WASHINGTON – The FBI did not initially share with Boston police the warnings from Russias security service in 2011 about one suspect in last months marathon bombings, despite the work of four city police representatives on a federal terrorism task force, Bostons police commissioner told Congress on Thursday.
Yet Commissioner Ed Davis acknowledged that police might not have uncovered or disrupted the plot even if they had fully investigated the family of Tamerlan Tsarnaev based on those warnings. The FBI after a cursory investigation closed its assessment on Tsarnaev, who died in a police shootout after the bombings. Boston police learned about the Russian warnings only later.
Thats very hard to say. We would certainly look at the information, we would certainly talk to the individual, Davis said. From the information Ive received, the FBI did that, and they closed the case out. I cant say that I would have come to a different conclusion based upon the information that was known at that particular time.
In Massachusetts, meanwhile, Tsarnaev was secretly buried in an undisclosed location outside Worcester after a weeklong search for a community willing to take the body. Worcester police Sgt. Kerry Hazelhurst said the body was no longer in that city and had been entombed, but he would not say where.
The congressional hearing was the first in a series to review the governments initial response to the attacks, ask what information authorities received about Tsarnaev and his brother before the bombings and consider whether it was handled correctly.
Some lawmakers questioned whether Boston police could have more thoroughly investigated Tsarnaev after 2011, based on Russias vague warnings to the FBI and CIA or the discovery by the Homeland Security Department in 2012 that he was traveling to Russia for six months, and whether Justice Department rules intended to protect civil liberties constrained the FBIs own inquiry.
Why didnt they involve the local law enforcers who could have stayed on the case and picked up signals from some of the students who interacted with them, from the people in the mosque, asked former Sen. Joe Lieberman, who also testified. In this case, aggravatingly, you have two of our great homeland security agencies that didnt involve before the event the local and state authorities that could have helped us prevent the attack.
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. But unlike those lapses, its not clear anything would have been different, whatever coordination there might have been.
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.