April 26, 2013

Boston suspects' mother in terror database

By Eileen Sullivan and Julie Pace / The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — U.S. intelligence agencies added the mother of the Boston bombing suspects to a government terrorism database 18 months before the bombings, two officials told The Associated Press. She called it "lies and hypocrisy" and said she has never been linked to crimes or terrorism.

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Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, the mother of the two Boston bombing suspects, speaks at a news conference as the suspects' father, Anzor Tsarnaev listens in Makhachkala, in the southern Russian province of Dagestan, on Thursday.

The Associated Press

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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 Tsarnaeva and the CIA arranged for her to be added to the terrorism database deepened the mystery around the family. The Tsarnaevs are ethnic Chechens from southern Russia who immigrated to the Boston area in the past 11 years. Tsarnaeva, a naturalized U.S. citizen who has appeared on television interviews since the attacks and reversed her decision to return to the U.S. after the bombings, has said her sons could never have been behind the deadly attacks and believes they were framed.

The officials spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to speak publicly about the ongoing case.

Tsarnaev, who died in a gun battle with police last week, and his younger brother, Dzhokhar, are accused of carrying out the bombings. Officials said that before he was advised of his constitutional rights to remain silent or consult a lawyer, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev admitted to FBI interrogators that the brothers committed the bombings and that he was recruited by his brother to participate only a week or two before the attacks.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, was taken overnight from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where he was recovering from a gunshot wound to the throat and other injuries suffered during a getaway attempt, and transferred to the Federal Medical Center Devens, about 40 miles from Boston, the U.S. Marshals Service said. The facility at the former Fort Devens Army post treats federal prisoners.

Also, FBI agents Friday picked through a landfill near the campus of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was a student. FBI spokesman Jim Martin would not say what investigators were looking for.

Previously U.S. officials have said only that the FBI investigated Tamerlan. But in March 2011, the Russians asked the FBI to look into his mother as well because of concerns they were religious militants who planned to travel back to Russia, the official said.

The FBI found nothing to link either person to terrorism, and the FBI closed the investigations in June 2011. Then, the Russians in the fall sent the same warning to the CIA. The CIA asked the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center to add the mother's and son's names to its huge, classified database of people known to be terrorists and those who are suspected of having terror ties, called the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, or TIDE.

Being in that database does not mean the U.S. government has evidence that links someone to terrorism. About a year ago, there were some 745,000 names in the database. Intelligence analysts add names and partial names to TIDE when terror-related intelligence is shared with them.

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