Saturday, March 22, 2014

Boston Marathon Terror incident update March 22 , 2014 - WHO WHAT WHY investigation on the mystery witness Danny ! Is Danny even slightly credible , why is he still a anonymous witness - and does anyone care one way or the other ?

Boston Bomber Carjacking Unravels. Part 1 of 2

An exclusive WhoWhatWhy investigation has found serious factual inconsistencies in accounts provided by the only witness to the alleged confession of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects.

Why does this matter? Because this witness is the sole source for the entire publicly accepted narrative of who was behind the bombing and its aftermath—and why these events occurred.

In case we’ve forgotten how convoluted and murky the story initially seemed, let’s recall how:

-Tamerlan Tsarnaev, on a US security watch list since 2011 after the Russians provide a warning to American intelligence, goes overseas and allegedly exhibits further problematic behavior.

-In April, 2013, a savage attack is unleashed at the Boston Marathon, disrupting an iconic American event. Innocent people lose limbs and lives, America is traumatized anew, and a large American city is “locked down” while normal processes and procedures are abandoned. We are told that Tsarnaev and his younger brother are responsible for all this–and for the cold-blooded execution of a campus police officer several days later.

Yet our sense of certainty that the Tsarnaevs did this—and did it alone without America’s security apparatus knowing a thing—is actually dependent largely on the say-so of one person, one witness. While we’ve been told that authorities have definitive proof, including a video showing the brothers leaving the backpack with the bomb, we’ve never actually seen it.
Thus, the problems we have uncovered with the witness’s testimony (as represented by law enforcement) now raise questions about almost everything concerning what has been described as the largest terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11.

Truth and Its Pants

As the classic saying goes, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” That is perhaps even more true in these days of Twitter and Facebook and instant blogging. When a big news story breaks, the first reports are often rife with misinformation based on a combination of innocent mistakes, sloppiness, conjecture, and poor communication.

Yet it’s also true that during those first 24 hours, pieces of inconvenient truth may emerge that will soon be denied or even suppressed as the messy facts get neatly fashioned into an “official story.”

Such was the case with the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy: sheriff’s deputies converging on the Texas School Book Depository in Dallas reported finding an entirely different type of gun than the one ultimately said to have been the murder weapon. And doctors at Parkland Hospital claimed initially that a shot had hit President Kennedy from the front, before they were told in no uncertain terms that they were mistaken, and a narrative formed around all the shots coming from behind—and only from the Depository.
Truth seekers know, from experience, to pay close attention to how a narrative changes in the first hours, days and weeks following an event of significance. That would be especially apt when the one whose story is changing is the principal witness.

Meet “Danny”

The identification of the alleged Boston bombers, now a virtually unchallenged “fact,” is based largely on a single event: the supposed carjacking of a young man whose identity is still masked from public scrutiny. The public’s understanding of what took place is based on this anonymous person’s oft-cited claims to have witnessed a dual confession from Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who purportedly boasted of having committed both the bombing and a later murder of an MIT police officer.

According to the widely accepted story of the horrific events of April 15-19, 2013, three days after the Marathon bombing, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus police officer was shot and, within minutes, a young man in a Mercedes SUV was carjacked, across the river in the Brighton section of Boston. Police and media accounts have Tamerlan Tsarnaev abducting a young Chinese national (known publicly only by the pseudonymous first name “Danny”). In these accounts, Tsarnaev tells Danny that he was responsible for both the Boston bombing and the MIT shooting.

The alleged carjacking led to a law enforcement shutdown of the greater Boston area, a huge manhunt, and subsequent confrontations in which Tamerlan Tsarnaev was shot and killed. His younger brother, Dzhokhar, was seriously wounded by multiple gunshots while hidden in a boat, before being apprehended by police.
In the current “official” narrative, the Tsarnaev brothers took Danny on a wild 90-minute ride that traversed the Boston area and involved stops to extract money from Danny’s bank account and then to buy gas for the brothers’ planned escape from the Boston metro area.
It was during a stop at a gas station, the story goes, that the younger brother went inside to pay for the gas. While the older brother was momentarily preoccupied with a GPS device, Danny made his escape and was soon sharing with law enforcement his claim that he had heard the crucial confession.

But a 10-month investigation by WhoWhatWhy has found major inconsistencies in Danny’s story — inconsistencies that call into question whether the authorities now prosecuting Dzhokhar Tsarnaev for murder are leveling with the American people.

The Consensus Narrative

The consensus narrative of the Boston Marathon bombing and its aftermath, which began appearing in the media as early as the morning of April 19, goes something like this:
For several days after the violence of Monday, April 15—which killed three people and injured another 264—an uneasy public waited nervously for word of who was behind the savage attack. The authorities were under intense pressure to produce results. The hours and days ticked by.

Then, suddenly, action! At 5pm on Thursday afternoon, the FBI released pictures of two suspects. At approximately 10:20, violence exploded anew, in a different and wholly surprising direction. On the quiet nighttime streets of Cambridge,

Massachusetts, an MIT campus police officer, Sean Collier, was apparently executed in cold blood by the panicked Tsarnaev brothers in a botched effort to get his gun. And then another newsflash: a young Boston man had been carjacked—and after a bizarre, circuitous drive around the area, escaped to tell an astonishing tale: his captors had confessed to him their responsibility for both the Marathon bombing and the killing of Officer Collier.

That turn of events ushered in a cavalcade of developments almost too rapid to follow. It justified the unprecedented military and law enforcement “lockdown” of Greater Boston and the intense manhunt that riveted the world and brought the Boston bombing story to a quick and dirty conclusion. In the early morning hours of April 19, Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed when he was shot in a firefight and then run over by his younger brother, Dzhokhar.  The brother escaped, but was discovered that evening hiding in a boat parked in a backyard, and was apprehended in critical condition after authorities fired a barrage of shots into the boat.

This frontier-justice resolution of a national tragedy eventually led to a huge rally featuring the vice president as the key speaker, praising the bravery and responsiveness of the security state. A specialty beer and a charity event were fashioned around the tragic young officer, bike rides and a host of tributes to the “first responder” followed. In the end, everyone could feel good about their country, about the “heroism” of the lowly, underpaid campus cop, about the vaunted efficiency of their law-enforcement agencies. Stressed-out Bostonians, and Americans everywhere, could be reassured that all was well in the land. 

That is the generally established narrative. But after studying the various accounts provided by “Danny” to the media and law enforcement, WhoWhatWhy has found substantial inconsistencies on a range of points.

Taken together, those inconsistencies demonstrate at minimum essential unreliability, and perhaps something much more troubling…from a key witness offering damning life-or-death evidence in the worst terrorist attack since 9/11.

Is Danny some pathological liar seeking fame? Or is he someone more sympathetic and perhaps vulnerable—a foreign-national entrepreneur, with an uncertain immigration status, being squeezed by law enforcement to help quickly tidy up a messy disaster that caught our multi-billion-dollar-a-year national security apparatus off guard?

Where was Danny Carjacked?

Danny said: Brighton Avenue, Allston (across the river from Cambridge)
Conflicting version: 3rd Street, Cambridge, the Middlesex County District Attorney initially said.

How Long Was Danny Held Hostage?

Danny said: 90 minutes (reported by The Boston Globe, NBC and CBS).

Conflicting version 1: 30 minutes, according to a joint statement by Middlesex acting district attorney Michael Pelgro, Cambridge police commissioner Robert Haas and MIT police chief John DiFava:

“Authorities launched an immediate investigation into the circumstances of the shooting. The investigation determined that two males were involved in this shooting.

“A short time later, police received reports of an armed carjacking by two males in the area of Third Street in Cambridge.

“The victim was carjacked at gunpoint by two males and was kept in the car with the suspects for approximately a half hour.”

Conflicting version 2: “a few minutes,” according to the Boston Globe and this report by the Associated Press, citing the Cambridge Police Department:

“Police said Friday at a Watertown news conference that one of the brothers stayed with the carjacking victim for a few minutes and then let him go.”

Pervaiz Shallwani of the Wall Street Journal, one of the very few who was able to see at least part of the Cambridge police report, supports this shorter time span when he writes:

“Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the brothers accused of the bombing, crossed the Charles River into Boston and stole a Mercedes SUV at gunpoint, briefly holding the driver hostage, according to an excerpt from the Cambridge Police Department report filed by the driver and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.”

How Did Danny Gain His Freedom?

Danny said: He escaped when Tamerlan, seated next to him, was momentarily distracted, according the Boston Globe, NBC and CBS.

Conflicting version 1: He simply got out of the car when both brothers were outside the car, having left him alone, according to WMUR.

Conflicting version 2: The Tsarnaev brothers never held Danny as a captive, according to the Associated Press and Cambridge Police Department. They simply detained him for a few minutes, then left him by the roadside, essentially confiscating his vehicle. In this scenario, he had almost no interaction with the brothers, raising questions as to whether they would have confessed to the two crimes before taking off with his car.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev
Tamerlan’s Location When Danny Escapes?

Conflicting version 1: Tamerlan was at the gas pump.

Note: the conversation below includes paraphrasing of Danny’s comments in an ABC (WMUR) interview with Nick Spinetto, April 22, 2013. We replaced the paraphrases with Danny’s actual comments whenever they were flashed on the screen—presumably from a transcript of Spinetto’s interview with Danny.  While they are very similar to Spinetto’s paraphrasing, we used the on-screen comments from Danny for greater precision.

Spinetto:           (On camera) Well, the carjacking victim is actually shaken to the core after being taken hostage by the Boston Marathon bombers. Today, he and I spoke at length. For safety reasons, he asked us not to reveal his name, but he did describe in vivid detail his capture by the wanted terrorists, those brutal minutes he thought he would die and, ultimately, his brave escape.

Spinetto:           (Voice over scene) Shortly after MIT police officer Sean Collier was killed, authorities received reports of an armed carjacking only minutes away. Monday, that carjacking victim was ready to tell his story, but not ready to do an on-camera interview. The man says it was Thursday night around 11, he was in his car pulled over to the side of the road, when a man approached holding a gun to the passenger side window.

The victim said: “the man asked if I knew about the Boston bombing explosion. He said: ‘I did that.’”

Court documents released Monday afternoon state: “the man with a gun forced the victim to drive to a second location, where they picked up a second man. The two men put something in the trunk of the victim’s vehicle.” The contents are thought to be the ammunition and explosives used in a battle with police later that night. The carjacking victim says he was forced into the front passenger seat as one brother drove. Now a hostage, he says: “They asked me where I’m from. I told them I’m Chinese. I was very scared. I asked them if they going to hurt me. They say they won’t hurt me. I was thinking, I think they will kill me later.” But if that was their plan, they wouldn’t get the chance. The victim told us: “My car is running out of gas, so they want to have some gas.”

Spinetto:           (On camera) The carjacking victim says that he drove, here, to this Shell station on Memorial drive. While one brother went inside to pay for the gas, the other pumped and that’s when the victim took off.

Spinetto:           (Voice over scene) Of his daring escape, he says: “I thought it was a very good chance for me to run. So, I made a judgment. I use my left hand to unbuckle my belt, my right hand to open door… I jump out of the car, run away— across the street. The guy… outside the car tried to catch me… use his hand. Tried to catch me but I ran very fast. Couldn’t capture me because I run very fast. I heard them— they said (expletive) when I get to run. I’m still… I can’t stop recording that moment when I was running out of the car… I was running… I was worried. It was very scary at that moment. For me, I’m so lucky.”

Conflicting version 2: Tamerlan was in the car.

Note: This version comes from an interview with Danny by CBS News’ John Miller.

Miller:               So, when you get to the gas station, tell me what everybody does. Who does what, first, and then what happens?

Danny:              Okay, so, when we get it to the gas station… hm… Jahar [Dzhokhar] get out of the car, he took my… credit card, trying to pump using my credit card. I was very lucky, the pump, it was only cash only. So, he look, looked at my window, say, asked me, [he] say: “It’s cash only!” So, Tamerlan asked him to pay some cash inside.

John Miller:        So he has to go in the store.

Danny:              Jahar has to go into a store.

John Miller:        So now it’s you and Tamerlan in the car.

Danny:              I was with Tamerlan, so, I think it’s a very good chance for me, you know, there’s only one person in the car right now…  and uh, I was, uh, trying to watch what, uh, Tamerlan is doing… uh, I was trying to find the gun… I didn’t see the gun because the gun was put in the pocket of the, of the door.

John Miller:        Now, is Tamerlan sitting next to you in the car? Is he standing outside the car?

Danny:              He was sitting next to me. He was on the, uh, driver’s seat, I was on the passenger seat.

John Miller:        So this, you think, this is your chance.

Danny:              This is my chance. So, I was… struggling, you know, should I do this? Should I do this? Becau [sic]… another good thing for me is the door was unlocked. The only thing I have to do is, use my left hand to unfasten the seatbelt, use my right hand to open the door.

John Miller:        So, the thing that you’ve been rehearsing in your mind, three steps, is now down to two.

Danny:              Down to two, yeah. So, that’s [unintelligible] I found that Tamerlan used both his hands, like, play, like, doing some GPS thing, or something. So, I think it’s very good for me.

[CBS News report: first of 5 clips refers to Tamerlan “fiddling” with GPS.]

John Miller:        So he’s got, he’s got the gun in the side pocket of the door, he’s got a GPS, his brother’s in the gas station, and you say… the time is now.

Danny:              Yeah, yeah…the time is now, you know.

John Miller:        So how do you do that in your head? Do you say, 123…?

Danny:              I was, I was counting- I was counting, I went, 1234. And I… just do it! And ah, I did it.

John Miller:        So what happens?

Danny:              I jump out of the, jump, jump out of the, the vehicle, and I close the door, and I can feel, Tamerlan was trying to grab me, he didn’t touch me, but I could feel him trying to grab me.

John Miller:        And now you’re runnin’.

Danny:              I was run. I was runnin’, I was running.

Conflicting version 3: The New York Times version

As if it weren’t enough to discover these totally incompatible versions of whether he was carjacked at all, and if so, for how long, and whether he escaped or was released, there is yet another variation, courtesy of the “newspaper of record,” The New York Times, the preferred go-to place for official leaks.

The article appeared on April 20 under the bylines of two Washington-based, veteran national security reporters. In the piece, almost entirely based on a narrative delivered to the world’s most influential news organization by an unnamed source identified only as a “senior law enforcement official,” the official explains that :

“It was only after the suspects decided not to kill the owner of a sport utility vehicle that had been carjacked and instead threw him out of his car around 1 a.m. — a decision that ultimately undid their plans to elude the authorities — that they re-emerged on the authorities’ radar.”

It is certainly interesting that in this interview, presumably viewed as crucial, and conducted within a day or so of the carjacking, a highly briefed official would get “wrong” such a central fact as Danny’s manner of parting with the brothers.
The Times account may have been the first “official” story of what happened. It would be many days before Danny’s revised account of a dramatic escape would emerge. (If the Times ever published an explanation of how it got this so “wrong” in comparison with the eventual official narrative, we could not find it.)

Also, in Danny’s revised account, there is no mention that the suspects “decide[d] not to kill” him. Indeed, he said they made clear from the outset that they would not harm him. Putting together elements of these two different accounts, one could conclude that, in fact, the hijackers always meant not to harm him but only to use his car to escape what they took to be their own certain deaths if they remained in town during a police manhunt spurred by a “cop killing” that they had reason to think they would be accused of.


Spinetto’s interview with Danny tracks with the New York Times’ version, and it is based not on a second-hand account from an unidentified law enforcement source but on a direct interview with Danny. So we thought it essential to ask Spinetto what he made of all this.

Yet when WhoWhatWhy contacted Spinetto, he told us he could not speak with us unless the station manager at the Hearst-owned WMUR, Alisha McDevitt, approved. In an email, McDevitt wrote: “We will not be able to approve this request.”

To sum up, we see three very different versions.

Version 1: Danny was essentially let go by his “captors”

Version 2: The brothers cared so little about him that he was left alone in the car, and then “escaped.”

Version 3: He “bravely” escaped when Tamerlan let his guard down and was momentarily distracted.

The one thing we notice about the evolution of the Danny narrative is that the original story did little to support the notion that the brothers were cold-blooded, ruthless killers. Simply put, the story that is now cast in stone makes much more sense if the goal was to create an impression of the brothers as ideologically driven terrorists and the murderers of an innocent police officer.

First Report of a Confession—and to One or Both Crimes?

The first “dual confession” report we could find, from the Associated Press, came early on the afternoon of April 19, from Edward Deveau, police chief of Watertown, the scene of a wild car chase during which Tamerlan Tsarnaev allegedly lobbed explosives at his pursuers before being gunned down.

Later that night, NBC also reported the dual confession, attributing it to “sources”:

The carjacking victim was released unharmed at a gas station in Cambridge, sources said. He told police the brothers said they were the marathon bombers and had just killed a campus officer.

By the next day, more news outlets (see this and this) were picking up the dual admission.

However, the Criminal Complaint, filed on the 21st, which states that Tamerlan admitted to Danny their role in the bombing, notably says nothing about an admission to having killed Collier.

The man pointed a firearm at the victim and stated, “Did you hear about the Boston explosion?” and “I did that.”

On April 22, Nick Spinetto interviews Danny for WMUR and ABC. Interestingly, Spinetto has Tamerlan admitting to the Marathon bombing, but, as with the Criminal Complaint, there is no mention of killing Officer Collier. This omission seems highly newsworthy on its own.
Officer Sean Collier
On April 25, late in the evening, the Boston Globe published on an article based on an interview with Danny by its reporter Eric Moskowitz, the most detailed account to date—an account that has subsequently become the “official” carjacking narrative. It characterizes Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s actions as follows:

“Don’t be stupid,” he told Danny. He asked if he had followed the news about Monday’s Boston Marathon bombings. Danny had, down to the release of the grainy suspect photos less than six hours earlier.

“I did that,” said the man, who would later be identified as Tamerlan Tsarnaev “And I just killed a policeman in Cambridge.”

In interviews a few days after the Globe article, Danny’s story had gelled. His account to CBS’s John Miller is substantially similar to a contemporaneous interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer.

The question is, what happened between Danny’s first interview and the subsequent ones that led to the changed narrative?

Research assistance: James Henry

Something Dead Wrong Here: Investigating the Mysterious and Central Character, “Danny.” Part 2 of 2

Police Perimeter near MIT in Cambridge, photo: Joe Spurr
Police Perimeter near MIT in Cambridge, photo: Joe Spurr
In part I, we reported significant discrepancies in the story of the key witness in the Boston Marathon bombing-MIT police officer killing. These discrepancies cast doubt on his credibility—and therefore on the entire public narrative around those events.
We have been told that the witness was carjacked by the brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, and that Tamerlan confessed to him their guilt in both crimes.
Here, in Part II, we take a closer look at that witness, who has publicly remained anonymous, known only by the pseudonym “Danny.”

Why “Danny” Matters

The carjacking victim is an important figure in this singular national drama—and presumably could be a key witness if Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s case comes to trial.

With Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to seek the death penalty, it is a good bet that the government is looking for the younger Tsarnaev to settle for a guilty plea in return for avoiding execution. If that comes to pass, we may never hear his testimony on what took place and why. Even if he does end up testifying, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev may find it prudent not to tell the whole truth, since he will surely be intent on engineering a sentencing deal. Under the more likely plea-bargain scenario, the mysterious carjacking victim, known to the public only as Danny, may never have to testify either. With one brother dead, the other presumably trying to avoid execution, and another potential person of interest, a friend of the Tsarnaevs named Ibragim Todashev, shot dead while in FBI custody, the prosecution may have no need to put Danny on the witness stand. In that event, the story he has already told—or, rather, the dominant narrative of several he has provided—will remain the final word on who committed the bombing and the MIT homicide.

Clearly, this witness’s unique role makes him worth scrutinizing.

 “Danny” in silhouette, interview with CBS News
“Danny” in silhouette, interview with CBS News
Why Is Danny Still Anonymous?

On April 25, 2013, the Boston Globe published what became the most complete account of Danny’s involvement in the events of April 18. The article recounted how the Chinese national, a male, age 26, with an engineering Masters from Northeastern, returned to China after getting his degree, then came back in early 2013 and co-founded a tech startup. He lived in an apartment near MIT with a roommate, had a new Mercedes SUV, and liked to go for nighttime drives in and around Boston to unwind.

In an exclusive interview, Danny told the Boston Globe’s Eric Moskowitz that he had been working late on April 18, and then went for a drive, which was for him a customary way of blowing off steam. He was in his leased SUV, which he’d had for just two months since returning from China, and which had only 2500 miles on it. After driving for about 20 minutes, he saw police heading toward MIT. He said that his housemate, a female, texted him in Chinese that something was going on at MIT. But he ignored the text. He finally stopped to check the text, in the Brighton neighborhood of Boston at 60 Brighton Avenue, across the river from Cambridge.

At that moment, a car pulled in behind him, and a young man wielding a pistol approached. Danny was forced to let the assailant (and soon, a second young man) into his car. He drove them around the greater Boston area, provided cash from his bank account, and then, while one brother was paying for gas, managed to escape and tell his story to police.

In a situation like this, one might think that Danny would welcome a chance to tell his story. At a minimum, many people would admire him for his bravery in escaping from armed carjackers. It also seems like it would have been a priceless promotional opportunity for Danny’s new startup. It’s hard to think of someone with a budding business who wouldn’t embrace an opportunity to get his brand out everywhere. Furthermore, the downside seemed minimal. One of his carjackers was dead, and the other badly wounded and in custody.

So why not be identified?

In his first interview, with ABC affiliate reporter Nick Spinetto, Danny indicates that personal safety is the rationale for his wanting anonymity:

Today, he and I spoke at length. For safety reasons, he asked us not to reveal his name, but he did describe in vivid detail his capture by the wanted terrorists, those brutal minutes he thought he would die and, ultimately, his brave escape.

In a subsequent interview with the Boston Globe, on the other hand, Danny indicates that modesty was the rationale for his anonymity:

Danny, who offered his account only on the condition that the Globe not reveal his Chinese name, said he does not want attention. But he suspects his full name may come out if and when he testifies against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

 “I don’t want to be a famous person talking on the TV,” Danny said, kneading his hands, uncomfortable with the praise he has received from the few friends he has shared the story with, some of whom encouraged him to go public. “I don’t feel like a hero…I was trying to save myself.”

However, when I later had a chance to interview Eric Moskowitz, the Globe reporter who produced the most detailed account to date of the carjacking, he provided me with yet another reason why Danny wanted to remain anonymous: that he didn’t want his mother to be worried about him.  Danny’s father, he had explained to Moskowitz, knew about the carjacking, but his mother didn’t—and he hoped to keep her from finding out by masking his identity in news stories.

It’s not clear how his mother and others close to him back in China would not at least wonder given press reports that identified the carjacking victim as Chinese, aged 26, recently returned from China, with an engineering Masters from Northeastern, a new Mercedes SUV, and a tech startup. They are also the very details, after all, which made it possible for Moskowitz to locate Danny in the first place.

A few days later on the Today Show, Matt Lauer summarized Danny’s reasons for wanting to remain anonymous:

“Well, even now that he knows that…uh…you know, that they’re both, one is dead and one is in custody—as you can see, he didn’t want his identity revealed, he has said he will testify in the trial—gladly—and he knows he’ll be identified at that time, but for now he wants to stay under the radar.”

Danny’s desire for anonymity became even muddier when he offered an entirely different explanation in a CBS News interview. In that exchange, Danny’s face was obscured and his voice altered. CBS Senior Correspondent John Miller addressed the identity issue in a post-interview chat with a program host:

“I asked him about why he wanted to be disguised, and he said, you know, I don’t know if there is anyone else out there from this plot, if these guys have friends, if I’m going to be a witness at some trial, but at this point I’d rather keep my identity concealed.”

Miller, himself a former FBI spokesman who practically coached Danny through his interview, must have realized how silly this sounded and pointed out that he knew of no witness who had been targeted by terrorists.

“And that’s certainly understandable, although in the history of terrorism, I can’t think of a case where the terrorist organization has targeted a witness.”

This in itself was something of a red herring since, according to the official account, the Tsarnaev brothers were “lone wolves” without any confederates on the loose.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (left), Tamerlan Tsarnaev (right), surveillance image
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (left), Tamerlan Tsarnaev (right), surveillance image
A Media Strategy for Danny

In my attempts at sorting out some of the ambiguities surrounding Danny, I turned to the Globe’s Moskowitz, who had probably interacted the most with the mysterious source. Although he initially indicated he was too busy to see me, my persistence eventually won me a meeting with the reporter on May 22 in the Globe’s cafeteria.

I was particularly interested in learning how it was that Danny’s story, rather than being shared with all journalists, ended up being essentially curated by a handful of reporters from large, establishment news organizations. I was also interested in sorting out numerous confusing and conflicting elements of Danny’s tale.

What follows is a detailed accounting of my efforts to understand the whys and wherefores of the key witness in “settling” the Boston Marathon bombing mystery.

First, I asked Moskowitz what he could tell me about the “story of the story.” Here is what he said:

Within 48 hours of the carjacking, producers for the major TV networks had obtained Danny’s license plate and then somehow traced it to him—although how is unclear since it was a leased vehicle owned by a dealership. Danny declined to talk to the TV people but, unsure how to handle the media inquiries, he reached out to his former master’s adviser at Northeastern University. The adviser consulted Ralph Martin, Northeastern’s general counsel, who happened to be a former District Attorney of Suffolk County, which includes Boston.

Martin advised that if Danny was seeking fame, he should give interviews to TV. But if he wanted thoroughness, he should talk to the Globe. Danny’s academic adviser then spoke to a friend of his, an urban planner for the city of Cambridge, who had a longstanding relationship with Moskowitz (Danny’s thesis adviser knew Moskowitz, too), and the planner contacted him on the Monday after the carjacking.

That is how the sole print journalism access to the key witness in this extraordinary event was handed to a junior Globe reporter with no real investigative or crime experience, rather than to one of the veteran gumshoes who populate the Globe newsroom.

It was nice of the Globe to let Moskowitz keep his scoop. From a pure morale standpoint, this reflects well on the paper’s management. But given the serious questions that should have been asked of Danny—and weren’t—it probably has not served the larger interest. Of course, Globe editors probably made a correct calculation that the situation was so delicate that, rather than lose it, they would cooperate with the scenario as it was unfolding, rather than demand a switch to a more senior, potentially more hard-nosed and skeptical reporter.


Danny’s thesis adviser told Moskowitz that Danny would call him.  But he didn’t.
After an internal debate at the Globe about whether it was worth antagonizing a prized source, Moskowitz set out to identify and locate Danny himself. Moskowitz says he provided the sketchy biographical details about Danny to his brother, who knows Mandarin—and who found Danny’s comments about matters of interest to Chinese students on a Chinese language website. The comments included his name and email address. Another friend got him into Danny’s apartment building and he knocked on the door.

There was no answer at first, but then the door cracked open. The reporter identified himself and asked for “Danny” by his real Chinese name. The man at the door said, “He’s here,“ and Moskowitz says he responded, “I’m just glad you’re OK.”

Danny let him in and the two talked, as Moskowitz tells it, “about everything other than the event. I kept him talking.” They discussed Danny’s master’s thesis and how Moskowitz knew Danny’s professor from his reporting on urban issues.

Moskowitz told me he dared not broach the subject of an interview at the time, but did so later by email.

Moskowitz said he found Danny extremely skittish, in general. He chalked it up to his essential nature, maybe to cultural differences. “If he’s embarrassed or thinks he will disappoint, he disappears,” he said.

James “Jamie” Fox, criminologist, Northeastern University
James “Jamie” Fox, criminologist, Northeastern University
Danny, however, was in command enough to want a mentor on hand—even one he barely knew. That mentor was another Northeastern professor, a criminologist named James “Jamie” Fox, an often quoted and media-savvy fellow with his own blog on the Globe website. Purportedly also introduced to Danny via the thesis adviser, Fox quickly offered himself as an intermediary to the media. He would become a key figure in this story—present and active when Moskowitz interviewed Danny for the Globe.

One of Danny’s conditions for the interview with Moskowitz was that Professor Fox would be there.

According to Moskowitz, some of the lack of clarity in his account of what transpired on the night of April 18 may have resulted from frequent interruptions by Professor Fox and by what seemed to him to be interview-steering by the criminologist.

As for Danny, Moskowitz described him as “guileless.” “He told me his ATM password,” he said.

Fox Guarding the Henhouse

Moskowitz told me he didn’t feel comfortable introducing Danny to me, but that Fox might be able to arrange it.

If Danny was guileless, Fox was anything but.

In my brief dealings with the professor, and my attempts to get him to arrange an interview for me with Danny, I found him consistently determined to control access to Danny. He told me he would “try” to arrange it, but that it would be up to Danny, and then insisted that if an interview were to take place he would probably need to be present. And, after promising to make a concerted effort to arrange such an interview in the short window of time before I had to leave Boston, Fox appeared to lose interest. He ended up ticking off a series of laughable excuses.

Finally, he got back to me. He said that Danny was reluctant to meet with me. He said that Danny had read some of my early writing on the Boston case, and was displeased because I had noted how several of the young characters in the story appeared to drive expensive cars.
Mostly, though, Fox said that “Danny” was just nervous about meeting with me—and Fox seemed to me a bit nervous about “Danny” meeting with me, too. The long and short of it is that I have never heard from Danny, and never again from Fox.

The Case of the Incurious Criminologist

Troubled by Fox’s role in the story, which hardly squared with what one might expect from a criminologist—whose principal concern is studying crime, not squiring mysterious witnesses—I researched his statements on the bombing story.

In this CNN video, Professor Fox, like some kind of Boston Zelig, is standing beside the only other carjacking witness, an immigrant gas station attendant to whom “Danny” ran for help. This is during an interview of the attendant by CNN’s Piers Morgan—it is not clear why Fox is standing next to this man.

Fox turns out to be less the investigator than the fiery orator.

In one of his blogs, about the purported difficulty in finding a cemetery that would inter Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s body, he wrote:

“I truly understand and appreciate why many folks want nothing to do with the corpse of a man who apparently hated America and our way of life.”
He also wrote:

“[I]f and when [Dzhokhar] Tsarnaev were scheduled to die, his name and image would be plastered all over the news, further increasing his undeserved celebrity in the minds of those on the political fringe who view our government as evil and corrupt.”

“The bombing seems to have been an attack against American life, not specifically American lives. Those killed and injured were unfortunate surrogates of the intended target: America and the freedoms we enjoy.”

It’s a mouthful given how little we knew at that time about any of this—and even how little we know almost a year later.

John Miller, PR Man for the FBI, Among Other Things

Fox was hardly the only well-situated figure who moved to promote what looks like an agreed-upon “consensus narrative.” Consider CBS’s John Miller, one of the TV reporters who got access to Danny.

That’s the same John Miller who reported the strange and long-delayed (May 16) exclusive about how Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, grievously wounded and bleeding badly, nevertheless managed to pull himself up and scrawl a confession-cum-manifesto on the wall of the boat in which he was hiding.

That’s the same John Miller who left journalism in 2002 and spent the next eight years in government national security posts, including helping Chief William Bratton establish counterterrorism and criminal intelligence bureaus at the Los Angeles Police Department, serving as the top spokesman for the FBI, and then going to work for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees both the FBI and CIA.

Thus, John Miller has close relationships with key people at the very agency whose actions call everything into question about this story.

Summing Up

As we see, a small group of journalists and one criminologist have effectively acted as gatekeepers to this mystery witness. Yet, as we reported in Part I, the story told by the central witness in the Boston Bombing case does not add up. Have the gatekeepers not noticed?

We spelled out some of the many discrepancies that appear to undermine the tidy notion that the facts of the Boston Marathon bombing were settled within days of the heinous event. Perhaps it would be helpful to sum up the inconsistencies:

— Danny was afraid for his life.
— Danny was not afraid for his life.
— Danny’s car was taken from him and he was ejected almost immediately.
— Danny was carjacked for 30 minutes.
— Danny was carjacked for 90 minutes.
— Danny’s captors told him they would not harm him.
— Danny’s captors told him they had planted the Marathon bombs and killed the MIT cop and would harm him if he did not play ball.
— Danny’s captors told him to get out of his car and took off without him.
— Both of Danny’s captors got out of the car and virtually ignored him.
— One of his captors remained in the car and Danny escaped when the man fiddled with a GPS, although the moment he opened the car door, the man made a futile grab at him.
— Danny wanted anonymity because he was mostly worried about his own safety.
— Danny wanted anonymity because he didn’t want his mother to worry.
— Danny wanted anonymity because he didn’t want to appear heroic.

One has to give Danny a tremendous benefit of the doubt to believe that he would get that confused about momentous events in which he was the central player, telling such different versions of a story whose details, one would imagine, had been seared into his memory.
Note to Danny: We’d be glad to hear your side. Please contact us.

Note to readers: for background on other aspects of the Boston Marathon bombing story, please see thisthisthisthis and this. For lingering doubts about the murder of the MIT officer, see thisFor more on the murder of Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s friend, Ibragim Todashev, and FBI harassment of people who have sought to raise doubts about the official story, see this

In the meantime, consider the following:

Without the murder of the MIT policeman, followed by the carjacking confession reported by Danny, we would have no solved crime, no evidence linking anyone to the horrific Boston Marathon bombing except some grainy video of two guys wearing backpacks in a sea of other backpack-wearers near the source of the explosion. The assumption many of us make that the Tsarnaevs planted those bombs is just that: an assumption that, in the absence of the reported confession, has no evidence behind it.

Thanks to the media’s consensus narrative, we think we saw or heard proof. But we didn’t. We heard people saying there is proof, and we saw ambiguous footage that we were told established proof.

While this too-tidy scenario certainly calmed the public, it may also have poisoned a cherished principle of American justice: the notion of “innocent until proven guilty.”
According to the consensus narrative, Tamerlan Tsarnaev commandeered a private car, and was soon joined by his younger brother. Tamerlan spontaneously informed their hostage that they were behind both the bombing and the shooting of the police officer. The hostage then escaped from the car, and relayed what he heard to police. But, in fact, beyond the testimony of a gas station owner that a man came running up and said he had been carjacked, we do not know what else of this is true.

Crucially, we do not know that Tamerlan Tsarnaev actually confessed to either the Boston bombing or the murder of Officer Collier. We only think we know this to be true because we have been told there was a witness. Yet we do not even know who that crucial witness is. We are left with the word of “the authorities” that this quasi-phantom, his identity protected by, and his remarks filtered through, handpicked intermediaries from the traditional media, is telling us the truth.

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