Wednesday, April 24, 2013

CIA asked National Counterterrorism Center to put Boston bomber on watch list over a year ago.

By Greg Miller and Sari Horwitz,

Washington Post: The CIA asked the main U.S. counterterrorism agency to add the name of one of the suspected Boston Marathon bombers to a watch list more than a year before the attack, according to U.S. officials.

The agency took the step after Russian authorities contacted officials there in the fall of 2011 and raised concerns that Tamerlan Tsarnaev — who was killed last week in a confrontation with police — was seen as an increasingly radical Islamist and could be planning to travel overseas. The CIA requested that his name be put on a database maintained by the National Counterterrorism Center.

That database, the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, or TIDE, is a data storehouse that feeds a series of government watch lists, including the FBI’s main Terrorist Screening Database and the Transportation Security Administration’s “no-fly” list.

Officials said Tsarnaev’s name was added to the database but it’s unclear which agency added it.

The CIA’s request came months after the FBI had closed a preliminary inquiry into Tsarnaev after getting a similar inquiry about him from Russian state security, according to officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

The new disclosure suggests that the U.S. government may have had more reason than previously known to scrutinize Tsarnaev in the months leading up to the bombings in Boston. It also raises questions as to why U.S. authorities didn’t flag his return to the country after a seven-month trip to Russia last year.

Law enforcement officials said that the request to the FBI in 2011 originated from fears by the Russian government that Tamerlan was a threat to Russia and would commit a terrorist act in Russia -- not the United States. The request came from Russian federal police to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

“There was a concern he might have some kind of ties to terrorism,” said FBI spokesman Paul Bresson. “We did everything legally that we could do with the little bit of information we had. After we did, we found no derogatory information.”

The FBI gets hundreds of similar requests a year from foreign governments, said a law enforcement official. The findings were reported back to Russia and Russian authorities were asked if they had any more information for the United States to investigate about Tamerlan and they did not.

“They were satisfied,” said the official. “We had checked on their information. And no further information was provided.”

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