FBI Interviewed Dead Bombing Suspect Two Years Ago

Leah Barkoukis

4/20/2013 9:42:00 AM - Leah Barkoukis

It was a jubilant scene in Watertown last night after authorities finally captured Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and took him into custody. But at the press conference afterward, US Attorney Miranda Ortiz stressed that this isn’t the end. "Although for some of you tonight is a closure, for me the journey continues. And so this will continue to be an ongoing and active investigation as we sort all the details, continue to evaluate a tremendous amount of evidence and file our formal charges,” she said. But as the investigation moves forward, attention will also be shifted to the holes in our system and figuring out how these young men were seemingly able to fly under the radar, or not:

The FBI admitted Friday they interviewed the now-deceased Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev two years ago and failed to find any incriminating information about him.

As first reported by CBS News correspondent Bob Orr, the FBI interviewed Tsarnaev, the elder brother of at-large bombing suspect Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, at the request of a foreign government to see if he had any extremist ties, but failed to find any linkage. […]

CBS News correspondent John Miller reports it is likely Russia asked to have the elder Tsarnaev vetted because of suspected ties to Chechen extremists.

The FBI is likely to have run a background check, running his name through all the relevant databases, including those of other agencies, checking on his communications and all of his overseas travel. Miller reports that culminated in a sit-down interview where they probably asked him a lot of questions about his life, his contacts, his surroundings. All of this was then written in a report and sent it to the requesting government.

This is an issue they've had in the past. They interviewed Carlos Bledsoe in Little Rock, Ark., before he shot up an Army recruiting station in 2009. They were also looking into Major Hasan Nadal before the Fort Hood shootings.

However, the FBI has maintained in those incidents that they took all the steps they were asked to and were allowed to under the law.

Hmm. If a foreign government reached out to the FBI about an individual with possible extremist ties, they shouldn't have just let it go if they found nothing right off the bat. And an interview should not be the culmination of the investigative process—far from it. If the FBI had kept tabs on Tamerlan, perhaps his six-month trip to Russia in January 2012 would have raised some red flags. After all, a vacation doesn’t last six months. What was he doing there? Where did he stay? With whom did he develop relationships?

Granted, hindsight is 20/20, but this isn’t the first time the FBI has missed the boat. The CBS article mentions two previous incidents but don’t forget about their intelligence failures leading up to 9/11. This act of terrorism and subsequent shutdown of a major US city for a manhunt (which costs roughly $333 million per day in Boston) will certainly force lawmakers, government officials and the public to reevaluate our counterterrorism strategies--and for good reason.