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Boston Marathon running shoes Running shoes hang from a barrier at a makeshift memorial in Copley Square in Boston, which reopened on Wednesday for the first time since the two bombings during the marathon on April 15.
Running shoes hang from a barrier at a makeshift memorial in Copley Square in Boston, which reopened on Wednesday for the first time since the two bombings during the marathon on April 15.
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Published: Thursday, 4/25/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

BOSTON MARATHON BOMBINGS

1 suspect put on watch for terror in 2011

Older Tsarnaev traveled to Russia after CIA action

BLADE NEWS SERVICES

WASHINGTON — The CIA pushed to have one of the suspected Boston Marathon bombers placed on a U.S. counterterrorism watch list more than a year before the attacks, U.S. officials said Wednesday.

Russia contacted the CIA in fall, 2011, and raised concerns that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, killed last week in a confrontation with police, was seen as an increasingly radical Islamist who could be planning to travel overseas.

The CIA request led the National Counterterrorism Center to add his name to a database known as the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, or TIDE, that is used to feed information to other lists, including the FBI’s main terrorist screening database. The CIA request came months after the FBI had closed an initial inquiry into Tsarnaev after getting a similar warning from Russia, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

The disclosure of CIA involvement suggests the United States may have had more reason than it had acknowledged to scrutinize Tsarnaev in the months leading up to the bombings in Boston. It raises questions about why U.S. officials didn’t flag his return and investigate him more after he spent seven months in Russia in 2012.

The CIA declined to comment. A U.S. intelligence official said the agency had “nominated [Tsarnaev] for inclusion in the watchlisting system” and had shared all the information it received from Russia, including “two possible dates of birth, his name, and a possible variant.”

The official said the information Russia provided was “nearly identical” to what it had shared with the FBI. U.S. officials said the warning to the CIA came from Russia’s FSB, a successor to the KGB, and was based on fears Tsarnaev was a Muslim militant who might try to carry out a terrorist attack in Russia.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, left, had been on a terror watch list since 2011; his brother, Dzhokhar, was not. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, left, had been on a terror watch list since 2011; his brother, Dzhokhar, was not.
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Tsarnaev and his brother, Dzhokhar, 19, immigrated to the United States about a decade ago, but their family had ties to Chechnya, where Muslim separatists have fought a bloody conflict with Moscow’s government for decades. Dzhokhar, who is recovering from gunshot injuries in a Boston hospital, was apprehended days after the marathon bombings and faces multiple terrorism-related charges.

Dzhokhar acknowledged to the FBI his role in the attacks but did so before he was advised of his constitutional rights to keep quiet and seek a lawyer, officials said.

It is unclear whether those statements before the Miranda-rights warning would be admissible in a trial and, if not, whether prosecutors need them for conviction. Officials said physical evidence, including a 9-mm handgun and pieces of a remote-control device commonly used in toys, was recovered from the scene. Dzhokhar told police that Tamerlan only recently recruited him to be part of the attack.

Dzhokhar acknowledged to the FBI his role in the attacks but did so before he was advised of his constitutional rights to keep quiet and seek a lawyer, officials said.

It is unclear whether those statements before the Miranda-rights warning would be admissible in a trial and, if not, whether prosecutors need them for conviction. Officials said physical evidence, including a 9-mm handgun and pieces of a remote-control device commonly used in toys, was recovered from the scene. Dzhokhar told police that Tamerlan only recently recruited him to be part of the attack.

Police also said Dzhokhar had no firearms when he came under a barrage of police gunfire that struck the boat where he was hiding, multiple law officials said.

Authorities originally said they had traded gunfire with him for more than an hour Friday before they could subdue him. The FBI declined to discuss what triggered the gunfire. Other officials said the shooting may have been prompted by the chaos of the moment and some action that led officers to believe he had fired a weapon or was about to detonate explosives.

The FSB seems to have turned over information on Tamerlan, including possible birth dates and the spelling of his name in Cyrillic letters, to the CIA in Moscow in late September, 2011. The information was passed to CIA headquarters that Oct. 4, and relayed two weeks later to the National Counterterrorism Center, which manages the TIDE database.

The revelation of the CIA’s role is likely to intensify questions over whether the FBI and other agencies missed chances to detect the plot.

The older Tsarnaev traveled to Russia Jan. 12, 2012, less than three months after his name had listed on TIDE. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano testified to Congress Tuesday that U.S. officials had flagged his departure, but not his return. “The system pinged when he was leaving the United States,” she said. “By the time he returned, all investigations had been closed.”

She referred to the FBI decision in July, 2011, to close its inquiry after deciding he was not a threat. U.S. officials have said that decision meant his name might have come off the database used by U.S. Customs agents just days before his re-entry into the United States.

But the CIA’s involvement complicates that chronology, raising the chance Tsarnaev was on the TIDE list when he returned. If Customs officials had alerted the FBI, the bureau might have found reason to question him in the months before the attacks.

News of the CIA link broke the same day Boylston Street, the Boston hub that forms the north boundary of Copley Square, reopened nine days after the bombings. In Cambridge, thousands of police officers from across the nation and other mourners honored Sean Collier, 26, a campus police officer who authorities say was killed by the Tsarnaevs at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Vice President Joe Biden, whose first wife and young daughter died in a car accident in 1972, spoke, telling the officer’s parents that he knew from experience how the family was suffering. The Tsarnaev brothers, he said, were “two twisted, perverted, cowardly knock-off jihadis.”



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