Bloomberg News

Lawmakers Fault U.S. Agencies for Lapses Tracking Boston Bombers

April 29, 2013

A trip to Russia by Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of two brothers accused in the Boston Marathon bombings, escaped notice because U.S. agencies failed to share information, members of Congress said yesterday

Representative Mike McCaul, a Texas Republican and head of the House Homeland Security Committee, said he wanted to know why agencies including the Department of Homeland Security that got information from Russian intelligence in 2011 didn’t coordinate when Tsarnaev traveled to Russia last year.

“CIA gets this information, the CIA’s got it, FBI’s got it, then DHS has it. The FBI puts up a flag so does DHS, the FBI flag does not go up when he travels to Russia, so they don’t know that he went to Russia,” McCaul said on the “Fox News Sunday” broadcast. “When he comes back from Russia he is clearly radicalized.”

In the aftermath of the April 15 bombings that killed three people and wounded more than 260, U.S. lawmakers said investigators have told them Tamerlan, 26, and his brother, Dzhokhar, 19, were schooled in radical Islam and terrorist bomb- making online.

Lawmakers such as McCaul are examining whether the FBI and CIA did all they could to prevent the attack, and he said congressional hearings are being planned.

‘Up Our Game’

“We’re going to have to up our game,” Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” broadcast. “How could you miss the fact the the guy you were -- you were informed by a foreign intelligence service you have a radical in your midst.”

The younger Tsarnaev, now being held at a federal facility west of Boston, is charged with using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction in the double bombing. Tamerlan Tsarnaev died in a shootout with police.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, at the request of Russia’s domestic intelligence service, conducted a three-month review of Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s activities in 2011. The FBI checked the tip thoroughly “and did not find terrorist activity, domestic or foreign,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said April 22.

Russia declined to cooperate when the FBI sought more specific information, according to Representative Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

Recorded Conversation

Since the bombing, Russia has turned over information to U.S. authorities, including details of a secretly recorded telephone conversation with Tsarnaev’s mother and her son, the Associated Press reported. In the 2011 conversation, one of the bombing suspects “vaguely” discussed jihad with the mother, AP reported, citing officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Russian authorities probably know more than they’ve told the U.S., Representative Adam Schiff, a California Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program.

“If they were up on this -- on the mother or someone related to the mother and listening, there’s got to be a basis for why they went up on her electronically or why they went up on one of her affiliates or associates,” he said. “We haven’t received that information from the Russians. I think they do know more than they’re telling us.”

‘Absolute Failure’

Representative Peter King, a New York Republican on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” criticized the FBI for not having visited Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s mosque or interviewed the imam after being alerted by the Russians. He said it was an “absolute failure” that the FBI didn’t notify New York sooner that the bombers had considered an attack in New York City after Boston.

King repeatedly called for authorities to more closely track the Muslim community. “The element is from within the Muslim community,” he said.

Meanwhile, McCaul and Senator Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, said the use of a type of bomb common in Pakistan and Afghanistan and detonating the device with a toy-car remote may signal the brothers had help.

“The way they handled these devices and the trade craft leads me to believe that there was a trainer,” McCaul said. “Where is that trainer or trainers?”

Manchin, speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” said he has seen the online magazine Inspire, which is affiliated with al-Qaeda, showing how to build a device and the Boston bomb was more sophisticated.

Pulled Trigger

“I think they were a little bit more advanced than what the website would have allowed a person to be,” he said.

Manchin also said the agencies questioning Dzhokhar “pulled the trigger too soon” on letting him invoke his right to an attorney.

“I think there’s more to be had there,” Manchin said. “But I would have liked that process of him of being interrogated to go further than reading Miranda rights as quick as they did.”

Former CIA Director Michael Hayden said on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS” broadcast that he was surprised Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was read his rights “so quickly,” and “the people doing the interrogation were surprised as well.”

Yet Schiff said that “it looks like” the FBI got the information they needed to ensure public safety prior to the Miranda rights reading.

“Already, I think the statements that the suspect made are going to be challenged by the defense team,” he said. “And while the priority has to be on making use of any information that could protect the public, it’s also valuable to be able to admit those into evidence.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Steve Geimann in Washington at sgeimann@bloomberg.net; Jeanna Smialek in Washington at jsmialek1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at skomarow1@bloomberg.net


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