WASHINGTON -- Boston police Commissioner Edward Davis told a House hearing Thursday that FBI officials did not inform his department before the attack on the Boston Marathon that Russian intelligence in 2011 had warned them about bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
Testifying at Congress' first hearing on the bombing, Davis said he had three officers and a sergeant working in a Joint Terrorism Task Force with the FBI, but still didn't know about interviews FBI agents conducted with Tsarnaev and his parents in a brief investigation.
"One of my detectives is actually in the squad that investigated that," Davis said. "We have access to all the databases. But we were not in fact informed of that particular development."
Richard DesLauriers, special agent in charge of the FBI's Boston office, reacted with a statement that indicated the Boston Police Department should have known about the assessment, which he said was "thorough" and "comprehensive" but found no suspicion of criminal activity.
The assessment of Tsarnaev was in the Guardian database that Boston officers on the task force had access to, DesLauriers said. The officers "are responsible for maintaining awareness of possible threats" to Boston, he said.
"In 2011 alone, the Boston JTTF conducted about 1,000 assessments, including the assessment of Tamarlan Tsarnaev, which was documented in the Guardian database," DesLauriers said.
That FBI response came after Davis testified before the House Homeland Security Committee.
"My fear is that the Boston bombers may have succeeded because our system failed. We can and we must do better."
Davis said the FBI told him of Tsarnaev's identity and history only after he was killed in a shootout three days after the bombing. Tsarnaev's brother, Dzhokhar, was captured. He has been charged and is in a prison hospital recovering from wounds.
Davis did not criticize the FBI. Had his department known more, it certainly would have "taken a hard look" at Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Davis said, but might have come to the same conclusion as the FBI and closed the case.
But Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) sharply criticized the FBI for failing to tell New York City leaders immediately after learning of a possible threat by the Tsarnaevs to Times Square.
"I think it's absolutely indefensible that the FBI found out on Sunday [after the April 15 Boston bombing] that there was a planned attack against Times Square and never notified the NYPD," King said.