3 Different Inspectors General Say There Is More, Secret, Information on the Tsarnaev Brothers’ Mother

The Senate Homeland Security Committee is having a hearing on the joint IG Report on the Boston Marathon attack.

Most of the questions will be in closed session, including one Tom Coburn plans to ask about whether the government tracks travel of people who have received asylum from places, they then travel back to those places. (See after 25:00)

At least as interesting a question — another that was largely deferred for closed session — came from Tom Carper. (after 36:25) He asked if there was more information on Zubeidat Tsarnaev that might have led the government to find the attack — and the FBI, IC, and CIA Inspectors General confirmed there was.

Senator Tom Carper: I want to be sensitive to what you can say in a public setting and what you can’t. But I have a couple of questions that relate to Mrs. Tsarnaev, and to the extent that you discuss her that you can share with us in a public setting. I have a couple of specific questions but is there any more general comments that you would like to make about how you address her role in all this that you can share in a public setting?

[Watch David Buckley, CIA’s IG, immediately consulting with his aide in response to this question.]

DOJ IG Michael Horowitz: The one thing that I can say from the standpoint that we looked at, the lead information included information about her, not just Tamerlan. The judgement was made to only look at — to only open on Tamerlan. But we found there was certainly sufficient information if the FBI had wanted to open on her as well that they could have done so. They made the judgment not to. And that was a decision made right at the outset, in March of 2011.

Carper: Others, please.

Intelligence Community IG Charles McCullough: I would agree there was information that we found when we examined the post-bombing information that was collected. I think probably that would have to be discussed in the classified session. But there was information that we found post-bombing that would relate to that Senator.

Carper: Mr. Buckley?

CIA IG David Buckley: Mr. Chairman, I too have information that I’ll impart in the closed session regarding this.

Apparently, the Russian notice describing Tamerlan’s deepening commitment to extremism also included details on Zubeidat.

And three of the four IGs (I believe, but need to review this, FBI, IC (NCTC), and DHS) admitted that had the investigation been focused on Zubeidat, the government might have found more information.

Remember, it was in a conversation between Zubeidat and a friend or relative where discussion of Tamerlan’s aspirations for jihad had come up in Russian collections. If, for example, NSA had collected that conversation but not found it, they might have found it had they searched on her name rather than Tamerlan.

Update: Some interesting quotes on second view.

@11:50, McCullough describes reviewing “anything that was within the US government’s reach before the bombing, but had not been obtained, accessed, or reviewed until after the bombing” (and whether the USG could have known it existed before the bombing). This probably refers to NSA materials.

@46:00 Carper asks whether we might have found Tamerlan without the Russian tip. McCullough responds that we might have through “forensics.”

Carper: If the Russians had not shared their initial tip, would we have had any way to detect Tamerlan’s radicalization?

[McCullough looks lost.]

Carper: If they had not shared their original tip to us, would we have had any way to have detected Tamerlan’s radicalization? What I’m geting at here is just homegrown terrorists and our ability to ferret them out, to understand what’s going on if someone’s being radicalized and what its implications might be for us.

McCullough: Well, the Bureau’s actions stemmed from the memo from the FSB, so that led to everything else in this chain of events here. You’re saying if that memo didn’t exist, would he have turned up some other way? I don’t know. I think, in the classified session, we can talk about some of the post-bombing forensics. What was found, and that sort of thing. And you can see when that radicalization was happening. So I would think that this would have come up, yes, at some point, it would have presented itself to law enforcement and the intelligence community. Possibly not as early as the FSB memo. It didn’t. But I think it would have come up at some point noting what we found post-bombing.



14 replies
  1. P J Evans says:

    But I think it would have come up at some point noting what we found post-bombing.

    Hindsight isn’t always 20/20. Sometimes it’s 20/200.
    If you don’t know something is there, you’re not going to find anything ahead of time. Looking for something after the event, you can find all kinds of stuff, but you still don’t know if you’d have seen them beforehand.

  2. orionATL says:

    carper talks “radicalization”.

    – “radicalization”, there’s your cap on free-speech. sweet little boost to the doj prosecutor’s modus operandi.

    – “radicalization”, does tsanaraev not have any personal agency? is he just an empty mind waiting to be programmed?

    – what is a fit punishment for any radicalizer of “our muslims”.

      • orionATL says:

        yeah, that’s the problem with using “radicalization/radiclizer” as a legal pejorative and a legal basis for incarcerating a person – any muslim amgry at mistreatment of muslims and speaking out from that anger can be labeled a radicalizer and from that to an inciter of violence, thence to”material supporter of terrorism”. and that can get you jailed for decades or, as in anwar al-awlaki’s case, killed by presidential decree.

        i think this country went thru the same thing a century ago with labor “radicalizers”. certainly it did with ml king. free-speech is mostly for the folks who have the police and the prosecutors on their side, that is, folks with power or money or influence.

  3. ЖО says:

    Corrected transcript: “If the Russians had not shared their initial tip, would we have had any way to detect Tamerlan’s radicalization? What I’m geting at here is if Tam’s US handler reported back from any of those corny cloak-and-dagger public meets with this obvious narc teaching the poor scared serf method acting for his starring role as a deadly Boston Mooslim terror jihadi. Dude, people got blow-by-blow, got auto IDs got evidence up the dupa. Could you maybe have checked those?”

  4. Saul Tannenbaum says:


    There seem to be two different questions here.

    – Would we have noticed Tsarnaev’s radicalization without the Russian tip?
    – Would we have identified the (alleged) bomber without the Russian tip?

    If one believes everything put out by the intelligence community, then they’ve answered the second question already. Since they didn’t identify the Tsarnaevs until the Watertown shootout, then the Russian tip couldn’t have had anything to do with it.

    It’s the first question that’s interesting, but it was the second one that was answered.

    • emptywheel says:

      That claim is beginning to fade somewhat. Even here (and less so in the actual report), they don’t say they didn’t ID the brothers until the manhunt.

  5. john francis lee says:

    How about more secret information on the relationship of Graham Fuller and the CIA to the Tsarnaevs?
    This whole ‘case’ certainly has the earmarks of yet another CIA enabled terrorist gone ‘bad’.
    Was the CIA ‘prepping’ Tamerlan for terrorism in Russia?
    Did Tamerlan finally figure out who the real terrorists are?
    Was it – is it – the CIA – the Godfather of al Qaeda – that is responsible for terrorism, thus the perpetual ‘war on terror’, worldwide?
    Who is running the ‘war on terror’, Barack Obama or John Brennan?

    • greengiant says:

      Who is running AQ?, Barack Obama, John Brennan, Fuller, or Bandar? Note the Fuller-Rummy-Rand-Gulen nexis. Who was Awlaki’s hander prior to 9-11?

  6. chronicle says:

    “radicalization”- The process by which government branches, departments and agencies stretch their legal mandates into illegal and sometimes UN-Constitutional policies and acts, whereby those citizens under their jurisdiction must choose to remain normal or adapt to the political environment to counter government tyranny and or Empirical invasion of other soveriegn states. In other words, it is the government who is radical.

  7. chronicle says:

    HOLY MOLY! Excuse the breach of subject matter, but I just saw this…

    quote”For the first time, the federal court overseeing the country’s surveillance programs heard a formal argument this month that the National Security Agency’s (NSA) bulk collection of people’s phone records is illegal.”

    “In a friend-of-the-court brief filed early in April and declassified on Wednesday, the Center for National Security Studies said that the surveillance program is not authorized under current law.”

    “Congress has never authorized the telephone metadata program,” the think tank told the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court.”


    OMG. Really?? whudda thunk? (insert double facepalm and rolling eyes here)

  8. orionATL says:

    the brother’s mother left the u.s. to return to russia; the brothers were left without a parent at hand.

    that kind of severe emotional loss can trigger depression and anti-social behavior, with or without the presence of an fbi annointed “radicalizer”.

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