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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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April 22nd, 2013
07:16 PM ET

Frosty Russia relationship may have hampered FBI probe into Boston bombing suspect

The U.S. government has been reluctant to accept Russia's assertion that Chechnya is a breeding ground for extremists - U.S. officials believe Russia is trying to drag the U.S. into its war. The skepticism may have played a role in how Russia's warning about Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev was handled. The FBI interviewed Tsarnaev in 2011, but says it found no terrorism activity at the time. It appears the bureau did not follow up after Tsarnaev spent six months in Chechnya and Dagestan in 2012.

"We know that Chechnya is a breeding ground for extremists, but it's mostly been extremists who were targeting Russians," said former State Department coordinator for counterterrorism Daniel Benjamin.

At issue is the historic relationship with the FSB, the successor of the KGB, and the FBI, added Benjamin.

"The FSB may give us a tip, but doesn't give us much to go on," said Benjamin. "I understand in this case that we did actually follow up with several inquiries to them, asking for more information on this case."

The U.S. overall has a good relationship with Russia when it comes to counterterrorism.

"But when you're dealing with these old cold war foes, sometimes the relationships can be frosty," said Benjamin. "Often the exchange is not nearly as fruitful as it would be, say, between the United States and some of its Western European partners."

"It is not unusual to have this kind of exchange kind of come to a dead end with the Russians," said Benjamin.

A common thread over the last decade has been attacks, or attempted attacks carried out by individuals who were raised in the United States taking out their frustrations on their adopted country. Pakistani immigrant Faisal Shahzad attempted and failed to detonate a bomb in Times Square. Nidal Malik Hasan was born and raised in Virginia, and yet killed 13 people in a bloody attack at Fort Hood, Texas.

Benjamin said these attacks are not unique to the U.S. In France, Mohammed Merah killed six people in Talouse. In Holland, a Dutch artist accused by Muslims of ridiculing their religion was killed.

"These are very, very difficult cases because if they're not maintaining connections with terrorist groups in other countries, then there are not a lot of leads to go on," said Benjamin.

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