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Putting the Arrest/Suspect Reports in Context

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AP Photo

A short time after the explosions The New York Post reported that a Saudi national was being held in custody at a Boston area hospital and was considered a suspect in the attack. Not long after that report, the Boston Police Department told TPM by phone that they were not aware of any arrest or any person in custody and didn't know where the Post was getting their information.

We also contacted the FBI multiple times. They declined to comment on the report. Other efforts to contact federal authorities did not further clarify the matter.

At one point, Fox News appeared to confirm or back up The New York Post story. (The Post and Fox News are both owned by NewsCorp.)

At approximately 6 PM this evening, Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis repeated the earlier comments from the Boston Police Department: "Those reports are not true, there is no suspect in custody."

However, over the course of the last couple hours a handful of news organizations (the LA Times, NBC and CBS) have reported stories that seem to be much softer versions of the original Post account. In most of these cases there was no mention of an arrest but rather of a person having been questioned and possibly under guard at a hospital, with all but NBC noting that the person was a Saudi national. In several of these reports it was reported that the man in question was cooperative and denied all involvement.

So what does this all tell us? Obviously, we're still in a situation where no certainty is possible based on what we know. But the stories do seem to be coming more into focus and less clearly in contradiction. The preponderance of reporting does suggest that a person, apparently a Saudi national, was questioned. But what we know now (along with the Boston Police Department's continued insistence that there's no suspect and no one under arrest) suggests that the further suggestion that this person had been taken into custody or is currently a suspect in the attack is more than we currently know. Put simply, police question all sorts of people in a case like this. It doesn't necessarily mean more than that.

The reporting on this front has also been so scattered and contradictory that we should not rule out the possibility that the entire Saudi questioning story is wholly bogus.

So that's where we are. Multiple news organizations have reported some version of a 'Saudi questioned' story. But there doesn't appear to be any reliable evidence that authorities have determined that this person is a suspect. He does not appear to have been arrested or taken into custody. And it's quite possible we'll soon discover that none of this happened at all.