April 25, 2013

Maine's Collins: Boston missteps 'troubling'

The CIA added the name of the dead Boston bombing suspect to a 745,000-person terrorist database in 2011, but it didn't help stop the attacks.

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The federal government added the name of the dead Boston Marathon bombing suspect to a terrorist database 18 months before the deadly explosions, U.S. officials told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

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This combination of undated file photos shows Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, left, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19. The CIA added the name of dead Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, to a U.S. government terrorist database 18 months before the deadly explosions, U.S. officials told The Associated Press on Wednesday, April 24, 2013. The CIA's request came about six months after the FBI investigated Tamerlan Tsarnaev, also at the Russian government's request, but the FBI found no ties to terrorism, officials said. (AP Photo/The Lowell Sun & Robin Young, File)

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The CIA made the request to add Tamerlan Tsarnaev's name to the terrorist database after the Russian government contacted the agency with concerns that he had become a follower of radical Islam. About six months earlier, the FBI had separately investigated Tsarnaev, also at Russia's request, but the FBI found no ties to terrorism, officials said.

The new disclosure that Tsarnaev was included within a huge, classified database of known and suspected terrorists before the attacks was expected to drive congressional inquiries in coming weeks about whether the Obama administration adequately investigated tips from Russia that Tsarnaev had posed a security threat. Shortly after the bombings, U.S. officials said the intelligence community had no information about threats to the marathon before the April 15 explosions.

Tsarnaev died Friday in a police shootout hours before his younger brother, Dzhokhar, was discovered hiding in a boat in a suburban back yard.

The terrorist database is called TIDE, the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment. Analysts at the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center submit names and even partial names into TIDE. About a year ago, there were some 745,000 people listed in the database. Intelligence analysts scour TIDE, trying to establish connections and update files as new intelligence is uncovered.

For entries with a full name, date of birth and intelligence indicating a reasonable suspicion that a person is a terrorist or has terror ties, the person's name is sent to a terror watch list, which feeds into lists like the one that bans known or suspected terrorists from traveling on planes.

Officials say they never found the type of derogatory information on Tsarnaev that would have elevated his profile among counterterrorism investigators and placed him on the terror watch list.

Five days after the U.S. determined who was allegedly behind the deadly Boston marathon terror attacks, Washington is piecing together what happened and whether there were any unconnected dots buried in U.S. government files that, if connected, could have prevented the bombing.

Lawmakers who were briefed by the FBI said they have more questions than answers about the investigation of Tsarnaev.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, told The Washington Post she was troubled.

"I'm very concerned that there still seem to be serious problems with sharing information, including critical investigative information," Collins said after emerging from the closed-door briefing. "That is troubling to me that 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."

House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said lawmakers intend to pursue whether there was a breakdown in information-sharing.

U.S. officials described to the AP what the government knew about Tsarnaev since he was first placed on the intelligence community's radar 18 months ago. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the ongoing investigation.

Russia's internal security service, the FSB, sent information to the FBI about Tamerlan Tsarnaev on March 4, 2011. The Russians told the FBI that Tsarnaev, an ethnically Chechen Russian immigrant living in the Boston area, was a follower of radical Islam and had changed drastically since 2010.

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