Russia Withheld “Crucial” Information on Tsarnaev

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
May 11 2013 11:51 AM

Russia Withheld “Crucial” Information on Boston Bomb Suspect From FBI and CIA

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A general view of the hometown of suspected Boston bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnayev in Makhachkala, the Russian region of Dagestan

Photo by Sergey Rassulov/Getty Images

It’s becoming increasingly clear that Russian officials did not tell the FBI and CIA everything they knew about Boston Marathon bomb suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The Wall Street Journal reveals Russia did not inform U.S. officials it had intercepted text messages between Tsarnaev’s mother and a Russian relative. Among other things, the messages apparently discuss Tsarnaev’s interest in joining a militant group and an official tells the Journal one of the messages generally discussed jihad, although it didn’t get into specifics about any terror plots.

CNN later confirmed the news, noting the information withheld by Russia “could have altered the course authorities followed.” The Journal’s sources agree, with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers saying the information on the text messages “would have allowed the bureau to open an investigation where you could track [Tsarnaev's] communications." It wasn’t just the text messages. When the Kremlin alerted the FBI and CIA about Tsarnaev, it said officials had little information on him. But the truth is officials tracked Tsarnaev during his six-month trip to Russia in 2012, when he met with a known militant. But the FBI never received a response to the three requests for additional information it filed after Russia first alerted U.S. officials about Tsarnaev in 2011.

The text messages were finally supplied a week after the April 15 bombings. And although cooperation with the Russians has improved since then, one U.S. official tells the Journal they aren’t cooperating as fully as they could be considering they still haven’t provided information on their surveillance of Tsarnaev.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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