Pending: Homeland Security hadn't granted US citizenship to Boston bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, pictured left in 2010, and right, last Monday, minutes before the attack
By Beth Stebner and Daily Mail Reporter
The Department of Homeland Security was dragging its feet on processing Boston bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev's U.S. citizenship after a routine background check revealed he had been questioned by the FBI in 2011.
Tamerlan, 26, filed an application for citizenship six months ago but immigration officials had not yet made a decision on his case at the time of the Boston Marathon bombings.
Authorities knew the alleged bomber had a domestic violence charge on his record but the fact he had been grilled by federal agents is reportedly what threw up red flags, halting the progress of his application.
It's not clear what the 26-year-old, who was killed early Friday, was told about why his application was facing delays.
Official reported on Friday that the F.B.I. interviewed the older Tsarnaev brother in January 2011 at the request of the Russian government, which suspected that he had ties to Chechen terrorists.
They said this decision to delay his application proved his encounter with the F.B.I. did not go unnoticed by the Department of Homeland security.
According to The New York Times, the terror suspect's application, presented on September 5, also prompted the FBI to do 'additional investigation' of him this year. They didn't reveal how far the probe had gone or what it covered.
Tamerlan's papers were submitted just days after his brother, Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, 19, had his own citizenship application approved.
According to the Times, officials with Homeland Security contacted the FBI late last year to learn more about its interview with the terror suspect and the agency reported its conclusion that he did not present a threat.
However, immigration officials did not move to approve or deny the application, choosing instead to leave it open for 'additional review.'
On Sunday, U.S. lawmakers from both parties criticized the FBI for failing to spot the extremist leanings of Tamerlan Tsarnaev and demanded to know why the agency did not at least follow up with the elder brother following a six-month trip to Russia in 2012.
Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-South Carolina) went so far as to say 'the ball was dropped' by the federal agency by either missing 'a lot of things' during their initial investigation of the suspect or did not allow investigators to 'follow up in a sound, solid way.'
Outspoken: New York Sen. Charles Schumer, left, D-New York, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, raised questions on CNN over the FBI's follow-up on the elder Tsarnaev brother
Under the barrage of attacks, the FBI has stood by their initial public statement issued earlier last week, which said that the agency closed their investigation on the ethnic Chechen in 2011 after failing to find any ‘terrorism activity, domestic or foreign.’
On Sunday, House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul wrote to the FBI and other officials asking why Tamerlan Tsarnaev did not raise suspicions after Russia asked the bureau to investigate him two years ago.
'Because if he was on the radar and they let him go, he's on the Russians' radar, why wasn't a flag put on him, some sort of customs flag?,' McCaul, a Texas Republican, said on CNN's 'State of the Union.’
'And I'd like to know what intelligence Russia has on him as well.'
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York) was largely supportive of the FBI’s efforts, but questioned why Tamerlan wasn’t interviewed upon his return from Russia, where he had been for six months in 2012.
‘There were things on his website that indicated that he had been radicalized,’ Schumer said. ‘I think there’s a lot of questions that have to be answered.’
Dwelling: The Tsarnaev brothers lived in this nondescript house in Cambridge, just across the river from Boston
Frequent: Tamerlan was said to often visit the Islamic Society of Boston mosque in Cambridge, pictured
The FBI interviewed Tsarnaev in 2011, shortly after Russia's Federal Security Service asked the agency to look into him as a possible Islamist radical who might soon travel to Russia. It was unclear before yesterday which foreign country had tipped off the FBI.
When contacted, the FBI referred MailOnline to the statement it issued on April 19, saying the FBI’s search into Tamerlan’s records, travel history, and internet use yielded no results.
Meanwhile, the organization has vehemently refuting a claim by the mother of the Tsarnaev brothers who said the bureau had spoken to Tamerlan following the two bombs exploding at last Monday’s marathon.
FBI spokesman Michael Kortan told the Associated Press Sunday that the interviews in 2011 with Tamerlan and family members were the agency’s only contact with the
bombing suspect. The Tsarnaev’s parents, who live in Russia.
Less than a year after the FBI interview, Tsarnaev did in fact travel to the volatile Dagestan region of southern Russia on a six-month trip out of the United States. Much of what Tsarnaev did on that trip is still a mystery to U.S. investigators, Reuters reported.
Neighbors contacted by Reuters say Tsarnaev spent at least a few weeks in Dagestan, a predominantly Muslim region in the North Caucasus mountains where Islamist militants have long been a thorn in the side of governments in Moscow.
Guarded: Police guard the entrance to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Saturday, where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, is being treated, rooms away from 11 of the bombing victims
Republican Representative Peter King of New York told 'Fox News Sunday' he wondered why the FBI did not take more action after Tsarnaev returned to the United States last year and put statements on his website 'talking about radical imams.'
Tamerlan Tsarnaev was not put on any no-fly list of suspected terrorists, U.S. officials said. But his brush with the FBI did raise concerns when he applied for U.S. citizenship last year, a source close to the bombing investigation said.
Officials of the Homeland Security Department decided to give his application extra scrutiny because of the FBI interview and also due to an allegation against him of domestic abuse on a girlfriend in 2009, the source said. The citizenship application was still under consideration when Monday's bombing happened.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in a shootout with U.S. police. and his brother Dzhokhar, 19, remained hospitalized in serious condition on Sunday, unable to speak. Three people were killed in Monday's bombing and 176 were injured.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said 'the FBI or the system dropped the ball' on the elder Tsarnaev. Graham told CNN that U.S. laws do not allow the FBI to follow up enough even if it does spot danger.
Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York told CNN 'there's certainly a lot of questions' about the FBI's handling of the case.
One U.S. counterterrorism official urged perspective. 'If we thoroughly investigated every one of these terrorism tips we get, we'd never get anything done,' he said.
Captured: The FBI wanted poster released last night was updated to show that Dzhokhar was in custody
A senior U.S. law enforcement source said that the number of tips received from Russian intelligence to the FBI each year is 'not that many.'
But nationally, he said, the FBI receives at least 100 terrorism tips a day - from the public, local and state law enforcement, other federal agencies and the intelligence community.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, a former FBI agent, defended the agency. The Michigan Republican said the FBI had performed a 'very thorough' review of the older brother in 2011, but then it failed to receive further cooperation from Russia.
'That case was closed prior to his travel, so I don't think we missed anything,' Rogers said on NBC's 'Meet the Press.'
'At some point they (the FBI) asked, is there more clarifying information, and never received that clarifying information, and at some point they have nothing. You can't ask them to do something with nothing,' Rogers said.
But McCaul and King said the handling of Tamerlan Tsarnaev's case looked like it was part of a pattern.
Open investigation: Law enforcement evidence technicians continue to investigate the scene of the Boston Marathon bombings on Saturday
The 26-year-old 'appears to be the fifth person since September 11, 2001, to participate in terror attacks despite being under investigation by the FBI,' the pair said in a joint letter.
They named the others as Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born cleric and leader of al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen who was killed in a U.S. drone strike; David Headley, an American who admitted scouting targets for a 2008 Islamic militant raid on Mumbai; Carlos Bledsoe, who killed an Army private outside a military recruiting office in Arkansas in 2009; and Nidal Hasan, who is accused of killing 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009.
In addition, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to bring down a U.S. jetliner over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009, had been identified to the CIA as a potential terrorist, the letter said, adding the cases 'raise the most serious questions about the efficacy of federal counterterrorism efforts.'
The McCaul-King letter asked for all information the U.S. government had on Tamerlan Tsarnaev before April 15. It was also addressed to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.