The FSB — Russia’s primary domestic security agency and successor to the old Soviet KGB — informed the FBI in early 2011 that it had information indicating that Tamerlan Tsarnaev (shown, left), the elder brother suspected in the Boston Marathon bombings, was a follower of radical Islam, said two law enforcement officials on April 20.
An AP report carried by the Washington Post said that the two officials, presumably with the FBI, spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to be quoted on the record about the matter. The newspaper noted that although the FBI did not name the foreign government, the two law enforcement officials identified the FSB as the source of the information provided to one of the FBI’s field offices and also to FBI headquarters in Washington.
An FBI news release issued on April 19, headlined “2011 Request for Information on Tamerlan Tsarnaev from Foreign Government,” provided the following details:
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.
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Photo of Tamarlan Tsarnaev (left) and Dzhokar Tsarnaev (right): AP Images