America's Big Brother and Lee Harvey Oswald's Long Shadow

American law enforcement scored a great success by not only capturing the Tsarnaev Brothers, but managing to catch one of the perpetrators of the Boston Marathon bombing alive.

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The manhunt, the siege, and the arrest, the series of events that the greater Boston metropolitan area went through during the last 24 hours of the marathon bombing saga, may lead to a slight rise in the chatter among the political right in the debate over the treatment of immigrants and specifically illegal immigrants. But this noise is mostly white noise because the path to citizenship bill proposed by the Senate, which would create a process for naturalizing illegal immigrants, which some estimates number 13 million, will not have an effect on the crime rate. (But is likely to lead to a rise in the number of democrat voters, which isn't ingratiating Latin American voters to Republicans.) America has no shortage in homegrown murderers; the Tsarnaev Brothers were living in the U.S. legally; Tamerlan had a green card, Dzhokar was naturalized an American citizen on September 11 last year.

On the other hand, it is likely that the investigation that led to the uncovering of the suspects' identity will end a different debate, which will have repercussions that will be felt in Israel too. Does the placing of hundreds and thousands of cameras in cities hurt the privacy of the normal citizen? Citizens may discover that information about them is being gathered in government databases and may even seep to others, who could make nefarious use of it. This is one point in a larger debate over the biometric database, which brings us to the outcry over big brother and thus to the Tsarnaev Brothers.

After the events that transpired in Boston it is clear that despite the risks, the scales tend towards public order and safety. Had there been no cameras, in this case mostly commercially owned; at Lord & Taylor, the race track, and at the 7-Eleven to which Dzhokar went to stock up on supplies, the police’s work would have been near impossible. It was the cameras that picked up on the critical difference between the state of the knapsack before the blast but not after it; and from the knapsack to the person carrying it and then to another like him, which led to the release of their photos, which in turn led to hotline telephone tips, causing the suspects to leave their hiding place after realizing their identity was uncovered and that they are better off running away.

This is not the first time events like these take place. The Dubai police acted in much the same way after the assassination of Hamas strongman Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, so did the Bulgarian security forces after the terrorist attack in Borgus. The more this practice becomes widespread, the more people planning acts of terror will be deterred from carrying out their plans, that is, if they aren't planning to kill themselves in the process anyway.

From FBI Director Robert Mueller (who was assumed the position just before the attacks of September 11, 2001, and is expected to step down soon, possibly after the recent Boston incidents cool down) on down to Massachusetts local and state police, American law enforcement’s second great success in this ordeal is the capture of Dzhokar alive.

Not only will he be questioned and possibly provide information regarding the brothers’ motives, connections, and activities, but also, his capture can prevent the formation of conspiracy theories, like the ones already emanating from the brothers’ family in Russia, who are claiming that the attacks were staged, or the search for local or foreign elements who might have had an interest in silencing the brothers.

This fall, America will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the assassination of one of Massachusetts’ most famous sons, President John F. Kennedy, who was gunned down in Dallas, Texas. The police, exhibiting great negligence, failed to protect the suspect Lee Harvey Oswald (who like the Tsarnaev brothers, killed a police officer while fleeing), and his side of the story was never heard in court. Since then, Oswald has been shrouded in mystery – did he act alone? If not, who assisted him, or gave him his orders?

Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon Johnson, convinced Supreme Court President Earl Warren to rescind his earlier refusal to head the President's Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, by claiming that without Warren, a proper investigation would not be conducted. Johnson urged Warren to lead the investigation lest theories that the Soviets sent Oswald to kill Kennedy would take hold, increasing the tension between the U.S. and the Soviets, which could have resulted in a nuclear World War III.

If the doctors manage to save Dzhokar, who was born in Russia, America will be able to hear, in his own words, who and what, led him and his brother to commit their crimes. It will not make the picture crystal clear – the books and the movies and the Oliver Stones have already sprung into action – but some of the fear, if not some of the pain, surrounding their actions will be assuaged.

The two suspects in the Boston bombing.Credit: FBI

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