Sunday 28 April 2013

More revelations about the Boston bombings

Chambliss: Law Enforcement Agency May Have Known About Boston Bombing in Advance

April 24th, 2013

Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss told Channel 2 Action News late Tuesday afternoon that a law enforcement agency may have had information in advance of the Boston bombings that wasn’t properly shared.

There now appears that may have been some evidence that was obtained by one of the law enforcement agencies that did not get shared in a way that it could have been. If that turns out to be the case, then we have to determine whether or not that would have made a difference,” Chambliss said.

Though Chambliss would not get into specifics on the information or whether or not the bombing could have been prevented, he told Channel 2 Action News that they will find out if someone dropped the ball.

Russia contacted US government ‘multiple’ times

23 Aprilo, 2013

WASHINGTON -- Russian authorities alerted the US government not once but ``multiple’’ times over their concerns about Tamerlan Tsarnaev -- including a second time nearly a year after he was first interviewed by FBI agents in Boston -- raising new questions about whether the FBI should have focused more attention on the suspected Boston Marathon bomber, according to US senators briefed on the probe Tuesday.

The FBI has previously said it interviewed Tsarnaev in early 2011 after it was initially contacted by the Russians. After that review, the FBI has said, it determined he did not pose a threat.

In a closed briefing on Tuesday, members of the Senate Intelligence Committee learned that Russia alerted the United States about Tsarnaev in ``multiple contacts’’ -- including ``at least once since October 2011,’’ said Richard Burr, a Republican of North Carolina, speaking with reporters afterward.

Senators said the briefing also revealed failures among federal agencies to share vital information about Tsarnaev, indicating, they said, that the US government still has not established a strong system to ``connect the dots’’ about would-be terrorists residing in America more than a decade after 9/11.

Senator Susan Collins, a Maine Republican and member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, praised law enforcement authorities for quickly producing videos of the suspects and putting a halt to their violent spree Thursday night and Friday.

But I’m very concerned that there still seem to be serious problems with the sharing of information, including critical investigative information,’’ she said after emerging from the closed-door committee briefing. ``That is troubling to me, this many years after the attacks on our country in 2001, that we still seem to have stovepipes that prevent information from being shared effectively, not only among agencies but also with the same agency in one case.”

Collins, who was among senators receiving a briefing from Deputy FBI Director Sean M. Joyce and officials from the National Counter-terrorism Center and the Department of Homeland Security, did not elaborate on details of those failures.

Members of the House also received a briefing Tuesday and emerged with questions.

We have to go back and take a good hard look at the gaps,’’ said Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, a Florida Democrat. ``With each event that occurs like this one, we have to go back and take a look at what lessons we could learn and how to fill in those gaps.’’

Warnings raised by Russia have loomed large in the investigation of how Tsarnaev, a Kyrgyzstan national, and his younger brother, Dzhokhar, a naturalized US citizen, allegedly prepared for the April 15 bombing attacks near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

``I think the increasing signals are that these are individuals that were radicalized, especially the older brother, over a period of time,’’ said Republican Senator Marco Rubio, of Florida, after the briefing. He said the brothers ``used Internet sources to gain not just the philosophical beliefs that radicalized them, but also learning components of how to do these sorts of things.”

US officials have faced tough questions for not tracking the older brother’s travels to the Russian provinces of Dagestan and Chechnya -- where he spent more than half of last year and may have interacted with militant groups or individuals.

The FBI has said it was not aware that Tsarnaev had traveled to Russia in 2012. Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said Monday that the FBI told him it was not aware of the older Tsarnaev’s travels because his name had been misspelled on an airliner passenger list. US Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano confirmed the misspelling during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday, but she said Homeland Security nonetheless was aware of his trip.

Even with the misspelling under our current system, there are redundancies, and so the system did ping when he was leaving the United States,” she said.

Napolitano said the Senate’s proposed immigration overhaul bill would improve that system to avoid any chance of clerical errors, by making passports ``electronically readable.’’

Her disclosure that Homeland Security knew of the trip, but not the FBI, raised questions among lawmakers.

I want to make sure that DHS is talking to the FBI,” said Senator Charles Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee. “It looks to me like there is a lack of communication.”

Others expressed concern about signs that officials did not connect the dots about the potential threat Tsarnaev’s may have posed.

Post-911 we thought we had created a systems that would allow for the free flow of information between agencies,” said Senator Saxby Chambliss, a Republican from Georgia and member of the intelligence panel. “And I think there have been some stone walls .. .that have been re-created that were probably unintentional.”

Senator Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, cautioned against jumping to any final conclusions.

We had a full discussion back and forth over the process that’s followed and we need to keep at that and we need to see if there are any loopholes in it, that we fix those loopholes,” she said.

She characterized the issues as part of an evolving intelligence process.

With every one of these we find problems, it’s not just this one,” she said. “And you try to remedy the problem so next time it’s not going to happen and something else pops up next time, but the right things are being done and the right kind of investigation is being conducted.”

I think there’s concern about knowledge about the individual’s trip to Russia and was that information shared between the FBI and Homeland Security,” said, Representative Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican who chairs of the House Homeland Security committee.

Boston bombing suspect put on terrorist watch list at CIA request

The CIA asked the main U.S. counterterrorism agency to add the name of one of the suspected Boston Marathon bombers to a watch list more than a year before the attack, according to U.S. officials.

25 April, 2013

The agency took the step after Russian authorities contacted officials there in the fall of 2011 and raised concerns that Tamerlan Tsarnaev — who was killed last week in a confrontation with police — was seen as an increasingly radical Islamist and could be planning to travel overseas. The CIA requested that his name be put on a database maintained by the National Counterterrorism Center.

That database, the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, or TIDE, is a data storehouse that feeds a series of government watch lists, including the FBI’s main Terrorist Screening Database and the Transportation Security Administration’s “no-fly” list.

Officials said Tsarnaev’s name was added to the database but it’s unclear which agency added it.

The CIA’s request came months after the FBI had closed a preliminary inquiry into Tsarnaev after getting a similar inquiry about him from Russian state security, according to officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

The new disclosure suggests that the U.S. government may have had more reason than previously known to scrutinize Tsarnaev in the months leading up to the bombings in Boston.

Law enforcement officials said that the request to the FBI in 2011 originated from fears by the Russian government that Tamerlan was a threat to Russia and would commit a terrorist act in Russia -- not the United States. The request came from Russian federal police to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

There was a concern he might have some kind of ties to terrorism,” said FBI spokesman Paul Bresson. “We did everything legally that we could do with the little bit of information we had. After we did, we found no derogatory information.”

The FBI gets hundreds of similar requests a year from foreign governments, said a law enforcement official. The findings were reported back to Russia and Russian authorities were asked if they had any more information for the United States to investigate about Tamerlan and they did not.

They were satisfied,” said the official. “We had checked on their information. And no further information was provided.”

In Russia, meanwhile, representatives of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow were in Dagestan to interview the parents of the Tsarnaev brothers, an embassy official said in an e-mail. The mother was interviewed Tuesday by Russian security officials, according to one of her representatives, but the father was ill and remained at home.

A police source in Makhachkala, the capital of the Dagestan region that borders Chechnya, the homeland of the Tsarnaev family, told the RIA Novosti agency that the parents told U.S. officials they would go to the United States soon.

During the talks it was decided to take the Tsarnaev parents to the United States. The parents have given their consent to this, they will be involved in the U.S. investigation,” the source told RIA Novosti.

The Americans who interviewed the parents were kind and polite, said Heda Saratova, a lawyer for the family. She said they would go to the United States soon but had not yet had time to make plans.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the injured suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings, has told interrogators that he and his brother, Tamerlan, were driven by hard-line Islamist views and anger over the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq but had no ties to foreign militant groups, U.S. officials said Tuesday.

The statements made by Tsarnaev from his hospital bed provide what authorities described as the clearest indication yet of the brothers’ apparent motivation in carrying out the attack.

The information gleaned by a special team of FBI interrogators before charges were filed against Tsarnaev on Monday appears to be consistent with the direction of a broader investigation that has not uncovered any links to terrorist networks abroad, officials said.

These are persons operating inside the United States without a nexus” to an overseas group, a U.S. intelligence official said. Instead, officials said, the evidence suggests that the Tsarnaev brothers were “self-radicalized.”

U.S. officials briefed on the interrogation of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev said he has specifically cited the U.S. war in Iraq and the campaign in Afghanistan as factors motivating him and his brother in the alleged plot.

Neighbors have also described comments by the Tsarnaevs about the U.S. wars. Albrecht Ammon, 21, of Cambridge said in an interview last week that he had recently argued with the older Tsarnaev about U.S. foreign policy.

Tsarnaev said U.S. wars were based on the Bible, “a cheap copy of the Koran,” Ammon said. Tsarnaev also said that “in Afghanistan, most casualties are innocent bystanders killed by American soldiers,” according to Ammon.

The new disclosure about the CIA’s concern about Tamerlan Tsarnaev came as Vice President Biden lashed out at Islamist terrorism and described the perpetrators of the Boston Marathon bombings as “twisted, perverted” jihadists, as he and other dignitaries paid tribute to an MIT police officer allegedly slain by one of the bombers last week.

Attending the memorial service for officer Sean Collier were thousands of students and uniformed police from across the country. Speaker after speaker eulogized the 27-year-old for his dedication to the students he was sworn to protect.

But Biden also used the occasion to angrily denounce the brothers of Chechen origin who allegedly planted the bombs and later murdered Collier, calling them “two twisted, perverted, cowardly knock-off jihadis.”

He said the “doctrine of hate and oppression” espoused by Islamist terrorists “cannot compete with the values of openness and inclusion” illustrated by U.S. society in general and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in particular.

 “And that’s why they’re losing around the world.... Our very existence makes a lie of their perverted ideology.” Biden added that he was proud the country has not succumbed to the fear that terrorists aim to instill.

We have suffered,” he said. “We are grieving. But we are not bending. We will not yield to fear. We will not hunker down. We will not be intimidated.”

U.S. officials said Tuesday that the suspects in the April 15 Boston Marathon bombings, brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, may have killed Collier in an effort to steal his gun and arm themselves after they became the targets of a massive manhunt three days after the blasts.

The officials said Collier appears not to have attempted to defend himself when he was shot in the head Thursday night. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, already had a handgun, and officials said the two may have been seeking to obtain one for Dzhokhar, 19. The attempt failed, officials said, because the brothers were not able to remove the officer’s weapon from a holster that was protected by a locking mechanism.

A video surveillance camera shows the shooting and the failed effort to pull the officer’s gun, officials said. A short time later, the two suspects allegedly carjacked a Mercedes sport-utility vehicle, loaded it with explosives and engaged in a shootout with police. Tamerlan was killed in the gun battle, and an injured Dzhokhar was captured Friday hiding in a covered motorboat in Watertown, Mass.

New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told reporters Wednesday that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev may have been planning to go to New York after the bombings to “party,” but he said it was clear whether the college student had made any specific plans. Kelly said the information came from investigators’ hospital interviews with Tsarnaev.

At MIT’s Briggs Field on Wednesday, police pallbearers carried Collier’s casket to a bier in front of a stage as bagpipers played.

Our hearts are truly broken,” MIT Police Chief John DiFava told the audience. “His caring and compassion were genuine, without duplicity.”

He was born to be a police officer, and he lived out his dreams,” one of Collier’s brothers, Rob Rogers, said after a performance by singer James Taylor.
Collier was also eulogized by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and by MIT President L. Rafael Reif.

Sean was a model for how a police officer should serve,” Warren said. “He saw his police work as a calling.” The freshman senator added: “We are strong. We are Collier strong. We are Boston strong.”

He was truly one of us,” Reif said.

Of all the things he has read about Collier, Biden said in praising the slain officer, the one that struck him most was “the student quoted as saying, ‘he loved us, and we loved him.’ ” Biden added: “They loved him because they knew he loved them.... What a remarkable son. What a remarkable brother.”

MIT canceled classes Wednesday so that students, faculty, campus police officers and thousands of others could attend the service. Security was high, with the city shutting down a number of streets, parking lots and garages. Only those with MIT identification or members of a police force were allowed to attend.

At about noon, the sound of bagpipes drifted from the service and across campus. A massive American flag, suspended between two constriction cranes, blew in the wind. After days of cold temperatures and freezing rain, the weather was sunny and warm enough to skip a coat.

Some students gathered outside the security gates, standing on benches and landscaped hills, to listen to the eulogies. Inside the gates, law enforcement officers wearing various uniforms listened as Biden lauded them for “standing ... between our families and danger every single solitary day.” Volunteers wore name tags reading “Collier Strong.”

The MIT Police Department, located a block from the site of the service, was draped with black bunting. Half a dozen wreaths of flowers, mostly yellow, stood before the entrance, along with several flower arrangements. Crayon posters hung on the wall, stating “Boston Strong” and “God bless officers.” Police motorcycles were parked everywhere.

Earlier Wednesday in Boston, police reopened to the public a section of Boylston Street and Copley Square near the marathon finish line, allowing pedestrian, auto and trolley traffic to flow once again. Police gave the all-clear to reopen the street shortly after 3:30 a.m., nearly nine days after the bombings that killed three spectators and injured more than 250 other people. Some stores whose windows were blown out by the blasts remained boarded up.

City officials allowed Boylston Street residents and employees to return Tuesday evening. Videos and photos of what they found showed that part of the city frozen in time: marathon posters abandoned on shop floors, food still sitting on restaurant tables, an outdoor patio set with napkins and silverware meant to be used more than a week ago.

By Wednesday afternoon, hundreds of people filled the sidewalks and patronized shops and restaurants, helping them recover from being closed for so long. Tour buses rumbled up and down the street, passing over the painted finish line that is beginning to fade.

Copley Square has been transformed into a memorial garden, with large piles of flowers, stuffed animals and other mementos. Paper cranes hang from several of the trees. Most windows are decorated with “Boston Strong” posters or American flags.

Marathon Sports, a shop near one of the blast sites, is still closed. The front window features a large poster offering condolences to the bombing victims, gratitude to first responders and a message of hope: “We will run again.” In front of the store is a small pile of flowers, plus a Chinese flag and a note written in Chinese. One of those killed, Lu Lingzi, was from China and studied statistics at Boston University.

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