Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s Citizenship Application Blocked By DHS

We had learned on Friday that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing case, had become an American citizen last year after many years of being in the United States under refugee status. Now it appears that his brother Tamerlan had also applied for citizenship but that his application was blocked by the Department of Homeland Security due to his previous contacts with the FBI:

Department of Homeland Security officials decided in recent months not to grant an application for American citizenship by Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of two brothers suspected in the Boston Marathon bombings, after a routine background check revealed that he had been interviewed in 2011 by the F.B.I., federal officials said on Saturday.

Mr. Tsarnaev died early Friday after a shootout with the police, and officials said that at the time of his death, his application for citizenship was still under review and was being investigated by federal law enforcement officials.

It had been previously reported that Mr. Tsarnaev’s application might have been held up because of a domestic abuse episode. But the officials said that it was the record of the F.B.I. interview that threw up red flags and halted, at least temporarily, Mr. Tsarnaev’s citizenship application. Federal  law enforcement officials reported on Friday that the F.B.I. interviewed Mr. Tsarnaev in January 2011 at the request of the Russian government, which suspected that he had ties to Chechen terrorists.

The officials pointed to the decision to hold up that application as evidence that his encounter with the F.B.I. did not fall through the cracks in the vast criminal and national security databases that the Department of Homeland Security and the F.B.I. review as a standard requirement for citizenship. The application, which Mr. Tsarnaev presented on Sept. 5, also prompted “additional investigation” of him this year by federal law enforcement agencies, according to the officials. They declined to say how far that examination had progressed or what it covered.

The handling of Mr. Tsarnaev’s application could be crucial for the Obama administration in the Senate debate that began this week over a bipartisan bill, which the president supports, for a sweeping immigration overhaul. Some Republicans skeptical of the bill have said they will watch the Boston bombings investigation to see if it reveals security lapses in the immigration system that should be closed before Congress proceeds to other parts of the bill, including a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

The record of the F.B.I. interview was enough to cause Homeland Security to hold up Mr. Tsarnaev’s application. He presented those papers several weeks after he returned from a six-month trip overseas, primarily to Russia, and only six days after his brother, Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, 19, had his own citizenship application approved. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is in custody and is in serious condition in a hospital.

Late last year, Homeland Security officials contacted the F.B.I. to learn more about its interview with Tamerlan Tsarnaev, federal law enforcement officials said. The F.B.I. reported its conclusion that he did not present a threat.

At that point, Homeland Security officials did not move to approve the application nor did they deny it, but they left it open for “additional review.”

The question of what, exactly, was involved in the FBI’s investigation of Tamerlan Tsarnaev is likely to become a focus of inquiry over the next several weeks and months, especially if evidence of foreign contacts and support is uncovered with respect to these attacks. This information is yet another piece in that puzzle, but it reinforces the idea that the 2011 FBI investigation didn’t really uncover anything noteworthy about the elder Tsarnaev, at least nothing indicating he was tied into a terrorist cell. There’s a very legitimate question, though, of how and why Tsarnaev was able to slip through the cracks that deserves to be investigated here because of the implications it holds for national security. My fear is that GOP is going to turn this into another partisan rant like they did with Benghazi, in that case, we’ll likely learn nothing of value.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, National Security, Quick Takes, Terrorism
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Dazedandconfused says:

    I think it would be more accurate to have said: There will be a legitimate question if it is revealed this op was instructed and not merely inspired by the radicals.

    Right now, we don’t know if he slipped through desired, deliberate cracks in our policing necessary to preserve our system or if he slipped through cracks of incompetence.

  2. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    He was charged with domestic assault in 2009, so there was grounds to deport him then.

  3. matt bernius says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    He was charged with domestic assault in 2009, so there was grounds to deport him then.

    Just to be clear, simply charging or arresting a legal immigrant for a crime is not enough to serve as grounds for a deportation.

    A conviction on domestic violence charges would be grounds for deportation — typically *after* the prison sentence is served.

  4. matt bernius says:

    My fear is that GOP is going to turn this into another partisan rant like they did with Benghazi, in that case, we’ll likely learn nothing of value.

    That’s a pretty good bet, though the resulting “partisan rant” is likely to be far more damaging than Benghazi as I expect it will be tied into the larger topic of Immigration reform.

  5. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @matt bernius: You mean like Cliffy Claven is already doing here? This was a great triumph for liberalism, don’t you know.

  6. Dave Schuler says:

    Does anybody else see a problem here? He’s not good enough to be an American citizen but he’s not bad enough to deport?

  7. matt bernius says:

    @Dave Schuler:
    I appreciate the apparent contradiction, but it has to be noted that the *in between* space you’ve just laid out is a pretty large one. And if we are going to embrace a larger plan of immigration reform, we’re going to find a lot of different people of all stripes within that category.

    Again, here are the key two sentences:

    The F.B.I. reported its conclusion that he did not present a threat.

    At that point, Homeland Security officials did not move to approve the application nor did they deny it, but they left it open for “additional review.”

    Keeping him in that space, in theory, gave the government more flexibility in dealing with him.

  8. matt bernius says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    You mean like Cliffy Claven is already doing here?

    I’m assuming there was a link there.

    Of course, a commentor on a blog is completely equivalent to sitting members of Congress.

  9. Dazedandconfused says:

    BTW, under the heading of “trivial but incredibly funny”, check out the practical joke the make-up people did to Chertoff’s eyes on Meet the Press for today, Sunday, April 21. He’s got “Magic Marker(tm)” eyes…

  10. Mark Ivey says:

    “My fear is that GOP is going to turn this into another partisan rant like they did with Benghazi”

    The GOP rant grifter´s are on it as we speak..

  11. CSK says:

    With respect to the 2009 domestic violence charge against Tamerlan, it was dismissed in 2010, according to the Middlesex County (Cambridge) District Attorney’s office. Whether that would make a difference to his status, I do not know.

    What had happened was this: Tamerlan’s girlfriend called the Cambridge police to report that Tamerlan had beaten her up. He admitted to slapping her. She had no visible marks (according to the police report) and refused medical attention. He was arrested. and charged with assault.

    As to why the charge was dropped, I don’t know. Usually it’s because the victim won’t testify. I suspect the victim may be his wife, now widow. They have a three-year-old daughter, who would have been conceived in 2009 or 2010, depending on when her birthday is. I don’t know the date of their marriage.

  12. Lynn says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: “He was charged with domestic assault in 2009, so there was grounds to deport him then.”

    from http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323735604578439241510171364.html

    “According to the complaint, Mr. Tsarnaev admitted slapping Ms. Ascencao and was arrested on charges of assault and battery. The charges were dismissed before trial.”

    Just charging someone with something should not be sufficient grounds for deportation.

  13. Lynn says:

    @CSK: “As to why the charge was dropped, I don’t know. Usually it’s because the victim won’t testify. I suspect the victim may be his wife, now widow.”

    She was, apparently, an ex girlfriend. See http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323735604578439241510171364.html

  14. Lynn,

    Indeed, under the relevant laws, the mere fact of a charge is not even close to being sufficient legal grounds for deportation.

  15. Ed says:

    Benghazi a partisan rant? What planet are you from Doug or are you just selective in your outrage over the administrations campaigns against finding the truth?

    If Obama is so in tune with terror and protecting our citizens, so where is the investigation on the attack on Benghazi? Oh that’s right, just like they did with the Fort Hood investigation that was revised as ‘work place violence’ or in this case ‘sequestering’ the 30 survivors from testifying as to the attack. It’s certainly not for lack of money to investigate, it’s for where it’s appropriated, and the public, especially the victims families should have answers. The money is there, but liberals would choose to spend it on cow flatulence research rather than on National Security.

    Besides investigating the radical Islamic terror attacks in Boston, we need to investigate the attacks in Benghazi.

    End the Benghazi Coverup –
    http://specialoperationsspeaks.com/articles/open-letter-to-the-us-house-of-representatives

    You’re blithering comments reveal a bias that one would not want to have in an attorney to decide ones fate.