According to testimony given Wednesday before the House Homeland Security Committee, last month’s Boston Marathon bombings exposed that federal and local law enforcement agencies still haven’t corrected failures in intelligence sharing, a topic emphasized after the 9/11 attacks.
“We learned over a decade ago, the danger in failing to connect the dots. The cornerstone of the 9/11 Commission Report was that agencies had ‘stove-piped’ intelligence, which prevented us from seeing potential terror plots,” Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul said in his opening statement. “In fact, the DHS (Department of Homeland Security) was created in the wake of 9/11 to help fix this problem. My fear is that the Boston bombers may have succeeded because our system failed.
“I was disturbed in the days following the attack to read some ‘officials’ had closed the case on whether there was a ‘foreign connection,'” when the FBI had just begun its investigation,” McCaul continued. “As a former counterterrorism prosecutor, this rush to judgment was both premature and irresponsible.”
Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis testified that his department received no information about Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev from the FBI prior to April 19, when the rest of the world learned their identities.
Davis said his department would have kept tabs on them if he knew that Russian intelligence informed the FBI about Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s Islamic radicalism.
The Massachusetts State Police, which has seven troopers on a Joint Terrorism Taskforce, similarly was unaware of the Tsarnaev brothers prior to the bombing, said Massachusetts Undersecretary for Homeland Security & Emergency Management Kurt Schwartz.
“My understanding is that at no times prior to the bombings did any member of the Massachusetts State Police or the fusion center have any information or knowledge about the Tsarnaev brothers,” Schwartz said.
McCaul and former Sen. Joseph Lieberman, who testified at the hearing, expressed concern about an emerging narrative that downplays the spread of the global jihadist movement. Lieberman criticized those who oversimplify the problem by making it solely about al-Qaida.
“The Boston Marathon attacks should again teach us that the enemy we face is violent Islamic extremism, not just al-Qaida,” Lieberman said. “Osama Bin Laden is dead and the remaining leadership of al-Qaida is on the run but the ideology of violent Islamic extremism is rapidly spreading.
“We do not know yet whether the Tsarnaev brothers were involved with any foreign group, but we do know that the extremely false narrative of violent Islamic extremism – that Islam and America involved in a struggle to the death with each other.”
Lieberman stressed the need for better relations with the Muslim community to intercept people like the Tsarnaev brothers before they strike because they will be the “first line of defense.”