Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, the mother of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was put on the CIA terrorist watchlist 18 months before the tragedy, US officials said on Friday.
Two lawmakers revealed Zubeidat Tsarnaeva is now considered a “person of interest” in the federal investigation into the Boston attack.
The lawmakers said that investigators have traveled to Dagestan, Russia, to learn more from close associates who knew the suspects’ mother.
Zubeidat Tsarnaeva shot back, saying that claims that she had ties to terrorist activity were “lies and hypocrisy”.
In a series of bizarre media interviews, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva has staunchly defended her sons Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who are accused of the terrorist attack on April 15 that left 3 dead and more than 260 injured.
Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, 45, has sparked outrage for her incendiary comments to the media and now officials say they are probing her possible involvement in the tragedy.
“She [Zubeidat Tsarnaeva]is a person of interest that we’re looking at to see if she helped radicalize her son, or had contacts with other people or other terrorist groups,” Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, a Democrat from Maryland, who serves on the House Intelligence Committee, said on Friday.
Rep. Michael McCaul, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said investigators are looking into whether the mother encouraged her son, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, to embrace Islam extremism.
“The mother in my judgment has a role in his radicalization process in terms of her influence over him (and) fundamental views of Islam,” the Texas Republican told reporters.
Michael McCaul added that a team of US investigators had traveled to the Chechen region to interview sources who knew the family.
Unnamed officials have also reveled that the CIA asked for the Boston terror suspect and his mother to be added to a terrorist database in the fall of 2011, after the Russian government contacted the agency with concerns that both had become religious militants, according to officials briefed on the investigation.
About six months earlier, the FBI investigated Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, also at Russia’s request, one of the officials said.
The FBI found no ties to terrorism.
The revelation that the FBI had also investigated Zubeidat Tsarnaeva and the CIA arranged for her to be added to the terrorism database deepened the mystery around the family.
Zubeidat Tsarnaeva slammed officials who are trying to implicate her.
“It’s all lies and hypocrisy,” she told The Associated Press from Dagestan.
“I’m sick and tired of all this nonsense that they make up about me and my children. People know me as a regular person, and I’ve never been mixed up in any criminal intentions, especially any linked to terrorism.”
A former official of the Russian government told Congress on Friday that Cold War-era distrust may have made American officials less inclined to act on tips from Russian security services about one of the alleged Boston Marathon bombers.
Andranik Migranyan, a former member of the President Council of the Russian Federation, told a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Friday that Russia and the United States have long viewed each other warily.
Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, the mother of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was put on the CIA terrorist watchlist 18 months before the tragedy
Because of that, he said, American officials, in his words, “just didn’t pay enough attention” when Russian agencies asked the FBI and CIA to look into bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
The Tsarnaevs are ethnic Chechens from southern Russia who immigrated to the Boston area in the past 11 years.
This new revelation shows that both major intelligence agencies were aware of his possible terrorist ties, as it has been reported that the Russians contacted the FBI about Tamerlan Tsarnaev earlier that year.
The FBI conducted an investigation and did not find he had any terror connections.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev was listed on the US government’s highly classified central database of people it views as potential terrorists.
But the list is so vast that authorities did not automatically keep close tabs on him, sources close to the bombing investigation said on Tuesday.
The details come as it’s revealed that Russian authorities had contacted the US government repeatedly about Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s suspected ties to radical Islam, according to senators briefed on the FBI investigation.
The FBI has previously said that it was only contacted once regarding a potential threat posed by Tamerlan Tsarnaev, but after an investigation, found nothing of concern.
Following a closed briefing of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, Sen. Richard Burr, a Republican representing North Carolina, said he believed that Russia alerted the United States about Tamerlan Tsarnaev in “multiple contacts”.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was killed in a police shootout early on April 19, while his younger brother Dzhokhar, 19, was captured later that day.
Prosecutors say the brothers, ethnic Chechens who had been living in the United States for more than a decade, planted two bombs that exploded near the finish line of the marathon on April 15.
Sources said Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s details were entered into the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE) list, a database maintained by the National Counterterrorism Center, because the FBI spoke to him in 2011 while investigating a Russian tip-off that he had become a follower of radical Islamists.
The FBI found nothing to suggest he was an active threat, but all the same placed his name on the TIDE list. The FBI has not said what it did find about Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
But the database, which holds more than half a million names, is only a repository of information on people who US authorities see as known, suspected or potential terrorists from around the world.
Because of its huge size, US investigators do not routinely monitor everyone registered there, said officials familiar with the database.
As of 2008, TIDE contained more than 540,000 names, although they represented about 450,000 actual people, because some of the entries are aliases or different name spellings for the same person.
Fewer than 5% of the TIDE entries were US citizens or legal residents, according to a description of the database on the NCTC website.
The TIDE database is one of many federal security databases set up after the September 11, 2001, attacks.
The database system has been criticized in the past for being too cumbersome, especially in light of an attempted attack on a plane in 2009. Intelligence and security agencies acknowledged in Congress that they had missed clues to the Detroit “underpants bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.
Officials said after the incident that he had been listed in the TIDE database.
Republican Senator Susan Collins said there were problems in sharing information ahead of the Boston bombings, too.
“This is troubling to me that this many years after the attacks on our country in 2001 that we still seem to have stovepipes that prevent information from being shared effectively,” she said.
Susan Collins was speaking after the FBI gave a closed-door briefing to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, but she did not elaborate.
However, in the case of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the issue appeared to be that because he was not deemed an active threat, his name was only briefly on a list that would have triggered monitoring.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev was not put on the “no-fly” list that would have banned him from boarding an airplane in the United States. Neither was he named on the Selectee List, which would have required him to be given extra security screening at airports.
Another list, the Terrorist Screening Database, is a declassified version of the highly classified TIDE with fewer details about terrorist suspects. One source said Tamerlan Tsarnaev was on this list, too.
After being put in the TIDE system, Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s name was entered in another database, this one maintained by the Homeland Security Department’s Customs and Border Protection bureau which is used to screen people crossing US land borders and entering at airports or by sea.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev was flagged on that database when he left the United States for Russia in January 2012 but no alarm was raised, presumably because the FBI had not identified him as a threat after the interview.
When he returned from Russia six months later, Tamerlan Tsarnaev had already been automatically downgraded in the border database because there was no new information that required him to continue to get extra attention.
So he did not get secondary inspection on his re-entry at New York’s JFK Airport. It was unclear exactly what the procedure was for such a downgrade.
Sean Joyce, deputy director of the FBI, defended the FBI’s performance in the Boston bombings at two closed hearings in Congress on Tuesday.
While government agencies declined to publicly discuss how the watch list system handled Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano disclosed some details at a separate, open hearing on immigration on Capitol Hill.
“Yes, the system pinged when he was leaving the United States. By the time he returned, all investigations – the matter had been closed,” Janet Napolitano told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is reportedly “clinging to life” under armed guard in the same hospital where 11 of Boston Marathon bombings victims are still being treated.
The secret service’s leading interrogators are waiting anxiously as doctors at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center fight to save Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old who murdered three and maimed more than 180 in Monday’s terror attack and killed a police officer on Thursday.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured last night in the culmination of a dramatic week-long police hunt and a completely unprecedented $333 million shutdown of Boston and its suburbs yesterday.
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said today: “[I] hope he survives, because we have a million questions.”
Meanwhile, his father Anzor Tsarnaev called on him to tell “everything to the police” and to “be honest”.
The families of two of his victims Martin Richards, 8, and Krystal Campbell, 29, said they were glad no one else would be hurt and now they looked for justice.
A political row broke out this morning over how the terror suspect should be treated with the government sanctioning the immediate suspension of his Miranda rights.
Civil rights groups opposed the move while a group of Republicans said the government should suspend all legal rights and treat him as an “enemy combatant”.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was said to be “clinging to life” after losing a lot of blood from injuries sustained in Thursday’s shoot-out with police which claimed the life of his brother and accomplice, Tamerlan, 26.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is “clinging to life” under armed guard in the same hospital where 11 of Boston Marathon bombings victims are still being treated
Investigations will also look at how Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who is emerging as the clear ringleader of the pair, was previously investigated and freed by the FBI over suspected terror links after being prompted to investigate him by Russia.
There are also questions around how the FBI dismissed posts Tamerlan Tsarnaev made on the internet about terrorism and whether they should have taken his younger brother’s anti-American, 9-11 denial posts more seriously.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is being treated in a room yards from where 11 injured marathon victims are still in recovery while a specially drawn up High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group wait anxiously to question him.
Some victims families questioned the authorities decision to try and save Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s life in the same building where these victims are adjusting to life without limbs and struggling to survive because of his actions.
The hospital was being heavily guarded on Saturday with scores of officers manning the main doors and going in and out of the Boston hospital.
The FBI barred the hospital from commenting on the medical condition of the suspect but they confirmed he was still alive.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was found bleeding heavily from gunshot wounds to his neck and foot from Thursday’s shoot-out which he escaped on foot before taking up his hiding place in a Watertown backyard boat.
The blood loss would have taken place over more than 20 hours by the time he was found and there were reports, which could not be confirmed, that he may have been shot a further two times last night.
“He had lost a lot of blood. He was so weak that we were able to just go in and scoop him up,” state police spokesman David Procopio told the Boston Herald adding that the suspect was in “serious if not critical condition”.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was rushed from the scene by ambulance and images showed apparatus being used to help him breathe.
Authorities were just relieved to have taken him alive.
Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s nonchalant attitude in the wake of Monday’s attack was witnessed on his Twitter page.
At 5 p.m. on Monday – just hours after he and his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, were caught on surveillance footage coolly walking away from the bomb site – he tweeted: “Ain’t no love in the heart of the city, stay safe people.”
The next day Dzhokhar Tsarnaev replied to a tweet claiming one of the fatalities in the bombings was a woman whose fiancé was proposing to her.
“Fake story” he wrote on the social media website.
The same day the suspect added: “I’m a stress free kind of guy.”
According to the page, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was a 9/11 denier and in a chilling post in August wrote: “Boston marathon isn’t a good place to smoke tho.”
The account, confirmed to friends to belong to the terror suspect, makes for haunting reading.
Just months before the tweet Dzhokhar Tsarnaev said he was changing majors to try and become a nurse and talked about his work “saving lives” as a Harvard lifeguard.
“I didn’t become a lifeguard just to chill and get paid, I do it for the people, saving brings me joy,” he wrote on May 29.
However, it has emerged Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was sacked last summer after he suddenly stopped turning up for shifts, according to a Buzzfeed report.
The Chechen has been described by friends as a “careful and jovial” student, who has lived in the US for a decade and partied “like a normal American kid” – painting a conflicting picture of a man now accused of terrorism.
It appears Dzhokhar Tsarnaev became increasingly radicalized by his older brother Tamerlan with whom he is said to have carried out the deadly attack at Boston Marathon, killing three and injuring more than 180.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s cousin, Zaur, told the Boston Globe that he “used to warn Dzhokhar that Tamerlan was up to no good” while Tamerlan’s boxing coach said the younger brother would watch him train, “he idolized him”, according to the Boston Herald.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s Twitter account portrays two contrasting pictures and hints at a man who suddenly changed sometime last year.
Many of his posts are innocuous references to pop culture, college and women.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev posts hip hop lyrics, talks about his love for TV show Breaking Bad and chats to college friends.
But others are serious and appear to suggests of events to come.
In 2012, April 21, he wrote in Russian: “I will perish young.”
Last month Dzhokhar Tsarnaev tweeted: “Never underestimate the rebel with a cause.”
Last year, in a July 17 post at 10.45 a.m., he wrote: “3rd zombie apocalypse dream in a span of like 2 weeks, I’m no golden boy but maybe, just maybe we should be expecting something soon, tbc..”
This was the same day his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, is believed to have returned to the US after a mysterious six month absence.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev also made plain his feelings on 9/11.
Family and friends said Dzhokhar Tsarnaev appeared to be a party-loving guy, who was never a troublemaker
He also posted: “Idk [I don’t know] why it’s hard for many of you to accept that 9/11 was an inside job, I mean I guess f*** the facts y’all are some real #patriots #gethip.”
Other post reads: “September 10th baby, you know what tomorrow is. Party at my house! #thingsyoudontyellwhenenteringaroom.”
Reports yesterday suggested Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had convinced his mother too.
A former client of Zubeidat Tsarnaeva told the Huffington Postthe mother of the bombers was also a denier.
Alyssa Kilzner said: “It’s real. She said, <<My son knows all about it. You can read on the Internet>>.”
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev also posted pictures of himself in Times Square and wrote about visiting New York in November.
Another particularly hateful comment reads: “You guys know that the suicide rate for active duty american soldiers is at an all time high for 2012, a suicide a day, whats the #problem?”
The terror suspect also wrote: “A decade in America already, I want out.”
The context of the Boston Marathon message is not known as the recipient’s account and responses are locked and therefore private.
But half the conversation can be seen on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev ‘s site.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was attending the University of Massachusetts after graduating from Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, former high school of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon.
Up until Monday, family and friends said Dzhokhar Tsarnaev appeared to be a party-loving guy, who was never a troublemaker and appeared grateful to America for taking in his family.
His father described him as a “true angel” yesterday as news emerged his two sons were terror suspects wanted for the atrocious attack on Boston on Monday.
Anzor Tsarnaev spoke with The Associated Press by telephone from the Russian city of Makhachkala.
“My son is a true angel,” he said.
“Dzhokhar is a second-year medical student in the US. He is such an intelligent boy.”
Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev were legal permanent residents of the US who hailed from Chechnya, which has been plagued by an Islamic insurgency stemming from separatist wars.
But the two brothers took to their adoptive country very differently.
It appears Tamerlan Tsarnaev became radicalized in recent months. Despite his many years here, he said he had “one single American friend”.
Five months ago, Tamerlan Tsarnaev created a YouTube playlist dedicated to terrorism. Named simply “Terrorists”, it included a pair of videos, which are now no longer available.
Among the songs was one called I will dedicate my life to Jihad.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev also featured videos recorded by recent converts to Islam.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the other hand, who grew up in the US from a much younger age, seemed to have entirely immersed himself in American life.
High school friends expressed their shock that he would have anything to do with terrorism.
One friend told CNN: “He is a normal kid, he parties, he sometimes smokes – if you know what I mean. He was as American as I am – he was born and raised here. This kid was a walking angel.”
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was born in Kyrgyzstan after the family fled Chechnya. The family, which also included two daughters, Bella and Amina, had refugee status.
Both sons had immense pride in their “home country” with Dzhokhar describing himself as Chechen and speaking the language.
The family moved around Eastern Europe with their young family.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev went to a school in Makhachkala, the capital city of the Republic of Dagestan, between 1999-2001.
His former teachers at his first school described him as a “normal child” yesterday.
“He arrived at our school in the first form and departed in the second,” Irina Bandurina, the secretary at Makhachkala’s School No.1, told RT.
“They arrived from Kyrgyzstan and departed to the US. I’m telling you they lived here for a year. Not the whole year. They arrived at the school in 2001 and departed in March 2002 … There were four of them – two sisters and two brothers… It’s written here that they are from Kyrgyzstan.”
In high school Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was a young wrestling star – a member of the team for three years and captain for two.
Sanjaya Lamichhame, a team-mate, refused to speak against his friend and said: “He always motivated me. He was a very nice guy. I knew him for four or five years.”
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev also showed intellectual promise – winning a scholarship of $2,500 from the city of Cambridge.
His page on Vkontakte, the Russian equivalent of Facebook, shows pictures of him with friends and posing for the camera.
On that site Dzhokhar Tsarnaev mentions his interest in Islam but makes no suggestion he was radicalized.
It has now been overrun with people asking him how he could have committed the bombing, and wishing him dead.
The first brush with police for the family appears to been have made in June 2012, when the boys’ mother Zubeidat Tsarnaeva was arrested for stealing $1,624 in clothes from Lord and Taylor.
His high school friend Eric Mercado said there was only one time he remembered Dzhokhar Tsarnaev discussing terrorism.
“A friend of mine remembered a conversation he had had with Dzhokhar. It was along the lines of when justified, terrorism is not necessarily a bad thing.”
“It was a red flag but people say things all the time and you don’t take it out of context. You don’t believe someone’s going to be a terrorist because of these conversations,” he said.
Eric Mercado said friends were in disbelief when they identified Dzhokhar Tsarnaev from FBI pictures by his trademark backwards white cap.