Home / Saturday Email / FBI Failed to Track Boston Terrorist’s Flight to Russia: Misspelled Name
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FBI Failed to Track Boston Terrorist’s Flight to Russia: Misspelled Name

Written by Gary North on April 23, 2013

It turns out that the FBI failed to register the fact that the Boston bomber flew to Russia in 2011. Someone misspelled his name when he got on the plane.

You mean that the nation’s suspected-terrorist monitoring system is dependent on correctly spelled names? Yes.

You mean that billions of dollars in sophisticated equipment can be tripped up by people with peculiar last names? So it seems.

You mean that the TSA’s screening system, with X-ray machines, latex gloves, and long lines doesn’t work for bombers with odd last names. Sadly, yes.

But Google monitors your spelling. If you spell a word incorrectly, it still pulls up lots of hits. It lets you select another spelling.

Maybe so, but Google is not the FBI. The FBI doesn’t have sophisticated spelling software. Neither does the TSA. Neither does Homeland Security.

This sends a message to terrorists around the world: “If you have an odd last name, you may be able to blow up something in the U.S.”

Any would-be terrorist in the Middle East with a name like Muhammed Jones probably should skip it.

Continue Reading on www.washingtontimes.com

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45 thoughts on “FBI Failed to Track Boston Terrorist’s Flight to Russia: Misspelled Name

  1. James Lick says:

    This presumes that there is a “correct” way to spell names. Take my name for example. It is anglicized from a Polish name from when my grandparents arrived. I don’t even know what the original is, but other branches of the family had it changed to Luck or Lock or other variants. This gets even more complicated when the original uses non-latin characters such as Russian, Arabic, Chinese, Greek, etc. There are often multiple systems for romanizing these languages, which can result in multiple variants for the same word. I live in Taiwan where romanization was previously mostly done using the Wade-Giles system. Most foreigners learn using the Hanyu-Pinyin system, but since that was invented in Mainland China, it is politically problematic to use. To get around the political issue, a new Tongyong Pinyin system was invented. And of course there are some other systems in use for romanizing Mandarin Chinese. Oh, and by the way, people here also speak Taiwanese and Hakka which have their own systems. The result is that you will commonly see three or more ways to spell the same word when romanizing it. My wife’s surname could be written as Hsia, Xia or Sia, all of which would be correct in some sense, or she could use Lick which we’ve already established has multiple variants. Any non-English language will have similar difficulties in consistent spelling when romanized. If Tamerlan still had a Russian passport it likely had his name in Cyrillic which could have been romanized differently either in the passport or manually done by whoever checked him in.


  3. "Your information is too precise, too complete to be believed. The questionnaire plus the other information you brought spell out in detail exactly where, when, how, and by whom we are to be attacked. If anything, it sounds like a trap."

    FBI response to the top British spy, Dusko Popov (code named "Tricycle") on August 10, 1941, dismissing his report of the complete Japanese plan for the attack on Pearl Harbor.

  4. Gloria P. Sterling says:

    Do you mean to tell me that the 'TSA" has "flaws" and can make mistakes? Well, who would have thought! (Sarcasm, for anyone missing it)

  5. ANTICRIME says:

    PEARL HARBOR was the "DOOR" that opened the way for the USA to get involved in WWII after FDR promised Americans that he would "NEVER AGAIN ALLOW AMERICAN BOYS TO DIE ON FOREIGN SHORES"!!! ~ Great Britain's Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, was pleading with FDR to enter the war….the rest is history!

  6. Must have been a person with an affirmative action degree!

  7. All the more reason why I will n ever subject myself to TSA "screening for terrorists". If our protective agencies were free of political infuences and restraints an occasional slip up would be understanding. However, enough is enough…..stop the cover ups.

  8. What we OBVIOUSLY need to do is spend more money on security. Don't you know More money = better results? That's like, you know, a law of economics, or something. Duh!

    New RFP on Federal contracting site:

    "Spell-check software needed. Minority, female, or disabled owned businesses given preference. If you are a company owned by white male(s), best not to apply. We don't care if your solution actually works, that's not the point. Particular, extra-special, super-duper preference given to companies owned by trans-sexual, disabled, minorities."

  9. I have found the FBI a bunch of lunatics actually. I went in to the FBI office in San Francisco regarding a problem with hacking and fraud and they totally blew me off. As I waited to talk to someone in the FBI office I watched all the losers enter the facility. I don't know where they dig these idiots up but they need to do a better job. I have worked all over the world and I would not hire any of these clowns. Seem to me a very sad bunch of people.

  10. paco12348 says:

    This has been my greatest fear. I feared the PC Liberal bs would infiltrate the FBI, and the CIA just like it has the Pentagon. We are less safe today than before Obama took office.

  11. Very good points. But with trillions of dollars spent they should be able to consult and hire people from every culture with knowledge like yours. If you say 'kat,' Google says, "Did you mean cat?" They need to apply this with every language. The languages with so many terrorists attacking us should be concentrated on the most. They could hire someone that knows the variations in spelling for them. Also, if something is spelled just a bit incorrect, like yours, it should be prepared already to pull up variations or similar names spelled a bit differently. 'Jack Smith' should pull up Jake Smith, John Smith, Jon Smith, Josh Smith, Jack Smite, etc. Most Americans were under the impression that they were already using this method. It is common sense. I know it is difficult but that is where our tax money should go, not free cell phones and birth control.

  12. Richard Cancemi says:

    Mediocrity rules!

  13. Misspelling, or not, airline information isn't entered at the last second to flight, otherwise they wouldn't let him on the plane. The name was already in the computer, This sounds like another Obama lie and excuse, like the Benghazi film lie. He will use it over and over until it become the accepted reason.

  14. This presumes he was on an FBI watch list in the first place. No one said he was. He's been a legal citizen for years. You've got some serious issues, Gary.

  15. IAmWinner says:

    Obama murdered those who lost their lives in Boston because he is a Muslim!

  16. jimbo999 says:

    I guess that's how Barack Hussein Obama was allowed into this country when he came here from Indonesia with his mother.

    He got on the plane with his name spelled wrong.

    The incorrect spelling was: B A R R Y S O E T O R O.
    When he arrived in this country, his papers had the name spelled correctly: B A R A C K O B A M A.

    And when he bought his house in Chicago, his name was spelled H A R R I S O N J B O U N E L, husband of Michelle Obama.

    And when he applied for a Social Security number, his name was misspelled: J E A N P A U L L U D W I G.

    As you can plainly see, this happens all the time. Minor spelling errors sometimes cause problems for otherwise honest people.

    I wonder what the spelling error was for Tamerlan Tsarnaev …possibly: J O H N S M I T H?

  17. jimbo999 says:

    Have you seen who is in charge of the Justice Department, which runs the FBI and the CIA. Does the name Ecik Holder ring a bell?

  18. Spell-checking normal text is very different from spell-checking names, and there is an unavoidable trade-off here: If you make the name-matching criteria very narrow then you will occasionally miss somebody you wanted to catch, but if you make the criteria very broad then you'll be pulling lots of people out of line at the airport for "special attention" who aren't really on the list. You can pick any point on that spectrum that you like, and perhaps Google could make the algorithm smarter, but you cannot avoid the fundamental trade-off. It's not an easy choice because no matter what you do, people will get mad at you for doing it wrong.

  19. Seymour Kleerly says:

    As a Liberal I thank you for your brilliant posts. Please keep it up!

  20. Seymour Kleerly says:

    This failure is almost as bad as the "Underware Bomber" who's own father alerted us to the danger of his radicalized son.

  21. Sounds like the govt is in spin mode . . where have we heard this before . . oh yes, . . remeber the Christmas Day bomber in Dec 2009, who was on the Terror List but was able to board a flight without a passport in Amsterdam bound for Detroit.

    An you can't forget Chertof, former Secretary of DHS, making his rounds the very next day on all the news stations peddeling those back scanner devises which his company sold to the TSA.

  22. The truth of the matter is that the new Hitler's SS, i. e. FBI is a conspirator with the terrorism and mayhem that is part of the plan to take "US" down and replace it with AMERIKA – damn people, wake up!

  23. All that information is great. What I want to point out is that they had a terrorist attack in Boston. likely suspects would be those who are from a foreign country and living in the united states. Next criteria is the ones that you have on record as possible terrorist. Spelling would not have a lot to do with it.
    We are talking about them not catching it when he went to Russia for 6 months. Wouldn't that raise a suspicion even if his name was John Smith?

  24. In short the FBI did track him and the bomb sniffing dogs at the race are proof. They were following B. Hussain Oboma’s last order to STAND DOWN!

  25. You ain't seen nothing yet, Obama is going to send out 10,000 people to explain Obama care. I remember that when the plan was being shoved they said that even a well trained attorney would have trouble reading it because of the legaleeze. I guess they found 10,000 people who can explain it! Don't bet on that being what they are sent out to do. Who paid Obama to be a community organizer?????

  26. "Muhammed Jones"? Did you say Muhammad? Mohamed? Mohammad? Mohammed? Mahamed?

  27. Shane, if you actually had bothered to click on the link at the end of the article, you would see the FBI became aware of him at the request of Russia a year before, and the FBI admits that if the name had been entered correctly they would have known he had traveled to Russia…because they had them on their list.

    Could you put in 15 seconds of effort next time so that you appear a little less ignorant?

  28. Yes, Pearl Harbor was no "surprise" to FDR and Churchill. The head of US Naval intelligence Arthur McCollum wrote the 8-point plan in 1940 to goad the Japanese into attacking us at Pearl Harbor. After the 8th step was implemented — oil embargo — they attacked.

    As the Japanese fleet was heading towards Hawaii, a training exercise called “Task Force 29” was sitting north of Oahu exactly where the Japanese were going to launch the air attack from. Roosevelt got on the phone to Adm. Kimmel and said “You get that training exercise back in port now!” with no explanation.

    On Dec. 7, all the modern ships were out of port and off to the southwest, ostensibly to ferry supplies out to one of the other bases. All the ships that got hit were older ships; they were basically junk. The sister ship of the Arizona, the Utah, had already been taken out of combat service and was being used as a gunnery training vessel. They were the bait; they were antiques dating all the way back to the First World War. All the ships were repaired and put back into service except the Arizona, the Utah and the Nevada.

    All wars, including the curret Mideast war, are started with lies.

  29. I think how good he FBI is depends on who the agent is in charge at the time. Human failure is possible in every government agency. I seems to me that the US passport would display a clear photo and proper spelling of the passenger's name. We need to adopt the Israel way of taking care of this problem. The do not play games or use kid gloves when it comes to boarding one of their planes. Not only did Boston bomber # 1 go to Russia but he returned 6 months later and still no questions or suspicions from the FBI? Was this guy on the "no fly list"?

  30. I agree and would argue that Freedom is often times less than free. It hard work. Jimhodgeallied.com

  31. When considering the various forces it takes to achieve freedom a democracy must always stand vigilant

  32. We see two opportunities in the system of free enterprise. We must get businesses hiring again. Jimhodgeallquest.com

  33. In his book, The Bureau: The Secret History of the FBI, Ronald Kessler talked about how the FBI relied on Hoover's ancient filing system well into the late 20th century. Their computers were outdated and no one seemed to care until Mueller took the office of director. It was only then that their computers were updated and networked together to form a central data file that could be crossed and matched according to the need. BUT, they still have an enormous amount of material that has been collected on paper along with scattered information on old computers that.

  34. Every corporation, the government especially, has their share of clowns. I happen to know a big shot in the FBI from California. Some of them are good people.

  35. Rabelrouser says:

    There always seems to ba a "Reason" why something like this is allowed to happen. Some call it spin, I call it lies. The past 4 terrorist attacks on this nation have been allowed to happen for nefarious purposes; and as always the spin comes down to " Not Me!", "not My Fault!".
    When the spin tries to paint the attack as "this nation's (US) fault", and ignores the truth, then the general publics safety is being used for "other purposes".
    How many innocents have to die, or be maimed before the citizens realize the jigsaw picture is about creating a controlling atmosphere by lie and inuendo?

  36. James Lick says:

    The feds do use a fuzzy matching algorithm for names on watchlists. It is called Soundex. Unfortunately it was designed for English words and is almost useless on foreign names with variations in the consonants. It also has a horrible false positive rate which is why Ted Kennedy used to get pulled aside for inspection. The false positive rate is even worse for those with short names. Like, say, Rand Paul.

  37. Carl D Sedikllo says:

    If the destination of a passenger is outside the United States they must report to the ticket counter before departure and present a valid passport. It is scanned and verified against the name on the ticket. If an "error in spelling" occurred that same error is duplicated in the data base or it would have been rejected. In any case the entry should have been corrected when each of the brothers became an American citizen. Curiously, both the FBI, the State Department are claiming a misspelling error occurred.. If this is the case, the incorrect identification should have been caught when a change in citizenship statue occurred. I have trouble believing this is the case and the Administration is covering up the ineptness of the State Department and the FBI. Either the passport has the same incorrect name on the passport and the ticket or the
    Administration is attempting to cover-up the issue.

  38. James Lick says:

    He probably had both U.S. and Russian passports. It would be logical that he would use the Russian passport to check-in on a flight to Russia. Otherwise he would have needed to apply for a visa before travelling. His name would probably written in Cyrillic characters. Cyrillic can be 'translated' to English a number of different ways. It is likely that his Russian passport used a different variant of spelling and this is what was used on the travel documents.
    This is not the problem. Millions of immigrants in the U.S. have 'spelling' problems like this. The problem is that the people in charge do not have effective systems of identifying variants of spelling of foreign names. I wouldn't even be surprised if their systems were not capable of supporting non-ASCII characters, which would mean that they couldn't even store the original name in the original script.
    Also it turns out that the latest news is that Tamerlan was added to a terrorism database which includes 540,000 names of 450,000 individuals. I'm gonna take a wild guess that there aren't really 450,000 terrorists running around, which means that this database was effectively so large as to be nearly useless even if they could get all the spelling variations right.

  39. James Lick says:

    According to Wikipedia, Tamerlan was still a Russian citizen and only had permanent resident status in the U.S. Therefore he would only have had a Russian passport for travelling.

  40. Dick Grace says:

    Inspector Clouseau strikes again. Can't handle illegals, 30-40 million, can't stop them from getting welfare, etc. and find terrorists but make a mistake on your taxes and the IRS is there to help you out. Do we not see that the working class in this country is being mugged by politicians and their own government?

  41. Janet Holmes says:

    Anyone surprised at the FBI missing this needs to read Classified Woman by Sibel Edmonds. Great read and a really brave lady. This isn’t just about Boston, the mistakes the FBI made over Sept 11th 2001 are well documented, as are many other examples of their incompetence.

  42. Seymour Kleerly says:

    Paranoia strikes deep.

  43. Seymour Kleerly says:

    Are you claiming that Bush/Cheney were behind 9/11?

  44. If you are tracing ancestors at familysearch.org, when you enter a name, it brings up all the spelling variations of the name that the computer can find. This is the free genealogy site sponsored by the Mormon church, it's much smarter than the FBI and TSA systems.

  45. Mutantone says:

    where did Obama visit for how long after college for a stay in Pakistan?
    Tamerian Tsarnaev spent January 12, 2012 to July 17, 2012 with the Chechen rebels and look at what he learned.
    Where is the FBI report on that ?