Russian authorities expressed concerns about Tamerlan Tsarnaev to the FBI “multiple’’ times — including a second time nearly a year after he was first interviewed by authorities in Boston, several Republican senators said on Tuesday.
The FBI had said it interviewed Tsarnaev, the 26-year-old suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings who died last week in an overnight gun battle with police, in early 2011 after the agency was initially contacted by the Russians.
After that review, the FBI had said, it determined that Tsarnaev posed no threat, The Boston Globe
But investigators also were examining possible ties between Tsarnaev and Doku Umarov, the Chechen Islamic radical who has long been one of Russia’s most-wanted men, Fox News reports.
The disclosures came as Tsarnaev’s 19-year-old brother, Dzhokhar, who was arrested late Friday after an intense manhunt, told interrogators that the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq motivated him and his brother to carry out the Boston blasts, officials familiar with the interviews said.
From his Boston hospital bed, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev acknowledged his role in planting the explosives near the marathon’s finish line on April 15, the officials told The Washington Post.
The two blasts — the first successful large-scale attack on American soil since 9/11 — killed three people and wounded more than 250 others.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev remains in “fair” condition in a Boston hospital, with wounds to the neck and leg sustained in the police gun battle that killed his brother.
The officials, who spoke to the Post on the condition of anonymity, said Dzhokhar and Tamerlan did not appear to have been directed by a foreign terrorist organization.
But several GOP members of the Senate Intelligence Committee said they learned in a closed-door briefing on Tuesday that Russia alerted the United States about Tamerlan Tsarnaev in “multiple contacts’’ — including “at least once since October 2011,’’ said GOP Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina.
Burr and other Intelligence Committee members spoke with reporters after the briefing — conducted by Deputy FBI Director Sean Joyce and officials from the National Counter-terrorism Center and the Department of Homeland Security, according to the Globe.
The session also detailed failures among several federal agencies to share vital information about the elder Tsarnaev brother — indicating, the GOP senators said, that the U.S. government still has not been able to develop a strong system to “connect the dots’’ about possible terrorists residing in America more than a decade after 9/11.
“I’m very concerned that there still seems to be serious problems with the sharing of information, including critical investigative information,” GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said after she praised authorities for their meticulous and quick investigative work.
“That is troubling to me, this many years after the attacks on our country in 2001, that we still seem to have stovepipes that prevent information from being shared effectively, not only among agencies but also with the same agency in one case,” Collins said.
The senator did not provide specifics, the Globe reports.
Warnings from Russia have surfaced repeatedly in the investigation of how Tamerlan Tsarnaev, a Kyrgyzstan national, and Dzhokhar, a naturalized U.S. citizen, may have prepared for the blasts near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
“I think the increasing signals are that these are individuals that were radicalized, especially the older brother, over a period of time,’’ GOP Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said after the FBI briefing.
The brothers “used Internet sources to gain not just the philosophical beliefs that radicalized them, but also learning components of how to do these sorts of things,” Rubio said.
Meanwhile, Fox News reported on Tuesday that investigators were examining whether Tamerlan Tsarnaev might have had ties to Doku Umarov, the Chechen Islamic radical who leads a group called the Caucasus Emirate.
Umarov has for years been one of Russia's most-wanted men. He and his group have claimed responsibility for attacks killing dozens of civilians, including the 2010 Moscow subway bombings, Fox reports.
Since 2011, the State Department has offered $5 million for information on his whereabouts.
Though Umarov is not as well known in the U.S. as some other wanted terrorists, he is in the top tier. The 2011 world's most-wanted list, put out by Forbes magazine, listed him along with al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahiri and Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony, Fox reports.
Whether he or the Caucasus Emirate is connected to the Boston blasts is not known, Fox reports.
The Chechnya-born militant has gradually risen through the ranks to co-opt part of the Chechen separatist movement and twist it to fit his goals of establishing an Islamic emirate in the southern Russia region, Fox reports.
According to a 2011 report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Umarov has since 2007 declared “jihad against anyone fighting against Muslims anywhere across the globe.”
The Caucasus Emirate was formed in 2007. It grew out of the separatist group the Republic of Ichkeria, which Umarov helped lead in various positions since the first Russian-Chechen war.
He climbed the ladder until creating the Caucasus Emirate and declaring himself emir, Fox reports.
Umarov was already wanted in Russia — it charged him with murder in 1992, and an international arrest warrant was issued in 2000 — before the Caucasus Emirate was formed, but the group’s crimes have since attracted more global attention.
He claimed responsibility for the 2010 Moscow bombing of two subway stations, which killed 40, and the 2011 attack on a Moscow airport which killed nearly as many.
After these attacks, a United Nations committee formally listed him in 2011 as being associated with al-Qaida, Osama bin Laden, or the Taliban, Fox reports.
The United Nations declared that he was commanding groups in the North Caucasus, “and organizes major terrorist acts and coordinates the provision of resources to militants.”
The United Nations tied him to several Islamic extremist groups, Fox reports.
Shortly afterward, the State Department offered a $5 million reward for information leading to his location.
Meanwhile, U.S. authorities have faced tough questions for not tracking Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s travels to the Russian provinces of Dagestan and Chechnya, where he spent more than half of last year and may have interacted with militant groups or individuals.
The FBI has said it was not aware that Tsarnaev had traveled to Russia in 2012.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said on Monday that the FBI told him it was not aware of the older Tsarnaev’s travels because his name had been misspelled on an airliner passenger list.
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano confirmed the misspelling during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, but she said Homeland Security nonetheless was aware of his trip.
“Even with the misspelling under our current system, there are redundancies, and so the system did ping when he was leaving the United States,” she said, the Globe reports.
Her disclosure that Homeland Security knew of the trip, but not the FBI, raised questions among GOP lawmakers.
“I want to make sure that DHS is talking to the FBI,” Sen. Charles Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, told the Globe in an interview. “It looks to me like there is a lack of communication.”
Other legislators expressed concern that officials might not have connected the dots about the potential threat Tsarnaev’s may have posed.
“Post-911, we thought we had created a system that would allow for the free flow of information between agencies,” said GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee, said after the FBI briefing. “And I think there have been some stone walls . . . that have been re-created that were probably unintentional.”
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