Bombing suspects’ laptop could contain ‘jackpot of intelligence’

WASHINGTON — A laptop tied to the Boston bombing suspects has been recovered and could provide important clues as authorities look into how the suspects were radicalized.

Pete Williams, NBC justice correspondent, says the FBI has the laptop, although investigators have not spoken publicly about the computer.

Both Williams and Bryan Bender, national security correspondent for the Boston Globe, spoke with WTOP on Thursday about the latest developments in the investigation.

“The laptop could be critical in learning how they became radicalized and how they learned to make the bombs,” Bender says. “(Investigators believe the suspects) became more religious, they became more inspired to do this attack through internet sites, perhaps by communicating with some jihadists overseas.”

Jared Stern is the president of Prudential Associates, an investigations and digital forensics company in Rockville, Md. He is not working on the Boston case, but says it’s not overly dramatic to say the laptop could provide a “jackpot of intelligence acquisition.”

“Let’s face it, there is everything in the universe potentially on that drive,” Stern told WTOP on Thursday.

“For over 99 percent of the population, it is nearly impossible to cloak your historic activities on your computer completely. You can do things and probably make a dent in it. But the forensic tools available to investigators these days are so powerful, you would have to engage in full-volume encryption all day every day — you almost couldn’t have a job.”

Bender, with the Globe, also notes that cellphone data have already provided plenty of clues.

“Texting was another thing that helped law enforcement piece together some of this,” he says. “Texting between the brothers, but also apparently texting between the brothers and at least some of this group of three friends of the younger brother’s, who are now in custody.”

Court documents filed Wednesday say the three new suspects helped hide Dzohkhar Tsarnaev’s laptop and backpack, which had fireworks emptied of explosive powder inside.

Authorities have indicated the three suspects helped Tsarnaev after the bombings took place. The three young men, Dias Kadyrbayev, Azamat Tazhayakov and Robel Phillipos, attended University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, along with Tsarnaev.

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