Graham Fuller, a retired CIA officer whose daughter was briefly married to Ruslan Tsarnaev (Uncle Ruslan), has come out and flatly denied any CIA connection to the Tsarnaev's, calling the allegations “absurd.”
Fuller's daughter, Samantha, was married to Ruslan from the mid-to-late 1990's, before divorcing. Ruslan lived with the retired CIA officer in Maryland for a year, but Fuller saw no interest in politics, policy, or the CIA, from Ruslan. "Like all Chechens, Ruslan was very concerned about his native land, but I saw no particular involvement in politics," Fuller wrote in an email to Al-Monitor.
“I doubt he even had much to say of intelligence value other than talking about his own family’s sad tale of deportation from Chechnya by Stalin to Central Asia,” Fuller wrote. “Every Chechen family has such stories.”
The story of the Tsarnaev family, which is still being hashed out through media and family interviews (as well as government reports and suspicions about the family), is an especially complicated one that bridges the immediately post-Soviet era to the present-day "War on Terror." Juan Cole traces the Tsarnaevs flight from Russia to the fact that Anzor Tsarnaev (the father of the alleged bombers) had been a prosecutor for the Soviet prosecutor's office — an unpopular position among ethnic Chechens.
‘We were,’ she [the aunt of the suspects] said, ‘lucky to get him out of Kyrgyzstan alive,’ presumably because radical Muslims were trying to track him down and take revenge on him there.
If he had been a Soviet era prosecutor, a lot of people in Kyrgyzstan would have had a grudge with him. Hence his abortive attempts to flee first to Chechnya in the early 90s and to Daghestan later.
Cole hypothesizes that the two brothers, especially the older Tamerlan, were ashamed of their father's role in the Soviet repression of ethnic Chechens and were looking to rebel against their father. Thus, he considers, the dissonance between the father and sons, the radicalization of the brothers as they searched for an identity.
The Tsarnaev's straddled several different worlds — ones that got them put on government watch lists, and into the homes of retired CIA officers; Ones where they were hounded by religious fundamentalists, and ones where they became them. As the press and authorities begin to sift through the family's stories, they're going to find contradictions and dissonance in a family that has seen the world change, drastically, in the past 20 years.