Classified briefings held on Capitol Hill Tuesday revealed that Russia contacted the U.S. more than once about its concerns over Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the older of the Boston bomber brothers who was killed afterwards by the police in a high-speed chase where the brothers shot and threw explosives at police.
Speaking with reporters after the briefings, Senator Richard Burr (R- Republican of North Carolina) said that the U.S. was alerted about Tamerlan in “multiple contacts” by Russian authorities.
The FBI has disclosed that they interviewed Tamerlan in the early part of 2011 after they were first contacted by Russia. After interview Tamerlan and his family, the FBI concluded that Tamerlan did not pose a threat to the U.S. and closed his case.
The FBI has come under intense scrutiny for doing so.
Russian authorities first raised the concern after Tamerlan took a prolonged trip to Russia, including the Muslim-majority countries of Dagestan and Chechnya.
The second time the FBI was contacted by Russia was about a year after the trip.
Speaking anonymously with the Boston Herald, one of the senators who participated in the confidential briefings on Capitol Hill speculated that the FBI could have missed Tamerlan’s radicalization since he wasn’t connected to al Qaeda.
Another senator, Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho, who spoke on the record was quoted as saying, “[The Russian government’s] concern was Chechen radicals. [The U.S.’s] higher concern was al-Qaeda.”
Amid speculation that U.S. security missed Tamerlan’s trip due to his name being misspelled on a travel document, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said that her agency was aware of Tamerlan’s trip. Napolitano remarks, made Tuesday in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on immigration legislation, contradicted what the senators had been told by the FBI, according to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina).
The ability of different federal agencies to communicate and work with each other to stop terror attacks before they happen was the subject of concern of the senators emerging from the hearing.
Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), and a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said she was “very concerned that there still seem to be serious problems with the sharing of information, including critical investigative information. 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.”
“Post-911 we thought we had created a systems that would allow for the free flow of information between agencies,” said Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia). “And I think there have been some stone walls … that have been re-created that were probably unintentional.”
Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) emerged from the briefings saying, “I think the increasing signals are that these are individuals that were radicalized, especially the older brother, over a period of time.’’ He also said 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.”