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

WHO: Anti-Ebola Efforts Should Focus on West Africa

Official says WHO is 'reasonably confident' countries bordering those hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak are not seeing the virus crossing their borders More

South Sudan Crisis Threatens Development

Economic costs and lost development opportunities in South Sudan have erased what little progress the country has made since independence in 2011 More

Ukrainian PM Warns: Russia May Try to Disrupt Sunday Poll

Arseniy Yatsenyuk orders full security mobilization for parliamentary election to prevent ‘terrorist acts’ from being carried out 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.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid