Report: Russia held back intel on marathon bomb suspect

By Michael S. Schmidt and Eric Schmitt / New York Times News Service

Published Apr 10, 2014 at 12:01AM

WASHINGTON — The Russian government declined to provide the FBI with information about one of the Boston marathon bombing suspects two years before the attack that likely would have prompted more extensive scrutiny of the suspect, according to an inspector general’s review of how U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies could have thwarted the bombing.

Russian officials had told the FBI in 2011 that the suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, “was a follower of radical Islam and a strong believer” and that Tsarnaev “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.”

But after an initial investigation by FBI agents in Boston, the Russians declined several bureau requests for additional information they had about Tsarnaev.

At the time, U.S. law enforcement officials believed that Tsarnaev posed a far greater threat to Russia.

The new inspector general’s report found that it was only after the bombing occurred last April that the Russians shared with the FBI the additional intelligence, including information from a telephone conversation the Russian authorities had intercepted between Tsarnaev and his mother in which they discussed Islamic jihad.

“They found that the Russians did not provide all the information that they had on him back then, and based on everything that was available the FBI did all that it could,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on the review.

Tsarnaev, who was killed attempting to elude the police, and his brother, Dzhokhar, are believed to be the sole suspects in the attack, which killed three people and injured more than 200 near the marathon’s finish line.

The Justice Department said in January that it would seek the death penalty against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

The report was produced by the inspector general for the Office of Intelligence Community, which has responsibility for 17 separate agencies, and the inspectors general from the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department and the CIA. It has not been made public, but members of Congress are scheduled to be briefed on it Thursday, and some of its findings are expected to be released before Tuesday, the anniversary of the bombings.

Its contents were described by several senior U.S. officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the report has not been publicly released.