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Probe To Determine Depth Of Boston Bombing Plot


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene.


And I'm Steve Inskeep. We have a clearer picture this morning of just how investigators in Boston identified the suspects in the Boston Marathon Bombings. A big break for investigators was a surveillance video. NPR counterterrorism correspondent Dina Temple-Raston has some new details of what that video showed. She's in our studios. Dina, good morning.


INSKEEP: OK. So what do investigators see when they play that video?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, they say the video was very harrowing. It showed Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. He's the one known as suspect number two with the white baseball cap.

INSKEEP: The one who's still alive.

TEMPLE-RASTON: The one who's still alive. He enters the frame with a backpack and in one quiet movement he just kind of slips it off his shoulder and drops it on the ground. And then it shows him making a phone call and walking away quickly from the backpack. And then a short time later - like seconds later - the first bomb exploded near the finish line.

And then there's a huge explosion that occurs right where that backpack had been in front of the Forum Restaurant. And the camera captures it all. Apparently, there's quite a bit of carnage there. It's very bloody. And it was this video, which they haven't released yet, that was so convincing and made investigators think that they had the right guy.

INSKEEP: And this answers a question for me, Dina, because the photo that was released last week and seems to have helped to lead to the suspects, was just a photo of two guys walking down the street after the bombing. And you're saying the reason they knew those two guys were of interest was because of the earlier video showing one of them dropping off this backpack.

TEMPLE-RASTON: That's right. Suspect number two, the man in the Boston Hospital now.

INSKEEP: OK. So what is his condition, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, we understand he's in serious but stable condition. Officials say he was apparently wounded in the neck and throat. What's unclear is whether that happened during the firefight that he and his brother had with police on Thursday night or whether this might've been self-inflicted. He was found in a trailered boat in Watertown last Friday.

INSKEEP: Mm-hmm.

TEMPLE-RASTON: He was barely conscious and apparently he'd lost a great deal of blood. Right now he has a tube down his throat.

INSKEEP: And with a tube down the throat with bullet wounds in that area, I assume he's not physically able to talk at this point.

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, we're not entirely sure that they're bullet wounds, exactly, in that area.


TEMPLE-RASTON: We just know that he's injured there. But that is the problem. He can't really talk. He's been apparently communicating with notes. A special high value detainee interrogation team was flown in to speak with him but not much has happened on that front.

The Justice Department has said they won't read him his Miranda Rights right away. They'll use this public safety exception which basically allows him to question him without reading him his rights so they can find out if there's some other plot afoot or other coconspirators. So in the meantime, since he's coming in and out of consciousness, the focus has been on the 26 year old brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

INSKEEP: Oh, so they are actually him questions through this means of passing notes when he is conscious enough to understand what is going on around him?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Yes. But I don't know if they're investigative questions exactly, or just questions to try and set up some rapport.

INSKEEP: I see. I see. But eventually, what investigators really want to know about, or at least initially want to know about, is the older brother who was killed in the chase on Thursday night. What is most vital for investigators to know?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, they're trying to understand how he might have been radicalized. We know he went to Russia for six months last year. Officials are trying to determine if he got some sort of terrorist training while he was there. They're trying to piece together who he met with, where he went, during those six months.

And they'll need help from Russian intelligence for that and it's unclear how much help they're really getting on that front. The Russians asked the FBI to interview Tamerlan back in 2011 because there was concern about his ties with Islamic extremists in Russia, but the FBI said they didn't have anything that they could hold him on so they had to let him go.

Now they're going back over that information and looking to see what might've happened in the last year that might've changed or radicalized Tamerlan in some way. The Wall Street Journal is reporting, this morning, that his mother became very devout in the last couple of years.

INSKEEP: Mm-hmm.

TEMPLE-RASTON: And that he sort of followed her lead. And then he apparently had some friend who was murdered and that might've been some sort of precipitating event. Often when people radicalize there's a precipitating event, something that rattles them a bit.

INSKEEP: Although there's something of interest, at least to Russians, going back to 2011, you're saying.

TEMPLE-RASTON: That's right. But it's unclear what that was. In this country you can go to Russia and conceivably talk to people who would be radicals and you can't be arrested. I'm not sure the Russians understood that completely.

INSKEEP: OK. Dina, thanks very much for that new information. I appreciate it.

TEMPLE-RASTON: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: That's NPR counterterrorism correspondent Dina Temple-Raston in our studios this morning. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Dina Temple-Raston is a correspondent on NPR's Investigations team focusing on breaking news stories and national security, technology and social justice.