Boston Bombing: Why did Russian Officials Wiretap the Suspects' Mom?


In 2011, Russian authorities recorded a telephone conversation in 2011 between one of the Boston Bombing suspects and his mother. In the secretly recorded conversations, the two apparently loosely discussed jihad with one another. The conversations were only turned over by Russian officials after the Boston Marathon Bombing which killed 3 and injured more than 260 individuals. 

The FBI investigated the Tsarnaevs in 2011 at the request of Russian officials who believed they could be religious extremists. The initial months-long FBI investigation, and questioning of the family, failed to turn up anything substantial. The conversations that were intercepted by Russia FSB were that between Tamerlan and his mother regarding a trip to Palestine. Tamerlan decided against that trip because he was not familiar with the language. The 26-year-old, Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed during a gun fight between police.  

The mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, was also recorded speaking to another man from the Caucasus region of Russia. The man is known as “Misha.” Misha is the alleged man responsible for turning the previously religiously apathetic family, towards a more strict version of Islam. That phone call is currently being looked at by the FBI, but officials are not willing to comment any further on that aspect of the investigation. The mother has vehemently denied any ties to terrorist activities. The family emigrated to Boston from Chechnya over the past 11 years. 

Following the 2011 FBI investigation the CIA had the name of Tamerlan and his mother entered into the massive terrorism database. NBC News reports that Tamerlan was entered into three classified counterterrorism databases. “He was entered into a Guardian file maintained by the FBI, as well as Homeland Security’s TECS database and a master TIDE list maintained by the National Counterterrorism Center.”

Russia officials have turned over some of intelligence they have collected on the Tsarnaevs to US authorities. Why these phone calls were not shared with US intelligence agencies prior to the attack isn’t known.That will be just one of the many facets of this case to be heavily scrutinized in the coming weeks and months. The FBI requested additional information from Russian officials on several occasions but railed to receive any response. In the many recommendations likely to come out of the Boston Bombings expect to see long overdue calls for increased cooperation between foreign intelligence communities.