Senators: Boston bombings exposed possible counter-terrorism ‘stovepipes’

Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee spent more than two hours grilling FBI Deputy Director Sean Joyce on Tuesday afternoon on details of the Boston Marathon bombings.

Could Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) face a tough primary in 2014? (Yuri Gripas/Reuters) Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) suggested miscommunication among counter-terrorism agencies might have occurred. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) emerged from the meeting to say that federal investigators face "a long, arduous task" in reconstructing the events that led to the bombing. She declined to comment on specific concerns raised or information shared, but said she believes that the bombing incident "will be completely solved."

The panel's ranking Republican, Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), said the surviving suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, has provided "minimal information" to investigators. Chambliss suggested that miscommunications at counter-terrorism agencies that failed to thwart the Sept. 11, 2001,  attacks may have reemerged.

"I think there's been some stovepipes reconstructed that were probably unintentional," Chambliss told reporters. "But we've got to review that again and make sure that there is the free flow of information."

Feinstein pushed back on those assertions, saying that examples of miscommunication or poor coordination surface with every successful or thwarted attack and that her committee would work with the FBI to correct any mistakes.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Me.), a senior member of the committee who has worked for years on overhauling the nation's intelligence agencies, also expressed concerns with possible missteps by the FBI.

"There still seem to be serious problems with sharing information, including critical investigative information," she told reporters. "That is troubling to me, that this many years after the attacks on our country in 2001 that we still seem to have stovepipes that prevent information from being shared effectively, not only among agencies but also within the same agency in one case."

Later Tuesday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, FBI Director Robert Mueller and Matthew G. Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, held an “all members” briefing for the House of Representatives.

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), a senior member of the House Intelligence Committee, said there was “no real ground broken” on why the FBI had failed to follow up on inquiries into Tamerlan Tsarnaev, based on tips from Russian officials.

“There were answers given, but again, they have to look into it more,” King told reporters.

Follow Ed O'Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost

This post has been updated.

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.

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