Did the FBI know that Tamerlan Tsarnaev met with extremists while in Russia?
The Russians knew it. The question is, did they pass that info along to the FBI in November?
U.S. investigators are looking into a Russian intelligence report that alleged Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev met with a suspected militant during his six-month visit to Russia in 2012, according to American law-enforcement officials.
In the aftermath of the bombings, some American counterterrorism officials received information from law-enforcement officials in Makhachkala, Dagestan, detailing alleged contacts between Mr. Tsarnaev and a suspected militant being tracked by Russian officials, according to a law-enforcement official briefed on the Boston Marathon investigation.
The accuracy of that report and whether it was shared before the attack in Boston is a subject of debate. According to one account, Russia's security service told the Federal Bureau of Investigation about it in November. U.S. law-enforcement officials said they didn't receive any such information and are trying to determine if it is true.
Mr. Tsarnaev's intersection with Russia security authorities came after he was interviewed by FBI agents in the U.S. in 2011. How these contacts were handled by both countries likely will be critical in determining whether officials missed possible warning signs, and whether poor communications between the two countries hampered cooperation.
The FBI interview was conducted at Russia's request and produced no suspicious links, said a senior U.S. law enforcement official. Repeated follow-up questions to Russian authorities about Mr. Tsarnaev went unanswered, U.S. officials said.
The picture that is emerging of Tamerlan Tsarnaev is one of gradual radicalization - a process that may have sped up once he returned from Russia. We're still not sure who began him thinking along the lines of jihad, but its a good bet that if those intel reports are true, his meeting with an extremist in Russia helped the process along.
The FBI is going to have a lot of explaining to do when Congress holds hearings on the bombing in the near future.