N.Y. Bomb Plan Revelation Spurs Criticism of Questioning
Law enforcement claims that two brothers suspected in the deadly Boston bombings planned to drive to New York and set off explosives in Times Square triggered Republican criticism of a decision to inform the surviving one of his right to counsel and remain silent.
The FBI told New York City officials of the brothers’ alleged plans April 24, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said the following day. The information came from a second interrogation of suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Initially, he allegedly told investigators they were coming to New York just to “party.”
Following the April 15 bombing of the Boston Marathon, Bloomberg said he “mobilized the New York City Police Department’s counterterrorism operations because we thought there was a possibility that they could attempt a related attack here. We now know that possibility was, in fact, all too real.”
New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the brothers “spontaneously” decided to travel to New York and detonate five pipe bombs and a pressure cooker device like the two they allegedly exploded in Boston. Their plan “fell apart” when they realized the car they had stolen was low on gasoline.
When they stopped for fuel, Kelly said, the carjacked driver they were holding hostage escaped and called police.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev traveled to New York in April and November of last year, said Kelly. Two years earlier, Faisal Shahzad bungled an attempt to detonate a car bomb in Times Square. He pleaded guilty to packing explosives into his Nissan Pathfinder and abandoning it. The bomb was discovered before it went off, and Shahzad was sentenced to life in prison.
“We don’t know if we would have been able to stop the terrorists had they arrived here from Boston, we’re just thankful that we didn’t have to find out,” said Bloomberg, 71, majority owner of Bloomberg LP, parent of Bloomberg News.
Yesterday in Washington, Michigan Representative Mike Rogers, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, and Representative Mike McCaul, the Texas Republican who leads the Homeland Security Committee, assailed the length of time Tsarnaev was questioned under the so-called public safety exception, citing the New York attack allegations.
The exception allows investigators to withhold constitutionally mandated warnings if they believe there is an imminent threat, or in some cases to gain information on other suspected terrorists or plots.
U.S. investigators lost “valuable intelligence” in deconstructing the Boston bombing and identifying other possible plots, McCaul said.
“Before he’s Mirandized, he does discuss the fact that they were going to Times Square,” he said, referring to the U.S. Supreme Court decision Miranda v. Arizona, which delineates rights that must be declared to custodial suspects if their statements are to be used in court. “I don’t understand why there was this rush to Mirandize.”
The Justice Department instructed law enforcement officers not to advise Tsarnaev of his constitutional rights after his April 19 arrest, based on the exception. Tsarnaev, unable to speak due to injuries suffered in a four-day manhunt, had communicated through nods and written answers to questions, according to federal law enforcement officials. He indicated that he and his older brother Tamerlan acted alone.
After the criminal complaint against him was unsealed April 22, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had an initial appearance before a magistrate judge in his Boston hospital room.
The judge informed him of his Miranda rights, according to a court transcript.
“The rules of criminal procedure require that the defendant be taken before a magistrate judge without unnecessary delay and that the court advise the defendant of his right to silence and his right to counsel,” Dean Boyd, a spokesman for the Justice Department, said in a statement.
The U.S. Marshals Service, which took Tsarnaev into custody from the FBI after his initial appearance, said yesterday he had been moved to the Federal Medical Center Devens.
As the U.S. probes how the bombs were built and detonated, lawmakers are asking whether the FBI and CIA did all they could to prevent the attack. The agencies were queried in 2011 by an overseas government about Dzhokhar’s older brother. A Federal Bureau of Investigation review at the time turned up nothing incriminating, while the Central Intelligence Agency put his name into an interagency database.
“It’s way too soon to criticize or to start making political arguments of who failed,” Maryland Representative C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said April 24 after a closed briefing with U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials.
Last week’s bombings killed three people and wounded more than 260. In its aftermath, U.S. lawmakers said they’re learning from investigators that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, and Dzhokhar, 19, were schooled in radical Islam and terrorist bomb-making online, said Ruppersberger.
“Everything that I see right now seems like they were radicalized through the Internet,” he said.
The elder brother died in a shootout with police while the younger one was later captured a few blocks away in the same Boston suburb. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev faces possible execution if convicted on either of the two capital counts he faces.
On April 24, federal law-enforcement officials and members of Congress briefed on the matter revealed that the brothers used toy car-remote controls to set off the Boston blasts.
The device that detonated the bombs was described by McCaul as the type used to control a toy car. The electronics were placed in pressure cookers along with ball bearings, nails, gunpowder and other components, he said, showing the perpetrators “had some level of training.”
The FBI has concluded that the bombs contained explosives from fireworks, possibly along with additional explosive material still being analyzed, according to a U.S. official who asked not to be identified discussing an active probe.
Tsarnaev has told investigators the brothers found bomb- making information in the pages of Inspire, an online magazine affiliated with the al-Qaeda terror organization, Ruppersberger said.
Investigators are examining whether the brothers, ethnic Chechens, were prompted by people or organizations outside the U.S. A federal official briefed on the interrogation said the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were cited as a motivating factor behind the Boston attack.
The older brother traveled for six months in Russia last year and visited the republics of Dagestan and Chechnya, where there are Islamic separatist movements. U.S. investigators traveled to the region this week.
In late September 2011, the CIA received information from another government on Tamerlan Tsarnaev almost identical to that which the FBI had received in March 2011, according to a U.S. intelligence official who asked not to be identified.
The CIA nominated Tsarnaev for a list that provides information to various government agencies about people who may be of interest to them -- the so-called TIDE database, for Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment.
The Russian intelligence service provided information including two possible dates of birth, Tamerlan’s name and a possible spelling variation in late September 2011, according to the official. It was substantially the same as what Russia’s Federal Security Service had given the FBI about six months earlier.
The FBI, which interviewed the older Tsarnaev brother as part of its investigation, found nothing incriminating, the official said.
Investigators are now looking into money the Tsarnaev brothers may have received from relatives, friends, people overseas or other sources, according to a person familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified because the probe is continuing.
McCaul, the Texas Republican, said yesterday that the FBI is focusing on financing for the alleged bombers.
“The funding here is very important,” he said. “The old saying ‘follow the money’ is true here.”
The case is U.S. v. Tsarnaev, 13-mj-02106, U.S. District court, District of Massachusetts (Boston).
To contact the reporters on this story: Chris Dolmetsch in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan at