FBI revives claim that Russian authorities did not share information on Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the deceased Chechen-origin suspect

The U.S. and Russia continued to trade blame between their investigative agencies on the Boston Marathon bombing case, with the Federal Bureau of Investigation this week reviving a prior claim that Russian authorities did not share information with it on Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the deceased Chechen-origin suspect.

According to a report in the New York Times citing an Inspector General’s report, “The Russian government declined to provide the FBI with information about [Tamerlan] that would most likely have led to more extensive scrutiny of him at least two years before the attack.”

Quoting unnamed officials, the Times added that the Inspector General’s report found that “it was only after the bombing occurred last April that the Russians shared with the FBI the additional intelligence, including information from a telephone conversation the Russian authorities had intercepted between Mr. Tsarnaev and his mother in which they discussed Islamic jihad.”

However, not many media reports on this subject noted that the claims linked to the FBI were not new, fewer still the Boston bombing case was hobbled as much by blockages to information sharing domestically between U.S. investigative agencies such as the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, as by limited information from Russia.

Lax cooperation

For example, last year The Hindu reported that even a decade after al-Qaeda’s devastating attack on the U.S. on September 11 2001, lax intelligence cooperation seems to dog law enforcement agencies, leading Senator Susan Collins, a top Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, to say what “is troubling to me [is] that 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 within the same agency in one case.”

The FBI at the time had put out a statement that it received a Russian alert in 2011 that Tamerlan “was a follower of radical Islam and a strong believer, and that he had changed drastically since 2010 as he prepared to leave the U.S. for travel to the country’s region to join unspecified underground groups.” This statement was repeated in the Inspector General’s report, as quoted by the Times.

The FBI also said its subsequent interview with Tamerlan and a search for information did not yield evidence of terrorism activity. Since then the FBI also “requested but did not receive more specific or additional information,” from Russia, the agency added.

However, the fact that appeared to receive less public attention was that the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) had “multiple” contacts with the FBI and at least one was after October 2011, according to reported remarks of Senator Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican who is also on the Intelligence Committee. From the evidence available so far, it appears that information “was not shared with the original team who interviewed Tamerlan,” or with other DHS officials.

The allegations in the report criticising Russian intelligence services come on the back of deteriorating relations between Washington and Moscow, especially in the wake of Russia annexing Crimea from Ukraine, and, last year, granting temporary asylum to Edward Snowden, the whistleblower and former National Security Agency contractor who supplied media with confidential documents on the NSA’s surveillance activities.

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