As the anniversary of the tragic bombing of the 2013 Boston Marathon approaches, all we can hear is the sound of silence from our national security agencies. The FBI in particular, which appears to have made a number of mistakes in the years leading up to the bombing, is putting roadblocks in front of attempts to discover what went wrong.
The lead Boston Marathon bomber was pointed out twice to U.S. authorities by the Russian intelligence service; in spite of these warnings, the FBI, along with the Customs Bureau, let him get away.
The House Committee on Homeland Security has just released a report that “takes the FBI, Customs and Border Protection, and other officials to task for missing opportunities to scrutinize Tamerlan Tsarnaev after he was first investigated by the FBI in 2011.” Yes, the FBI was warned in 2011 by the Russian intelligence agency Federal Security Service (FSB) that he was known to associate with radical Islamists in Chechnya. The FBI sent an agent to investigate Tamerlan and his name was entered into a processing system called TECS, which is an information sharing system that links a number of security databases and can be used by multiple federal agencies. However, a few months later, the FBI closed the investigation saying “the assessment found no links to terrorism.”
As part of their closing of the case, the FBI did not notify the Boston Police Department of their investigation. An officer from the police department was assigned to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force in Boston, “but the officer’s ability to handle information was severely restricted.” The House report states that no one knows what the Boston police would have done with this information, but “it is impossible to know how wider dissemination may have impacted events.”
In September of 2011, the FSB, perhaps amazed at the incompetence of the FBI, sent a second warning about Tamerlan to the CIA. Again, Tamerlan’s name was put in the TECS system with a note saying he must be detained if he attempted to leave the U.S. In January of 2012, when Tamerlan flew to Russia out of JFK airport in New York, the TECS system notified an FBI agent in the Joint Terrorism Task Force in Boston. For reasons the House Committee could not discover, no action was taken.
When Tamerlan arrived at the airport, Customs Bureau officials were busy with other high-interest travelers and the soon-to-be Boston bomber was not detained. He then spent six months in Dagestan, a region near Chechnya, and U.S. officials believe he received training from Islamic radicals during that time. When he booked a flight back to New York from Moscow, the TECS system notified the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force in Boston. Again no action was taken and again Customs Bureau officials did not detain him when he came through the airport.
Is it any wonder that the FBI refuses to co-operate with the House investigation? According to a member of the committee, U.S. Congressman Bill Keating of Massachusetts, the FBI turned down three opportunities to testify before the committee. “There hasn’t been full co-operation, Keating said. “Two trips to Russia and I get more information than I do going down the street 10 blocks in Washington.”
So, the cover-up continues. IT IS AN OUTRAGE: the FBI owes a full accounting to everyone – the more than 200 bombing victims and their families, the thousands of runners and by-standers, the residents of Massachusetts, and all Americans.