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Russian agency describes its Tsarnaev letter to U.S. lawmakers

MOSCOW — Russian security officials told a congressional delegation this week that the Boston Marathon bombing could have been prevented if the United States had acted on information Moscow had provided, one of the House members said Friday.

Rep. William Keating, D-Mass., said the six House members met with senior Federal Security Service, or FSB, and counterintelligence officials on Thursday and saw a copy of a letter Russian officials said they had sent to the FBI in March 2011 that provided details about Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the bombing suspects.

The letter from the FSB, read to the delegation by a translator, suggested that Tsarnaev was far more committed to jihad than had been earlier reported. He became radicalized in Boston in 2010, the FSB said, and wanted to join Palestinian fighters, an idea he gave up because the language gave him too much trouble.

The letter said that as a native Russian speaker, his focus turned to Dagestan, a Muslim region in southern Russia troubled by violent conflict. His mother, whom the FSB described as radicalized, is from Dagestan, and his father is from neighboring Chechnya.

Keating said the letter gave Tsarnaev's date of birth, his cellphone number and information about his boxing career, weight and Golden Gloves matches. It talked about his wife and his mother, giving the mother's Skype number. The look at Tsarnaev's life raised questions, which went unanswered, about how the FSB had accumulated so much information about a family in Boston.

The letter asked U.S. officials to notify Russia if Tsarnaev headed to Dagestan. "They said there was no response," Keating said. The same letter, they said, was also sent to the CIA.

"I was quite surprised, and I wasn't alone," Keating said. "They said they had identified him and they never got a reply. They said that repeatedly."

FBI officials have said that they responded to the FSB and requested more information but never heard back. After the April 15 bombing, FBI director Robert Mueller visited Russia, which the officials said impressed them and helped improve relations.

Tsarnaev did spend six months in Dagestan last year, and Keating said he asked what Tsarnaev did there. The officials said they didn't know he was there. "How could that get by you?" Keating said he asked. Tsarnaev arrived with a Kyrgyz passport, they said, which did not attract attention.

The House members — including California Republicans Dana Rohrabacher and Paul Cook, Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., Steve King, R-Iowa, and Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. — traveled to Moscow to deepen cooperation over counterterrorism.

Russian agency describes its Tsarnaev letter to U.S. lawmakers 05/31/13 [Last modified: Saturday, June 1, 2013 1:09am]
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