by Joe Giambrone
“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
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 2000’s. 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 Dzokhar emailed 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 90’s and which FrontPage describes clearly just further down in the article. “When Osama Bin Laden set up a training camp in Chechnya in 1995, he wanted to ‘establish a worldwide Islamic state…’”
Who are the Chechen rebel “commanders?”
Canadian Broadcasting (CBC) reported in 2010,
“Last year, a charismatic rebel commander calling himself Said Buryatsky bragged on the rebel website Kavkaz Center he was training new suicide bombers…. Buryatsky… studied for several years in Saudi Arabia… A new leader, Dokka Umarov, emerged declaring the new goal was to separate all six Muslim majority provinces in the Russian Caucasus from the Russian Federation, and create a new Islamic state ruled by Sharia law. Admired for his Saudi religious education Buryatsky quickly became Umarov’s chief ideologist. He also became a valued military strategist.”
Doku Umarov is the current leader of the Chechen insurgency, and he is known as “Russia’s Bin Laden.” His website Kavkaz Center is hosted in Finland. On June 29th of 2010 the US State Department designated Doku Umarov a “global terrorist.” In June of 2012 Finnish prosecutors were reported to have linked the US State Department itself to funding for Doku Umarov’s website operations – the Kavkaz Center.
In April of 2013, Brian Glyn Williams suggested to his Huffington Post readers to visit the Kavkaz Center website to see that these Chechens allegedly don’t target Americans. Williams claimed, “While the small number of Chechen rebels were later radicalized in the 2000s and came to see their war for national independence as a defensive jihad, they had no reason to attack distant America.” Williams, of course, knows that an Al Qaeda training camp was established in Chechnya in 1995. He suggests, “For a view into their world see the Chechen rebels’ website Kavkaz Center.” The owner of that website in Finland, Mikael Storsjo received a “four-month suspended sentence” in 2012 for “assisting Chechen terrorists to enter Finland illegally.”
Brian Glyn Williams knows full well that Doku Umarov is a terrorist and that the bombings gleefully boasted about on his Jihad website Kavkaz Center are in fact acts of terrorism. As Umarov is officially designated a “global terrorist” by the US government itself, should Mr. Williams be supporting him, his group and his website rhetorically?
More to the point: Did Williams recommend this website and its activities to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev?
The distinction that Williams stresses repeatedly is that “they had no reason to attack distant America.” The clear implication here is that terrorist attacks against Russians are of no concern and should not be of concern to readers.
Doku Umarov’s Al Qaeda-connected group is famous for the massacre of almost 400 civilians at a school in Beslan, Russia in 2004. FrontPage continues its summation of more recent attacks: “…a November 2009 train bombing that killed 28; suicide bombings in a Moscow subway by female operatives in March 2010 that killed 40; and an airport bombing in January 2011 that killed 36.”
Upon reading Brian Glyn Williams suggestion in the Huffington Post to visit Kavkaz, I clicked the link and found this recent post (5/20/13):
“Two blasts in Dagestan killed and injured more than 50 puppets [21:56] Russian invaders reported that 2 blasts went off within an interval of 15 minutes in Shamilkala, the capital the Caucasus Emirate’s Province of Dagestan.”
One must infer that the above is acceptable in Mr. Brian Glyn Williams’ view, as it does not target Americans. While Williams vehemently denies any connection between the Chechens and Saudi Wahabbis, the Chechen commanders themselves may see it quite differently.
In the South Coast Today report by Steve Urbon, Brian Glyn Williams described his communications with the younger Tsarnaev brother. “[Dzhokhar] wanted to learn more about Chechnya, who the fighters were, who the commanders were. I sort of gave him background.” What Mr. Williams considers “background” is the key question here, and his specific emails and any other correspondence with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should be investigated fully.
The “commanders” were, and are, Doku Umarov, Said Buryatsky and a distinguished gentleman named Shamil Basayev. Basayev arranged for 850 hostages to be taken at a theater in Moscow in 2002, demanding Russia give up the province of Chechnya and pull out. During the siege 130 civilians died as well as all 40 of Basayev’s armed terrorists.
When Williams defends the Chechen “cause” and “struggle”, just which cause is he defending exactly?
Williams next tells his Huffington Post readers, “It seems that the older Tamerlan then converted his brother Dzhokar to the fanatical cause”. Ah, but here is where we must insist on a full disclosure from Mr. Brian Glyn Williams himself.
To a Fox News audience, “Williams said that after [Dzhokhar] contacted him, he emailed back a syllabus. He said he didn’t even remember the interaction until he talked to a friend.”
In the South Coast Today, however, “Williams recalled [Dzhokhar] clearly, though the two never met and communicated by email, Williams sending him links to academic papers he’s published and books he recommended.” Williams then made his case for propagandizing the boy. “As Williams put it, an ancient civilization was being wiped away… there are stories of mass killings, death camps, mass graves, torture, destruction.”
In the Fox report Williams reiterated his recurring thesis. “He said the official [Chechen rebel] leadership is more secular and moderate, but there is an extremist element that sees the Russians as ‘infidels.’” That is the story of the Chechen conflict that Williams peddles to whomever will listen, including the eager students at the University of Massachusetts and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. But what is secular or moderate about Mr. Umarov and his Saudi-trained chief ideologist and suicide bomber trainer, Mr. Buryatsky? It is they who are responsible for the Kavkaz Center, which Brian Glyn Williams linked to in his Huffington Post piece.
In another article that Williams wrote a week after the Boston bombing, Who Are The Chechens?, he told us, “Having taught what is perhaps the only class in America, if not the world, on this obscure land for nine years…” and nothing about his CIA-contracted field work. If ever a conflict of interest should be disclosed, then this is surely that time. The man taught about a foreign insurgency in Russia at a public University for nearly a decade despite being a field operative on the payroll of the Central Intelligence Agency. He apparently never disclosed this fact at the time, nor even in this post-bombing article. It remains a mystery why he chose to disclose his CIA past at all in Major History in March of this year. One motivation may have come from the publisher of his new book “Predators: The CIA’s Drone War on al Qaeda,” where it is also mentioned. Williams’ CIA bona fides may be seen as a useful marketing blurb to sell the book to readers. In this new era of Zero Dark Thirty the CIA is overwhelmingly sold to the American public as being the good guys, their Church Commission dirty laundry revelations long since forgotten.
Never disclosed in Williams’ one-sided portrayal of his subject matter is the United States’ covert role in sponsoring, funding and encouraging Jihad against first the Soviets in Afghanistan (1979), and then in former republics of the Soviet Union including Bosnia, Kosovo, Chechnya and Dagestan. For all the inspiring talk of desperate “David versus Goliath” Chechen Jihadist warriors, the proxy nature of these insurgencies does not merit any mention by the professor.
What is the Jamestown Foundation?
This NGO was founded in 1984 by William Casey, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency under Reagan, as well as Zbigniew Brzezinski and exiled Soviet-bloc intelligence defectors. It was a Cold War information collection and propaganda source used to strategically weaken the Soviet Union and to advance US interests in Asia, a mission that continues today undeterred. SourceWatch states, “Jamestown’s work has contributed directly to the spread of democracy and personal freedom in the former Communist Bloc countries.” In other words it is an active political player in the region. It also has an extensive record of influencing the internal politics of “Communist Bloc countries” so that they become “former.”
Zbigniew Brzezinski is famous for designing and launching the 1979 Jihad in Afghanistan that drew the Soviets into their own “Vietnam,” thereby weakening Soviet Russia and draining its resources on a US-engineered and supported proxy war. The arms and fighters flowed through Pakistan and Saudi Arabia primarily, in partnership with the CIA. Radical Islamic fighters were recruited from all over the Arab world to go fight a Jihad in Afghanistan throughout the 1980s.
Brzezinski bragged about this success against the Soviets and simultaneously dismissed concerns over Islamic fundamentalism. “What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?” Brzezinski’s 1997 book The Grand Chessboard predicted major wars in Central Asia, the oil, gas and mineral rich Caspian region and the Caucasus as necessary for insuring America’s “primacy” in the world. His goal is based upon world domination by America and its allies, and his entire career has been in service to this goal. Brzezinski holds the highest position at the Jamestown Foundation.
Currently, says SourceWatch: “Global Terrorism Analysis is a subset of The Jamestown Foundation which publishes three journals, Terrorism Monitor… Spotlight on Terror” and “Terrorism Focus.” It also publishes, “Chechnya Weekly.” Jamestown boasts a lengthy roster of paid analysts, and Brian Glyn Williams is a longtime contributor.
Former National Security Agency officer Wayne Madsen says, “The Jamestown Foundation is part of a neo-conservative network that re-branded itself after the Cold War from being anti-Soviet and anti-Communist to one that is anti-Russian and ‘pro-democracy.’” Madsen notes several further connections. “The network not only consists of Jamestown and the Caucasus Fund but also other groups funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the [George Soros] Open Society Institute (OSI).
Jamestown and Caucasus Fund were flagged by Georgian state security as holding training seminars in 2012 attended by none other than Tamerlan Tsarnaev during his trip to Russia in the first half of the year. This second connection between Jamestown Foundation and the Tsarnaev brothers bolsters the idea that the two brothers were being recruited by US intelligence and were not “lone wolves” as is presented uncritically across the US corporate media spectrum. A further connection to both the CIA and to USAID leads directly to the boys’ uncle Ruslan Tsarni. That’s three. And now we have reasonable suspicion to investigate further persons associated with these shady and highly-motivated organizations.
USAID, which uncle Ruslan Tsarni worked with – or more likely for – since the 1990s, was recently expelled from Russia for interfering in the internal politics of that country. This interference is a consistent pattern, one that has flipped multiple countries from the Russian alliance to the NATO/US alliance, including Georgia, Uzbekistan and Ukraine.
Back to Chechnya
Brian Glyn Williams’ so-called expertise on the Chechen conflict stems directly from official US policy since the Cold War, and that is a policy to break up the Soviet Union and Russia in order to weaken it, and to therefore strengthen the US / NATO alliance and expand it into Asia. The dissolution of Chechnya and Dagestan is seen as a continuation of the break-up of the rest of the Soviet Union, despite Chechnya being a part of Russia for 150 years. The Chechen insurgency of the 1990s sprung up in similar fashion to other radical Islamic insurgencies promoted by the US and its allies throughout Central Asia. Numerous foreign fighters flooded in to fight the Russians in similar fashion to the Afghanistan Jihad, also known as Operation Cyclone.
Brian Glyn Williams’ 2004 paper on the subject provides clues to his motivations, and they are far from neutral or academic. In From “Secessionist Rebels” to “Al-Qaeda Shock Brigades”: Assessing Russia’s Efforts to Extend the Post-September 11th War on Terror to Chechnya, Williams wrote, “…Condoleeza Rice, tellingly proclaimed ‘not every Chechen is a terrorist and the Chechens’ legitimate aspirations for a political solution should be pursued by the Russian government.’”
In other words, the US demanded that secession and the break-up of Russia be permitted by the Russian government. When the United States itself faced secession and break-up in 1860, this was not exactly welcomed by those in power.
The strategy of defining terrorists working in the interests of US policymakers as “freedom fighters” and dismissing their atrocities by characterizing them as the work of a small “minority,” seems to originate with Zbigniew Brzezinski. Williams quotes Brzezinski in the piece: “What should be done? To start with the US should not fall for Russia’s entreaty that `we are allies against Osama bin Laden’… Terrorism is neither the geopolitical nor moral challenge here [in Chechnya].”
This is an ideological foundation for ignoring terrorism whenever and wherever it suits US interests. Such has been the policy for a long, long time and in the Muslim world easily shown back to 1979. Terrorism in Chechnya is described by Professor Williams as not being from the majority, but from a minority. Essentially a straw man argument, no one would claim that terrorists are a majority in the first place. This exact argument is used by US apologists concerning Syria today in regards to the Al Qaeda connected Al Nusra Brigades operating there.
In The Atlantic on April 26th of this year, Brian Glyn Williams told American readers, “There is a minority among the rebels that subscribe to the global view of jihad. But overall Chechens are very pro-American and pro-Western.” The first sentence claims a minority “among the rebels,” but the second statement seeks to bolster the first claim by mentioning “overall” about Chechen civilians in general. The first claim, however is false, and the actual fighters committing bombings, hostage takings and shootings in Russia on behalf of Chechen independence are connected with Doku Umarov and his Jihad to establish Sharia Law. Therefore Williams is wrong on the facts today and misleading his readers.
One of the most useful sources of information to debunk Brian Glyn Williams is, surprisingly enough, Brian Glyn Williams’ own papers, like the 2004 piece cited above. “…President Bush went on to declare that ‘Arab terrorists’ linked to Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda organization were operating on Chechen territory and ought to be ‘brought to justice.’28 U. S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell, went a step further and proclaimed “Russia is fighting terrorists in Chechnya, there is no question about that, and we understand that.” His entire paper reads like a Cold War propaganda piece designed to dispute the assessment of even Bush and Powell and to put forth the myth that the Chechens are not in any way, shape or form linked to Al Qaeda, which is a demonstrably false premise. Williams mentions that the Taliban recognized the breakaway Chechen Emirate as a legitimate government in 2000, but he dismisses this fact as a “purely symbolic gesture.”
Remember, this is the man who is currently authoring a book to destroy the idea that Chechen terrorism is in any way linked to Al Qaeda. His April 19th interview with Steve Urbon ended with, “[Chechens] are not Al Qaeda. Repeat: They are not Al Qaeda.” Chechen fighters, however, are overwhelmingly radical Islamists, and this is where Williams is debunked as a tale spinner.
In the Huffington Post, April 25th, Williams wrote, “I myself personally traveled to Afghanistan in 2003 and interviewed numerous Taliban prisoners of war held by Northern Alliance Uzbek General Dostum.” Williams does not disclose his CIA assignment on that trip nor who this General Dostum actually is. Patrick Cockburn described Dostum as follows. “In northern Afghanistan General Rashid Dostum, a warlord of notorious brutality but an ally of the CIA, had hundreds, if not thousands, of prisoners buried alive or packed into containers to suffocate.”
Here with Dostum and friends, the ever-objective Professor Williams found a consistent story: no Chechens. “None of them had ever seen or heard of Chechens; it was like looking for the Chechen Big Foot.” That’s a nice story, but is it the truth?
In his 2004 report, Williams tells how this very question was essentially the purpose of his mission, his CIA assignment. “My goal was to see if any of these prisoners of war had seen or fought alongside one of the ‘thousands’ of ‘Chechen die-hard Al Qaeda fanatics’ reported to have fought against U. S. forces in the Afghan theater.” His mission was to make the distinction between Chechens and Al Qaeda, apparently at the behest of the CIA. He has been dutifully repeating this claim ever since. His new book to be released next year, entitled “Inferno in the Caucus: The Chechen insurgency and the Mirage of Al Qaeda,” will attempt to make this same argument again.
Mark Ames at NSFWCorp was first to challenge Wiliams’ “Chechen Big Foot” claim. Ames compiled a list of articles to dispute Williams.
“[Defense Secretary] Rumsfeld told reporters, ‘There’s Chinese in there, there’s Chechens in there…’” Agence France-Presse, on March 22, 2002: “…Chechen fighters in Afghanistan who have thrown their lot in with Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network.” Even US Generals were quoted specifically referring to Chechens in Afghanistan and allied with Bin Laden. “We know the history of the Chechens. They are good fighters and they are very brutal,” [US Major General Frank] Hagenbeck said. The general said he has heard of reports out of the Pentagon that a unit of 100-150 Chechens had moved into southern Afghanistan.” And here is more evidence that Brian Glyn Williams claims does not exist: “General Tommy Franks, the commander of US forces, said in Moscow Thursday that Chechen fighters were among the al-Qaeda fighters taken prisoner by US troops but gave no figures.” The New York Times reported, “Between 100 and 200 Qaeda and ”non-Afghan” fighters, including Arabs, Chechens and Uzbeks, have been killed in heavy fighting so far, General Franks said…” During the battle of Tora Bora the NY Times reported Chechens as the fiercest fighters, “By all accounts, the Arab and Chechen fighters have put up the stiffest resistance.”
Williams also tied his own 2003 mission to Afghanistan with official US policy changes during that time period, “… the White House’s evolving foreign policy had, by 2003, come to have a more balanced view of the Chechen separatists and a three-dimensional view of their supposed links to international terrorism. The U. S. State Department… limited itself to designating several fringe Chechen terrorists groups led by rogue field commander Shamil Basayev as ‘Foreign Terrorist Organizations.’”
Williams’ entire career aligns with this policy change. His field work was directly in service of bolstering this view and gathering evidence in support of maintaining good relations and support for Chechen “freedom fighters” who persist to this day in trying to break away from Russia. This is Brzezinski’s Grand Chessboard in action.
Security Holes Are Part of the Game
Mark Ames at NSFW details how this very same policy of treating Chechen terrorists as “freedom fighters” directly impacted the September 11th attacks, in particular the thwarted investigation of “20th hijacker” Zacharias Moussaoui one month before the attacks.
“…Minneapolis agent Harry Samit got the US Embassies in Paris and London to look into Moussaoui’s background,” said Ames. “The FBI’s legal attaché in Paris got back to Minneapolis with some startling news establishing a link between Moussoui and the Saudi warlord in Chechnya, Khattab. The only problem was that by August 2001, US policy did not recognize the Chechen rebels as terrorists with links to Al Qaeda or Bin Laden.”
An FBI memo already established al Khattab as an Al Qaeda terrorist, but the investigation of Moussaoui’s laptop was denied to the FBI Minneapolis officers and to Coleen Rowley, the legal advisor there. “True, there was an FBI memo on the FBI director Louis Freeh’s desk explicitly warning that terrorists linked to Khattab and Bin Laden were planning a major attack, but the memo was dismissed, and the FBI man in Washington DC, who should have seen that memo but claims he didn’t, rebuffed Minneapolis and shut down their requests for a warrant to look in Moussaoui’s laptop.”
Brian Glyn Williams mentions Khattab in other articles, acknowledging his Saudi roots, funding and role in setting up training camps in Chechnya in 1995. Williams also admits that the indigenous Chechen rebel leadership made a strategic alliance with Khattab and his Al Qaeda support network in 1999. Williams himself wrote, “Although the Russian Federation had initially limited its retaliatory bombing strikes to Khattab’s camps in southeastern Chechnya, the Kremlin launched a total invasion of Chechnya in October 1999. This indiscriminate invasion drove Chechnya’s moderate leadership (the only force in Chechnya that might have assisted in expelling the foreign jihadis) into a strategic alliance with Khattab and his IIB.” Straight from the horse’s mouth. Sounding a lot like those attempting to hold Williams to account, he himself told of the foreign Jihadist infusion, Islamists who travelled into Chechnya to engage in warfare and terrorism. Wrote Williams, “Young Egyptians, Yemenis, Saudis, Pakistanis, Turks, etc. continue to make their way at great risk to Chechnya to assist the Chechens in their uneven struggle. Many of those who have fought in Chechnya have been radicalized by their experience as front line jihadis.” Thorough as the good professor is, he even places Al Qaeda’s number 2 at the time, and now top Al Qaeda leader Zawahiri in Dagestan. “December 1996. Ayman al Zawaheri, leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad and member of Al Qaeda’s ruling troika, travels to Dagestan in search of a new base of operations…” These Chechen/Al Qaeda links, many of which are admitted to by Williams himself, are striking and irrefutable… but inconvenient for current policy makers. Excerpts are taken from, “The ‘Chechen Arabs’: An Introduction To The Real Al-Qaeda Terrorists From Chechnya,” Jamestown Foundation, Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 1, May 5, 2005, by Brian Glyn Williams.
So what the hell was Brian Glyn Williams telling Dzhokhar Tsarnaev?
- And for how long?
- How many communications?
- What was motivating these communications?
- What is the relationship between Jamestown Foundation and ongoing covert operations in the Caucasus?
- What was the relationship of Jamestown Foundation to Tamerlan Tsarnaev on his trip to Dagestan in 2012?
- What is the relationship between the brothers and their uncle Ruslan Tsarnai and to his former father in law, CIA mastermind Graham Fuller?
- How did individuals in US intelligence cancel threat warnings issued on Tamerlan Tsarnaev?
- Who hid Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s threat warnings from local Boston police and from members of the Boston Joint Terrorism Task Force?
Brian Glyn Williams ended his 2005 article with this statement: “As for the Chechens themselves, the world awaits the arrest of a single Chechen by coalition forces for involvement in Al Qaeda terrorism anywhere in the globe.” What a bit of irony that the Chechen arrested for terrorism in Boston was communicating directly with Brian Glyn Williams and was mentored in his Chechen roots and heritage by Williams personally. We can only hope that the FBI thoroughly investigates what Williams told Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and which specific “commanders” and “fighters” he vouched for and personally recommended to the boy.
All emphases were added.