The New York Times reports that a new investigation reveals that the Russian government was not forthcoming with pivotal facts about proceedings leading up to last year’s Boston Marathon terrorist attack. That withheld information left FBI agents with insufficient information to investigate bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
The Times notes that Russian officials had evidence of a telephone conversation between Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his mother in which they discussed violent radical Islam. This conversation would have indicated to authorities that he was more of a threat to the United States than previously anticipated. Officials sent two memos to the FBI suggesting that Tsarnaev should be monitored, but they did not share the information about that phone conversation.
Russian intelligence told the United States that Tsarnaev “was a follower of radical Islam and a strong believer.” However, “the Russians declined several requests for additional information about Mr. Tsarnaev, according to the report, a review of how intelligence and law enforcement agencies could have thwarted the bombing.” The memoranda from the Russian government indicated to the FBI that Tsarnaev was more likely to strike in Russia than the United States.
The Russian government eventually handed over intelligence about the telephone call, but only after the Boston Marathon bombing.
The Times report provides a new perspective that exonerates the FBI in the Boston Marathon incident. A March 2014 report from NBC News focused much more of the blame on American authorities. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was permitted to travel back and forth from the Russian region of Dagestan without intervention, in part, due to a spelling variation. The “Tsarnaev” spelling identified him as someone to be questioned, but the “Tsarnayev” spelling apparently did not. The fact that Tsarnaev had been placed on a watch list was made public shortly after the bombing last year. NBC News had also indicated that Tsarnaev traveled to Dagestan to receive terror training, but The New York Times says FBI sources claim no evidence exists for such a conclusion.
CNN reports Thursday that Tsarnaev also exhibited suspicious behavior shortly before the bombing. The elder attacker attempted to change his name to Emir Muaz, the name of an Islamic insurgent in Dagestan, in the months leading up to the attack. He was unable to complete his legal name change, as he was killed in the aftermath of the Boston tragedy. His younger brother, Dzhokhar, will be tried in the near future, and the Justice Department has indicated that they will seek the death penalty.