After the photos came out, CNN's Wolf Blitzer did point out that we still don't know the nationality, ethnicity, or motives of either man. "We can't say whether the person spoke with a foreign accent, or an American accent," he pointed out. It's still possible that these are Al Qaeda operatives in frat boy disguise, one supposes. It's a possibility.
But the suspicion that the bombing was the work of Middle Eastern terrorists has been tough for certain quarters of America to shake. Even after the Saudi man was cleared, Fox News terror expert Steve Emerson wasn't buying it. On Wednesday night, he told Sean Hannity that the Saudi man "is now going to be deported on national security grounds next Tuesday, which is very unusual." He added, "You don't arrest their citizens, you deport them because they don't want them to be embarrassed and that's the way we appease them." Mark Fuhrman, the Fox News pundit and former LAPD detective caught up in the OJ Simpson trial, added that the federal government likes to "grease the wheel a lot because the Saudis are one of our biggest allies in the Middle East and we want to keep them that way." Right-wing sites picked up this story. But Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano dismissed this as a rumor Thursday at a congressional hearing when South Carolina Rep. Jeff Duncan asked her about it. "I don’t even think he was technically a person of interest or a suspect, that was a wash," she said when pressed.
We still don't know anything about the suspects except for what they looked like on the day of the bombing. And we all know we shouldn't judge someone just by what they look like. But before the photos were released, lots of people were pretty sure who they should be looking for. And it was based on judging people by what they look like. A man who was at the marathon told the Boston radio station WCVB, "I seen one kid that sticks out in my head... He looked Muslim -- I'm not racist, but that's my instinct. To look for someone Muslim." And there's the person who tackled Alharbi because he was running away from the explosion, just like everyone else. Imagine being tackled after being severely burned.
We will not be relieved until the people responsible for the Boston bombing — these men or some others — are in custody. But now that the FBI has released photos, there is a relief of some sort: the mob can stop looking for young guys who look kind of Middle Eastern.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.