Michael Tabman

The FBI Interview of Boston Bombing Suspect ~ Something is not adding up

In Crime and Security on April 23, 2013 at 5:52 pm

Before posing any question as to whether the FBI dropped the proverbial ball when they interviewed Boston Bombing Suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev in 2011, let’s remember a very important fact.  The FBI, with its federal, state and local law enforcement partners conducted an outstanding investigation and quickly apprehended the suspects.  The law enforcement community deserves our praise and thanks.  However, questions remain and it is fair to expect honest answers.

Shortly after the arrests, the media reported that a “source” revealed that the FBI had interviewed Tamerlan.  This interview was predicated on foreign government information that Tamerlan had terrorist inclinations.  “Source” in law enforcement parlance means “leak” and someone in a position to know, found this important enough to leak to the media.  The foreign government is believed to be Russia, based on Tamerlan’s Chechyan roots.  That is not to suggest that having Chechyan roots equates to terrorism; any such generality is bigoted and ignorant.  But, Chechyan terrorists were responsible for the Moscow theater hostage crisis in 2002 resulting in over 100 deaths and the Beslan school hostage crisis in 2004 resulting in over 300 deaths.

The first response to the disclosure of the FBI interview of Tamerlan was that after finding nothing significant, the FBI asked the foreign government for more information and did not hear back.  Something about that statement rings untrue.  The FBI has agents stationed all over the world, including Moscow.  Since 9/11, we have established strong counter-terrorism partnerships even with uneasy allies.  When in Moscow, I met with the FSB (“Russian FBI”) and discussed our joint counter-terrorism efforts.  The criteria for initiating a terrorist inquiry are not burdensome. “Not getting back to us” is not a reason for discontinuing a terrorism inquiry.

Then came the question of how Tamerlan, less than a year after the FBI interview, traveled to Russia in 2011 with nobody knowing.  Shortly after this trip was disclosed, House Intelligence Committee Chair Congressman Mike Rogers  suggested that Tamerlan traveled under an alias.  Then Senator Lindsey Graham said that Tamerlan traveled undetected because his name was misspelled.  Either way, unless Tamerlan was on one of the multitude of “watch lists” I do not believe the government would have been notified of his leaving the United States.  Today, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said that even though Tamerlan’s name was misspelled, redundancies in the system did alert authorities to his travel.  But she said that by the time Tamerlan returned six months later, the FBI alert had expired and his re-entry was not noted.  That also does not ring true.  Had Tamerlan traveled to Russia while under FBI investigation, that trip would have been monitored and coordinated with the Russians, based on their warning.

We may never know the facts surrounding the interview of Tamerlan.  I recognize the great police work that was done after the bombing.  But, as for the various explanations of Tamerlan’s FBI interview, methinks the government doth protest too much.


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