Why name matching matters

It’s marathon season again in Boston and the media is revisiting the tragic events of last year’s Boston Marathon bombings.

One aspect in particular is getting some attention – how Tamerlan and his brother slipped through the security net. Peter Cooney of Reuters covers this in his recent article “Russia Told America To Detain Tamerlan Tsarnaev Years Ago“.

In the article, Mr Cooney details how in September 2011, the FSB sent a cable to the CIA, restating the warnings of the first memo. NBC News quoted sources close to the congressional investigation as saying that a second note about Tsarnaev was entered into the TECS system the next month, but spelled his name “Tsarnayev.”

After spending six months in the Russian region of Dagestan, Tsarnaev flew back to JFK airport on July 17, 2012, but he was not detained or questioned.

“The reason we didn’t know he went to Russia is because the name was misspelled,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham regarding the FBI investigation of Tamerlan Tsarnaev. While it is not clear if this was a typo or a deliberate alias, Tsarnaev has also been represented as Царнаев and transliterated as Carnaev, or czarnaev amongst others.

It is clear that spelling variations in the Tsarnaev brothers’ names was a major roadblock towards the goal of “Preventative Intelligence.” Individual spelling or transliteration variants of the name have cropped up in English and Russian news reports and even passenger logs.

The importance of name matching

At Basis Technology, we take a language analysis approach to solving this challenging name matching problem for our customers both in the federal government and financial services.

Our Rosette Name Indexer (RNI) resolves names to their likely matches across many language variations. The resulting, newly uncovered information can be used to flag an individual from a watch list or simply log pertinent details to the correct identity, enabling law enforcement officials to prevent these events in the future.

To learn more about RNI simply contact us:


You can also download a summary of Rosette Name Indexer here.