Glenn Beck conspiracy theory: What's his evidence?

Glenn Beck conspiracy theory: A Saudi national was involved in the Boston Marathon attack, Glenn Beck alleges. US officials reject the notion and dismiss the 'evidence' as so much bureaucratic paperwork.

Chris Keane/Reuters/File
Fox News host Glenn Beck speaks in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 2010.

Glenn Beck has spent lots of time in recent days alleging that the Boston Marathon bombing was carried out by a conspiracy that revolved around a shadowy Saudi national questioned by police in a Boston hospital in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy.

OK, is he just winging it here, or does the ex-Fox, now-independent radio and Internet video host have any real evidence for this charge?

He says he does, unsurprisingly. On his show Wednesday morning Mr. Beck produced a document that he claimed is an official US “event report” showing that the Saudi in question is a bad, bad man who was on a no-fly list and already subject to visa revocation.

What he didn’t mention is that Fox News reporter Bret Baier has already looked into this whole alleged Saudi conspiracy, including the document Beck deemed so revealing, and concluded that there was no there there, to paraphrase writer Gertrude Stein’s jibe about Oakland.

It’s “false and misleading” to use the internal document on the Saudi’s immigration status as evidence of the man’s involvement in the bombings, according to US officials quoted by Mr. Baier in a Fox video blog on April 23.

“The FBI says the Saudi [in question] was just a victim of the terrorist attack,” said Baier.

OK, let’s rewind a bit to clarify this, shall we?

In the immediate aftermath of the Boston tragedy, many media outlets reported that law enforcement officials were interrogating an injured Saudi man who had been seen running from the site of the bombs. Authorities that evening searched his residence in suburban Revere.

Officials later reported that this Saudi was a student and an innocent spectator who had been injured by the blasts and was trying to escape along with many other people on the Marathon route.

Although the man’s name has been reported by some media outlets, Decoder won’t be using it, so as to not further publicize the identity of someone police say did nothing wrong.

Since then Glenn Beck has continued to link the Saudi to the bombing and to terrorism in general. He has charged that the man was in the US on a student visa that had expired and that he will be deported by US immigration for security reasons. He has gone so far as to speculate that a Saudi national may have been an Al Qaeda control agent who recruited the Tsarnaev brothers to carry out the Boston attacks.

Then on Wednesday Beck dropped his other shoe, revealing what he said was important new evidence in the case.

Beck said he had received a document he called a 212 3(B) report, named after its reference in the Patriot Act. The document said that a Saudi national with the same name as the person questioned in the hours after the bombing is an “exact match” to someone on a no-fly list and that derogatory information on him is “sufficient to request visa revocation.”

A copy of the alleged document posted online by Beck’s web site The Blaze also noted that the person in question “has One (1) prior event,” though there was no indication what, or how serious, that event was.

Wow, I mean, this does not look good, does it? Twitter has exploded with comments about how important this is, and how it presages the exposure of the conspiracy, which probably involves everyone up to the level of the Oval Office, and perhaps beyond.

But Bret Baier had this piece of paper already. On Tuesday, he talked with US officials about it, and got a different story.

First off, Baier said the wording of the paper was indeed somewhat dire.

“Anyone looking at this would say this is a bad guy, this means they had a lot of stuff on this guy,” he said.

But officials told him it was simply an automatic piece of customs paperwork triggered when police went to question the Saudi in the hours after the bombing.

To make sure he did not somehow get on an airplane before they could talk to him, they put him on a no-fly list. That automatically meant he was subject to visa revocation. The other language, including the reference to an “event,” followed from that.

“Also keep in mind, it’s just … a customs and border control document…. It’s not indicative of any investigative information,” said Baier.

After the FBI determined the man had no connection to the Boston crime, it took several days for the bureaucracy to scrub him out of its system. That is why the document existed for a short period of time, and why it shows evidence of officials trying to change it. But anyone searching the system for his name on the Sunday prior to the bombing would have found nothing, reported Baier, because no US government agency was looking for him.

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano referred to all this obliquely in a Senate hearing on Tuesday.

Sen. Charles Grassley (R) of Iowa asked her, “With regard to the Saudi student, was he on a watch list?”

The Homeland Security Secretary replied that the Saudi in question had not been on a watch list prior to the bombings and was never really a person of interest in the case.

“Because he was being interviewed, he was at that point put on a watch list,” Napolitano added. “And then when it was quickly determined he had nothing to do with the bombing, the watch listing status was removed.”

As if all this weren’t complicated enough, a number of news outlets have reported that there is a second Saudi man in Boston, unrelated to the student, who was taken into custody when he showed up at a port to retrieve a package, and a routine check showed he had overstayed his visa.

That’s the Saudi who is subject to deportation. The student who was caught in the bomb blast is not.

Of course, it’s easy to point out that all this is based on the word of US officials, and that they’re eager to cover up the conspiracy, since it makes them look bad, or they are part of it, or something like that.

But that’s why conspiracy theories persist: it’s easy to dream them up, and hard to disprove them, especially to believers.

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