The US Government Had ‘Multiple Warnings’ from Russian Authorities about Tamerlan Tsarnaev

According to the FBI, they interviewed suspected Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev in 2011. It was their determination at that time that he posed no threat. However, the Senate Intelligence Committee learned in a closed briefing on Tuesday that the Russian authorities alerted the US government multiple times about their concerns regading Tsarnaev. Much like 9/11, the briefing highlighted failures of information-sharing among federal agencies, indicating that there is still not a reliable system in place to glean information about potential domestic threats.

Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine shared her worry about the lack of cohesion with reporters after the briefing. “That is troubling to me, this many years after the attacks on our country in 2001, that we still seem to have stovepipes that prevent information from being shared effectively, not only among agencies but also with the same agency in one case.”

Florida Senator Marco Rubio agreed. “I think the increasing signals are that these are individuals that were radicalized, especially the older brother, over a period of time. [They] used internet sources to gain not just the philosophical beliefs that radicalized them, but also learning components of how to do these sorts of things.”

House members were also briefed, and many shared the concerns of their Senate colleagues.

“We have to go back and take a good hard look at the gaps,’’ said Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Democratic representative from Florida. “With each event that occurs like this one, we have to go back and take a look at what lessons we could learn and how to fill in those gaps.’’

The elder Tsarnaev spent much of last year in the Russian provinces of Dagestan and Chechnya where it is believed he may have interacted with some other militant groups or individuals. But according to Republican South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, the FBI informed him that they missed the crucial intelligence because Tsarnaev’s name had been misspelled on an airline passenger manifesto. Sercretary of Homeland Security Janet Napalitano confirmed the critical misstep, but insisted DHS knew about the trip. “Even with the misspelling under our current system, there are redundancies, and so the system did ping when he was leaving the United States.”

But if DHS knew about Tsarnaev’s trip, how did that information not register with the FBI?  Senator Dianne Feinstein, the Senate Intelligence Committee chair, warned against reacting with haste, noting that intelligence-sharing is an ever-evolving process. “We had a full discussion back and forth over the process that’s followed and we need to keep at that and we need to see if there are any loopholes in it, that we fix those loopholes. With every one of these [incidents] we find problems, it’s not just this one. And you try to remedy the problem so next time it’s not going to happen.”




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