Was the FBI Monitoring Boston Bombing Suspects for Years?

An FBI agent in Boston, April 15, 2012.Jeremiah Robinson/ZUMA Press

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The mother of both Boston bombing suspects claimed today that the men drew the attention of law enforcement long before the bombings. Zubeidat Tsarnaeva told Russia Today this morning that her sons told her the FBI was monitoring them for three to five years, ever since Tamerlan had grown more interested in Islam. She also said the bureau had warned her about her son’s use of extremist websites:

FBI was scared of my eldest son. They always told me that he is a leader. He talks about Islam a lot. They were talking to my son. They called me officially and they told me that my son is an excellent boy and they have no problem with him. At the same time, they were telling that he is getting information in really extreme… sites, so they were very, very afraid of him.

Tsarnaeva’s defense of her son aside, the possibility of FBI surveillance in this case is not outlandish: As Mother Jones‘ 2011 investigation, Terrorists for the FBI, showed, the bureau—which has made counterterrorism its top priority since 9/11—has assembled a roster of some 15,000 domestic informants, many tasked with keeping tabs on Muslim communities.

On Friday afternoon, the FBI admitted they had in fact interviewed Tamerlan Tsarnaev two years ago and found nothing incriminating, CBS news reports. The agency conducted the interview at the request of a so-far unnamed foreign government, CBS says, to see if the elder Tsarnaev had any extremist ties—but their search turned up none.

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