Lindsey Graham: FBI missed Tsarnaev's trip to Russia because his name was misspelled on the flight manifest

Sounds bad, but look at it from the feds’ perspective: How likely is it that someone would misspell, er, “Tsarnaev”?

If Graham’s right then somehow, twelve years after 9/11, we missed a budding terrorist because of a typo. Aren’t passengers also required to give some sort of identifying number, be it a passport number, a driver’s license, or a SSN, before flying? I want to know which number Tamerlan Tsarnaev gave to Aeroflot. If it was a bona fide ID number and the feds missed it, that’s … very bad. If it was a fake number (and remember, per his Amazon wish list, he had an interest in how to make fake IDs), then that’s a clue that his trip to Dagestan maybe wasn’t for innocent purposes after all. But then, if he didn’t want people knowing he was there, why’d he use his real name? Graham makes it sound in the clip like it was a misspelling, not an alias. Proof that Tamerlan had nothing to hide, or further evidence that he had a moronic streak?

The family’s explanation for why Tamerlan went overseas is because he wanted to visit his father. Does that check out? Let’s ask his aunt:

As attention focuses on Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s 6-month visit to Russia’s restive Caucasus region, an aunt said that – contrary to previous reports – he did not come to Dagestan in order to visit his father.

Tsarnaev left the United States in January 2012 and arrived in Dagestan around March, Patimat Suleimanova said. His father, Anzor Tsarnaev, only arrived in the republic in May.

“He came to become acquainted with [Dagestan],” Suleimanova said. “He would sit at home and pray. He was learning to read the Koran. He saw relatives, friends.”

Ed posted the following this morning but I want to re-post it because it’s a potential blockbuster yet no other media outlets have picked it up. Everyone knows by now that Russia asked the FBI to investigate Tsarnaev in 2011. According to NBC Boston, though, they reached out to the FBI again just last year, based on intelligence they gathered on him in Dagestan — and got no reply:

A police official source in Makhachkala, Dagestan, told NBC News on Sunday that the Russian internal security service reached out to the FBI last November with some questions about Tamerlan, and handed over a copy of case file on him.

Tsarnaev had first popped up on the local police radar in Dagestan last summer, the source said. During routine surveillance of an individual known to be involved in the militant Islamic underground movement, the police witnessed Tamerlan meet the latter at a Salafi mosque in Makhachkala, the police official said.

It was one of six times in total that surveillance officials witnessed Tsarnaev meeting this militant at the same mosque, according to the police official.

The militant contact later disappeared, the police official said, but so did Tsarnaev before investigators had a chance to speak with him. The FBI never responded, according to the Dagestani police official.

Tsarnaev’s meeting with a “militant” is interesting for two reasons. One, obviously, is because it hints at training. Two, less obviously, is that it pinpoints an irony in his motives: For all of his alleged interest in Chechnya, setting off bombs in America is probably counterproductive to the Chechen cause. The country’s opposition leader told Michael Moynihan this morning that the bombings are a “gift” to Putin because they’ll give Moscow international political cover for future crackdowns in the region. Per the Jerusalem Post, Chechen fighters are likely split about the bombings: The global-jihadis among them will cheer any attack on America, but the ones focused more on independence from Russia will worry that this complicates the cause by increasing U.S. cooperation with Putin. Tamerlan apparently fell into the first group, not the second. Otherwise he would have stayed in Dagestan and fought there, right?

Exit question via Gabe Malor and others on Twitter: If the Tsarnaevs were granted asylum due to persecution back home, why did the father return? And why did his son return to visit him?

Update: The aunt’s claiming today that, despite indications to the contrary in Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s YouTube account, he was religious but never a “fanatic.” Good to know. Alternate theory: Maybe he just hated marathons. This is interesting, though:

Suleimanova said Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had planned to visit Makhachkala, the Dagestani city where the brothers’ parents live, in May. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev graduated from Cambridge Rindge & Latin High School in 2011 and was enrolled at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth.


Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) asserted Monday that the FBI was unaware of Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s six-month visit to Russia because his name was misspelled. But there were some questions about whether the FBI’s inquiry ever reached a stage at which his name would have been fed into the master database for terrorist and other watchlists.

He wasn’t on a watch list, even though a foreign government contacted the feds about him two years ago specifically to warn about extremism?

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David Strom 12:01 PM on October 07, 2022