Globe: Russia warned FBI “repeatedly” about Tsarnaev before bombing

posted at 10:41 am on April 24, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

The FBI briefed the Senate yesterday and today on the progress in the Boston Marathon bombing case, but more questions than answers may have arisen from it.  The Boston Globe quotes multiple sources from within the briefing that the FBI didn’t just get one warning from Russia about Tamerlan Tsarnaev, they got warned repeatedly — including after the FBI’s initial investigation of the now-deceased bomber:

Russian authorities contacted the US government with concerns about Tamerlan Tsarnaev not once but “multiple’’ times, including an alert it sent after he was first investigated by FBI agents in Boston, raising new questions about whether the FBI should have paid more attention to the suspected Boston Marathon bomber, US senators briefed on the inves­tigation said Tuesday.

The FBI has previously said it interviewed Tsarnaev in early 2011 after it was initially contacted by the ­Russians. In their review, completed in summer 2011, the bureau found no ­evidence that Tsarnaev was a threat. “The FBI requested but did not receive more specific or additional information from” Russia, the agency said last week.

Following a closed briefing of the Senate Intelligence Committee Tuesday, Senator Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican, said he believed that Russia alerted the United States about Tsarnaev in “multiple contacts,” including at least once since October 2011.

This brings us back to the question of Tsarnaev’s status on watch lists.  The Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that Tsarnaev’s listing had expired during his stay in Dagestan:

An FBI alert on Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the two brothers suspected in the Boston Marathon bombings, had expired before he returned from a visit to Russia last year, and he was not flagged for additional screening even though the FBI had interviewed him before the trip, officials said Tuesday.

The alert on Tsarnaev was more than a year old and had expired by the time he returned from six months in Dagestan in mid-2012, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitanotold a senate panel Tuesday. She said she would provide more details in a classified setting.

“By the time he returned, all investigations had been — the matter had been closed,” Napolitano told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The FBI interviewed Tsarnaev in 2011 after Russian authorities warned that he might have connections to Islamist militant groups. The FBI found no such evidence, however, officials have said.

Again, this seems very odd, especially given the “multiple” warnings from Russia — where one such warning was already considered unusual.  The subject of these multiple warnings had traveled to the country which issued them, where he had family in the region where Islamist extremist networks are well known to operate, and at least DHS was aware of that travel.  Yet the FBI allowed the listing to expire while Tsarnaev was visiting that particular region?

And here’s another good question from Michael Daly at the Daily Beast:

The FBI did not ignore the vague inquiry from the Russian government about Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Agents duly interviewed him and ran his particulars through the available databases. They seem to have been correct in determining that he did not have any connections with organized terror groups.

But the very fact that the FBI had interviewed Tamerlan back in 2011 presents the possibility, however slight, that the death of another person who was buried Tuesday really might have been prevented.

That other funeral was for MIT Police Officer Sean Collier, and the question is, why the investigators who interviewed Tamerlan did not recognize him before the photos of the bombers were made public.

Agents and cops may forget a name, but they seldom forget a face. And had an investigator exclaimed, “Hey, I know that guy!” the FBI and the Boston cops could have been outside the Tsarnaev home in 15 minutes. Tamerlan and his younger brother, Dzhokhar, might have been grabbed before the public release of their pictures, before they turned so desperate that they walked up to the cruiser where Collier sat and allegedly executed him.

The fact that the Russian warning wasn’t just a “vague inquiry” but multiple alerts makes this an even more pressing question.  Tsarnaev lived in Boston for years, remember, and was no tourist terrorist.  Are there so many potential Tsarnaevs in Boston that no one could recall this particular face?

The Senate briefing also produced this note of caution from Sen. Saxby Chambliss.  The motives may be more “complex” than has been assumed, Chambliss says. While the evidence of guilt is overwhelming, Chambliss tells CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, it may take longer to unwind the Tsarnaev brothers’ intentions for the act of terror:

“As for the ‘why’ of it, that’s going to be a very complex and comprehensive investigation,” Chambliss told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “I’ll be honest, it is not clear even after the interview of the suspect in custody has been conducted. It’s still not clear exactly what did this.”

Perhaps not all of the motivations are yet known or clear, but at least some of them seem to be obvious.

Addendum: At least one local mosque is refusing to hold a funeral service for him, his aunt tells NBC:

A Boston mosque has refused to hold a funeral service for Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the alleged mastermind of the marathon atrocity, his aunt said Wednesday.

Patimat Suleimanova said U.S. authorities had told the family they could have the 26-year-old’s body. Tsarnaev was killed during a shootout with police on Friday.

His 19-year-old brother, Dzohkhar, is still hospitalized and has been charged with helping carry out the attack. His condition improved from serious to fair on Tuesday.

Suleimanova said one of the suspects’ uncles approached the imam of a Boston mosque attended by the brothers to request a burial and funeral service but was declined.

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“Russian authorities contacted the US government with concerns about Tamerlan Tsarnaev not once but “multiple’’ times”… The fact that the Russian warning wasn’t just a “vague inquiry” but multiple alerts…

What did those concerns and alerts consist of, exactly? Without knowing that, it’s hard for me to get all outraged at the US govt. at this point.

It’s rather easy in retrospect to blame the FBI, but all they can do is interview the guy or keep surveillance on him, and they did interview him.

How does one predict that a guy will in fact blow up Americans at some time in the future?

If they knew back in 2011 or whenever that the guy was looking at radical Islamic web sites, what then? I’m sure there are other nuts in the U.S. today who are fans of those sites too, but are all of them going to blow up Americans, and how do you determine that, or which ones will do so, and when?

The part I find strange is that immediately following the attack on the marathon, one would think the FBI and other authorities would immediately go to a “Prior List ‘O’ Terror Suspects in the Vicinity of Boston” and skim down the page for names and start investigating those people, but it looks as though they did not do this.

TigerPaw on April 24, 2013 at 3:59 PM

deadite on April 24, 2013 at 10:58 AM

Tamerlan is being viewed only now as a suspect in light of the marathon bombings – prior to that, nobody suspected it. Last I heard, it’s still not been confirmed he is in fact responsible for the murders of the 3 guys in Boston.

Even if police figured “this looks like an Islamic style murder,” and even suspect that Tamerlan guy, how were they to know he would later blow people up?

A lot of men beat their girlfriends; those same guys don’t usually go on to make pressure cooker bombs and blow up spectators at sporting events.

TigerPaw on April 24, 2013 at 4:06 PM

Paul-Cincy on April 24, 2013 at 11:23 AM

I’ve read that some Hindus in other parts of the world kill Christians.

Convert or we will kill you, Hindu lynch mobs tell fleeing Christians

Hundreds of Christians in the Indian state of Orissa have been forced to renounce their religion and become Hindus after lynch mobs issued them with a stark ultimatum: convert or die.

TigerPaw on April 24, 2013 at 4:20 PM

What we do know is that Bush did more to promuglate the fallacious notion that Islam is a “religion of peace hijacked by a few radicals” than maybe any other infidel in history.

The idea that we can have a war against a tactic is absurd.

His legacy on this is shameful.

happytobehere on April 24, 2013 at 11:38 AM

Maybe George W Bush only spouted the rhetoric about Islam being about peace so as to calm down the Islamic community worldwide?

Around that time, I remember a lot of people on the left were throwing a fit about not “profiling Muslim” (or Muslim looking people), how it was wrong for America to single out that one religion, etc., and some of the imams IIRC were already saying in the media in their nations that the USA was going to war against all Muslims, not just the Islamic kooks behind 9/11.

We’re talking about people (radical Muslims) who cause riots, burn property, and kill and rape people, over the least little thing, such as cartoon drawings of their prophet.

TigerPaw on April 24, 2013 at 4:31 PM

The future does not belong to those who would slander Islam, right, Mr. President?

Washington Nearsider on April 24, 2013 at 10:57 AM

Actually his words were “… slander the prophet of Islam”.

Moreover you can only slander a person by speaking untruths, so it is perfectly OK to speak of Mohammed’s violent, cowardly, deceitful character, and his ignorance because that is the truth.

In order to slander the barbarian of Arabia you’d have to falsely accuse him of … well, that’s tricky … parking his camel behind a sand-dune reserved for use by disabled barbarians, perhaps.

YiZhangZhe on April 24, 2013 at 5:59 PM

CLICK!! and the light goes on over Ed’s head.

Look, there isn’t a cop or an agent or a fed out there that had any experience with the system who didn’t see this coming.

My buddy and ex-partner worked with them years ago during the Bush admin. He predicted every action that has been taken by the bureaucracy since the bombing. He told me Tuesday the day after, “They already know who it is, they had a file. The problem for them is explaining it. The efforts now will be all about CYA.”

He then went down a list over the next days pointing out what will happen.

1. The feds knew. They realized almost immediately who the bombers were. They didn’t know who else was involved (thus the false release of other photos). The first thing any cops does is pull possible suspects. How long do you think it took to find one Russia warned us about who lived two miles away, fit the description and had a young brother who looked like the second bomber? Hours? Maybe. Then there is the agent who created the file and his JTTF partner. They knew just by looking at the pics.

2. They were ALL ABOUT CYA up and down the line. The Obama administration’s ideology failed in Benghazi and now in Boston. The FBI is hogtied by new definitions and rules. The organizations, after all the power we’ve given them, still don’t talk to each other.

3. They will attempt to control the narrative. If you’ll note, every time there is a FBI investigation they always find a “cell” of more than one. However, if a bad guy gets by them it is always a lone wolf. Already the pliant MSM is being fed “they acted alone”, “they had no help”, blah blah while inside the investigation they are scrambling to find out just how big this is. We know it reaches into Dagestan and Russia. We know the mosque is involved. We know there is now at least one more person involved here. Yet, we get “move along nothing to see here.”

4. The Saudi was probably some rich spoiled kid secreted into the US on a speedpass by Obama’s people. That violates the law, which never slowed that Chicago crowd down. Now it’s cover up time. And as time passes, they’ll hope it goes the way of F&F and not Watergate.

5. The investigation will take two tracks. The real cops will be trying to solve it and stop the rest of the cell from acting. The bosses will be picking out Brook Brothers suits for their day in Congress and practicing a shocked dumfounded look in front of the mirror like the one Janet had the other day. “I’m Shocked, SHOCKED to find the system has failed again! We need to fix it. Yes, that is the course forward. Not fire anyone, not jail anyone for lying, but this time fix it!”

6. You have to understand just how serious this threat was to the Russians. To have them struggle through their bureaucracy to warn ours, repeatedly, even though we acted like idiots means they were scared for us.

That’s right. The Russians were more worried about our citizens than Obama.

Think about that.

archer52 on April 25, 2013 at 7:04 AM

Obama won’t even allow the FBI or DHS to acknowledge there is such a thing as an Islamic terrorist.

So how could we ever expect the FBI or DHS to stop any terrorist act under this administration?

Axion on April 25, 2013 at 4:47 PM