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

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race in military confinement to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey 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.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid