After discovering that Russia had alerted the FBI in 2011 to suspicious activity involving Tamerlan Tsarnaev, critics have asked how the FBI could have missed the now-dead suspect in the Boston Marathon for so long. In Russia, they’re asking similar questions about their own security services, after Tamerlan’s trip to Dagestan became known over the last few days. If the Russian security services were alarmed enough to contact the FBI in 2011, how could they allow Tsarnaev to waltz through Moscow and stay in Dagestan for several months?
In 2011, Russian authorities asked the FBI to investigate Tamerlan Tsarnaev because there were indications he had terror ties. The FBI did a background check and interviewed him. They did not find any terror connections nor any evidence that he had been in contact with any jihadists.
The FBI was satisfied that he posed no real danger at the time and he was not placed under surveillance.
Now, in hindsight, critics are asking if the FBI did enough, or if they missed a chance to stop the attacks. …
The Russian government has offered help in the investigation if requested. But Russians are asking themselves the same questions here as in the U.S.: If the FSB specifically identified Tamerlan as a threat two years ago, why wasn’t he stopped or at least more closely monitored in order to avert the attack?
Although a lot of blame has been placed on the FBI, a security analyst we spoke to today here said it was shocking that an individual on Russian intelligence radar was able to travel to and from the volatile region of Dagestan, through Moscow, for six months without anyone either stopping him or picking him up for questioning, when it appears he was identified as a potential threat to Russia.
Bob Orr reported last night that the family can account for Tamerlan’s time in Dagestan, and that he didn’t have any contact with radicals on his trip. The commander of the Chechen separatist group in the region also announced that Tamerlan had no contact with his group and that they condemn the terrorist attack in Boston.
However, NBC got a much different story when they investigated Tamerlan’s activities. From last night’s QOTD:
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.
Did the Russians miss this, too? There seem to be a lot more questions than answers arising from the handling of the Tsarnaev case in both countries.