In a statement released Friday, the FBI acknowledged having interviewed the elder Tsarnaev in 2011.
Once the FBI learned the identities of the two brothers today, the FBI reviewed its records and determined that in early 2011, a foreign government asked the FBI for information about Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The request stated that it was based on information that he was a follower of radical Islam and a strong believer, and that he had changed drastically since 2010 as he prepared to leave the United States for travel to the country’s region to join unspecified underground groups.
In response to this 2011 request, the FBI checked U.S. government databases and other information to look for such things as derogatory telephone communications, possible use of online sites associated with the promotion of radical activity, associations with other persons of interest, travel history and plans, and education history. The FBI also interviewed Tamerlan Tsarnaev and family members. The FBI did not find any terrorism activity, domestic or foreign, and those results were provided to the foreign government in the summer of 2011. The FBI requested but did not receive more specific or additional information from the foreign government.
So, on the same day that a U.S. intelligence official said that the U.S. intelligence community had all but ruled out strong connections with al Qaeda and its affiliates, the FBI released a statement acknowledging that a foreign government had warned about Tsarnaev because of concerns that he might well have ties to “unspecified” radical Islamic groups.
There are two reasons to hope things have changed. First, the younger Tsarnaev was not read his Miranda rights immediately upon his capture and administration officials have made clear that they want to question him for intelligence as well as prosecutorial purposes. Second, in his remarks Friday night, the president promised that the U.S. government “will investigate any associations that these terrorists may have had.”
It’s a good start.