The FBI has clammed up about what the Russians actually told them about Tamerlan Tsarnaev that got the Boston bomber on Moscow’s radar. This is significant because the Boston Herald reports that the Russians found out about Tamerlan from a Canadian jihadist captured in Dagestan.
A slain Canadian jihadi gave Russian counter-terrorism agents the tip that put alleged Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev on their radar two years ago, Bay State U.S. Rep. William R. Keating confirmed yesterday — raising questions about whether Tsarnaev’s direct link to the known militant was ever passed on to the FBI or local authorities.
Keating told the Herald yesterday his staff in Russia has learned William Plotnikov, while under interrogation in the militant hotbed of Dagestan, named Tsarnaev as a fellow extremist.
“That’s when the Russian government started looking at Tamerlan and he showed up on a jihadist website,” Keating (D-Bourne) said. “That’s when they contacted the U.S.”
The interrogation prompted Russian authorities to ask the FBI to investigate Tsarnaev in 2011. It is unclear whether the Russians told the FBI that Tsarnaev was associated with Plotnikov or another suspected extremist, Mansur Mukhamed Nidal.
An FBI spokesman yesterday did not respond to the Herald’s request to view the Russian authorities’ plea for help.
Both Nidal and Plotnikov were killed in police raids last summer, and Tsarnaev fled back to the United States shortly thereafter.
The detail of the information from the Russians to the FBI — and whether the feds passed it on sufficiently to local authorities — is sure to come up next week on Capitol Hill, where the House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing on the bombings.
“I have no idea what the Russians did or did not share, but the fact they brought up his name should have been a flashing red light,” U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a member of the committee, told the Herald last night. “You combine that with international travel, and somebody’s going to have to answer some questions.
“The information is only good if it gets to those who can actually act on it,” he said. “I want to know specifically if they shared that information with the authorities in Boston.”
The link between Tsarnaev and Plotnikov implies that Tsarnaev may not have been totally self-radicalized, said Craig Albert, a Georgia Regents University professor who testified about radical Islamists in the Caucasus region at a Congressional committee hearing last week.
Does this demonstrate that the so-called “terrorist watch list” is useless? We discovered this week that it contains almost 900,000 names — a valueless list unless it is carefully categorized, assigning a threat level to each entry. Tamerlan Tsarnaev may not have rated very high threat-wise, but as an American, the bureau might have passed on his name to the Boston police and Massachusetts state authorities to let them decide if they wanted to keep tabs on him.
This also pulls another chock from underneath the administration narrative that assures us Tsarnaev was a “self-radicalized,” one-off American terrorist. How extensive were his ties to the jihadist networks? Does this make the prospect of international accomplices more or less likely?
The FBI may be trying to protect Russian sources and methods in not disclosing details of their conversations. Then again, they may be engaged in a CYA operation and don’t want to admit they blew it. It’s safe to say that this investigation is still in its infancy and there is a lot more to find out about how both brothers arrived at the finish line of the Boston Marathon with two pressure cooker bombs and murder in their hearts.