WASHINGTON — New information emerged Wed-nesday from U.S. officials that the name of one of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects had been added to a U.S. government terrorist database long before the explosions.
At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, more than 4,000 mourners paid tribute to a campus police officer who authorities say was gunned down by the suspects.
Among the speakers at the memorial service in Cambridge, just outside Boston, was Vice President Joe Biden, who condemned the bombing suspects as “two twisted, perverted, cowardly, knockoff jihadis.”
In a striking new development, U.S. officials said the name of the dead suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was added by the CIA to a terrorist database 18 months ago. The officials spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the ongoing case.
The disclosure was significant because officials have been saying the U.S. intelligence community had no relevant information leading up to the April 15 bombings, which killed three people and injured more than 260 others. Inclusion of one of the bomb suspects’ name in a database for 18 months before the attack could prompt congressional inquiries about whether the U.S. government adequately investigated tips from Russia that Tsarnaev posed a security threat.
Tsarnaev’s younger brother, surviving suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, was listed in fair condition as he recovered from wounds suffered during a getaway attempt. He could get the death penalty if convicted of plotting with his older brother to set off the pressure-cooker bombs near the marathon’s finish line. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, died in a shootout with police.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s father has called him a “true angel,” and an aunt has insisted he’s not guilty. His public defender didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment Wednesday.
The bombs were triggered by a remote detonator of the kind used in remote-control toys, U.S. officials said Wednesday. They said investigators found pieces of the remote-control equipment among the debris and were analyzing them.
Both U.S. officials are close to the ongoing investigation but spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly. One official described the detonator as “close-controlled,” meaning it had to be triggered within several blocks of the bombs.
The criminal complaint filed against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev said he was using a cellphone moments before the blasts.
U.S. officials also said he has told interrogators he and his brother were angry about the U.S. wars in Muslim Afghanistan and Iraq.
After closed-door briefings on Capitol Hill with the FBI, lawmakers said earlier this week that it appeared so far that the brothers were radicalized via the Internet instead of by direct contact with any terrorist groups and that the older brother was the driving force in the bomb plot.