The investigation into the two jihadist bomber brothers whose homemade IEDs killed and maimed at the Boston Marathon is ongoing. As I write this, the US is angry at Russia for not disclosing more about the Tsarnaev brothers, including wiretaps on their mother in the Russian region of Dagestan, when she spoke to her eldest son and apparently conveyed messages to him from more Islamists. By the end of this week, more may be revealed.
What we already know is more than enough to convict the younger brother, now resting in a federal medical detention center, his small cell barred with a steel door.
We know that the elder brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev, became radicalized after his boxing dreams faded. We know he went to Russia and returned more Islamist than ever, creating angry scenes in his mosque. We know he was, as his uncle described, a “loser” who collected welfare after his American-born wife gave birth – she went out to work up to 80-hour weeks, he stayed home and looked after their child.
We know that he was abusive to his wife, throwing furniture at her and calling her a “slut” and “prostitute”.
Wait a moment. Who in their right mind does that to their wife? No one.
That is the clue that the FBI should have picked up on. Long before the bombs, long before his YouTube postings and mosque rants, Tamerlan was exhibiting behavior characteristic of an aggressive, unrestrained, respect-no-boundaries man. It doesn’t take much to anticipate that his behavior in one sector of his life would be replicated in other sectors. Once repeated in other sectors, it’s only a hop-skip-jump from wife abuse plus angry outbursts in the mosque to attacks on other people.
Life is not a waffle, every square separate and walled-off from every other square. Instead, life is linguini. Each strand touches other strands. People who abuse their spouses are likely to be doing other nasty things that require the same arrogance and rules-breaking. They cheat on income tax, perhaps, or force sex on children or trafficked people. They speed through red lights or embezzle from work or drink too much before getting behind the wheel. Or they decide to make homemade bombs and set them off by remote control behind crowds at the Boston Marathon.
Where the FBI and police forces need to look is at the strands they do know, in order to get clues as to strands they have not yet seen. Pay attention to behavior that hurts individuals (in this case, Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s wife) in order to stop it and prevent future harm to groups. It’s the difference between a small pain footprint and one that’s huge, smashing scores of people.
This is no futuristic, Tom Cruise-ish, “Minority Report” suggestion. This is reliable policing and investigation. It’s paying attention to broken windows in order to prevent bigger crime. Anyone who abuses family members ought to be regarded as a person who might be hiding other crimes and misdemeanors, and is likely to accelerate that behavior much as a runaway car picks up speed downhill.
This may be hard for the FBI and police groups to get used to. Officers who abuse their own family members or romantic interests may not want to arrest or investigate someone who “just” hurls insults and furniture, someone who is a domestic terrorist “just” at home. Yet this is exactly what they must do. The same principle governs vaccinations: Impose a little pain now (the MMR jab) in order to prevent more harm later (measles, mumps and rubella, with their host of potential offshoot harms). It’s preventive medicine for the community’s health as well as that of the abused family members and friends.
Who in their right mind would insult his wife and throw chairs at her? No one. In their right mind.
But a future Boston Marathon bomber did it. Clues, people, clues.