A lot of scrutiny has been paid to the backpacks that the suspects carried and those that were found at the bombing scenes. Almost all of the backpack examinations are part of the “Dzhokhar Was Framed” conspiracy theories, but I think they deserve analyses of their own. Here are some of the backpack examinations that gathered steam.
1) The picture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev fleeing the bombing scene has been doctored to remove his backpack
This video claims to show that the photograph that David Greene took on his cell phone was doctored to photoshop out the backpack Dzhokhar was carrying. I do not know enough about photoshopping to debunk this but others in the comments have pointed out that digital images often have an effect that is called “ghosting” that can be the cause for the pixelation that 2Minstral claims to see. Additionally, there is a debunker video for those who know and understand digital photography. All conspiracy theory has some element of harm in it, be it twisting or obfuscating the truth to actively destroying the lives of innocent people. This theory has led to a sort of online pillory of David Greene, the man who took the picture, as some people accuse him of altering his own photo. Some of the theories indicate that the FBI was responsible for photoshopping this picture. But Greene has still caught blowback from people who accuse him of wrongdoing.
This theory also feeds into the sixth backpack theory I discuss, as there is belief that there is a conspiracy to hide the fact that Dzhokhar left the bombing scene with the same backpack he was seen wearing in the surveillance video. 2) The backpacks the suspects carried do not match the one that held the bomb
This one is the easiest to debunk. I ask anyone to find an official source that says the backpack in the umpteen million analyses of backpacks was actually determined to have carried a bomb. I’ll wait, and I’ll be waiting a long time because there isn’t anything from any official source that says that black backpack ever carried a bomb. I searched for hours and could find nothing that ever indicated that there had been any official word or acknowledgement that the backpack pictured in all the online analyses was the one that carried the bomb. The picture was discovered by armchair crime scene analysts online, likely after it was initially featured on Fox News. Fox News verified that the pictures were indeed from the the FBI investigation, which is true.
I posit that many people, including the amateur sleuths online, saw reports similar to this one and assumed that pack in the photo montage was the actual backpack that carried the bomb. The pictures were “legitimate from the scene” but at no point did anyone ever say that was the backpack – in fact, it was said that pieces of the fabric of the pack that carried the bomb were recovered. The pack in that picture is torn up, but it is hardly fragments of fabric and given the completely appalling media failures that occurred at the beginning of the investigation, it is safe to assume this was another information failure. The picture doesn’t even match the description the talking head assigns to it.
The first I saw of it was on the Find Boston Bombers subReddit, which has since been deleted. It was posted by an arm chair crime scene analyst who likely watched the Fox News or CNN reports and misunderstood that the backpack was not verified as having carried a bomb, but rather was just verified as coming from the crime scene. Other online amateurs followed suit and in the game of Telephone that has become the Boston Marathon Bombing investigation, that picture somehow became The Backpack That Carried the Bomb. Please note that this is my assumption of how the rumor about the backpacks got started. I’m sure there could be other ways this rumor got off the ground.
Moreover, from the FBI site, they themselves had this to say about the matter:
Among items partially recovered are pieces of black nylon—which could be from a backpack—and what appear to be fragments of BBs and nails possibly contained in a pressure cooker device.
The FBI labels what they found to be black nylon and qualify the potential source. They later say that the bombs were placed at the scenes in dark backpacks but never explain how they came to that conclusion – one assumes they know this from the videos they claim to have of the brothers Tsarnaev dropping off the packs. But at no time does the FBI indicate the pack in all these pictures is the pack that held the bomb and their description of pieces of black nylon recovered is quite a different thing than the better part of an entire pack.
Additionally, the FBI site itself shows no sign of ever having released the picture of the backpack as the pack that held a bomb. Some of the pictures of the tattered backpack online sport “FBI” in the lower left hand corner but I can see no proof anywhere that the FBI released that picture to show that it contained a bomb. It was just part of their photographs from the crime scene. This is just one of hundreds of examples online wherein a news source says FBI officials “believe” the backpack “may have contained one of the bombs.” People also believe in fairies and I may be the Queen of England. Until specific verbiage is used and the FBI site or a known FBI official on the case states that the backpack was used to hold a bomb, all these comparisons mean nothing.
On a more mundane level, reason might dictate that a backpack that carried the bomb would have been blown apart or burned into ashes, leaving only pieces or fragments of fabric behind. If the fact that no investigative entity has indicated the backpack was part of the investigation does not debunk the backpack analyses, then perhaps the fact that it was so intact after a pressure cooker bomb containing nails, bbs and other debris blew up inside of it should have been a heads-up. Still, here are the theories around that backpack.
There are those who compare the recovered backpack to both the packs worn by the brothers. With some authority these analyses indicate that the pack recovered could not have been the packs the brothers wore. Even though the backpack was never officially identified as being the pack the bomb was in, the pictures used to make these comparisons that prove the pack could not belong to Tamerlan are from the same surveillance camera images that made it impossible to tell if the number on Dzhokhar’s hat was a 7 or a 3 (later, clearer pictures showed it was a 3). It is folly to use such a shot to determine much of anything regarding the detail of the packs, including color gradations between black and gray because the lighting and film quality did not pick up color vibrancy. The color is so shaky that many say Dzhokhar was carrying a white pack when it appears gray in the photos. It is simply impossible to use surveillance images to determine details from a pack that was recorded in motion.
3) The backpack found on the scene matches the “Craft Agents” backpacks
Online sleuths have found an image of an alleged Craft International operative who, after the bombs went off, was supposedly running without his backpack. The implication is that his backpack was the one carrying the bomb. Online analyses of the Craft Operatives backpacks compared to the backpack found on the scene indicate that the packs may be very similar. But that brings us back to the fact that the backpack so many are insisting was the backpack found at the second bombing site has never been verified by anyone associated with the investigation. That means people are comparing the Craft backpacks with debris found on the ground.
But even if the backpack had been identified as the one carrying one of the bombs, there are other elements that could debunk this theory.
–To my naked eye, I cannot really see whether or not the man in question has a backpack slung over his shoulder. The straps are the same color as his jacket and his body could be blocking our view of it.
–I cannot place where that photograph was taken and no one who touts this theory has explained it, either. Was it taken next to the SUV the alleged Craft Agents drove to the scene? If so, perhaps the man put his pack in the SUV. Had he handed the pack off to someone else before the picture was taken of him? Who knows?
There are simply too many variables unanswered for anyone to jump to the conclusion that this man planted the backpack with the bomb.
I will also be discussing the Craft International/False Flag theory as soon as I can.
4) The Guy with the Beard’s backpack is a match
Armchair crime scene analysts picked out this bearded man in a blue fleece jacket as having a backpack that is a seeming match for the one found at the bombing site. And they’re right – they look similar. But since I have already shown above that at no time did any official agency say that the pack in the picture ever held a bomb, the similarities are meaningless.
But even if you believe whole-heartedly that the backpack in all these analyses carried the bomb, you need to have more information before you start circling a man’s face and touting him as a bomber who killed a child. Ask yourselves the following:
–Do we know what brand the backpack was?
–Do we know how many backpacks of that brand in this color were sold?
–Were they sold regionally, meaning they would only have been sold in one area and therefore it wasn’t a common pack to see in Boston?
–Were they a big seller all over the country and therefore many people could have been carrying that same pack at the marathon?
Until we know such things, a man having a backpack similar to anything pictured at the crime scene means little. It takes a while for actual investigators to get information like this and people hate to wait, I understand that. But at the same time, perhaps it is best to wait until we know such things before we start circling the head of a man who was just awkwardly standing around with a backpack.
5) The New York Post was right – the bombs were in the packs belonging to the two dark-skinned, Muslim men
It is tiresome that even after the FBI cleared teenaged track star and high school student Salah Barhoum and his coach, Yassine Zaimi, from being involved in the attacks that people are still discussing them. But then again, if you believe that the bombings were a false flag and the Tsarnaev brothers were set up, you may think that these two young men were the bombers and are somehow being protected by the US government, even though neither were on the scene when the bombs went off. The pictures of them in many media sources, and the video I will discuss, place them at the finish line moments before the bomb went off. Not true.
It’s hard to combat such ideas with proof, especially since so many people have spent so much time MS Painting so many circles and wavy lines on so many pictures.
No one wants to hear that the pictures of Barhoum and Zaimi were taken hours before the blast because their backpacks look so full. It has to be them because their packs look so heavy, even though they left the marathon hours before the bombs went off. Wavy lines trump reason.
We have this really creepy video that attempts to prove that the student runner and his coach were the bombers. This video insists that the man at the first bombing scene, the man with the tattered pants who ran quickly after the blast, is the coach, Yassine Zaimi. It doesn’t pass even the most incredulous levels of proof-seeking because the pictures of both being at the scene were taken approximately two hours before the first bomb went off. This video also misidentifies one of the female victims, Lingzi Lu, as being in front of Yassine Zaimi before the blast. That’s not her, full stop. The man who was filmed running had on a short sleeve shirt and Zaimi was wearing a long sleeve jacket – we’ve seen pictures of bombing victims in long sleeves and none of them had their entire sleeves blown away. Not even pants were completely blown off, though many were tattered. The video also asserts that the picture with Lingzi Lu allegedly standing in front of Yassine Zaimi was taken shortly before the blast, as Zaimi had placed his bag on the ground and accidentally set it off. But even though Barhoum was not seen anywhere in the post-blast pics (the video speculates that he must have been dropping off the second bomb), he is standing next to Zaimi in the pic that the video claims was taken shortly before the blasts.
This video engages in a lot of either mistakes or outright lies in order to prove a strange pet theory (we’ll be seeing a lot of this in future entries). I’m feeling generous and will go with the former. The time frame is off, the people in the video are misidentified, the man seen running was clearly not Zaimi in terms of skin color and clothing, the people accused were not even at the marathon when the bombs went off and could not have been at the finish line when the bombs went off and there is no good reason offered as to why the government would sacrifice one set of Muslims for another in their false flag operation, especially since there are no ties to be found between Barhoum and Zaimi and the government. A weak attempt is made to show that the Saudi national initially questioned is involved and since he has ties to oil money, he is being protected, but there is no link between the Saudi and Zaimi and Barhoum.
I mentioned above that the harm that is heaped upon innocent people is one of the reasons that conspiracy theory is vile. Once a theory has been posited, often on the shoddiest of research, a certain number of True Believers will latch on and believe it whole-heartedly and nothing can ever change their minds. The FBI cleared them? Well the FBI is protecting them because they are the true bombers. They weren’t there? Well, that’s what THEY want you to believe! All of the time frames used in the video “evidence” is wrong? Well, I just feel these guys had something to do with it. And now two innocent men will spend the rest of their lives in this country with people who latched onto a baseless theory and who think them killers and terrorists. I have not seen any evidence yet to tie Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to the bombings – and given how screwed up information has been about that “chilling” video the FBI claims to have of Dzhokhar dropping off the backpack and the change in course in how the FBI is presenting the case (more on that when I discuss the patsy theories), I will need to see it before I can believe anything. But at least we know that both Tsarnaevs were on the scene when the bombs went off. That alone is far more evidence than anyone has against Barhoum and Zaimi.
6) How did the police recover the backpack Dzhokhar was carrying if he used it to carry and place the bomb at the second bombing site
I think almost everyone who had been following this case closely felt a bit of disbelief when it was revealed that three of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s friends had been arrested for evidence tampering, among other crimes, because they had gone into his dorm room and removed his laptop and his backpack. There was even more disbelief when it was revealed that the backpack contained fireworks tubes that had been drained of their explosives. Some reports, like the FBI release, do not mention that the fireworks had been emptied, but most media coverage indicates that the fireworks had been emptied. If the picture that appears with most of these articles is correct, it appears as if at least some of the fireworks were intact.
This asks the very obvious question of why it is that Dzhokhar would have held onto such evidence that could potentially link him to the bombings. This question and the recovered backpack will come up in my later discussions of Dzhokhar as a patsy.
But it also asks the question: How many backpacks did Dzhokhar Tsarnaev own? Was the backpack recovered from the landfill the backpack Dzhokhar carried during the bombing? Of course, a college student may have more than one backpack but since we have not seen pictures of the backpack that was recovered, and due to the extraordinarily horrible media coverage of this case, many are coming to the conclusion that the backpack recovered from the landfill is the same backpack Dzhokhar was wearing at the bombing scene.
With that conclusion, I’ve seen people convinced that Dzhokhar is clearly being set up because how could he have delivered a bomb in the very backpack that has seemingly been found thrown away? And it is strange that the US Attorney General’s Office and the FBI released the pictures of the fireworks the backpack allegedly contained but not the backpack itself. Worse, none of this is helped by reports from the Boston police that they did indeed confiscate the backpack Dzhokhar had been carrying at the bombing scene. I have no links for this because the report came on CNN and I have not been able to find any captures of it so be aware this is a statement you will have to take with a grain of salt.
It’s almost impossible to debunk this one at this time because of the ridiculously bad media coverage and law enforcement’s refusal to release pictures that could clear these matters up. Pictures of either the backpack recovered in the landfill or the release of the video that supposedly shows Dzhokhar depositing the bomb-filled backpack could go a long way toward settling these matters and I agree it is very odd we don’t have this information yet (and find the reasons why we don’t have the information spurious, but that’s fodder for other theories). But I do think it is not impossible that Dzhokhar had multiple backpacks, perhaps even two of the same style backpack. Until we have enough information, it’s too soon to pull the trigger and say that the pack recovered from the landfill is the same pack Dzhokhar was carrying the day of the bombings and therefore something is rottenin Boston.
ETA on 5/21/13
7) The packs the Tsarnaev brothers were carrying hardly seemed like they were carrying pressure cooker bombs
I admit that I was skeptical about these claims because it seemed to me that the packs could, indeed, carry bombs. However, as I have still been trying to run to ground any official investigative release about the tattered backpack shown in all backpack analyses as having been the pack that carried a bomb, I came across a fascinating article on a site I was unfamiliar with called WhoWhatWhy.
A writer named David Lindorff tested, using actual pressure cookers and equivalent weights to the components of the bombs, how backpacks would look carrying pressure cooker bombs. The results were extremely interesting. I suggest anyone interested in this topic read his article.
I welcome comments but I encourage everyone to read my comment policy first. If I have any information here that is objectively incorrect, please let me know. Additionally, if there are any backpack theories I overlooked, let me know. I’m only too happy to update this as new ideas develop.