Information about the travels of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of two brothers accused of orchestrating the Boston Marathon bombings, may have eluded intelligence agents as U.S. agencies failed to share details, members of Congress said.
U.S. Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Texas), the head of the House Homeland Security Committee, said he wanted to know why agencies including the Department of Homeland Security that got information from Russian intelligence in 2011 didn’t coordinate their efforts when Tsarnaev traveled to Russia last year.
“CIA gets this information, the CIA’s got it, FBI’s got it, then DHS has it. The FBI puts up a flag. So does DHS. The FBI flag does not go up when he travels to Russia, so they don’t know that he went to Russia,” McCaul said Sunday on the “Fox News Sunday” broadcast. “When he comes back from Russia, he is clearly radicalized.”
In the aftermath of the April 15 bombings that killed three people and wounded more than 260, U.S. lawmakers said investigators have told them Tamerlan, 26, and his brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, were schooled in radical Islam and terrorist bomb-making online. Lawmakers such as McCaul are examining whether the FBI and CIA did all they could to prevent the attack, and he said congressional hearings are being planned.
‘UP OUR GAME’
“We’re going to have to up our game,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation” broadcast. “How could you miss the fact” that a foreign government says, “You have a radical in your midst?”
The younger Tsarnaev, now being held at a federal facility west of Boston, has been charged with using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction in the double bombing. Tamerlan Tsarnaev died in a shootout with police.
The FBI, at the request of Russia’s domestic intelligence service, conducted a three-month review of Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s activities in 2011. The FBI checked the tip thoroughly “and did not find terrorist activity, domestic or foreign,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said April 22.
Since the bombing, Russia has turned over information to U.S. authorities, including details of a secretly recorded telephone conversation with Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s mother and her son, the Associated Press reported. In the 2011 conversation, one of the bombing suspects “vaguely” discussed jihad with the mother, the AP reported, citing officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
“If they were up on this — on the mother or someone related to the mother and listening, there’s got to be a basis for why they went up on her electronically or why they went up on one of her affiliates or associates,” he said. “We haven’t received that information from the Russians. I think they do know more than they’re telling us.”
Rep. Peter King, a New York Republican who appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” criticized the FBI for not having visited Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s mosque or interviewed the imam after being alerted by the Russians. He said it was an “absolute failure” that the FBI didn’t notify New York sooner that the bombers had considered an attack in New York City after Boston.
King repeatedly called for authorities to more closely track the Muslim community. “The element is from within the Muslim community,” he said.
“The way they handled these devices and the trade craft leads me to believe that there was a trainer,” McCaul said. “Where is that trainer or trainers?”
Manchin, speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” said he has seen the online magazine Inspire, which is affiliated with al-Qaida, showing how to build a device and the Boston bomb was more sophisticated.
“I think they were a little bit more advanced than what the website would have allowed a person to be,” he said.
Manchin also said the agencies questioning Dzhokhar “pulled the trigger too soon” on letting him invoke his right to an attorney.
“I think there’s more to be had there,” Manchin said. “But I would have liked that process of him of being interrogated to go further than reading Miranda rights as quick as they did.”
Former CIA Director Michael Hayden said on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS” broadcast that he was surprised Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was read his rights “so quickly” and that “the people doing the interrogation were surprised as well.”
Yet Schiff said that “it looks like” the FBI got the information it needed to ensure public safety before the Miranda rights reading.
“Already, I think the statements that the suspect made are going to be challenged by the defense team,” he said. “And while the priority has to be on making use of any information that could protect the public, it’s also valuable to be able to admit those into evidence.”