Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the Boston marathon bombings suspect who was killed in a police shootout, was added to a huge database of known and suspected terrorists 18 months before the attack, it has been revealed.
The news, which could pose tough questions for America’s security agencies, came as law enforcement sources said that the two suspects in the attack planned to set off explosives in New York’s Times Square.
According to Reuters, national security sources claim the Tsarnaev brothers’ plan fell apart when they became embroiled in the police shootout.
Tamerlan, whose brother Dzhokhar, 19, has been charged for his role in the bombings, was added to the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (Tide), a database of more than half a million names managed by the National Counterterrorism Centre, in late 2011.
His inclusion came at the request of the Central Intelligence Agency, according to US media reports. The CIA is said to have become involved following a request for information from Russia, which had made a similar request to the FBI earlier in 2011.
The FBI followed up the request by looking into Tamerlan’s background, and interviewing him and his family, but did not find any evidence of terrorist activity. It passed on this information to Russia, and also asked for further details about the 26-year-old suspect. However, the agency did not hear back.
Now it has emerged that Russia later contacted the CIA with an identical request, expressing concerns about Tamerlan’s radical beliefs. The CIA followed up with its own investigation and reached the same conclusion as the FBI. But as a precaution, it is said to have passed on Tamerlan’s details – two possible dates of births, an English translation of his name from Cyrillic, and a possible variant spelling of it for inclusion in Tide around mid-October 2011, according to a report in The New York Times.
The database is the central bank of information from which US government watch lists are derived, including the “no fly” list used by air authorities.
Because of its size, officials do not as a matter of course monitor everyone on the database, according to officials who spoke to Reuters. One source said Tamerlan wasn’t added to the “no fly” list or the “selectee list”, which mandates additional checks at airports. He was, however, said to be on a smaller, declassified version of Tide.
When Tamerlan travelled to Russia in early 2012, his departure was flagged up, but there was no such alert when he returned six months later. It is unclear, however, whether he was still on the Tide list at the time.
The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, said the attacks showed that the US and Russia must co-operate more when it comes to security issues. The details emerged as the brothers’ parents – Anzor Tsarnaev and Zubeidat Tsarnaeva – once again denied their sons’ involvement in the attacks.