Source: USA TODAY
Hours after the capture of the surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings, law enforcement authorities Saturday were questioning associates of Russian refugees Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev and combing through their personal communications as part of an inquiry that is stretching from New England to Russia.
Key to that investigation is Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old suspect who was captured late Friday night hiding in the back of boat that was parked in the driveway of a Watertown, Mass., residence. His apprehension ended one of the most intense manhunts in recent law enforcement history.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was killed during a confrontation with police early Friday, prompting the search for his younger brother, who was listed in serious condition Saturday at a Boston hospital where authorities expect to question him when hiscondition stabilizes.
“The best part of this is that the kid is alive,” a federal law enforcement official said, adding that investigators hope the surviving suspect will provide information about a motive, how the bombing materials were acquired, how the purchases were funded and whether others were involved in the operation. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because because officials were not authorized to speak publicly.
Authorities also are eager to learn whether other now-unknown threats remain, including additional devices and accomplices. As part of that effort, investigators are likely to invoke the so-called public safety exception that allows officials to interrogate suspects who may have knowledge of existing threats before suspects are informed of their rights to legal counsel.
A special group of interrogators, part of what is known as the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, is expected to conduct the questioning. The group is a mix of investigators, drawn from the FBI, CIA, State Department and other agencies, created in 2009 to quickly question terror suspects to thwart any additional threats.
Separately, investigators have been reviewing a number of detonated and un-exploded devices, the official said. All of the explosives recovered so far, about a handful, appear to be homemade devices that were assembled with commonly available components, much in the style of the pressure-cooker bombs that were detonated at the marathon site.
The suspects also had a cache of firearms, a mix of handguns and long guns. It was not immediately clear how the weapons were acquired, the official said.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was believed to be unarmed and holding no explosives when he was arrested Friday night.
Another aspect of the investigation involves examining Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s extended travel to Russia last year.
Another law enforcement official said FBI agents conducted a review of Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s activities and possible links to radical Islam and Chechen extremists for about two months prior to the suspect’s six-month trip to Russia in 2012.
The official, who is not authorized to comment publicly, said the Russian government requested the FBI’s assistance as part of the foreign police cooperation program.
Under the program, the FBI provides investigative assistance to other governments when they have concerns about the activities of U.S. citizens related to travel, communications or associations in those countries. The FBI, the official said, responds to “thousands” of such requests each year. And other governments provide the same service to the FBI.
The program represents the “underpinnings of international law enforcement communications,” the official said.
In the Tsarnaev case, the official said agents, on behalf of the Russian government, checked U.S. databases, communications records, contacts with Internet websites and other activities.
Tsarnaev and his parents also submitted to voluntary interviews, which the official described as “very cooperative.”
“Nothing emerged that concerned us,” the official said. “There just wasn’t anything there. We ask that the government get back with us if they develop new information, but they did not. The Russians seemed satisfied, so we closed it.
“We didn’t find anything at all that came back interesting. There was no evidence of any mischief,” the official said.
The interviews with Tsarnaev, prior to his Jan. 12, 2012, departure, indicated that he was “contemplating” a trip. Nothing in the discussion indicated a suspicious motive, the official said.
Tasarnaev returned on July 7, 2012, according to travel records, but Russian authorities never asked for additional assistance, nor did they share information about his travels there.
The official said investigators are pursuing more information about the Russian government’s initial interest in Tsarnaev’s travels.
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