Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis told Congress on Thursday that federal intelligence agencies didn’t tell him before last month’s Boston Marathon bombings of warnings received from Russian officials about suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s possible radical ties.
Mr. Davis, while speaking at Capitol Hill’s first hearing regarding the April 15 bombings, said it was almost four days after the attack when federal authorities shared the information.
The commissioner said he would have welcomed the information, but he stopped short of saying it would have prevented the two bombings that killed three people and injured more than 260.
“That’s very hard to say,” he said during a House Homeland Security Committee hearing. “We would certainly look at the information. We would certainly talk to the individual. From the information I’ve received, the FBI did that and closed the case out. I can’t say I would’ve come to a different conclusion.”
U.S. intelligence agencies have been accused by some lawmakers — particularly Republicans -— of failing to follow up on warnings from Russian officials after Tsarnaev traveled to the Russian region of Dagestan last year. U.S. officials have countered that Moscow failed to assist further after providing the tip.
Tsarnaev, 26, was killed April 18 after a shootout with police during the manhunt for him and his brother Dzhokhar, 19. The younger Tsarnaev is in custody, accused of setting off the bombs with his brother. The pair, born of Chechen origin in Russia, immigrated to the United States as children with their family.
Mr. Davis didn’t cast blame on federal agencies, but instead praised them for their help in the aftermath of the bombings.
“We need to look at how it happened and why it happened, and we need to do everything we can to prevent it. But nobody bats a thousand,” he said. “Until all the facts are out on the table, it’s hard to say what we could’ve done differently.”
But former Sen. Joe Lieberman was more critical of the federal government, telling the panel that — though it wouldn’t have been easy — it was possible to have prevented the terrorist attack in Boston.
“The homeland security system we must acknowledge that we built after 9/11 to protect the American people from terrorist attacks failed to stop the Tsarnaev brothers,” he said.
Mr. Lieberman, a Connecticut independent who served as chairman of the Senate homeland security panel from 2007 until his retirement in January, said Moscow’s refusal to provide additional intelligence to U.S. officials on the elder brother was perhaps the “most damaging failure” in terms of information not shared.
But he added that because Russia officials were willing to share any information at all on Tsarnaev, it “should’ve marked the case for special handling by our government and guaranteed that his file not be closed.”
Committee Chairman Michael T. McCaul said he isn’t convinced the bombing suspects were acting under foreign direction but that the attack appears to be “foreign-inspired.”
The Texas Republican said Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s trip to Russia, radical videos he posted on the Internet and the types of improvised explosives used “signal an al Qaeda-inspired terrorist attack.”
None of the four witnesses who testified was a federal official, meaning many questions were unanswered.