Is This the Man Who “Radicalized” Dzhokhar Tsarnaev?

I hope I didn’t contribute to it. That kid and his brother identified with the Chechen struggle. –Brian Glyn Williams, South Coast Today, April 19th 2013
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Brian Glyn Williams (right)
By Joe Giambrone
Who is Brian Glyn Williams, and why was he telling his local newspaper such things relating to the alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev? This question may be highly relevant to our understanding of the bombing and of the longstanding Chechen insurgency itself. It was Williams who contacted South Coast Today reporter Steve Urbon first, and not vice-versa. This important article indicates a series of contacts between professor Williams and the boy who would later be accused of terrorism and mass murder at the 2013 Boston Marathon.
Brian Glyn Williams bills himself as an associate professor of Islamic History at University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. That’s where his byline tends to stop, abridged as it is. Recently, however, Williams has come clean about his CIA past as a field operative in Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and around Central Asia in the early 2000s. He studied, of all things, the motivations of “suicide bombers,” establishing himself as an expert on the subject.Professor Williams also has a longtime association with the Jamestown Foundation, created by the head of the CIA in 1984 and steered by Zbigniew Brzezinski. Williams’ role as an “analyst” for Jamestown Foundation is usually also omitted from his byline, when his editorials appear in such mainstream journals as the Huffington Post, The Atlantic Monthly and elsewhere. Such failure to disclose his personal connections to US intelligence and to an intelligence-connected front organization mirrors his non-disclosure concerning his personal relationship with the alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in those very same publications.

A website called Major History profiled Professor Williams in March of 2013. There they wrote, “[Brian Glyn Williams’] work has taken him to … Afghanistan to work for the Central Intelligence Agency. Williams was tasked with helping law enforcement and intelligence agencies understand the motivations and behaviors of suicide bombers…” As Williams’ formal education is in history, rather than psychological profiling, this may seem a bit out of the ordinary. “[Williams’] findings about suicide bombings in Afghanistan were informed by his understanding of tribal identities as much as fervor for the Jihadist movement. He came to these conclusions after being sent to Afghanistan by the CIA to perform firsthand research on these types of attacks. This type of fieldwork is unusual for most academics but especially for historians…

Which version of Brian Glyn Williams are we reading?

In 2008 Williams wrote a Field Report on Suicide Bombers of Afghanistan, for the Middle East Policy journal. No indication was given to readers that his specific trip to Afghanistan was as a CIA operative. That disclosure does not seem to have been made until March of 2013. In the piece, Dr. Williams, a lowly associate professor of Islamic History, said, “…it was my research on Afghanistan’s suicide bombers that had drawn me from the safety of my world to the Pashtun tribal regions…” That may be so, but it is certainly not the entire story.

Williams’ elaborate 2011 defense of the CIA’s drone assassination campaign is an exercise in bolstering the CIA’s policies without fully disclosing his own linkages or self-interests. Writing in the West Point CTC Sentinel, “Brian Glyn Williams is Associate Professor of Islamic History at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. He formerly taught at the University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies.” That’s all that Williams discloses in “Accuracy of the U.S. Drone Campaign: The Views of a Pakistani General.”

FrontPage Magazine managed to locate Brian Glyn Williams after the Boston Marathon bombings and noted, “Professor Brian Glyn Williams teaches the only course in the country about the Chechen wars and said Dzokharemailed him questions in the spring of 2011.” No mention of CIA or Jamestown, but was this at all unexpected given Williams’ persistent pattern of non-disclosures?

As Williams is billed as the sole academic in the US worth talking to about the Chechen wars, he should quite know all about the Islamic Jihad that has raged there since the ’90s and which FrontPage describes clearly just further down in the article. “When Osama Bin Laden set up a training campin Chechnya in 1995, he wanted to ‘establish a worldwide Islamic state…’”

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Did the US have enough indicators and warnings for Algeria?

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In the intelligence world, indicators and warnings are essential. They are key pieces of data expressing enough insight allowing an analyst to determine threats, proposed threat levels, and assist in forecasting. With the ongoing hostage situation still unfolding in Algeria (still ongoing as this is being written), it’s critical to question whether the US or our Western allies had enough indicators and warnings to caution citizens living and or working in Algeria.

In May, Homeland Security Today published a piece titled West Africa: Al Qaeda’s New Home. It revealed how Al Qaeda shifted its base from Afghanistan and Pakistan into West Africa—specifically Mali. There was enough information found within to allow any open source intelligence analyst to obtain what is known as “chatter.” That chatter could be observed as the first warning.

Then, in October, Homeland Security Today released another article title The Quint-Border Region: The World’s Most Under-Reported Terror Hot Spot. Within it, five key nations were identified in western Africa demonstrating unprecedented amounts of activities which have unfolded over the years via Al Qaeda linked terrorist groups. These incidents were sheer warnings.

The first week of December could arguably be construed as one of the biggest indicators demonstrating how austere the region has truly become. Online media outlet Magharebia divulged in an article title Belmokhtar breaksaway from AQIM. Anyone who ever worked intelligence knows when key leaders break away from a large terror group, they later form their own. And that’s exactly what Mokhtar Belmokhtar did.

Belmokhtar broke away from Al Qaeda in the Islamic Magrheb and formed his own Islamist group called Al Muwaki un bi Al-Dima (Signatories of Blood). A video tape of the one eyed Islamist was created and delivered to at least one international media outlet explaining his intent.

Belmokhtar is no small fish in the Islamic terror world. He is a highly skilled and trained fighter who quickly moved up the ranks in Al Qaeda after fulfilling his mission in Afghanistan back in 1991. He eventually returned to Algeria where he was born and later assisted in a horrifically violent coup of Mali’s government.

Only a few weeks after Magharebia posted their news about Belmokhtar’s split from AQIM, the Jamestown Foundation released a very well written report on the situation in West Africa, specifically revealing Belmokhtar’s future endeavors.

With this information, why did the United States State Department’s Office of Securityand Cooperation release just two travel warnings for Algeria in 2012? Worse, why were they created in May and September having nothing more recent knowing the entire West African region was imploding?

Yes, these two travel warnings could have also sparked interest for an intelligence analyst to create something more suitable for the Western free world, specifically Americans living and working in the region.

The truth is, America and our western allies knew how volatile the entire west African region had become. Yet for some reason, similar to Benghazi, they sat on the back of their heels proving to be inept protectors of their citizens.

Now, as the tragedy in Algeria continues to unfold, reports have revealed at least 35 hostages and 15 terrorists were killed in Algerian military led airstrikes. This reporting remains extremely vague and maintains limited details.  As mentioned last night on Canadian Television News, this tragedy would end in bloodshed.

Kerry Patton, a combat disabled Veteran is author of Contracted: America’s Secret Warriors.