WASHINGTON — Russian authorities secretly recorded a telephone conversation in 2011 in which one of the Boston bombing suspects vaguely discussed jihad with his mother, officials said Saturday, days after the US government finally received details about the call.
In another conversation, the mother of the now-dead bombing suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was recorded talking to someone in southern Russia who is under FBI investigation in an unrelated case, officials said.
The conversations are significant because, had they been revealed earlier, they might have provided 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.
Two years later, authorities say Tamerlan and his brother, Dzhokhar, detonated two homemade bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three 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 Tsarnaeva. The Tsarnaevs are ethnic Chechens who immigrated from southern Russia to the Boston area about a decade ago.
Even had the FBI received the information from the Russian wiretaps earlier, it’s not clear that the government could have prevented the attack.
In early 2011, the Russian FSB internal security service intercepted a conversation between Tamerlan and his mother vaguely discussing jihad, according to US officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation with reporters.
The two discussed the possibility of Tamerlan going to Palestine, but he told his mother he did not speak the language there, said the officials, who reviewed the information Russia shared with the United States.
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, officials said.