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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Feds look at bombing suspect's Russia trip

Terrorist suspect may have traveled to Russia in 2012 under alias

Image: Tamerlan Tsarnaev (© Barcroft Media/Landov)

By Tom Curry

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., said on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday that when Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the Boston Marathon bombing suspect killed Friday in a shootout with police, travelled to Russia in 2012, he may have done so under an alias.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s six-month stay in Russia last year “becomes extremely important” as a key to the investigation of the Boston bombings, Rogers told NBC’s David Gregory. His visit to Russia “would lead one to believe that that’s probably where he got that final radicalization to push him to commit acts of violence and where he may have received training” in terrorist techniques. Rogers, a former FBI agent, said the FBI had questioned Tamerlan Tsarnaev after being given information from a foreign intelligence service “that they were concerned about his possible radicalization.”
(That foreign intelligence service is widely thought to be Russia’s.)
Because the Boston marathon bombing suspect is an American citizenship, he cannot be tried as an enemy combatant. A panel of national security experts discusses what lies ahead for the investigation.
The FBI, Rogers said, “did their due diligence and did a very thorough job” of investigating Tamerlan Tsarnaev, but when the FBI asked for more help from that foreign intelligence service, it got no further cooperation.
Rogers praised the FBI’s handing of Tamerlan Tsarnaev as “very prudent and very thorough” – and pointed out that the FBI questioned Tamerlan Tsarnaev before his sojourn in Russia.
But appearing on CNN's State of the Union Sunday, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R- S.C., said Tamerlan Tsarnaev is the kind of person "you don’t want to let out of your sight,” and that it was a mistake for federal authorities to have lost track of him.
“Either our laws are insufficient or the FBI failed, but we’re at war with radical Islamists and we need to up our game,” the South Carolina Republican told CNN.
The Tsarnaev family were ethnic Chechens, an embattled Islamic nationality in Russia. They were granted legal permanent residence in the United States in 2007.
Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s younger brother who was captured Friday night and is being treated in a Boston hospital, became a naturalized American citizen last year.
Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis said on Fox News Sunday that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is in serious condition and is “in no condition to be interrogated at this time.”
Scholars have for years pointed to ties between Chechen separatist fighters in Russia and al Qaida and the global jihadist movement.
The biggest questions for investigators now, said NBC News Justice Correspondent Pete Williams , are why Tamerlan Tsarnaev apparently turned to jihadist views and “where did he get his expertise in explosives? Where did he practice them? It seems really unlikely that these two bombs successfully were detonated without some practice runs. Where did he learn to do that? Where did he practice it?”
Michael Leiter, the former director of the National Counterterrorism Center and an NBC News National Security Analyst, said it is not atypical for a foreign-born Muslim who has lived in the United States for years to become radicalized at some point and then engage in a terrorist plot. He cited the example of Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani-born naturalized U.S. citizen who confessed to a plot to bomb Times Square in New York City in 2010.
Asked whether Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should receive the Miranda warning that he has a right to remain silent before authorities begin to question him, Rogers said, “He’s a citizen of the United States and that brings all of the protections of the U.S. Constitution. Under the public safety exception, however, I do believe that the FBI has a period of time to try to determine what threats there are today – we don’t know if there’s other (explosive) devices, we don’t know if there’s other people (involved in the plot). I think Mirandizing him up front would be a horrible idea. Now it’s my understanding that that’s not going to happen. I’ve had conversations with the FBI….”
He added, “We don’t need his confession up front. We need the information that he has to make America is safe.”
In a joint statement issued Saturday, three Republican senators, Graham, John McCain of Arizona, and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, joined by Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said the Boston bombing suspect should not be given Miranda warnings. He “clearly is a good candidate for enemy combatant status. We do not want this suspect to remain silent,” they said.
“We are encouraged our High Value Detainee Interrogation Team (HIG) is now involved and working to gather intelligence about how these terrible acts were committed and possibility of future attacks,” they said, adding that the decision by the Obama administration to not immediately read him the Miranda warning “was sound and in our national security interests. However, we have concerns that limiting this investigation to 48 hours and exclusively relying on the public safety exception to Miranda, could very well be a national security mistake. It could severely limit our ability to gather critical information about future attacks from this suspect.”
Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee agreed with that assessment, saying “I am disappointed that it appears this administration is once again relying on Miranda's public safety exception to gather intelligence which only allows at best a 48-hour waiting period that may expire since the suspect has been critically wounded.”

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