Maine Sen. Angus King says the FBI is getting a bad rap on its investigation off the Boston bombings, saying it doesn't appear the agency mishandled an earlier inquiry of suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev after Russian officials warned he could be dangerous.
Mr. King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, pushed back against claims made by several congressional Republicans that U.S. intelligence agencies could've done more to prevent the bombings, saying it appears the FBI properly checked out the Russian warnings and found no reason to keep an active case open against Mr. Tsarnaev.
"So far, what I've seen is, that the FBI and the CIA and counterterrorism folks treated this case as they should've," Mr. King told MSNBC Wednesday. "There weren't any red flags beyond what these kinds of tips (contain) that come in all the time."
"It was taken seriously. I wasn't shoveled under the rug as near as I can tell."
As a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Mr. King has received classified briefings from intelligence officials regarding the bombings. He said so far it appears the U.S. intelligence community, including the FBI, did "an extraordinary job."
Some Republicans have accused the FBI and other federal intelligence agencies of not sharing information they had on Mr. Tsarnaev with Massachusetts law enforcement officials prior to April 15 blasts that killed three and injured more than 170 people.
Mr. King said that since the FBI didn't have an active case against Mr. Tsarnaev — who was killed in a shootout with police last week — there was nothing to pass on.
"I think it's important to put this into context. Apparently we get something like 20,000 tips a year about people who might potentially be involved in terrorism, and they were followed up as they were in this case with a rather detailed background check," Mr. King said.
"In this case it came up negative, they didn't find anything. And the Russians didn't give them anything specific to go on."
Still, the senator said he encouraged a full evaluation of how the U.S. intelligence community responded to Moscow's Tsarnaev warning and how they handled the case in general.
"You always do an after-action assessment and you say what worked and what didn't' work, and there may be some system things that we need to work out here," he said.
"A legitimate question to discuss is to whether every one of those 20,000 tips, even the ones that come up negative, are then passed on to local law enforcement. But I mean at some point, you know, this is America."
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