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Why Were the Immigration Files on Tamerlan Tsarnaev So Heavily Redacted?

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COMMENT: In FTR #773, among other programs and posts, we noted that the Boston Marathon bombing appears to have been blowback from ongoing covert “ops” using Islamist proxy warriors in the Earth Island. The heavy censorship of Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s immigration files reinforces the suspicion that there is information about the bombers that is too sensitive to be released.

Only 206 of the 751 pages of the immigration file on Tsarnaev and his friend Ibragim Todashev were released in their entirety. 

“Fed­eral Files Leave Ques­tions about Marathon bomber, Friend” by Maria Sac­chetti; Boston Globe; 2/29/2016.

Gov­ern­ment says it han­dled their immi­gra­tion cases prop­erly; files are heav­ily edited

Tamer­lan Tsar­naev passed the US cit­i­zen­ship test three months before he and his younger brother det­o­nated two bombs at the Boston Marathon, accord­ing to fed­eral immi­gra­tion records obtained under the Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act.

His test results, with cor­rect answers to ques­tions about slav­ery, the Con­sti­tu­tion, and the Louisiana Pur­chase, are in 651 pages of pre­vi­ously con­fi­den­tial files on the bomber and his friend Ibragim Toda­shev. Both men were killed in sep­a­rate inci­dents after the April 15, 2013, bombings.

The Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­rity pro­vided redacted files to The Boston Globe after mul­ti­ple requests span­ning three years. Only 206 pages were released in their entirety, so it remains unclear why the gov­ern­ment granted the friends legal res­i­dency and put them on the path toward US citizenship.

But the records show that months before the bomb­ings, Tsar­naev went to the John F. Kennedy Fed­eral Build­ing in Boston, swore his alle­giance to the United States, and denied any links to ter­ror­ism. The records also show that Toda­shev told immi­gra­tion offi­cials he had left Mass­a­chu­setts in Sep­tem­ber 2011, the same month he allegedly helpedTsar­naev kill three men in Waltham.

Until now, the gov­ern­ment had declined to release the files, cit­ing ongo­ing crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tions. But the mys­tery stirred debate about why immi­gra­tion offi­cials granted Tsar­naev and Toda­shev refuge in the first place, and whether offi­cials missed warn­ing signs about their crim­i­nal activ­ity as their cases pro­gressed through US Cit­i­zen­ship and Immi­gra­tion Services.

On Sun­day, the agency issued a state­ment say­ing the cases were processed correctly.

If fed­eral offi­cials raised secu­rity con­cerns about Tamer­lan Tsar­naev or Toda­shev, they did not dis­close them in the heav­ily redacted immi­gra­tion files. Instead, the files sketch a por­trait of Tsar­naev and Toda­shev, both eth­nic Chechens from Rus­sia, as men strug­gling with unem­ploy­ment and poverty while try­ing to cement their ties to the United States, Tsar­naev through cit­i­zen­ship and Toda­shev through a green card. They had so lit­tle income that the gov­ern­ment waived their immi­gra­tion appli­ca­tion fees, offi­cials said.

Tamer­lan Tsar­naev came to Amer­ica as a teenager in 2003, after secur­ing a visa in Turkey. His fam­ily had bounced between Kyr­gyzs­tan, Kaza­khstan, and Dages­tan in south­ern Rus­sia before set­tling in Cambridge.

In August 2012, after a 178-day trip to Rus­sia, Tsar­naev stopped by the Cam­bridge office of Cen­tro Latino, a now-defunct non­profit, for help in apply­ing for cit­i­zen­ship. He did not stand out; the orga­ni­za­tion helped hun­dreds of immi­grants of all back­grounds fill out the forms every year.

In his appli­ca­tion, Tsar­naev wrote that he wanted to change his first name to that of an early Islamic scholar, Muaz— a move crit­ics later said should have spurred the gov­ern­ment to inves­ti­gate fur­ther. He also dis­closed a 2009 arrest for assault­ing a for­mer girl­friend, and that he was receiv­ing gov­ern­ment ben­e­fits and had recently trav­eled overseas.

On Jan. 23, 2013, immi­gra­tion offi­cer David McCor­mack inter­viewed Tsar­naev and tested his Eng­lish and knowl­edge of US his­tory and gov­ern­ment. He answered six civics ques­tions cor­rectly to pass: He knew that Africans had been slaves, that there are 27 con­sti­tu­tional amend­ments, and that the United States bought Louisiana from the French in 1803. He also iden­ti­fied “Joe Biden” as the vice pres­i­dent, said Con­gress makes fed­eral laws, and that the colonists fought the British over “high taxes.” He cor­rectly read a ques­tion about vot­ing and wrote the answer: “Cit­i­zens can vote.”

His sole error was to say that the fed­eral court, and not the Supreme Court, is the high­est court in the United States.

After­ward, the immi­gra­tion offi­cer checked the box next to the sen­tence that said: “You passed the tests of Eng­lish and US his­tory and government.”

But instead of mark­ing the box that said, “Con­grat­u­la­tions! Your appli­ca­tion has been rec­om­mended for approval,” the offi­cer checked the next box, which said, “A deci­sion can­not yet be made about your application.”

Rea­sons for the delay are unclear in the file pro­vided to the Globe. Ear­lier, a fed­eral report had saidthat Tsarnaev’s cit­i­zen­ship appli­ca­tion was delayed because the gov­ern­ment did not have his crim­i­nal court records from the 2009 case.

But those records are in the file pro­vided to the Globe. Home­land Secu­rity con­firmed on Sun­day that records in the file obtained by the Globe show that Tsar­naev fur­nished those records to the immi­gra­tion offi­cer and that the offi­cer had rec­om­mended him for cit­i­zen­ship, pend­ing a supervisor’s review because of his crim­i­nal history.

All that stood between him and US cit­i­zen­ship was a supervisor’s approval, which was required, and a final swearing-in ceremony.

Todashev’s file shows he applied for a green card twice. He received asy­lum shortly after arriv­ing in the United States in 2008 from Rus­sia. The file shows he lived in Penn­syl­va­nia, Geor­gia, and Mass­a­chu­setts, stay­ing in Chelsea, Water­town, Cam­bridge, and finally All­ston before mov­ing to Florida.

In May 2011, a top immi­gra­tion offi­cial in Atlanta, Paul Onyango, denied his green card appli­ca­tion because Toda­shev had not pro­vided court records from a crim­i­nal road-rage inci­dent in Boston. The offi­cial said he would not refer Toda­shev for depor­ta­tion, how­ever, which Home­land Secu­rity said was typ­i­cal in such situations.

The next year, Toda­shev tried again. He was issued a green card on Feb. 5, 2013, accord­ing to Home­land Secu­rity. But shortly after the bomb­ings, a top immi­gra­tion offi­cial sent the Boston immi­gra­tion office a memo titled “with­hold­ing of adju­di­ca­tion” — sug­gest­ing a shift in his case.

The rea­son is unclear, because the record is redacted.


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