Based on the information released about the three young men charged on Wednesday with destroying evidence from Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's dorm room after the Boston bombing, it seems plausible that they're just college students who "started to freak out" when they saw their friend identified as a potential terrorist and did something awful and unbelievably stupid. A classmate who knew the three men (and briefly dated Tsarnaev) offered some possible insight into their behavior, telling Mother Jones that they "all sort of idolized Jahar." Meanwhile, politicians quickly took to the airwaves to declare that the three men are likely involved in something more sinister, despite the lack of evidence one way or the other.
The affidavit in the case describes how after multiple interviews, Robel Phillipos eventually admitted that he lied to federal agents and provided a detailed description of how he decided to dispose of Tsarnaev's laptop and backpack containing fireworks along with Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov. Rudy Giuliani cautioned Fox News's Neil Cavuto that they're probably still lying. Per Politico:
“What you’re trying to find out, are there other people involved in this? Post- or pre- the incident. I would not accept at face value the statements of their lawyers that they didn’t know anything about this beforehand. That’s what they’re saying, but they’re obviously lying about other things. They already caught them in a lie. So I would go on the assumption that they know a lot about this."
Of course, it's entirely possible that Tsarnaev's friends did know about the bombing beforehand, and it certainly wouldn't be the first twist in the case. However, the facts highlighted by Rep. Charlie Rangel don't necessarily lead to that conclusion. Rangel noted on MSNBC that it's rather curious that all three men were born in the same country (actually, two are from Kazakhstan and one is American) and they tossed a perfectly good laptop (that they thought was filled with incriminating information about their friend). He explains:
“That’s why I just don’t believe that their story is telling the truth … to take a good laptop and to throw it in a dumpster in front of your house along with a backpack, no. You know, normally you would think that they’re kids and it’s childish behavior [but] all coming from the same country, all of them knowing each other, talking with each other, there is a story here."
As far as the suspects' classmate knows, the story is that the men were part of a group of about five Russian-speaking friends who enjoyed music, partying, and pot-smoking. The only thing she found troubling was Tsarnaev's behavior during their two-week fling in fall 2011. "He wanted to go further than I did, and that made me uncomfortable, and I realized that that's not the kind of person that I wanted to be around," she says. "I don't think that's necessarily being a terrorist. I think that's just called being a hands-y teenaged boy."
She said of the friends, "There was no indication that they were crazy at all," but then again, Tsarnaev didn't set off any alarms either. "I just can't see him being a radical jihadist just because of the nature of who he was. I don't doubt that he did it, but the 'why?' behind it — I'm having difficulty believing the news."