WASHINGTON – The CIA, Justice Department and Homeland Security Department have launched a high level internal review of whether intelligence was mishandled prior to the bombings of the Boston Marathon, officials said.
President Obama told a White House news conference that the review would seek to answer whether “additional things… could have been done” and that “might have prevented” the two bombings that killed three people and injured more than 260 on April 15.
“We want to go back and we want to review every step that was taken,” Obama said. “We want to leave no stone unturned.”
“Based on what I’ve seen so far, the FBI performed its duties, the Department of Homeland Security did what it was supposed to be doing--but this is hard stuff.”
James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, advised Congress in a memo that Charles McCullough III, chief inspector general for the 16 intelligence agencies, will coordinate the review.
“Director Clapper believes that every agency involved in collecting and sharing information prior to the attack took all the appropriate steps,” said his spokesman, Shawn Turner. “He also believes that it is prudent and appropriate for there to be an independent review of those steps to ensure that nothing was missed.”
The FBI carried out a 90-day investigation and interviewed Tamerlan Tsarnaev in 2011 after Russian authorities warned that he might have ties to extremist groups. The FBI cleared him at the time, but the CIA put Tsarnaev on a terrorism watch list before he traveled to Russia in January 2012.
Tsarnaev, the alleged mastermind of the bombings, was killed during a shootout with police in Boston on April 19. His younger brother, Dzjokhar, was captured that night and is in custody at a federal prison medical facility in Massachusetts.
The scope of the review is still being worked out, but officials expect that it will last about 90 days.
Some members of Congress have asked why U.S. Customs officials did not alert the FBI when Tamerlan Tsarnaev left the United States for Russia last year, or again six months later, when he landed back at JFK International Airport in New York.
In both cases, a customs official on New York’s Joint Terrorism Task Force received an alert about Tsarnaev’s travel, and there is no evidence he passed it on to FBI partners on the task force, officials have said.
Lawmakers also have questioned why customs didn’t question Tsarnaev, given that the Russian government had told the FBI and CIA he might be an Islamic radical.