WASHINGTON — The author of a story in the Daily Mail claiming a Saudi official warning the U.S. government about Boston bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev says the paper is confident in the piece.
“We stand by the story. Thanks,” David Martosko, the former executive editor of the Daily Caller, now the U.S. politics editor of the Mail Online, said in an email. Martosko declined to elaborate further on how he got the story, which is co-bylined with the American Media Institute, an organization run by conservative journalist Richard Miniter.
“Sorry. Can’t help you with that,” he said. “I’m sure you understand.”
Martosko’s final bylines at the Caller were attached to intensely contested stories claiming Senator Robert Menendez hired prostitutes in the Dominican Republican; a woman later said she was paid to make that claim, and it was false.
Martin Clarke, the editor of Mail Online, didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
The story cites a “senior Saudi government official” with knowledge of a letter sent from Saudi Arabia to the American and British governments warning them of Tsarnaev. The story also says Saudi Arabia denied a visa for the Hajj to Tamerlan in 2011.
Officials from the Department of Homeland Security, the National Security Council, and the Saudi government have all flatly denied the story.
“DHS has no knowledge of any communication from the Saudi government regarding information on the suspects in the Boston Marathon Bombing prior to the attack,” a DHS official told BuzzFeed.
The Saudi Embassy in Washington also denied in a statement that Tsarnaev had applied for a visa to make the pilgrimage to Mecca.
“The Saudi government had no prior information about the Boston bombers. Therefore, it is not true that any information, written or otherwise, was passed to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or any other US agency in this regard. The Saudi government also does not have any record of any application by Tamerlan Tsarnaev for any visa to Saudi Arabia,” the embassy said in the emailed statement through its public relations agency.
A British journalist deeply familiar with the country’s media scene, who spoke on the condition of anonymity said he thought the paper had done excellent work before this on the Boston bombings, including widely discussed reporting on Tamarlan Tsarnaev’s wife, but that most of that work had been done by a staff reporter, Daniel Bates.
Bates is “not ideologically driven and it’s in the kind of classic British door-knocking shoe leather sort of tradition,” the journalist said. “Martosko as far as I can tell has never covered national security at all…. This seems like it’s coming from Miniter, and Martosko got the Mail to run it.”
“The thing about this is it’s the Mail Online, not the paper, and there’s much less rigor with it,” he said.
Miniter didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.