violent “subversive” organization.

    Also, at the time he took his oath of loyalty he was most likely involved with this plot to do terror against his adopted nation, meaning that he submitted false information on his application That is additional grounds.

    As recently as this year, the DHS announced that they were reviewing the de-naturalization process in consideration of making it even easier to administer this process swiftly.


  6. Nicki,
    For what it is worth, I agree with you. These two are definately “domestic” terrorists. Regardless their religious leanings, they are domestic terrorists. Both are/were US citizens and chose to wage war on innocent targets. No matter how the older influenced the younger, in an Islamic society he would be allowed or provided dispensation for following his elder, as it is part of the very fabric of Islamic society and expected. That said, he is still accountable for his decisions and actions according to our society and our laws. He should be judged accordingly.


  7. Regarding the update, since when is an IED a WMD?


    1. From what I’ve been told, an IED inside the Continental USA is considered a WMD under current law.


    2. Thanks Nicki. I think I missed a redefinition somewhere along the lines.


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