FBI tried to recruit Boston bombing suspect - defense for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
The United States is to seek a rare federal death penalty for Dzhokhar after three people were killed and about 260 wounded on April 15 last year when two bombs made of explosives-packed pressure cookers went off near the finish line of the Boston marathon.
Dzhokhar, then 19, and his 26-year-old brother Tamerlan were cornered by police after a four-day manhunt. Tamerlan died after an exchange of fire with police and Dzhokhar was wounded.
In court filings Friday, lawyers for Dzhokhar demanded that all information about alleged FBI contacts be made available for the court.
"We seek this information based on our belief that these contacts were among the precipitating events for Tamerlan's actions during the week of April 15, 2014, and thus material to the defense case in mitigation," the filings say.
The FBI "questioned Tamerlan about his Internet searches, and asked him to be an informant, reporting on the Chechen and Muslim community.
"We further have reason to believe that Tamerlan misinterpreted the visits and discussions with the FBI as pressure and that they amounted to a stressor that increased his paranoia and distress."
In October the FBI said in a statement that "the Tsarnaev brothers were never sources for the FBI nor did the FBI attempt to recruit them as sources."
The defense is attempting to save Dzhokhar from the death penalty -- if he is found guilty -- by arguing that Tamerlan was the main instigator behind the attack.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's trial begins in November.
The one-time student from a Chechen Muslim family has pleaded not guilty to 30 federal charges related to the bombings, including 17 serious charges that can carry sentences of death or life in prison.
These charges include using a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death, as well as conspiracy and bombing of a place of public use resulting in death, and carjacking.
He is also charged in connection with the fatal shooting of a campus police officer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology during the brothers' wild overnight getaway attempt.
Lawyers for the accused Boston Marathon bomber on Friday asked a judge to order US prosecutors to hand over more information, including surveillance data, on his late older brother in order to assess the relative blame of each man in the attack.
Dzohkhar Tsarnaev, who is charged with killing three people and injuring 264 with homemade bombs at the April 15, 2013, marathon and shooting dead a university police officer a few days later, faces the threat of execution if convicted of the worst mass-casualty attack on US soil since Sept. 11, 2001.
Defense attorneys said any evidence that suggests older brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who died after a gunfight with police while the pair were preparing to flee Boston a few days after the attack, could boost the 20-year-old surviving Tsarnaev's chances of avoiding the death penalty if convicted.
"Any evidence tending to show that Tamerlan supplied the motivation, planning, and ideology behind the Boston Marathon attack, and that his younger brother acted under his domination and control, is 'material,'" defense attorneys said in one of a series of a filings in US District Court in Boston.
Noting that a Congressional report released on Wednesday showed that US investigated the elder Tsarnaev after a 2011 tip from Russian authorities that he may have become radicalized, defense attorneys asked for any classified information gathered on the elder Tsarnaev.
"Evidence that shows Tamerlan to have had a substantially longer and deeper engagement than his younger brother with extremist and violent ideology is mitigating for the light that it sheds on their relative culpability," defense lawyers wrote.
Prosecutors have said that they have turned over reams of evidence to Tsarnaev's attorneys and that the follow-up requests are too broad to fill.
The Tsarnaev family immigrated to the United States from Russia's restive Chechnya region about 10 years before the attack, and were granted asylum before taking residence in a small apartment in Cambridge, Massachusetts, just outside Boston.
Defense lawyers wrote that since the family had been evaluated for and granted asylum, the US government would have far more background on them than it would for a typical family of native-born Americans.
The surviving Tsarnaev is being held in a jail west of Boston awaiting a trial scheduled to begin in November.
The bombs that ripped through the crowded finish line of Boston's best-attended sporting event killed three spectators: Martin Richard, 8, Krystle Campbell, 29, and Chinese national Lu Lingzi, 23. Prosecutors charge that the Tsarnaev brothers shot dead a fourth man, 27-year-old Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus police officer Sean Collier, a few days later, in a failed attempt to steal his gun as they tried to flee the city.
A new congressional report released Wednesday points to missed opportunities to assess accused Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev more than a year before the deadly explosions, when he was already on US and Russian intelligence radar.
According to the report prepared by investigators Tsarnaev was supposed to be pulled aside for questioning at JFK airport because he was considered potentially armed and dangerous, but he slipped through undetected because someone had misspelled his last name in a security database.
"This sounds like a huge hole and an opportunity missed," said Ed Davis, who was Boston's chief of police at the time of the Marathon bombing.
"This lack of communication represents a failure to proactively share information that could potentially save lives," said the report. "Indeed, any further scrutiny upon Tamerlan Tsarnaev's return from Russia might have prevented the bombing if it revealed evidence of his radicalization or of ties to terrorism."
US authorities believe Mr. Tsarnaev and his younger brother, Dzhokhar, planted two pressure-cooker bombs near the marathon finish line before killing a police officer in Cambridge, Mass., during an escape attempt days later. Tamerlan died days later amid a shootout with police, while Dzhokhar, now 20, was captured and faces a raft of federal charges. He has pleaded not guilty.
The report reveals few new revelations about the older Mr. Tsarnaev but offers some additional details on his involvement with investigators before the marathon bombing.
The news outlet states it was able to review copies of the report and the documents that contributed to it, and has laid out the timeline of events like so: In March 2011, the Russian intelligence agency FSB sent the FBI a cable relaying its knowledge of Tsarnaev's potential links to radical Islamic groups.
After receiving this information, the FBI opened an investigation into Tsarnaev that month, interviewing him in person, but not running surveillance since the case did not reach the required threshold necessary to authorize such action. A note on Tsarnaev was also entered into the TECS security database, which would alert officials every time he left or arrived on US soil.
The report said FBI officials have stressed that Mr. Tsarnaev's travel alone wouldn't have been enough reason to reopen the 2011 assessment. But the report suggests a missed opportunity, saying a second look at Mr. Tsarnaev "could potentially have yielded evidence to suggest he had been radicalized."
An FBI spokesman declined to comment Wednesday on the report before it was made public.
Voice of Russia, stream.wsj.com, RT, nbcnews.com, Reuters, AFP