How One Typo Let Tamerlan Tsarnaev Slip Under the FBI's Radar

Bostonians can breathe a little easier now that the remaining suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings has been captured and officially charged. Many questions are beginning to be answered involving this case. Brothers Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, are believed to have ties to Islamist groups in their native state of Chechnya. The FBI has released information that investigators conducted interviews with the Tsarnaev family in 2011. However, authorities did not pick up on information regarding a six-month trip Tamerlan took to Russia in 2011-2012, due to a mere typo airlines spelled his name wrong on flight records.

Is this a simple error or should the FBI be held responsible for not investigating Tamerlan further? For the sake of argument, both the airline involved and the FBI should be shaking their heads for neglecting what could have been critical information that could have raised early warning signs about Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

Information has since come forth that Russia’s FSB intelligence agency urged the FBI to investigate Tamerlan Tsarnaev for possible extremist ties to radical Islam groups. The FBI conducted interviews with Tamerlan and family members, and looked into Tamerlan’s phone records, computer activity, and travel history. The FBI indicated that they did not find any incriminating information, but they neglected one significant piece of travel history, Tamerlan's six-month trip to Russia.

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R.-SC) spoke to Fox News Monday, criticizing the FBI for not taking notice of the error. Graham said he spoke to an assistant director of the FBI and elaborated on the details. 

"He went over to Russia, but apparently when he got on the airplane, they misspelled his name, so it never went into the system that he actually went to Russia," Graham said. "One of two things happened, the FBI either dropped the ball or our system doesn’t allow the FBI to follow this guy in an appropriate fashion. I think once the Russians made the request, the FBI did a good job of looking at him. The reason we didn’t know he went to Russia is because the name was misspelled."

It is hard to fathom that a single typo prevented authorities from monitoring Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s suspicious activity. The fact of the matter is that mistakes happen, but the FBI should have kept a closer watch on Tamerlan and his family. Indeed the FBI took note of Russia’s concerns by interviewing him, but picking up on the airline’s error could have warranted further investigation into the person that became such a dangerous threat to American security.

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Shawna Gillen

Shawna is currently studying Political Science and Psychology at Marist College. She has a passion for politics and is an aspiring lawyer. In her spare time she likes to play club women's rugby, and contributes as the Co-News Editor for Marist's student newspaper.

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