Did the FBI Bungle the Tsarnaev Case?

The FBI is taking a lot of heat in the press and from Congress for how it handled its 2011 investigation of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, which was opened after Russian officials fingered him as an extremist. Critics have charged that the bureau closed its inquiry without continuing surveillance after it failed to find any connection to terrorism. And, on Wednesday, Senator Richard Burr went a step further, alleging that the bureau had ignored follow-on requests from Russian officials. The suggestion, obviously, is that the bureau brushed aside clear warnings that could have prevented the Boston Marathon bombing.

But it didn’t. Individuals familiar with the FBI investigation have confirmed to me that Russia made no official requests to the bureau beyond its original request. These individuals also said that Russian officials did not respond to the FBI’s requests for additional information and noted that such behavior is not unusual: Russia’s intelligence service, the FSB, has often failed to proactively aid the FBI’s counterterrorism efforts — it has been more concerned with appearing cooperative than with providing actual assistance.

David Gomez

Foreign Policy

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