I can’t remember when I’ve gotten as many emails in response to a column as I have to Sunday’s piece about the unasked and unanswered questions about the Marathon manhunt. Most said they’d been wondering the same things; some pointed me in other conspiratorial directions. I’ve yet to hear from a politician or public official showing any interest in getting to the bottom of this.
I did just hear from the ACLU of Massachusetts, however. Along with the ACLU of Florida, they have written to officials in their respective states requesting an independent investigation into the FBI’s killing of Ibragim Todashev during FBI questioning in Orlando, an interrogation that had something to do with Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Todashev’s friend. Their letter to AG Martha Coakley is here.
Excerpts from the ACLU’s release:
“A person was shot and killed at the hands of law enforcement in Florida. That alone should require Florida officials to investigate, and explain to the public what happened,” said Howard Simon, ACLU of Florida Executive Director.
“Florida officials are simply deferring to the FBI, allowing the FBI to investigate itself, but it is difficult to accept the FBI’s honesty in this matter. The FBI has offered completely incompatible explanations, they have failed to explain how these inconsistent stories found their way into newspaper accounts of the shootings, and have not offered any clarifying comment about what really happened,” Simon added. “Due to the widely varying explanations that have surfaced about the shooting and the involvement of Massachusetts and Florida law enforcement, officials in both states should conduct their own investigations.”
Public skepticism in the FBI’s ability to investigate itself was heightened when The New York Times reported on June 19 that public records obtained through litigation showed that between 1993 and 2011, F.B.I. agents fatally shot an estimated 70 “subjects” and wounded about 80 others, but that FBI internal shooting investigations deemed every one of those episodes to be “justified.”
“Recent disclosures in The New York Times show that FBI shooting investigations, even when carried out with ostensible oversight of both the Justice Department’s inspector general and the Civil Rights Division, virtually always clear the agency of wrong-doing,” said Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “Secrecy surrounding the FBI’s investigation of the Todashev shooting has deepened the public’s mistrust.”
Already in this investigation, the FBI has gagged the medical examiner from divulging the cause of death, the federal government has taken steps to detain and press for the speedy deportation of a potential witness in the investigation of the shooting, and, to the best of our knowledge, the FBI’s final report will be classified.
Todashev’s shooting death also raises concerns regarding accountability for local police assigned to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) program, which the ACLU and other civil liberties groups have voiced for years. According to news reports, at least one of the Massachusetts state troopers was assigned to the regional JTTF.
“Since 2001, the number of local law enforcement officers assigned to the JTTF has more than quadrupled,” said Rose. “Yet the citizens of the various states who pay their salaries have no idea how they are supervised or even what, precisely, they are doing. It’s time to impose some accountability on local law enforcement who are assigned to FBI-JTTF operations in general.”