The FBI didn’t tell the Boston Police Department about its 2011 assessment of marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the city’s police chief told a congressional hearing Thursday.
But the bureau says the department could have accessed the information through a database available to the Boston PD.
Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis testified to the House Homeland Security Committee that the FBI didn’t tell the department about the assessment, or notified the police force of warnings from Russia that Tsarnaev, 26, might be a terrorist or was about to commit a terrorist act, despite the department having members on the Joint Terrorism Task Force.
Davis said that if the department had had such information, it would have kept tabs on the bombing suspect, although he later said it was difficult to tell whether that information would have prevented the April 15 attacks.
U.S. Rep. Mike McCaul, R-Texas, said he was concerned that the alleged lack of information sharing helped the plot come to fruition.
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“My fear is that the Boston bombers succeeded because our system failed,” he said. "The idea that the feds have this information and it's not shared with the state and locals defies why we created the Department of Homeland Security in the first place.”
Rick DesLauriers, special agent in charge for the FBI’s Boston office, said the Boston police had access to the online database Guardian, which could be used to find Tsarnaev’s assessment. He didn’t specifically address Davis’ claim that the bureau didn’t tell Boston PD about the information.
“Many state and local departments, including the BPD, have representatives who are full-time members of the [Joint Terrorism Task Force] and specifically had representatives assigned to the JTTF squad that conducted the 2011 assessment of deceased terrorism suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev. As set forth by law and policy, assessments may be carried out to detect, obtain information about, or prevent or protect against federal crimes or threats to the national security or to collect foreign intelligence when the information provided to the FBI does not rise to a level that would allow for the opening of a predicated investigation. By their very nature, and in accordance with U.S. constitutional restrictions, JTTF members are limited in the types of investigative methods that can be utilized in an assessment,” DesLauriers said in a statement. “In 2011 alone, the Boston JTTF conducted approximately 1,000 assessments, including the assessment of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, which was documented in the Guardian database. The Tsarnaev assessment was thorough, comprehensive and fully compliant with law and policy.”
After it was revealed in the days after the bombings that the FBI spoke to Tsarnaev in 2011, the bureau said the information did not raise any red flags.
Tsarnaev died in a shootout with authorities on April 18, a day after the FBI publicly released photos and videos of the then-unidentified suspects. His brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, escaped the shootout but was caught later in the day hiding in a boat in the backyard of a Watertown, Mass., home. He faces two terrorism-related charges.