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.
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Why did the FBI miss this? One possible explanation is that Tsarnaev’s name was misspelled on travel documents, according to Senator Graham. Such a glitch in counterterrorism is not unknown. In 2009, the US missed warnings about a possibly dangerous Nigerian student named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in part because his name was misspelled in diplomatic cables. On Christmas Day, Mr. Abdulmutallab boarded a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit and attempted to detonate plastic explosives in his underwear.Skip to next paragraph
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In 2011, the misspelling of Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s name was such that he did not pop into the FBI’s system, said Graham.
“Now, did he intentionally misspell his name, or did the Russian airline just get it wrong? I don’t know,” said Graham.
Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D) of Maryland, ranking minority member of the House Intelligence Committee, added on Tuesday that his panel is also interested in whether the FBI just stopped investigating Tamerlan Tsarnaev, or whether the agency actually cleared him of the allegations made by the Russians.
Representative Ruppersberger said Tuesday on CNN that all evidence he has seen to this point indicates that the Tsarnaev brothers did not have the help of any third parties. But he cautions that the bombs they used were a bit more sophisticated than one would expect from lone wolves – they may have been detonated using cellphones, for instance.
Such a technique “takes a little bit more sophistication, so we need to continue and investigate that issue also,” said Ruppersberger.
“We lack sufficient information, and gathering it will require patience and time,” he writes.
Hindsight bias makes it easy to say we “should have known it all along,” according to Mr. Rozenshtein. But that assumption forgets the noise associated with counterterrorism, the hundreds of other similar leads that the FBI looked into and found fruitless. It also ignores the fact that until the bombing the Caucasus region of Russia wasn’t high on the US list of possible sources of terrorism.
Mr. Walt argues that to some extent, the US has overreacted to the Boston tragedy – shutting down the whole city to hunt one suspect, and now hunting for someone to blame for not stopping the attack.
“Bad things do happen to good people, and it is the task of our political leaders to help us keep our heads even when awful things occur,” he writes.
RECOMMENDED: Quiz: How much do you know about terrorism?