I can't help being intrigued by this FBI statement about Tamerlan Tsarnaev
, the deceased Boston marathon bomber suspect:
Once the FBI learned the identities of the two brothers today, the FBI reviewed its records and determined that in early 2011, a foreign government asked the FBI for information about Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The request stated that it was based on information that he was a follower of radical Islam and a strong believer, and that he had changed drastically since 2010 as he prepared to leave the United States for travel to the country’s region to join unspecified underground groups.
In response to this 2011 request, the FBI checked U.S. government databases and other information to look for such things as derogatory telephone communications, possible use of online sites associated with the promotion of radical activity, associations with other persons of interest, travel history and plans, and education history. The FBI also interviewed Tamerlan Tsarnaev and family members. The FBI did not find any terrorism activity, domestic or foreign, and those results were provided to the foreign government in the summer of 2011. The FBI requested but did not receive more specific or additional information from the foreign government.
The obvious questions: Which
The less obvious question: How did this foreign government learn of Tamerlan's travel plans?
Here's what his mother has to say
about the 2011 interrogation:
Speaking to the Wall Street Journal from Makhachkala in Russia's Republic of Dagestan, the pair's father said FBI agents talked to Tamerlan as a "person of interest" in 2011.
He said he was present at the time, but wasn't worried: "They said, 'We know what sites you are on, we know where you are calling, we know everything about you. Everything'. They said, 'we are checking and watching' - that's what they said."
We know that Tamerlan went to Russia in 2012. Although the dates don't quite mesh, it seems likely that Russia was the requesting government. One can easily understand why Russia would track anyone interested in Chechen independence -- but the claim that they knew of Tamerlan's travel plans suggests that they had eavesdropped on his communications with members of a radical group in that country.
The FBI's statement indicates how acclimated we have become to invasions of our privacy. Think about the implications. Upon request, the feds were able to review the web surfing habits and telephone communications (including transcripts?) of a man who (we are told) had not previously been on their radar. Obviously, that sort of thing is possible only if the NSA routinely collects everyone's data all the time, and then mines it afterward as necessary.
It's not as though this snooping prevented the attack.
Is there a larger group? Three more have been arrested
in New Bedford, MA. Allegedly, they are friends of young Dzhokhar -- but so far, the news accounts have not given us any reason as to why these three
are considered anything more than acquaintances. Well, there's this:
One neighbor says he had a friendly relationship with Tsarnaev, and the three that were arrested share the same cell phone bill with the bombing suspect.
I'm curious to learn how Tamerlan paid for his travels. His boxing career had failed, as had his college career. So what was the source of income?