By Barbara Starr
Initial indications are the two suspected Boston Marathon bombers likely do not have direct links to any major al Qaeda group or affiliates, or to a new significant terrorist threat to the United States, according to a U.S. official familiar with the latest intelligence information.
These are some early assessments but far from final conclusions, the official said. The assessments are part of a full interagency review now underway by the U.S. intelligence and law enforcement community, who are going back through their databases and information looking for any links to the two men.
In the last several hours, the intelligence review to a large extent has focused on regional militant connections the men have had in Russian or Central Asia. But the official also noted they simply may have been "inspired" by a militant ideology or may simply have been disgruntled persons aiming to carry out an attack, and had no connections to foreign groups. "We simply don't know yet," he said.
The review was ordered by James Clapper, director of National Intelligence. Initially, before the men were identified by the FBI, the review was looking at any indications of a threat emerging from overseas against the United States. Once the identities of the men became known, with their possible ethnic Chechen background, the focus shifted.
One official said some of the focus of the review is now purely regional - on any militant connections the men may have had in Russian or Central Asia. But he also noted they simply may have been "inspired" by a militant ideology or disgruntled persons aiming to carry out an attack.
The intelligence community is tasked under the review with checking any intelligence gathered overseas while the FBI will focus on what is known inside the United States.
By Barbara Starr and Pam Benson
U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies are again reviewing all intelligence on the two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing for clues about their motivations and connections to possible terrorist groups, U.S. officials told CNN.
In the hours since the identities of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Tamerian Tsarnaev were confirmed by the FBI, “there is a very methodical and in-depth analysis under way on these suspects and the connections they may have had to any overseas group,” a senior U.S. official said. Until Thursday, the Obama administration had not come up with any specific intelligence - including intercepts or online messages - indicating a threat to the Boston Marathon, according to officials that CNN had spoken with previously. But now, with the identification of the suspects, social media messages they have posted, and other information coming to light, “we can focus more specifically on their potential connections overseas,” the senior official said.
The officials said that agencies are going back through all relevant data - things such as intelligence reports, intercepts, jihadist websites, passport records — that they have collected to see if there is any information about the suspects and if there are potential links to international or domestic terrorist groups.
However, the senior official also strongly emphasized that the intelligence community simply has no answers at this point as to whether there is an international connection or whether the suspects were "inspired" or "influenced" by overseas groups. He also reiterated it is entirely possible this was purely an act of domestic terrorism with no foreign nexus.