FBI didn't tell Boston about Tsarnaev warning, says police chief
The FBI didn't tell Boston police that they'd been warned about Tamerlan Tsarnaev, despite FBI-Boston PD collaborations, Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis told Congress today.
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Davis' testimony revealed a gap in information-sharing between federal and local officials. That was somewhat reminiscent of intelligence failures that preceded the 2001 terror attacks. Unlike those lapses, however, it's not clear that anything would have been different, whatever coordination there might have been.Skip to next paragraph
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Led by the FBI, Joint Terrorism Task Forces operate in many cities as a way to bring federal, state and local officials together to share information. The model has existed for decades but, after 9/11, task forces sprouted up in cities nationwide to ensure that police were not out of the loop on investigations like the one the FBI conducted into Tsarnaev.
Davis said that while his officers weren't given specific information about the elder Tsarnaev, they did have access to computer databases maintained by the terrorism task force. Later Thursday, Boston FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard DesLauriers issued a statement detailing how and why representatives from local agencies have access to the databases.
He said giving task force members access to the databases provides necessary "accessibility and awareness that otherwise would be unfeasible" given the volume of such investigations.
Under questioning from lawmakers, Davis said he was not aware of anyone from a local mosque where Tamerlan Tsarnaev once worshipped calling police after photographs of the suspects were released by theFBI. He said authorities also did not hear from classmates of Tsarnaev's brother, Dzhokhar, at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured and faces federal terrorism charges in the attacks.
In a time of widespread budget cuts, the hearing also began laying the groundwork for an expected push for more counterterrorism money. Both Davis and Kurt Schwartz, the Massachusetts homeland security chief, praised federal grants that for years have kept cities flush with money for equipment and manpower.
"People are alive today" because of money for training and equipment, Schwartz said.
The hearing was conducted by the House Homeland Security Committee. The panel's chairman, Rep. Michael McCall (R) of Texas, and ranking Democrat, Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, both spoke of the importance of federal money, as did Lieberman.
"You can't fight this war without resources," Lieberman said.
In written testimony, Davis told lawmakers that cities should look at deploying more undercover officers and special police units and installing more surveillance cameras — but not at the expense of civil liberties.
"I do not endorse actions that move Boston and our nation into a police state mentality, with surveillance cameras attached to every light pole in the city," Davis said. "We do not and cannot live in a protective enclosure because of the actions of extremists who seek to disrupt our way of life."
Investigators used surveillance video from a restaurant near one of the explosions to help identify the Tsarnaev brothers.
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Associated Press writers Jay Lindsay and Michelle R. Smith contributed to this report from Boston.