Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have questioned the FBI’s handling of Boston Marathon terror suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one day after it was revealed Tsarnaev discussed jihad in phone conversations.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who is often a staunch supporter of federal agencies, said there are serious questions now about what the FBI knew about the Tsarnaev brothers before the deadly Boston Marathon bombings and ensuing reign of terror.
“They may have messed up, because Russia did call and say they have doubts about Tsarnaev. The FBI interviewed him, but then he went to Russia. And when he came back, he immediately started placing on his website very inflammatory items about jihad,” Schumer told reporters including 1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck on Sunday. “Foreign country says ‘this person’s dangerous.’ They interview him, as they should, they found nothing. He then goes back to his homeland and immediately on coming back puts all this inflammatory stuff on his website. It seems pretty logical that the FBI should have interviewed him again.”
Schumer: FBI ‘May Have Messed Up’ In Handling 2011 Tsarnaev Investigation1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck Reports
Schumer also said the Russian government should have ramped up its monitoring of Tamerlan Tsarnaev when he was in Russia.
“Russia wants to cooperate with us in terrorism, that cooperation’s got to be a little better,” said Schumer.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev was an ardent reader of jihadist websites and extremist propaganda, officials have said. He frequently looked at extremist sites, including Inspire magazine, an English-language online publication produced by al Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate.
Schumer has called for federal hearings into the matter to determine what the FBI knew and did not know about Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev before they allegedly carried out the twin bombings near the finish line of the Boston Marathon earlier this month.
Russian authorities secretly recorded a telephone conversation in 2011 in which Tamerlan Tsarnaev vaguely discussed jihad with his mother, officials said Saturday, days after the U.S. government finally received details about the call.
In another conversation, the mother was recorded talking to someone in southern Russia who is under FBI investigation in an unrelated case, officials said.
The conversations are significant because, had they been revealed earlier, they might have been enough evidence for the FBI to initiate a more thorough investigation of the Tsarnaev family.
As it was, Russian authorities told the FBI only that they had concerns that Tamerlan and his mother were religious extremists. With no additional information, the FBI conducted a limited inquiry and closed the case in June 2011.
Two years later, authorities say Tamerlan and his brother, Dzhokhar, detonated two homemade bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three and injuring more than 260. Tamerlan was killed in a police shootout and Dzhokhar is under arrest.
In the past week, Russian authorities turned over to the United States information it had on Tamerlan and his mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva. The Tsarnaevs are ethnic Chechens who emigrated from southern Russia to the Boston area over the past 11 years.
Even had the FBI received the information from the Russian wiretaps earlier, it’s not clear that the government could have prevented the attack.
In early 2011, the Russian FSB internal security service intercepted a conversation between Tamerlan and his mother vaguely discussing jihad, according to U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation with reporters.
The two discussed the possibility of Tamerlan going to Palestine, but he told his mother he didn’t speak the language there, according to the officials, who reviewed the information Russia shared with the U.S.
In a second call, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva spoke with a man in the Caucasus region of Russia who was under FBI investigation. Jacqueline Maguire, a spokeswoman for the FBI’s Washington Field Office, where that investigation was based, declined to comment.
There was no information in the conversation that suggested a plot inside the United States, officials said.
It was not immediately clear why Russian authorities didn’t share more information at the time. It is not unusual for countries, including the U.S., to be cagey with foreign authorities about what intelligence is being collected.
On Sunday’s “Meet The Press,” Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) called the Boston bombings an “absolute failure” of intelligence.
“The FBI did an outstanding job in solving this,” said King on NBC’s “Meet The Press.” “Fact is, there were other items in his file.”
The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee said Sunday that the FBI is investigating in the United States and overseas to determine whether the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing received training that helped them carry out the attack.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, is charged with joining with his older brother, Tamerlan, who’s now dead, in setting off the shrapnel-packed pressure-cooker bombs. The bombs were triggered by a remote detonator of the kind used in remote-control toys, U.S. officials have said.
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