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The Death of Todashev

Is the FBI Now in the Execution Business?

by DAVE LINDORFF

Anyone who was a fan of the old ABC TV series “The Untouchables” or of the later series, also on ABC, called “The FBI,” would know something is terribly fishy about the FBI slaying of Ibragim Todashev.

According to the FBI, Todashev, 27, who was an acquaintance, or friend, of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing, was shot and killed by an FBI agent who was interviewing the young man, at his home, at midnight, allegedly because Todashev had suddenly attacked him, causing the agent to feel threatened.

There are an astonishing number of conflicing versions of this official story, involving a variety of different weapons and multiple explanations for how it happened. These versions variously had Todashev threatening the agent with a sword, a knife, a chair, a pipe, a metal pole or even a broomstick. But one thing that stands out is that the agent in each version was alone with Todashev, who was suspected of having been an participant, with Tamerlan Tsarnaev, in an as yet unsolved September 11, 2011 slaying of three suspected young drug dealers in Waltham, Mass. at least one of whom was also a friend of the Tsarnaev brothers.

The critical word here is “alone.”

Watchers of those FBI TV programs know that FBI agents always work in pairs. This is not just Hollywood. It’s FBI policy.

Indeed, when my father was informed back in 1969, by a colleague at the University of Connecticut School of Engineering where he was a professor, that the FBI was investigating me for my anti-war activities, the colleague, an arch-conservative backer of the US war in Vietnam, said that “two FBI agents” had come to his office to inquire about my activities (he had been outraged that the agents had come to him and not to my father for information about his son!).

It was also a pair of FBI agents who came, unannounced, to my dorm room at Wesleyan University a year earlier, when a group of us students had been hiding my roommate’s older brother, a Marine who had deserted from the service on a visit home from Vietnam whom we later helped escape to Canada and ultimately Sweden. In fact, so common were the visits by agents to anti-war activists that we on the left back in those days used to laugh that the FBI guys always looked like Jehovah’s witnesses when they’d knock on your door on a visit, traveling in pairs and wearing their neatly pressed suits.

Jokes aside, though, there is a reason that FBI agents work in pairs. It’s not that they can’t handle themselves in a confrontation, though safety no doubt is part of it. It’s that lying to a federal law enforcement agent is a felony — one that is very easy to prosecute and win conviction on and that has long proved useful for locking people up when conviction for a bigger crime might be difficult — but it is necessary to have a witness to make such a case. Two FBI agents means that there is always a witness to such lying — one that a jury will be inclined to believe.

So how did it come to pass that when Todashev made his alleged lunge — armed with knife, sword, chair, pipe, broomstick or whatever — at the FBI agent in question, that agent was alone in the apartment with him?

We’re asked to believe that the other agent (two actually, as there were reportedly three of them involved in a five-hour interrogation at the house earlier that night), and several Massachusetts state cops who were also along in Orlando, Florida for the questioning of Todashev, had inexplicably just “left the room” for some reason. That’s a lot of people all needing to relieve themselves at the same time!

This “explanation” for the creation of a situation allowing for a fatal two-man fight strains credulity to the breaking point. The FBI also claims that Todashev had already “confessed,” or was “about to confess” (whatever that means) to having been involved in the triple murder of the drug dealers, though that alleged confession (or pending confession) was, also incredibly, not recorded. Todashev was being questioned too, reportedly, about his links to the Tsarnaev brothers, and was thought to know about their alleged plans for marathon mayhem, so presumably keeping him alive to testify would have been very important to the pending federal case against the surviving younger brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

I would submit that it is simply not believable that such a suspect would not have been carefully guarded, carefully searched for weapons, and carefully secured in some fashion — most likely with handcuffs, before being questioned. I would also submit that there is no way that one lone agent would have been left alone with him under any circumstances, and not just for security reasons, but because Todashev was supposedly being interrogated, and there had to be a witness to his answers besides just the agent doing the questioning.

On TV, we do see agents or cops playing the old “good-cop-bad-cop” game with suspects, but that is always in a locked interrogation room, where the suspect has been searched for weapons already, and where reinforcements are just outside the door, ready to rush into the room should things get out of hand. Maybe this agent was the “bad cop” who was going to beat the crap out of Todashev while the other agents and cops were not there to call him off, you say? But if that was the case, he would either have had to be a very confident black belt to be alone confronting Todashev, who was known by the FBI to be a mixed martial arts expert, or he would have had his gun drawn. Furthermore, if beating up Tsarnaev, or torturing him, was the plan, they would have already cuffed him and locked him to a chair or table, since there was no advantage to be had by leaving him loose and free to counter-attack or defend himself.

The agent’s response to being allegedly attacked by the apparently un-restrained and variously armed Todashev (the FBI is now admitting that the victim was unarmed throughout the incident), was to draw his gun and kill the suspect with seven shots, including one fired, execution-style, to the back of the head.

Todashev, who had already been questioned, had already told a friend earlier that he was worried that he was being “framed” by the FBI. Does that sound like someone who would have willingly testified to guilt in a brutal triple murder?

I don’t know what happened at midnight in Orlando in Todashev’s apartment, but it seems clear to me that what the FBI is saying happened, and what it is claiming Todashev told them, is not what it was. The ACLU seems to agree and is calling for an “outside investigation” of the FBI killing.

America under President and Drone Commander Barack Obama and a “Justice” Department headed by Eric Holder, is fast becoming a very dangerous place — one that has much more in common with the Colonies under British rule than the one that the Founders envisioned when they appended the Bill of Rights to the Constitution. Indeed, if, as it certainly appears, Todashev was executed by the FBI, it is a country that more closely resembles China or Nazi Germany than the free country we all were taught that we lived in.

DAVE LINDORFF is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).