By the time officers confronted the brothers early Friday morning, “we already knew these guys had admitted to killing three civilians and a police officer and that they were prepared to kill many others,” the senior official said.
The official said the bombers repeatedly told the victim they were going to New York. Investigators are trying to determine if the brothers had friends or coconspirators there. But their haphazard, ill-planned escape has many investigators skeptical that there were other radicals involved in the attack.
“If they had accomplices in New York, you’d think they would have had an established contingency plan to get down there to them and wouldn’t be shooting cops and carjacking cars to steal ATM cards to finance their escape,” the official said. “That said, we haven’t ruled out anything in New York. We’re looking into who they knew down there and was anyone in New York prepared to hide them.”
New information also emerged Tuesday on the suspects’ interest in explosives.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the elder brother, bought large mortar kits in February from a New Hampshire fireworks store less than an hour’s drive from Boston, said Phantom Fireworks vice president William Weimer. According to store records, Tsarnaev spent $200 for two “Lock and Load” kits, each with 24 shells, from the Phantom Fireworks store in Seabrook, N.H., Weimer said.
The shells contain a mix of clay, a powder to deliver color and noise, and two powdered explosives. He said only a negligible amount of explosives could be extracted from all 48 shells. “What my guess is, they purchased these products in early February, experimented with them, and probably came to the conclusion that they couldn’t harvest enough powder to do what they wanted to do with them,” Weimer said.
The lawyer for Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s widow issued a statement on her behalf Tuesday, saying Katherine Russell knew nothing of the bombing plot. “The injuries and loss of life — to people who came to celebrate a race and a holiday — has caused profound distress and sorrow to Katie and her family. The reports of involvement by her husband and brother-in-law came as an absolute shock to them all.”
In Washington, senators said the closed-door briefing on Tuesday also revealed failures among federal agencies to share vital information about Tsarnaev, indicating, they said, that the US government still has not established a strong system to “connect the dots’’ about would-be terrorists residing in the United States more than a decade after 9/11.
Senator Susan Collins, a Maine Republican and a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, praised law enforcement authorities for quickly putting a halt to the violent spree Thursday night and Friday. “But I’m very concerned that there still seem to be serious problems with the sharing of information, including critical investigative information,’’ she said after emerging from the briefing. “That is troubling to me, this many years after the attacks on our country in 2001, that we still seem to have stovepipes that prevent information from being shared effectively.”
Burr, the North Carolina senator, contended that the Russians contacted the FBI several times, but the bureau disputed that assertion.
Spokesman Paul Besson said late Tuesday that the FBI maintains that it had only one contact with the Russians about Tsarnaev, in spring 2011, but could not comment about other agencies.
Warnings raised by Russia have loomed large in the investigation of how Tsarnaev, a Kyrgyzstan national, and his younger brother, Dzhokhar, a naturalized US citizen, allegedly prepared for the bombing.
“I think the increasing signals are that these are individuals that were radicalized, especially the older brother, over a period of time,’’ Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, said after the briefing. He said the brothers “used Internet sources to gain not just the philosophical beliefs that radicalized them, but also learning components of how to do these sorts of things.”
US officials have faced tough questions for not tracking the older brother’s travels to the Russian provinces of Dagestan and Chechnya, where he spent more than half of 2012 and may have interacted with militant groups or individuals.
Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said Monday that the FBI told him it was not aware of the older Tsarnaev’s travels because his name had been misspelled on an airliner passenger list. US Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano confirmed the misspelling during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday, but she said Homeland Security nonetheless was aware of his trip.Continued...