Was Boston Marathon bombing a US 'intelligence failure'? (+video)
House and Senate intelligence committees will ask that question of FBI officials during closed hearings Tuesday about the Boston Marathon bombing. They will want to know if any red flags popped up when Tamerlan Tsarnaev traveled to Russia in 2011-12.
Was the Boston Marathon bombing the result of an intelligence failure? That’s the question members of the House and Senate intelligence committees will be asking senior FBI officials at closed hearings on Tuesday.Skip to next paragraph
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In particular they and other lawmakers want to know how Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s six-month trip to Russia in 2011 and 2012 could have escaped the FBI’s attention, despite the fact that he had already been investigated for possible extremist ties.
Senate intelligence panel chairman Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) of California on Monday said she did not understand why the elder Tsarnaev brother’s visit to his homeland did not ring a bell with the FBI and lead to further interviews.
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The purpose of probing that issue in today’s Senate hearing, said Senator Feinstein, was “not to criticize, because I am a big fan of the FBI’s, but to go back and plug loopholes.”
Other lawmakers have been more pointed. Last week Rep. Michael McCaul (R) of Texas, head of the House Homeland Security Committee, and panel member Rep. Peter King (R) of New York sent a letter to the FBI and US intelligence agencies that flatly called the FBI’s handling of the case an “intelligence failure.”
The FBI’s position is that agents did investigate Tamerlan Tsarnaev to the full extent allowed by federal guidelines. In 2010, the US received a request from Russia to vet the elder Tsarnaev brother due to worries he had become a follower of “radical Islam.” The FBI checked government databases for any mention of the name, as well as traffic to jihadist websites. They sent agents to interview him and members of his family. Finally, the feds decided they had done all they could within existing regulations on how far such investigations could proceed without corroborating evidence. They turned back to the Russians and asked for more detail.
“They put his name through the system and found one instance of domestic violence. They sent that report to the Russians and said, do you have any more, because they didn’t have enough. They never got a reply,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina in a Monday press conference.
In late 2011, Tamerlan traveled from the US to Russia. He spent six months there, largely in Chechnya and Dagestan, predominantly Islamic areas in the Caucasus region. After he returned, he appears to have begun posting to YouTube videos of others exhorting jihad – a possible tip-off that he’d been radicalized, or further radicalized, during the journey.