News / Europe

US, Russia Ponder Intel Failure in Boston Bombing

An investigator walks across Boylston Street near the site of the bombings in Boston, April 21, 2013.
An investigator walks across Boylston Street near the site of the bombings in Boston, April 21, 2013.
James Brooke
Last week, two ethnic Chechen brothers apparently went on a bombing and shooting rampage in Boston.

This week, security experts in Russia and the United States are debating why two years of warning signals apparently fell between the cracks.

"If we are talking about sharing sensitive information - Russia and America are not very good at it,”  Andrei Soldatov said in Moscow, where he runs Agentura.ru, a website that studies Russia’s security services.

In New York, Mark Galeotti is an expert on the Russian and American security services.

"You don't need to like another country to share intelligence with it," said Galeotti, who teaches global affairs at New York University.

This frank talk follows new evidence that there were clear warnings about the radical Islamist tendencies of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the older brother of the pair.

FBI questioning

In 2011, at the request of Russia, the American FBI questioned Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and reviewed his travel records and Internet usage.

The FBI said nothing substantive was discovered.

In January 2012, Tsarnaev, a Russian citizen, flew to Russia. He spent six months visiting friends and relatives in Dagestan and Chechnya, two Russian republics that have seen the greatest Islamist violence in recent years.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, left, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19. The ethnic Chechen brothers are suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing.Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, left, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19. The ethnic Chechen brothers are suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing.

On his return to the United States last July, he was questioned at length by airport immigration officials at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport.

Back in Boston, he created a publicly accessible YouTube site featuring videos, in English, Russian and Chechen, that advocated jihad, or Islamic holy war.

Some images bore symbols of the Caucasus Emirate, the main armed Islamist group in southern Russia.

In September, Tsarnaev applied for U.S. citizenship. The application was deferred after the Department of Homeland Security discovered he had been interviewed by the FBI.

Intelligence failure?

A few weeks later, according to NBC News, Russian authorities asked the FBI  again about Tsarnaev, saying that he had met with a known militant in Dagestan. The Russians said they never heard about a follow-up investigation.

“They had been warned by Russians that these guys might be tricky," said Vladimir Milov, a moderate Russian opposition politician. "I think it’s a terrible failure to be exact [that] they did not manage to find anything suspicious in the case, and this led to these tragic consequences.”

Last Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin telephoned U.S. President Barack Obama. According to the Kremlin, both presidents agreed to improve information sharing.

But experts are skeptical.

"The problem is that a considerable level of suspicion has over the years set in on both sides," Galeotti said. "The American authorities do have the suspicion that the Russians will simply claim al-Qaida or similar tendencies about people they just don't like. And, likewise, the Russians very clearly feel that the Americans, like the other Western powers, sit on information that they [the Russians] really need in their own domestic struggles."

In addition, experts say, American and Russian security services may have fallen behind the times, searching for card carrying members of terrorist organizations.

Lone wolf

On Sunday, the Caucasus Emirate denied any connections to the Boston violence, stressing that it has stopped attacking civilians and is at war with Russia, not the United States.

Some suggest the older Tsarnaev brother may fit the profile of a “lone wolf," a radical who learns his ideology and terror techniques in isolation, via the Internet.

Russian and American security services may still believe otherwise.

"Such people who might be involved in terrorism acts should be somehow tied with terrorist organizations and these terrorist organizations should provide them with financial support, logistical support, explosives, and  training, etc., etc.,” said Soldatov, who also co-authored The New Nobility, a book on Russia security services. “And when they fail to find such ties, such links, they just think it might not be very serious."

Galeotti agrees. "So these lone wolves are precisely people who are not ever recruited, they recruit themselves. And that is a challenge, because it is very, very difficult to identify them."

On the ground in Russia’s Northern Caucasus, insurgent networks may be more real. On Monday, Russian officials released the latest toll of violence by Islamist extremists.

During the first three months of this year, 47 shootings and bombings took 39 lives and left 105 wounded. In this low level, but steady insurgency, the victims were largely soldiers or policemen.

You May Like

Polls Open in Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, 'No' voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve, 'Yes' vote not worth the risk More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Gennady from: Russia, Volga Region
April 22, 2013 9:48 PM
It’s always good when the US and Russia ponder together, but this particular pondering looks to me one-dimensional. I hope the FBI won’t be that shallow. I won’t question the validity of the charges against the brothers as perpetrators of the crime. BUT WHO was the mastermind? Who desperately needed this crime to have happened? I doubt that brothers had a broader picture in mind. They just did that and wanted to be paid for. The information about brothers’ sympathies may be distracting and misleading and specially planted by those involved in the plot. With the brothers, who in their youth haven’t been curious and foolish enough for their ego to look important and implied in something significant? And maybe nothing more?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid