Bombing suspect was in security files, but not on watch lists
April 24th, 2013
02:47 PM ET

Bombing suspect was in security files, but not on watch lists

By Pam Benson

The name of one Boston Marathon bombing suspect was included in U.S. law enforcement and counterterrorism databases, but he was not on any watch list that would have prevented him from flying or required additional screening when he left or entered the country, according to intelligence and law enforcement officials.

After the FBI was asked by the Russians in early 2011 to investigate Tamerlan Tsarnaev's possible connection to jihadist causes, his name was put on a Customs and Border Prevention list known as TECS, used to detect unusual or suspicious travel, so that the FBI and other agencies would know if he traveled outside the United States.

The FBI investigation turned up no terrorism threat or any other derogatory information and the case was closed in June of 2011.

Several months later in the fall of 2011, the CIA received from the Russians information almost identical to what had been given to the FBI, according to a U.S. intelligence official.

The Russian information included a name variant and two possible dates of birth.

At the request of the CIA, that information about Tsarnaev was included in the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment list, otherwise known as TIDE, which is maintained by the National Counterterrorism Center, CNN has learned.

The list of more than 500,000 names of known or suspected foreign and domestic terrorists contains detailed, raw intelligence.

At about the same time, Tsarnaev's name was also added to the FBI's Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB), a list which is similar to TIDE but without the detailed intelligence information.

The two lists are linked. New intelligence and data are developed and added to TIDE multiple times a day. When that happens, the TSDB database also is updated.

Both files are tools for law enforcement and intelligence agencies to share information on terrorism suspects.

About 98 percent of the names on the two lists are foreign citizens, according to officials.

From the lists, the FBI Terrorism Screening Center recommends which names should be put on watch lists used by the Transportation Security Administration, the State Department and the FBI.

These include "no-fly" and other lists which would require additional screening.

Tsarnaev's name was not added to any of those lists, according to officials.

A federal law enforcement official said the "U.S. never deemed him a threat."

But his name was on the customs TECS list to look out for any travel by him during a one year period which started at the time the FBI was investigating him in 2011.

When Tsarnaev, 26, traveled to Russia in January of 2012, the FBI was notified of his departure.

By the time he returned the following July, the notification period had expired and therefore the FBI was not "pinged," according to the intelligence official.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev died last week following a shootout with police. The other bombing suspect, his brother Dzhokhar, 19, was captured.

CNN's Carol Cratty contributed to this story.

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  6. Alex279

    Honestly, we do not know what information was communicated by Russians to FBI and CIA to make any judgment. Yesterday Putin made it clear that there were two communication attempts: one in March, the other one in Ocrober 2011.
    The fist to went FBI, the second to CIA.

    FBI said that "we received info which was very thin" (in their words) went to investigate, intervieved Tamerlan, and send request for more info to Russians, but we never heard from them again.

    The story kind of adds up now: Russians responded... ...but this time to CIA.

    Too bad that Nikolai Patrushev, head of FSB, did not have a clue that CIA never talks to FBI. Hopefully he knows it now. ...Russian's fault.

    April 26, 2013 at 11:05 pm | Reply
  7. JackAnapes

    If a foreign government contacts the FBI, and says that a foreign national may have ties to terrorists, he should automatically be put on at least a low-level watchlist for *10 years*, regardless of what is uncovered in a single interview.
    We should have been alerted when he re-entered the country.
    FBI acted correctly according to procedure. The problem is that the procedure is poor, and needs to be changed!

    April 25, 2013 at 3:27 pm | Reply
  8. V.P. Naive


    April 24, 2013 at 7:21 pm | Reply
  9. Name*penguin

    Thank God these two brothers didn't belong to the NRA. Just think of the number 2 guys could kill with a 30 round clip of ammo in an AR15. And if they were able to load another clip they could have killed more

    April 24, 2013 at 6:42 pm | Reply
    • V.P. Naive


      April 24, 2013 at 7:22 pm | Reply
  10. jackcrock

    we are surely being fed lies again. something isn't right about this whole story. just like we were fed lies about going to war in iraq under false pretext of wars.

    April 24, 2013 at 6:29 pm | Reply
    • jackcrock

      false pretext of WMDs i.e.

      April 24, 2013 at 6:30 pm | Reply
  11. Paula

    We are all on the "watch" list.

    April 24, 2013 at 5:36 pm | Reply
  12. edmundburkeson

    I'm glad we got it cleared up that he was in a file not on watch list. Why was he not on a watch list? Is intelligence breaking down under the watch of Obama?

    April 24, 2013 at 5:33 pm | Reply
    • Dennis

      The intelligence is not breaking down under the watch of Obama,it was already broken down under the Bush administration.It only produced flawed intelligence then such as in the WMD fiasco to invade Iraq.

      April 24, 2013 at 6:30 pm | Reply
  13. liberal disease

    He was in a file, now he is in the ground! or with allah or where ever the hell these people go

    April 24, 2013 at 5:18 pm | Reply
    • Dennis

      No,he is still sitting in a morgue in Boston.A little research and common sense will go a long ways in enlighening yourself.

      April 24, 2013 at 6:32 pm | Reply
  14. davidxwe

    He said the FBI asked him if he knew what ricin was and he told them "no sir, I don't eat rice." The guy is an Elvis impersonator and a good one, he is also patriotic and love Evil Knievel. He is paranoid of the government, he's inside an FBI office being questions and he doesn't know why he is there. When they ask him if he knew what ricin was the first thing that came to into his paranoid head was that they were accusing of working with the Chinese. With his lips trembling he replied he didn't eat rice.

    April 24, 2013 at 5:11 pm | Reply
  15. charles e ousley

    America we welcome more trouble all the time as though we don't have enough already.

    April 24, 2013 at 5:09 pm | Reply
  16. Steve

    Here's an interesting fact to ponder as you continue to digest this horrible story. These 2 wanna be Muslim Terrorists when cornered in Watertown were firing pistols and throwing explosives. Reports are saying anywhere between 200 and 300 rounds were fired. Well let's just assume for the sake of argument that these guys actually had the time to reload (Which I doubt), that would mean maybe these two guys got off between 20 to 30 rounds, but we'll be nice here and round it up to 50. That means the cops fired anywhere between 200 and 250 rounds, and they only managed to hit the older brother 5 times and graze the younger one??? Don't these guys get any type of practice at the firing range?? Pretty sad if you ask me. It's a good thing the younger one ran out of bullets before the cops did or we'd have a lot more collateral damage on our hands

    April 24, 2013 at 5:05 pm | Reply
    • Kody

      Not only is there many invalidated assumptions in your argument but I also suspect that you have no idea what it is like to be fired upon and return fire. Give it a rest, they killed one and captured the other.

      April 24, 2013 at 5:28 pm | Reply
  17. JAG

    Getting the story wrong seems to be CNN's forte'. Glad they haven't changed.

    April 24, 2013 at 4:38 pm | Reply
    • Lawless4U

      Uh, Fox was the "news" carrier reporting that he was on a watch list. I never saw CNN report that.

      April 24, 2013 at 4:55 pm | Reply
      • liberal disease

        no CNN just said boxing made him do it

        April 24, 2013 at 5:19 pm |
    • Dennis

      Fox News gets there news wrong all of the time.

      April 24, 2013 at 6:35 pm | Reply
      • Dennis

        Make that "THEIR" news

        April 24, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
  18. DC Observer

    Dear Mayor Bloomberg, we are terrible sorry the Russian terrorist set of bombs in NYC. We would have warned you, but Harriet in the steno pool had a typo and misspelled his name. These admin mistakes happen, but I am sure we will catch it the next time he attacks your city

    April 24, 2013 at 4:37 pm | Reply
    • Lawless4U

      What typo? He was interviewed and not deemed a threat. Yeah, hindsight is 20/20.

      April 24, 2013 at 4:56 pm | Reply
  19. Basicgirl

    I think a couple of these questions here deserve attention.

    For instance. Why did the agents that interviewed the suspect not recognize him from 2 years before?

    Where were the agents that investigated him when the bombs went off? Were they in Boston area or had they been transferred to Phoenix?

    When a person goes to the police to identify an attacker he/she doesn't just see the photos that are in the radar at that time. I know that for sure. I looked at hundreds of photos when I was robbed.

    Sounds like there is a problem within the FBI.

    I'm a basic headhunter for an industry. I remember faces from years ago and never saw a many of them in person. These agents were sitting next to this guy in an interview.


    April 24, 2013 at 4:36 pm | Reply
  20. CraigH

    ICE sees lots of people. They even remember them. Just ask an ICE guy about his memory concerning those that pop up on his radar.

    The ICE guy I know said he has pulled subjects from a line that he recognized 3 and 4 years before. I be the ICE man sees more faces than the FBI man.

    This is a terrible mistake by the FBI agents that didn't bother to look at the photos of the men when where were posted. Or did they and did they just forget?

    Just was told that the average memory of a face can be as long as 8 or 9 years by the average person. Google that data.

    April 24, 2013 at 4:20 pm | Reply
  21. Jay in NC

    Obama failed in Benghazi and he failed in Boston. What next?

    April 24, 2013 at 4:15 pm | Reply
    • Bret

      And how would this be President Obama's fault? Does he run the FBI, CIA etc.

      April 24, 2013 at 4:26 pm | Reply
      • DC Observer

        Obama is in charge Ultimately they report to him - so yes, Obama gets the blame

        April 24, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
    • em

      By that logic BW Bush failed on 9/11, Clinton failed in Oklahoma City, Bush1 failed in the 1989 firebombing, Reagan failed in senate bombing in '83... etc. etc. etc.

      Somehow I think you look at this president differently for some other reason

      April 24, 2013 at 4:27 pm | Reply
      • Dennis

        Yes,he looks at him with extreme prejudice.

        April 24, 2013 at 6:43 pm |
    • Dennis

      Your entire life is a failure.What's next for you?

      April 24, 2013 at 6:42 pm | Reply
  22. d.wan

    again the FBI OR CIA went to sleep again

    April 24, 2013 at 4:04 pm | Reply
  23. BobInIrvine

    All these armchair quarterbacks, determined to "blame" someone.

    The blame goes to the brothers, not the government. If the guy didn't fit the criteria for inclusion on the watch lists, re-examine those criteria to see if they need to be broadened. If the guy did fit the criteria for inclusion, then indeed someone messed up. We don't have enough information to determine this, but that doesn't stop the posters above for blindly assigning blame.

    April 24, 2013 at 4:04 pm | Reply
    • Maria

      You need to read the SOPM for the FBI and CIA. It is available on the internet in short form. Of course not all info is there. We understand that.

      But the SOP says to pull "all" files within the district (or area of concern) and verify.

      This is mostly about the FBI agents interviewing a subject 2 years prior and then forgetting what he looked like.

      I find it hard to believe that the FBI agents that interviewed this person just happened to forget his face. Do you get that part? "His face". It wasn't like they called him on the phone and asked if he was a terrorist. They went to see him.

      Go read the SOPM for investigations. Then take a test and come back and post your ignorance.

      There are other law enforcement agencies that are asking these same questions...listen to the tweets too.

      The 7th grade class in my local area seem to know much more about this than you do.

      April 24, 2013 at 4:14 pm | Reply
    • Basicgirl

      You seem to have missed the point of the initial discussion. Penalty 20 yards.

      April 24, 2013 at 4:38 pm | Reply
  24. john vance

    As the investigations and hearings go on, we'll find out what needs to be adjusted. As best we can tell, this was handled appropriately based on the standards and information available at the time.

    April 24, 2013 at 4:01 pm | Reply
  25. Marsh

    From CNN "Grant Fredericks is a forensic video analyst and instructor at the Law Enforcement and Emergency Services Video Association (LEVA) in Indianapolis."

    "And beyond the video evidence, Fredericks says federal authorities will already have a list of potential terror suspects who could be involved. "They'll ask, 'who's in town, who are we tracking?'" Those people become instant suspects before video evidence is analyzed."

    The above is a quote from CNN running a story. If it is true they should have had the suspect photo already and he should have been on of the first for them to pull after the bomb went off.

    April 24, 2013 at 3:55 pm | Reply
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      " thank you 50 much god "

      April 24, 2013 at 7:18 pm | Reply
  26. Donnie the Lion

    So the FBI's system "worked" as configured, but wasn't configured as it should have been.


    April 24, 2013 at 3:42 pm | Reply
  27. Yo Bro

    Not just poor work, this is a colossal screw-up! Anyone could've done that job given all of the evidence and prior red flags! What kind of people do they have working at the Bureau? Their shoddiness cost lives, and has resulted in people living out the rest of their lives in suffering. Are these the kind of incompetencies my tax dollars are funding? I couldn't believe my ears or my eyes when I heard Janet Napalitano say, "we closed the file" like it was not her business at the hearing.

    April 24, 2013 at 3:42 pm | Reply
    • Bret

      and it sounds like it was closed based on standard operating procedures.

      April 24, 2013 at 4:33 pm | Reply
    • Name*penguin

      If the FBI watched every possible terrorist we would need so many agents that we would have to employ so many agents we wouldn't have any unemployment. Just think of the tax burden that wouldf create. We could have a society where everyone is embedded with a chip so their every movement is tracked. Do want that kind of society???

      April 24, 2013 at 6:30 pm | Reply
  28. rosaadriana

    I think everyone is probably on some security file somewhere.

    April 24, 2013 at 3:39 pm | Reply
  29. CJS

    I would like to know who is the woman carrying a backpack 2 steps behind the brothers just prior to the bombing?

    April 24, 2013 at 3:38 pm | Reply
    • DC Observer

      I saw the same thing and asked the same questions as soon as I saw her -- likely the spare pressure cooker supply person - her bag looked just as heavy and just as large..and she was in lock step with them

      April 24, 2013 at 4:40 pm | Reply
    • Dennis

      Maybe that was the 72 yr.old virgin he was supposed to meet in heaven after martyring himself?

      April 24, 2013 at 6:48 pm | Reply
  30. Monique

    Could someone explain why people who sought political asylum (and received it) in the USA were traveling to the country they fled from? Why are the parents there? Did the USA revoke their greencards? It seems to me they were givin shelter here under false pretense.

    April 24, 2013 at 3:33 pm | Reply
    • Alex279

      Perhaps (but I have to say in advance that it is unreliable info and needs confirmation. We will probably see more in coming days) because Uncle Ruslan (Ruslan Tsarinaev, a.k.a. Tsarni, the younger brother of Ansor Tsarnayev, father of the terrorists) made a successful career as a corporate lawyer, working for companies like Halliburton, and even for USAID in Kazakstan. He was supposedly married (but divorced in 2004) to Samantha Fuller, the daughter of Graham E. Fuller, who is a well connected person to State Dept. and CIA. I do not know whether any of these facts are true or not, but these are potentially verifiable facts. If true, then it probably explains why the family who fitst entered United States on tourists visas 2002 then got political asylum with ease without going being scrutinized as any other immigrants.

      It was also revealed today that Russian FSB did wiretap home phone of Zubeidat Tsarnayeva (mother of terrorists) in Makhachkala back in 2011, and provided some of that material to FBI. So it was not solely based on posting youtube videos, but something more substantial.

      April 27, 2013 at 10:18 pm | Reply
  31. Susan

    The question is why wasn't he on a watchlist? We were warned about him. I really think the FBI has to look into the agents who interviewed the terrorist. Although remote, the possibility of them having islamic extremist sympathies is not impossible.

    April 24, 2013 at 3:31 pm | Reply
    • Marsh

      Maybe I am wrong. But I don't think I wold forget a face from two years past that was given to me as a treat from another country. And I don't think I would have forgotten him if I interviewed him. Maybe the two or 3 or more agents moved to California and didn't get the news there was a bombing? "Not"!

      Something is wrong with this investigation. How many treats are in the Boston area? Can't be so many that two agents forget about them.

      April 24, 2013 at 3:59 pm | Reply
  32. Kandi

    Agents interviewed him. Why didn't they recognize the photos before they were released to the public? Their memories can't be worse than mine.

    The FBI is embarrassed. They had photos and didn't even bother to compare them to the bombers.

    Poor work on the FBI part.

    April 24, 2013 at 3:25 pm | Reply
    • Antonio

      Probably true.

      The agents that interviewed him two years prior didn't bother to pull their files on all possible suspects in their area. Local cops do that.

      But remember, the FBI said they knew who the men were before they released the photos. Bun then said they did not know.

      Something strange with their story.

      April 24, 2013 at 3:30 pm | Reply
      • Name*crossbreed

        They knew who they were 5 yrs ago.. now they're trying to act like they didnt have them on ' the list' .bs. Russia thought that it was serious enough to call the FBI..

        April 24, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
    • Steve C.

      If he was on FBI radar why didn't they get him immediately or before he killed a cop?

      This story doesn't make sense. Read all the stories on the FBI after the bombing. There are a few holes that need filled in.

      The FBI even left data out of their own chronology that was public info but to obvious and would be bad news for the FBI.

      April 24, 2013 at 3:34 pm | Reply
      • Alex279

        This particular one is easy to answer: the brother hijacked a car (a Mercedes) and took the car owner as hostage. This hijacking went smoothly and unnoticed by police or anybody else. Then they force the owner to withdraw cash from ATM, however the brothers (which is hard to believe, but true) did not know that there is a daily limit of how much cash one can withdraw from the Bank: they thought that the limit is imposed by ATM machines, not by bank. So they kept driving from ATM to ATM attempting to withdraw more money in vain.

        Meanwhile there was an unrelated robbery of 7/11 convenience in the area and police was responding to the distress call. So the brothers, while searching for yet another ATM accidentally drow into police. When they saw police presence they took off, but police decided that they were involved in 7/11 robbery (remember initial reports about them attempting to robe a convenience store?) and started chasing them. This lead to killing one of them and eventual capture of the other.

        April 26, 2013 at 10:46 pm |

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