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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Do The Boston Bombers Have The Right To 'Privacy'? Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick's Admin Thinks They Do

By Susan Duclos

Headline corrected.

In a move that even has Democratic lawmakers criticizing Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick's administration, data on the history of state funding and taxpayer benefits that were received by the now deceased Boston Marathon bomber, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and his brother Dzhokhar, who is in custody,  has been locked down tightly.

After reporting that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, his wife and 3-year-old daughter collected welfare until 2012, followup questions by the Boston Herald have been stonewalled by the Patrick administration, with many of the state agencies citing "privacy laws" and confidentiality.

 On EBT card status or spending, state welfare spokesman Alec Loftus would only say Tamerlan Tsarnaev, his wife and 3-year-old daughter received benefits that ended in 2012. He declined further comment.

On unemployment compensation, labor department spokesman Kevin Franck refused to say whether Tamerlan Tsarnaev ever collected, saying it was “confidential and not a matter of public record.”

On Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s college aid, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth spokesman Robert Connolly said, “It is our position — and I believe the accepted position in higher education — that student records including academic records and financial records (including financial aid) cannot under federal law be released without a student’s consent.”

On cellphones, the Federal Communications Commission would not say whether either brother had a government-paid cellphone, also citing privacy laws.

On housing, Cambridge officials and the family’s landlord ducked questions on whether the brothers were ever on Section 8 assistance.

Democratic Representative Stephen F. Lynch believes the answers are "certainly relevant information that should be made public," then continues on to say "There’s a national security interest No. 1. Secondly, there’s also a public interest in finding out whether these individuals were able to exploit the system and get benefits they weren’t entitled to."

In March, after an intensive investigation, it was found that welfare fraud and abuses ran rampant in Massachusetts, with EBT cash withdrawals being made at liquor stores, strip clubs, pawn shops, amusement parks, sex novelty shops and more. 

This brings up a few obvious questions, first and foremost being, don't the taxpayers of Massachusetts have the right to know how much of their money was used to support the Tsarnaev brothers and family?

Why the lock down on records when so many questions are being asked about how the brothers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev funded their attack which murdered three people and injured 260 near the Boston Marathon finish line?

 More importantly, after committing a terrorist attack, to which the younger brother has admitted the two brothers did on April 15, 2013 when they planted the bombs, do either of them have any right to privacy about what welfare benefits and assistance they received from the state?