Federal investigators are trying to piece together what Boston bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev did during his six-month trip to Russia last year, senators said.
“His life is being reconstructed, literally day by day, hour by hour,” Indiana Senator Dan Coats, a Republican, said today in Washington after Senate Intelligence Committee members received a briefing from federal officials.
Authorities would want to determine “what he did when he went to Dagestan,” a region of Russia, said Senator Dianne Feinstein, the intelligence panel chairman.
“Did he sit in his family’s house for six months? Was he out there talking to people,” said Feinstein, a California Democrat. “Was he radicalized” and “if so, how?”
Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, said there were “increasing signals” that Tsarnaev became “radicalized” through Internet sources.
Rubio said Tsarnaev and his younger brother, Dzhokhar, became radical “over a period of time, radicalized by Islamist fundamentalist terrorists basically, using Internet sources to gain not just the type of philosophical beliefs that radicalized them but also learning” how to build the bombs used in the attacks.
Members of the Intelligence Committee were briefed today by Federal Bureau of Investigation and Homeland Security Department officials. House members also received a briefing on the April 15 bombings that killed three people and injured more than 200 near the Boston Marathon’s finish line.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, captured April 19 after a four-day manhunt, is in a hospital, where his condition was upgraded to fair from serious, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. His 26-year-old brother was killed during a gunbattle with police.
Senator Saxby Chambliss, a Georgia Republican, said after today’s briefing that investigators “got minimal information from the individual in custody.”
Investigators want to know “did they have some sort of training or inspiration or coaching inside or outside the United States,” Chambliss said. “That’s all still under investigation. We don’t have the answer to it yet.”
Coats said investigators are trying to determine if the Tsarnaev brothers acted alone.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has told investigators that he and his older brother alone were responsible for the bombings and were motivated by extremist Islam, according to a U.S. official briefed on the initial interrogation.
Tip From Russia
The FBI is under scrutiny by some members of Congress for its handling of a tip from Russia that the older brother was turning to Islamic extremism. The FBI said in a statement that it investigated and closed its inquiry after finding no evidence of terrorist activity.
Maine Senator Susan Collins, a Republican, said after today’s briefing that she “remained very concerned there still seems to be serious problems with sharing information” between government agencies and, in one case, within a single agency. She didn’t give details, citing the secrecy of the briefing.
More than a decade after the Sept. 11 attacks “we still have stovepipes that prevent effective information sharing,” Collins told reporters.
Representative Peter King, a New York Republican, told reporters “there was no real ground broken” in the House briefing. “It’s been a very thorough briefing but not all questions have been answered,” he said.
Before the House briefing, the House Intelligence Committee’s top Democrat, Representative Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, said lawmakers would question why Russian officials notified the FBI in 2011 about the older Tsarnaev brother’s activities and would try to find out “what else did they know.”
The FBI, at the request of Russia’s domestic intelligence service, conducted a three-month review of Tsarnaev’s activities in 2011, according to two law enforcement officials who asked not to be identified because the investigation is continuing. They said the review included interviews with Tsarnaev and his relatives, and a look into his communications and Internet use.
Russia didn’t cooperate with the FBI’s subsequent request for more specific information, said Representative Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told the Senate Judiciary Committee today that officials “will learn lessons from this attack, just as we have from past instances of terrorism and violent extremism.”
Senator Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican, asked whether authorities didn’t notice the elder brother’s trip to Russia because the airline misspelled his name on the passenger manifest. Napolitano said the system still indicated his departure.
“Yes, the system pinged when he was leaving the United States,” she said. “By the time he returned, all investigations had been -- the matter had been closed.”
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