The Campaign Spot

How Well Is Our FBI Keeping an Eye on Self-Radicalizing Immigrants?

From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

How Well Is Our FBI Keeping an Eye on Self-Radicalizing Immigrants?

The bombers’ mother may be cuckoo for cocoa puffs. Probably is, in fact. But this . . .

One of the two ethnic Chechens suspected by U.S. officials of being behind the Boston Marathon bombings had been under FBI surveillance for at least three years, his mother said.

Zubeidat Tsarnaeva told the English-language Russia Today state television station in a phone interview, a recording of which was obtained by Reuters, that she believed her sons were innocent and had been framed.

“He (Tamerlan) was ‘controlled’ by the FBI, like, for three to five years,” she said, speaking in English and using the direct English translation of a word in Russian that means monitored.

“They knew what my son was doing, they knew what sites on the Internet he was going to,” she said in what Russia Today described as a call from Makhachkala, where she lives in Russia’s Dagestan region after returning from the United States.

. . . coupled with this . . .

Deceased Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev was identified by a foreign government as a “follower of radical Islam and a strong believer” whose personality had changed drastically in just a year, according to the FBI.

As investigators considered possible motives for Monday’s fatal bombings, U.S. authorities acknowledged that an unnamed government had contacted the FBI to say the 26-year-old ethnic Chechen “had changed drastically” since 2010 and was preparing to leave the United States “to join unspecified underground groups,” according to an official statement from the FBI.

U.S. officials have not named the foreign nation, but it is presumed to be Russia. Tsarnaev traveled there in 2012 and stayed for six months.

. . . coupled with this . . .

Department of Homeland Security officials decided in recent months not to grant an application for American citizenship by Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of two brothers suspected in the Boston Marathon bombings, after a routine background check revealed that he had been interviewed in 2011 by the F.B.I., federal officials said on Saturday.

It had been previously reported that Mr. Tsarnaev’s application might have been held up because of a domestic abuse episode. But the officials said that it was the record of the F.B.I. interview that threw up red flags and halted, at least temporarily, Mr. Tsarnaev’s citizenship application.

Late last year, Homeland Security officials contacted the F.B.I. to learn more about its interview with Tamerlan Tsarnaev, federal law enforcement officials said. The F.B.I. reported its conclusion that he did not present a threat.

At that point, Homeland Security officials did not move to approve the application nor did they deny it, but they left it open for “additional review.”

. . . raises some disturbing questions.

Russia (confirmed) makes its inquiry in 2011; the FBI investigates. Apparently there’s not enough evidence for the FBI to take further action, but “late last year” DHS decides there’s enough suspicion around this guy to delay his citizenship — not enough to deny it — and he’s just left there. Meanwhile, sometime around this time (September 11, 2012) the younger brother gets his citizenship. Then they later decide that whatever they’ve found is sufficient to deny the citizenship . . . but not enough to get him out of the country. (Oh, and somewhere along the line, one or both illegally register to vote.)

For what it’s worth, an unidentified intelligence source tells Jake Tapper that it is “rare” for the “Russians to reach out like that, to ask FBI to look into someone as they did with Tamerlan Tsarnaev.” So obviously, Russia doesn’t ask the FBI to check out every Chechnyan immigrant just out of spite. Tapper also asks a big, big question: Why didn’t the FBI re-interview Tsarnaev after his six months in Russia and Chechnya?

Before we move on to a 844-page immigration-reform bill, whose primary purpose is to say to 11 million people currently in the country illegally, “you can stay and become citizens as long as you do X, Y, and Z,” we need to make sure that our current immigration-law-enforcement institutions are capable of meeting the minimal standard of keeping out those who are here to do us harm. Obviously, this applies to terrorism, but also to the less dramatic crimes that harm Americans — gang membership, drug smuggling and dealing, people smuggling, etc.

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