Glenn Beck, Boston Troofer

In the confusion following the Boston bombings, one can understand how an unverified report about how a “Saudi national” was a “suspect” might find its way into the media, and why the usual characters would seize on the story for their own purposes.

It’s less easy to work out why the claim would continue to be asserted when the real perpetrators have been identified; yet this is the basis on which Glenn Beck continues to use tragedy and destruction to promote himself with wild conspiracy theories. From the Blaze:

“While the media continues to look at what the causes were of these two guys, there are, at this hour, three people involved,” he said. “The first one is the one we are going to address.”

Beck proceeded to highlight the background of the Saudi national first identified as a “person of interest” in the Boston bombings, Abdul Rahman Ali Alharbi, noting that the the NTC issued an event file calling for his deportation using section 212, 3B which is proven terrorist activity.

“We are not sure who actually tagged him as a ‘212 3B,’ but we know it is very difficult to charge someone with this — it has to be almost certain,” Beck explained. “It is the equivalent in civil society of charging someone with premeditated murder and seeking the death penalty — it is not thrown around lightly.”

…”Wednesday at 5:35 p.m. the file is altered,” Beck said. “This is unheard of, this is impossible in the timeline due to the severity of the charge….You don’t one day put a 212 3B charge against somebody with deportation, and then the next day take it off. It would require too much to do it.”

“There are only two people that could revoke the deportation order — the director of the NTC could do it after speaking with each department, the FBI, the ATC, etc. — which is impossible to do in such a short period of time, — or, somebody at the very highest levels of the State Department could do it. We don’t have any evidence to tell you which one did it,” Beck said.

Beck’s claims are all based on unnamed sources, and it’s impossible to assess the accuracy or proper significance of anything he’s saying. But his supposed implications don’t make any sense: if the purpose was to spirit Alharbi out of the country, why create any sort of “deportation order” in the first place? And why would it then be cancelled?

Further, if Alharbi really was tagged “212 3B” following the bombings – and that’s a very big if – the fact that the tag was quickly discarded shows it was mistake; the idea that it “proves” something without the need for evidence or even a semi-plausible explanation is nonsense. Beck’s argument is self-referential: Alharbi was given the tag because he’s a terrorist; and how do we know he’s a terrorist? Because he was given the tag. Allegedly.

Another difficulty is why, if Alharbi was involved, he would have needed to have been present at the marathon in the first place. There’s no evidence he knew the bombers, spoke to the bombers, or helped the bombers in any way. The two men who planted the bombs made their escape just before the explosions – yet Alharbi was a victim of the bombs. Why would that be, if he was in on it?

Beck is milking a supposed anomaly – early official interest in Alharbi that was dropped as more accurate information came to light – which he insists trumps a mountain of real evidence pointing elsewhere. It’s a classic technique of the demagogue and the huckster.

Beck’s conspiracy theory also relies on an item written by Todd Starnes, a commentator at Fox:

The Saudi national who was initially detained and then ruled out as a suspect in the Boston Marathon terrorist attack had been flagged on a terror watch list and was granted a student visa without being properly vetted, sources have told me.

Once again, the whole thing hinges on unnamed “sources” who for some reason decide to spill the beans to a wingnut commentator known primarily for anti-gay ramblings rather than to any serious journalist. Fox has since deleted Starnes’ posting.

Meanwhile, Wonkette notes:

As the world waits on its tenterhooks — which are surprisingly comfortable, and shaped liked a sofa — for Glenn Beck to release his DAMNING EVIDENCE about the US government coverup of the SAUDI NATIONAL who has already been cleared in the matter of the Boston Bombing, we learn that Beck has at least four listeners. They are Homeland Security Chairman Michael T. McCaul, Chairman Jeff Duncan of the subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency, Chairman Peter King of the subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, and Chairman Candice Miller of the subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security…

UPDATE: Unexpectedly, the story has been put to bed by a reporter at none other than Fox News, which perhaps helps to explain why Starnes’ article was dumped. Peter Grier at the Christian Science Monitor reports:

What [Beck] 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… 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.

Apparently there was a “212 3B”, document, but it’s as I suspected:

…officials told [Baier] 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.

Apparently for Beck – who affects to rail against “tyranny” and such – a customs document actually obviates the need for either any kind of investigation or due process.