The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee says evidence suggests the two brothers accused of the Boston bombings had help planning the attack — and he says he has concerns about a possible “wider conspiracy” stretching overseas.
U.S. officials investigating the bombings have told The Associated Press that so far there is no evidence of a wider plot.
But Rep. Michael T. McCaul, Texas Republican, told “Fox News Sunday” that the “level of sophistication” of the two improvised bombs made from pressure cookers that killed three and injured more than 260 “leads me to believe there was a trainer.”
He added that pressure cooker-bombs are a “signature device” used in the al Qaeda hotbeds of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
“The question is, where is that trainer or trainers? Are they overseas in the Chechen region or are they in the United States?” Mr. McCaul said. “In my conversations with the FBI, that’s the big question.”
The brothers are ethnic Chechens from Russia who legally came to the United States about a decade ago with their parents.
Mr. McCaul says U.S. officials are casting a “wide net” worldwide to find anyone responsible for aiding the suspects. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, is in custody, charged with setting off the bombs April 15 with his older brother, Tamerlan, who was killed in a shootout with police during the manhunt for the two.
The lawmaker also said he believes the suspects’ mother played a “very strong role” in the radicalization of Tamerlan and said he believes she is “a person of interest, if not a subject.” He said if she comes to the U.S., she likely will be detained by authorities for questioning.
Mr. McCaul criticized some in the Obama administration for an initial rush to judgment that the brothers didn’t have foreign help.
“Right out of the box, U.S. officials anonymously are saying there is no foreign connection to this case when in fact the FBI just began its investigation into this case,” he said. “And yet the narrative played out by some in the administration is that, no, there’s no foreign connection.
“I reserve judgment until all the evidence comes in,” he said.
Rep. Mike Rogers, Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said he is “absolutely” convinced the accused bombers had help.
“In every case that we have seen that has led to somebody taking an event to try to commit an act of violence, there was outside … affirmation of their intent to commit an act of jihad,” Mr. Rogers told ABC’s “This Week.”
The lawmaker said he believes the assistance the brothers received came from within the U.S.
But Sen. Claire McCaskill, Missouri Democrat, told CBS’ “Face the Nation” that, “There is no evidence at this point that these two were part of a larger organization.”
Rep. Adam B. Schiff, California Democrat and member of the House intelligence panel, said it’s “probably true” that a major terrorist group wasn’t involve in the bombings. But he said investigators have much to learn about the older brother’s visit to the Russian region of Dagestan last year.
“There may have been radicalizing influences in the United States. There may have been radicalizing influences overseas,” Mr. Schiff said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Russian authorities warned the United States in recent years that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was a security threat, though U.S. officials have complained that, after initially checking out the tips, Moscow failed to cooperate.
“There is a lot that we just don’t know, and that’s why many say, hey, the Russians need to step up to the plate here and provide us better information,” Mr. Rogers said. “I think they have information that would be incredibly helpful that they haven’t provided yet.”