The Federal Bureau of Investigation of the US Department of Justice (DOJ) has confirmed that in 2011, it interviewed the older of the two brothers suspected of carrying out the Boston Marathon bombing.
The interview was conducted at the urging of a foreign government.
The Associated Press reports that two law enforcement sources told it that the request came from the Russian FSB intelligence security service.
The FBI said in a statement, that in 2011 the foreign government told it that the 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev:
was a follower of radical Islam and a strong believer, and that he had changed drastically since 2010 as he prepared to leave the United States for travel to the country’s region to join unspecified underground groups.
As a result of the warning the FBI said it "interviewed Tamerlan Tsarnaev and family members."
Although the FBI portrayed the exchange as a "request for information," the Patriot Act and sweeping new NSA surveillance guidelines would have enabled it to closely monitor, in near real-time if not real-time, all communications, movements, and activities of persons from such a volatile region as Chechnya. Political violence in Chechnya since the fall of the Soviet Union has been marked by wanton brutality and disregard for civilians. In 2004 over 300 people, mostly children, died in an attack on a school attributed to Chechen separatists.
The two law enforcement sources who spoke to the Associated Press said that the information was given to one of the FBI’s field offices and to FBI headquarters in Washington. Soon after the tip, in 2012, Tamerlan Tsarnaev traveled to Chechnya for six months.
In its own report, Reuters said yesterday that a law enforcement source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Reuters that the FBI's investigation into Tamerlan Tsarnaev was put "to bed." However, the FBI statement posted at the agency's websites asserts that after interviewing Tsarnaev, it "requested but did not receive more specific or additional information from the foreign government." This indicates that the FBI's interest had not waned but was simply not followed up.
The DOJ is presided over by Obama appointee Attorney General Eric Holder.