Keating says Russian officials were forthcoming on suspect
FBI agents in Boston have yet to provide information about why Tamerlan Tsarnaev was able to move freely in and out of the country after US officials were warned about him, or about the May 22 fatal shooting of one of his friends in Orlando, Representative William R. Keating said on Saturday after returning from a trip to Russia to meet with that country’s top intelligence officials.
Keating said officials with the Russian Federal Security Service provided details about how they warned US intelligence agents in 2010 that they believed Tsarnaev was preparing to join a terrorist cell in Dagestan, in southern Russia.
After investigating him, FBI officials closed the file on Tsarnaev, who then spent six months in Russia, during which he is believed to have met with known terrorists.
Addressing reporters at Logan International Airport, Keating said he was impressed with what he saw as the forthcoming nature of the Russian intelligence officials. Meanwhile, he said, FBI officials were absent from Capitol Hill hearings about the bombings.
“We had a hearing on homeland security and [the Boston FBI office] were invited,” Keating said. When asked whether agents from the office had shown up, he responded: “No.”
Tsarnaev, who died in a shootout in Watertown, and his brother, Dzhokhar, are suspected of planting two bombs that killed three and injured more than 260 at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15.
Keating’s comments, similar to ones he made to the Globe in Moscow on Thursday, renew questions about whether US intelligence authorities could have prevented the bombings if they had more closely tracked the elder Tsarnaev brother.
Russian officials, Keating said, are convinced of that.
“If we had the level of information sharing that we do now, then the bombings might have been avoided,” Keating said.
FBI officials could not be immediately reached for comment, but a US intelligence official, who asked not to be identified, told the Globe previously that “we have no dispute” with Keating’s previous characterizations of the Russian-provided information.
Keating said that Ibragim Todashev, the 27-year-old friend of Tsarnaev who was shot and killed by an FBI agent in Orlando on May 22, was mentioned by name in intelligence exchanges between US and Russian officials on April 21. The nature of that citation, he said, remains unclear.
While senior members of the intelligence committee are often given classified briefings on controversial FBI actions, Keating said he has received none from the FBI on the Todashev killing.
“Certainly we’ll have briefings on those things,” he added.
But, even as Todashev’s family members and a Muslim advocacy group call for an independent investigation into the shooting, Keating said it is important to allow the FBI to complete its investigation.
“I was a district attorney for 12 years, so I’m particularly sensitive that if there’s an ongoing investigation they should not be releasing details to the public.” Keating said.