WASHINGTON — Russian authorities secretly recorded a telephone conversation in 2011 in which one of the Boston bombing suspects vaguely discussed jihad with his mother, the Associated Press reported Saturday, citing unnamed U.S. officials.
The U.S. government finally received details about the call in recent days, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.
In another conversation, the mother of now-dead bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev was recorded talking to someone in southern Russia who is under FBI investigation in an unrelated case, the officials said.
The conversations are significant because, had they been revealed earlier, they might have been enough evidence for the FBI to initiate a more thorough investigation of the Tsarnaev family.
As it was, Russian authorities told the FBI only that they had concerns that Tamerlan and his mother were religious extremists. With no additional information, the FBI conducted a limited inquiry and closed the case in June 2011.
Authorities say Tamerlan and his brother, Dzhohkar, detonated two homemade bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, killing three people and injuring more than 260. Tamerlan was killed in a police shootout, and Dzhohkar is under arrest.
In the past week, Russian authorities turned over to the United States information it had on Tamerlan and his mother, Zubeidat. The Tsarnaevs are ethnic Chechens who emigrated from southern Russia to the Boston area over the past 11 years.
Even had the FBI received the information from the Russian wiretaps earlier, it's not clear the government could have prevented the attack.
In early 2011, the Russian internal security service FSB intercepted a conversation between Tamerlan and his mother vaguely discussing jihad, according to the U.S. officials. The two discussed the possibility of Tamerlan going to Palestine, but he told his mother he didn't speak the language there, according to the officials.
In a second call, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva spoke with a man in the Caucasus region of Russia who was under FBI investigation. There was no information in the conversation that suggested a plot inside the United States, the officials said.
It was not clear why Russian authorities didn't share more information at the time.
Zubeidat Tsarnaeva has denied that she or her sons were involved in terrorism.