U.S. intelligence was alerted when one of the Boston bombing suspects traveled to a volatile region of Russia last year, U.S. officials said on Wednesday, raising new questions about the government’s handling of the case and how well law enforcement agencies share information and cooperate with one another.
The trip by the suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, to southern Russia has come under scrutiny over whether he became involved with or was influenced by Chechen separatists or Islamic militants there, according to U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Russia, which tipped off the FBI in early 2011 with concerns that Tsarnaev may have been a radical Islamist, made a second, identical request to the CIA in late September of the same year, they said. The FBI interviewed Tsarnaev following the first tip and found no serious threat.
Police say the ethnic Chechen brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev planted and detonated two pressure-cooker bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, killing three people and injuring 264.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was killed in a shootout with police four days later, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, was wounded and captured. He is hospitalized in fair condition and charged with two crimes that carry the possibility of the death penalty.
The disclosure of the second warning from the Russians raised questions about whether the CIA and the FBI failed to share the information, even after reforms enacted to prevent information-hoarding following the September 11, 2001, hijacked plane attacks.
“That’s something that we have to look at,” said Senator Dan Coats, a Republican from Indiana and member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “That’s one of the key things that we have learned and need to work on to make sure it doesn’t happen again, and that is simultaneous communication to all the relevant agencies when a warning is posted.”
The two bombs in Boston were detonated with the kind of remote device used to control a toy car, U.S. investigators said in a briefing to a House of Representatives panel on Wednesday.
The briefing by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security to the House Intelligence Committee revealed that the two brothers apparently became radicalized by anti-U.S. information on the Internet, members of Congress said.
“It looks like they built their bomb based on Inspire magazine and the article said how to build a bomb in mom’s kitchen,” said Representative Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
The online magazine Inspire, circulated by Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, publishes English-language exhortations to would-be Western jihadists to carry out attacks with whatever means they have at hand. It recently published detailed instructions on how to build homemade devices.
“The younger bomber in whatever type of communication he’s using said that’s where they got the instruction to build the bomb,” Ruppersberger said.
Read more at REUTERS.