The House Committee on Homeland Security is holding a hearing today to investigate the Boston Marathon bombings and review what U.S. agencies knew about the two suspects before the attacks. FBI and Homeland Security officials and Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis III are answering questions from members of Congress. Read below for the latest developments.
The House Homeland Security Committee hearing on the Boston bombings has ended after about three and a half hours. There were no significant new investigative details about the probe into the bombings and whether the Tsarnaev brothers are connected to a larger foreign terrorist group.
There were, however, many questions raised by former Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and several Republican congressmen on the panel about whether the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security did enough to investigate Tamerlan Tsarnaev after the Russian security service contacted the FBI on March 2, 2011. This issue has been hotly debated since the suspects were identified on April 19 and it became known that the FBI had investigated the older brother for three months in 2011.
Whether the bombings represents an intelligence failure is now the focus of a multi-agency intelligence and law enforcement review.
Several congressmen on the panel also questioned whether the FBI did enough after they closed their case to share the information they did have about Tsarnaev with the Joint Terrorism Task Force in Boston. Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis testified that, in hindsight, he and the Boston police would have liked to have the information about Tsarnaev that was passed on from the Russian security service.
But FBI officials said they get hundreds of such leads of possible terrorist activity. And in this case, after three months of investigating, they closed the case after finding nothing suspicious or derogatory about Tsarnaev.
Congressmen on the panel pressed for more answers, and several agreed with Lieberman’s description of the Boston bombings as an intelligence and information-sharing failure.
Sen. Joe Lieberman again criticized the FBI for not knowing about alleged Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s radical Islamic activities.
“I’m afraid they didn’t know that Tamerlan put up his own YouTube Channel with violent videos,” Lieberman said.
FBI officials have said many times that they closed their investigation into Tsarnaev in 2011 after failing to find any derogatory information about him. Tsarnaev created his YouTube Channel and uploaded radical Islamic videos last year when the FBI was no longer investigating him, law enforcement officials have said.
The actions of the FBI in 2011 are coming under close scrutiny in this hearing on the Boston bombings. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) just asked former Sen. Joe Lieberman whether he believes the FBI should have gone to Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s mosque and talked to his imam and people there before they closed the bureau’s investigation of Tsarnaev in June, 2011.
“I do,” Lieberman replied. “I don’t know exactly what happened here. They talked to Tamerlan Tsarnaev. They talked to his mother and did some light surveillance. But as far as I can see, they didn’t talk to anyone else.”
“We will not be defined by these tragedies,” said Rep. Ron Barber (D-Ariz.) “We will be defined by how we respond.”
Barber was shot and injured on Jan. 8, 2011, by Jared Loughner in the Tucson shooting when Loughner killed six people and injured 13 others, including former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
Barber said that the photographs of the Boston bombing victims reminded him of the victims of the Tucson shooting.
“I think the people in Tucson are still grieving their loved ones,” Barber said. “Those photographs took me back to that terrible day and subsequent weeks.”
Doctors have finally closed the wound left in 7-year-old Jane Richard’s leg by the Boston bombings, according to a statement issued Thursday by the Richard family, which lost a son, Martin, in the attacks and had two other family members wounded. Below is a statement from the family:
Last evening, just 23 days after the bombing attack on Boston, our seven-year-old daughter Jane underwent her eleventh surgery. While she has more trips to the O.R. ahead of her, last night’s operation marked an important milestone, as doctors were finally able to close the wound created when the bomb took her left leg below the knee. Part of the procedure involved preparing Jane’s injured leg to eventually be fitted for a prosthesis.
By closing the wound, the incredible medical team at Boston Children’s Hospital laid the groundwork for Jane to take an important step forward on the long and difficult road ahead of her. One of the things we have learned through all of this is to not get too high or too low. We take today’s development as positive news and look ahead with guarded optimism. If things go well, Jane could be ready to transition to the rehabilitation stage of her recovery in the next few weeks.
Getting to this point has not been easy for Jane. In addition to all of the surgeries, she has also had to fight off infections and other complications. After not being able to communicate with Jane for the first two weeks, she woke up with difficult questions that needed to be answered. There are not words to describe how hard sharing this heartbreaking news was on all of us.
As for the rest of the family, Bill and Denise were discharged from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center a week after they were admitted. While no sight has returned to Denise’s injured eye, her doctors have been pleased with how she is healing from her surgeries. Bill is healing from the shrapnel wounds and burns to his legs, and we remain hopeful there will be improvement over time from the hearing loss he suffered. It will be several months before we know what, if any, improvement Denise or Bill will experience. Henry is back at school, which gives him a needed sense of routine and normalcy. We will continue to stay together in the Longwood Medical Area until Jane is discharged.
Our focus as a family remains on healing from our injuries, both physical and emotional.
The family also issued a thank-you to the community:
We would like to take this time to also acknowledge the strength we draw from the community. The outpouring of support from friends, family and total strangers has been incredible, and it is uplifting to our family in this most painful and difficult time. Well-wishes reach us, and they help more than anyone can know.
From the moment of the attack, all of us have been in the hands of well-trained people who are incredibly good at what they do. We thank the courageous first-responders and Samaritans who stabilized and comforted us on the scene as well as the medical staff at the hospitals for quick action and life-saving care. We particularly want to thank the people who quickly got to Jane and addressed her injury in the street, because they saved her life. We also salute those who stood guard over Martin’s body so he was not alone. Those officers will never know how comforting that was in our very darkest hour. The doctors, nurses, psychologists, social workers, technicians, orderlies, volunteers and administrators at both Boston Children’s Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center have been incredible. We will recover because of these dedicated and talented people.
People near and far have made loving gestures and poignant remembrances. We are aware of tributes and vigils across the area and around the world. Martin was a big sports fan and what has taken place across the sports world – from our local teams to our arch rivals, by teams and by individual players – reminds us why. Martin was “Boston Strong,” and now we must all be for him and for all of the victims of this senseless attack as well as their loved ones who are going through a hell we wish we never had to know.
Many of you feel an incredible need to do more, which is understandable and gracious. We will need help, as we cannot get through this tragedy on our own. We know how difficult it is to stand idle when something terrible happens, so we thank you for respecting our privacy and giving us space to not only recuperate and rest, but also to ensure the one thing the attack does not break is our bond as a family.
As hard as it is for us to do so, we ask for your continued patience as we work through something for which there is no roadmap, and there are no instructions.
We look forward to sharing another update when Jane leaves Children’s Hospital for rehab in the coming weeks. We will post any future statements at at RichardFamilyBoston.tumblr.com.
The House Homeland Security Committee has resumed its hearing on the Boston bombings after a nearly one-hour break for a series of votes on the house floor.
The Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis credited the Israelis for teaching the police the “cut and tag” tactic used by officers after the bombings to open backpacks suspected of containing bombs. “The Israeli military and police were very helpful to us,” he said.
Since September 11, 1001, Israeli police officials have traveled to the United States and American police chiefs have traveled to Israel on many trips funded by the Police Executive Research Forum to teach U.S. law enforcement officers how to respond to a mass casualty terrorist attack.
“If we had not trained .. .there would have been more people killed,” Davis said. “I can’t tell you how valuable it was.”
Law enforcement officials said in interviews on Thursday it is inaccurate that New York City police officials were not told immediately by the FBI of a possible plan by the Boston bombers to set off explosives in Manhattan.
During this morning’s House Homeland Security Committee hearing, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) said it was “absolutely indefensible” that the FBI did not immediately tell the New York police department about Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s plans to target the city.
In an interview, however, one law enforcement official said that New York City police officials knew of the possible Manhattan plot at the same the FBI was informed early Friday morning after a man who was carjacked by the Tsarnaev brothers told the police that they had mentioned possibly going to New York City next.
The law enforcement official said that New York City police officials were constantly briefed on all significant developments in the Boston bombing case.
The body of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev has been buried outside of the city, according to the Associated Press.
Police in Worcester, Mass., said in a statement Thursday that “a courageous and compassionate individual came forward” to bury the remains, which had been at a Worcester funeral home for about a week.
Police did not disclose where the body was taken.
Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) asked Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis an interesting question: Given that Boston FBI agents investigated Tamerlan Tsarnaev in 2011 and interviewed him in person, why didn’t those agents recognize him when the FBI located surveillance video and photographs of the suspects? The FBI has said that they released the photographs and video to media organizations three days after the bombings because they did not know the individuals in the images.
Duncan also asked Davis if the Boston attacks could have been prevented if the FBI had shared information with other law enforcement agencies in the Joint Terrorism Task Force back in 2011. Davis paused.
“It’s hard to say,” he replied. “Someone looked at the information and closed the case,” Davis said, referring to the 2011 FBI investigation into Tamerlan Tsarnaev that was closed after three months. Davis said that the FBI investigation is now being reviewed in the aftermath of the Boston attacks.
“I don’t have the answer to that now,” he told Duncan.
Joe Lieberman and several Homeland Security Committee members discussed the difficulty of balancing FBI surveillance with citizens’ rights to privacy. Lieberman said there is “a lot of monitoring going on now of violent jihadist Web sites and chat rooms” by U.S. law enforcement. But he acknowledges “it’s very hard to control.”
Lieberman also urged the committee and the Department of Justice to review existing guidelines for FBI investigators.
“Are they constrained?” Lieberman asked. “Did [the guidelines] in any way send a message to FBI agents that they shouldn’t share this information [with other agencies] until they had a greater level of proof that a crime was committed?”
FBI officials have said many times since the Boston bombings that they investigated Tamerlan Tsarnaev for three months and closed their low-level investigation after they found “no derogatory information” and no evidence of criminal behavior.
Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis gave new details about how police tracked down the Boston suspects on the night on April 18. Davis said he was informed about the shooting death of the MIT police officer about 30 minutes after it occurred. But police at first believe it was linked to an armed robbery earlier that night. Police did not initially link the shooting to the bombing suspects.
“But we were highly suspicious,” Davis said.
It was only after the nearby carjacking of the SUV Mercedes that it “was clear something was going on,” Davis said.
After the car jacking, he said, police deployed more officers into the area. And with the Watertown shootout, it was clear they were tracking the bombing suspects.
Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis praised the help of the National Guard in the aftermath of the bombing attacks.
“This was the most complex crime scene ever processed in the city of Boston,” Davis said.
The national guard provided apache helicopters to move Boston SWAT teams to Dartmouth.
Former Sen. Joe Lieberman said that given the level of mistrust with the Russians, the fact that they contacted the FBI about the Tsarnaevs “should have raised this to a really high profile.”
“We should be working together better,” Lieberman said of U.S.-Russia security cooperation, “but it didn’t happen in this case and that was consequential.”
In recent weeks, lawmakers have raised questions about why the FBI declined to scrutinize Tamerlan Tsarnaev more closely, following a lengthy trip the alleged bomber took last year to Chechnya and Dagestan in Russia’s volatile Caucasus region.
For much of the past decade, cooperation between the FSB, Russia’s Federal Security Service, and the FBI has been guarded and pragmatic at best. In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing, and the identification of ethnic Chechen suspects with potential ties to an Islamist insurgency in the Russian Caucasus, the White House and the Kremlin have been talking up greater cooperation on counterterrorism.
Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) said it was “absolutely indefensible” that the FBI did not immediately tell the New York police department about Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s plans to target the city.
Law enforcement officials have said that it is unclear whether Tsarnaev and his brother had real plans to target New York City, although the surviving brother did tell FBI investigators in his hospital interview that the brothers considered the idea as they were trying to flee Boston after their photographs were put on television.
Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) criticized President Obama and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. for not using the term “Islamist” when referring to the Boston bombing suspects or talking about the case.
“I understand the sensitivity,” former Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) agreed. “But you have to call it by its name.”
Former Sen. Joe Lieberman continued to hammer U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies, saying that the failure to tell Boston local law enforcement about Tamerlan Tsarnaev before the bombings may be the most painful takeaway from the examination of the attacks.
“We are in a war,” said Lieberman. “Against an ideology … that is not receding.”
He added that “the only attacks that have succeeded are home-grown terrorists.”
Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis explains to Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) that his officers in Boston’s Joint Terrorism Task Force had no information about the FBI investigation of Tamerlan Tsarnaev before the Boston bombings. Upon questioning by McCaul, Davis said that “yes, we would have liked to know.”
McCaul responded by calling Davis’ lack of knowledge “very troubling.”
“The whole point of the fusion centers and the Joint Terrorism Task Forces is to share information,” McCaul said. “The whole idea of information not shared defies why we even have a Homeland Security Department in the first place.”
McCaul asked Davis, “Were you aware of Russian intelligence warning?”
Davis noted that the Boston police department has three detectives and a sergeant on the Joint Terrorism Task Forces, but the department was “not in fact informed of that particular development.”
Erroll G. Southers, the associate director of research transition at the National Homeland Security Center for Risk & Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events, made the point that the possibility of domestic terrorism isn’t going away, and requires continued vigilance.
“There is no finish line in homeland security,” he said.
Erroll G. Southers, the associate director of research transition at the National Homeland Security Center for Risk & Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events, emphasized during the hearing that the suspects were “homegrown” terrorists.
“The Tsarnaev brothers became terrorists in this country and were thus homegrown, even as the extremist ideology to which they ascribed was likely influenced by ideas created and embraced elsewhere in the world,” Southers said. “The Boston attacks were not a case of foreign-born terrorism, but rather of homegrown violent extremism.”
He added that “our national efforts should also address the role communities play in facilitating and more importantly hindering radicalization.”
Southers, also an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California, said the country should resist the urge to “fix” something “absent specific evidence of some failure of compromise of the system.”
Undersecretary for Homeland Security Kurt N. Schwartz said that the state of Massachusetts will conduct a full after-action review in the days and weeks ahead.
“At the end of this process, an after-action report and corrective action plans will be published,” Schwartz said. ” We will identify what worked well, where there is need for improvement and gaps that need to be addressed through training, exercises, planning and homeland security investments.”
Kurt N. Schwartz, Massachusetts’ undersecretary for Homeland Security and Emergency Management, praised the “cooperation and collaboration across agencies, disciplines and jurisdictions,” calling it “immediate and extraordinary.”
“Within minutes of the blasts, local and state public safety leaders responded to Boylston Street and followed Boston’s lead in establishing a command group that effectively shared information, pooled resources and collaboratively managed a massive response.”
“There is no computer that is going to spit out a terrorist’s name,” Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis said at the hearing. What is going to make a difference, he said, is “the community being involved in the conversation.”
“The first thing we need to do is go to the community,” said Davis, adding that people have a responsibility to help.
Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis III reminds everyone watching the hearing what this is all about. He points to four photographs of the victims that have been placed at the side of the room, facing committee members. The photos show eight-year-old Martin Richard, Boston University graduate student Lu Lingzi, restaurant manager, 29-year-old Krystle Campbell and MIT Police Officer Sean Collier.
“Terrorists killed three innocent people and injured nearly 300 others,” he said. “The death toll increased later in the week when MIT Police Officer Sean Collier was executed by the same two terrorists.”
Sen. Lieberman points out that there is so much information-sharing these days, that it’s hard for intelligence and law enforcement officials to connect the dots. “Today there is so much information being shared on the same board that the larger problem for our homeland security personnel often may be in separating the wheat from the chaff.”
Chairman McCaul raises questions in his opening statement about whether U.S. agencies “failed” to connect the dots leading to the worst terrorist attack sine Sept. 11, 2011.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev “was on our radar screen and then he was off,” he said. “The American people deserve accountability.”
The opening statement of ranking member Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.):
“We cannot ignore that once again it has taken a tragedy to reveal problems in our vast, varied and numerous federal databases. We faced a similar problem of a faulty database in the Christmas Day bomber incident…It is time to recognize that we must develop a way to fix and integrate these various databases.”
Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) opens the first Homeland Security hearing on Boston, calling the attacks on Boston “foreign-inspired.”
“While we don’t know if this attack was foreign-directed, we certainly know it was foreign-inspired,” McCaul said. “Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s trip to the Chechen region; the radical videos proclaiming the Caliphate that he posted when he returned; and the types of bombs he and his younger brother used, all signal an al-Qaeda inspired terrorist attack.”