New York police say Tsarnaev brothers planned second attack there

The suspects in the bombing of the Boston Marathon last week had planned to attack New York City, according to police:

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving suspect, told investigators from his hospital bed that he and his older brother hatched the New York plan on the night of April 18, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said at a news conference. Kelly, who has been briefed by federal authorities, said the brothers were planning to use a pressure-cooker bomb similar to the one that detonated at the marathon, along with five pipe bombs.

Authorities foiled the alleged plan by engaging Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, in a firefight early Friday in which he was killed and a transit police officer was seriously injured. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, escaped but was subsequently captured hiding in a boat in Watertown, Mass., Friday evening.

The CIA had TamerlanTsarnaev, the elder brother, added to a counterterrorism database more than a year ago after getting a warning from Russian spies:

The CIA’s request came months after the FBI had closed a preliminary inquiry into Tsarnaev after getting a similar warning from Russian state security, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

Speaking at the memorial service of slain MIT police officer Sean Collier, who was killed while pursuing the Boston bombing suspects, Vice President Biden praised Collier as "a wonderful kid" and promised, “we will not yield to fear.”

The disclosure of the CIA’s involvement suggests that the U.S. government may have had more reason than it has previously acknowledged to scrutinize Tsarnaev in the months leading up to the bombing in Boston. It also raises questions why U.S. authorities didn’t flag his return to the United States and investigate him further after a seven-month trip he took to Russia last year. (Read more about the CIA’s involvement here.)

Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed last week in a confrontation with police. His mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, told reporters in Russia Thursday that her sons are innocent:

Tsarnaeva addressed reporters after undergoing several days of interviews with U.S. intelligence officials and the Russian security services.

She said she was not unnerved by visits she received from FBI agents a year or two ago in Boston, in which they asked whether her elder son was inclined toward jihad or terror. Tamerlan, she said, had not expressed any such inclination.

Russian president Vladi­mir Putin said that his country has no useful information to offer on the brothers. Tamerlan’s younger brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who is in custody, has been charged in connection with the bombing and could receive the death penalty. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is being treated for injuries sustained during the manhunt that led to his apprehension last week, but police have not yet said how exactly he was hurt. He was unarmed when police opened fire on the parked boat in which he was hiding:

“They probably didn’t know whether he had a gun,” said one law enforcement official, who like others interviewed for this article spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation. “Hours earlier, he and his brother had killed a police officer, shot another officer and thrown explosives out of their cars as the police were chasing them. They couldn’t assume that he did not have a gun and more explosives.”

The FBI declined to discuss the exact sequence of events that led officers to open fire on Tsarnaev’s hiding place and whether the dozens of bullets that struck the boat caused any of his gunshot wounds.

A spokesman for the FBI said law enforcement agents were tracking an extremely dangerous suspect who had used guns and explosives on a public street to avoid arrest. (Read the rest of the article here.)

Post opinion writer E.J. Dionne argues that the bombings have demonstrated our collective weakness for rushing to conclusions:

When something new comes along, we hasten to squeeze it into whatever framework we were carrying around with us a day, a month or a year before. . .

None of us can get through the day without making a lot of assumptions. All of us have intellectual, ideological and moral commitments that we bring to bear upon what we think about almost everything.

But the hyperpolarization of our moment has sped up the rush to (contradictory) judgments, a practice further accelerated by new technologies. We have less patience than ever with the often ­painstaking task of gathering facts. We are better informed yet seem more efficient than ever in manufacturing conspiracy theories. (Read the rest of Dionne’s column here.)

Max Ehrenfreund is a blogger on the Financial desk and writes for Know More and Wonkblog.
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