Battle Lines Emerge in the Boston Blame Game

Congressmen and the intelligence community are creeping toward each other's throats over whom to blame for the Boston Marathon bombing.

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Kevin Lamarque / REUTERS

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testifies before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 12, 2013

Things took another bad turn for the U.S. intelligence and law-enforcement community as Reuters reported yesterday that U.S. officials put Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the accused instigator of the Boston Marathon bombing who was killed during the manhunt last week, on one of the U.S. databases of potential terrorists 18 months before he and his brother allegedly launched the attack.

That revelation has prompted an unsurprising response from Capitol Hill. Asked if Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was responsible for not tracking Tsarnaev before the bombing, Lindsey Graham told CNN on Thursday, “I have no idea who bears the blame, I just know the system is broken. The ultimate blame I think is with the Administration.”

House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul, initially cautious in his response to the bombing, is growing increasingly critical of the performance of government agencies as well. At a Washington intelligence conference on Thursday, McCaul said Tsarnaev’s “departure from the U.S. would warrant a second look.”

The more indications emerge that the elder Tsarnaev had come to the attention of U.S. officials before the bombing, the stronger the case becomes that law enforcement could have convinced a judge to allow the FBI to monitor him for signs he intended to do something violent.

But that doesn’t mean we know for sure that the FBI or Department of Homeland Security or some other government agency dropped the ball. The U.S. Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, told the same conference that Americans should “not hyperventilate for a while before we get all the facts.” With regard to the handling of the Tsarnaevs by law enforcement and the intelligence community before the attack, Clapper said, “The rules were abided by, as best as I can tell at this point … the dots were connected.”

Even more robust in his defense of U.S. law enforcement and intelligence was Philip Mudd, a former top CIA and FBI terrorist hunter, who told a Brookings conference on Wednesday that those labeling the Tsarnaev case an intelligence failure have a “misunderstanding of how national-security operations work in this country.”

Mudd makes a useful distinction between investigating radicalism and violence. Simply knowing someone has radical beliefs doesn’t get you very far, Mudd says. His comments are worth watching:

Fair or not, it seems the post-Boston-bombing blame game is already well under way.

30 comments
jjj1112
jjj1112

You can't have it both ways.  If you want to live in a society that is free and everyone has civil liberties that are protected, then these attacks are something you have to live with.  If you want to be able to thwart 99.99% of these attacks, then you have to be willing to give up certain freedoms and civil liberties and allow the Government to spend billions more in taxpayer dollars each year to closely track and monitor every person in the U.S. suspected of being radicalized.  If you want every attack like this to be thwarted, then you must be for changes to current U.S. law and certain parts of the Constitution itself.  Personally, I'd be willing to give up certain Constitutional rights to make our country safer, but the overwhelming majority of americans want to keep all their rights, and then they complain when the Government respects those rights and, because of it, can't capture and thwart 100% of every planned attack.  You can't have your cake and eat it too.  Make up your mind: Either this is something you are willing to live with and want all your civil liberties and Constitutional Rights upheld, or you're willing to give up some rights in favor of allowing the Government to monitor us all more closely.

hummingbird
hummingbird

If all the agencies had been sharing information, this attack could have been thwarted. The Russians warned the CIA and the FBI about the older brother becoming increasingly radicalized. Someone should have been surveilling his every move.

MrObvious
MrObvious

Let the blame game commense. Lets not actually see if something can be fixed, figure out a solution and solve it. Just point fingers.

paulejb
paulejb

In the aftermath of 9/11/01, GWB kept US citizens safe at home by bringing the war to the Jihadis where they live. On Obama's watch, the Jihadis are again killing Americans with impunity. It is clearly evident that Barack Obama's policy, adopted from Rodney King, of "can't we all just get along" is not working. Muslim fanatics still want to kill us despite Obama's Islamophilia.

paulejb
paulejb

"The more indications emerge that the elder Tsarnaev had come to the attention of U.S. officials before the bombing, the stronger the case becomes that law enforcement could have convinced a judge to allow the FBI to monitor him for signs he intended to do something violent."

Tell us again why we should ease up on immigration laws.


barzia.j.tehrani
barzia.j.tehrani

The info they had was no sufficient to to do anything. It is just that simple. 


Instead of Blaming, we should learn on how to prevent such crimes. Can we learn to identify other red flags (e.g. when combination of materials used for a bomb is purchased, specific internet access when combined with an online purchase, ...).

BTW:  Lindsey Graham, shame on you.   

ACorcoran
ACorcoran

What about responsibility for the Texas explosion that killed more people? While it is important to improve our ability to prevent disasters that result from terrorist action, we need to understand what happened in Texas too. If the company violated the law that resulted in those deaths will any of their administrators be in prison? If lack of oversight by state and local officials resulted in the fertilizer explosion will the state administration be held accountable? Or don't those deaths count?

BradFoley
BradFoley

So there's one big number that is missing in this whole debate: how many *other* people are raising similar flags in this country every day? If maybe only 10 or 20 other people were as suspicious as Tsarnaev, sure, the FBI dropped the ball. But if there were 100 suspicious people last year? 1000? Presumably the watch list can get as high as 10000 or 100000. And very, very, very few of these people commit crimes like this. You can't watch everyone all the time. 

kellyjo5150
kellyjo5150

Excuse me, but what about AFTER the bombings ????  How in hell could the Chechen brothers not pop up on a suspect short list like 5 minutes later ???   Six days into so-called investigation FBI was still clueless regarding the Chechens, kindly pointed out by Ruskies (multiple times) and CIA and god knows who else, who LIVED ABOUT 1 1/2 mile from bombing and who had posted all kinds of Al Queda crap all over internet, elder brother who had just traveled to Crapistan for probable further terror training and inspiration ????  To say the dots were connected is just not believable.  CYA

antonmarq
antonmarq

Just wondering why few GOP are crying foul. They seem to always cry foul when they want to focus on government weaknesses. I do not believe in coincidences, and having these events (Texas explosion) happen at a time during a very crucial gun vote by the Senate is something to pay attention to. I mean, it seems everyone has forgotten the children that have DIED and the Congress that has FAIL:ED to control gun violence. 

glennra3
glennra3

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks you didn't hear Democrats saying, "The ultimate blame is with the administration."


Today's Republicans love their party more than they do their country and that is a sorry state of affairs for all of us.

La_Randy
La_Randy

"Battle Lines Emerge in the Boston Blame Game"

I will make it simple for you, blame the perpetrators! 

fitty_three
fitty_three

GOP congressweasels, you mean.

Just a slip up, right?

Hollywooddeed
Hollywooddeed

Miss Lindsey sez, "The ultimate blame I think is with the administration.”

Shut up.


PaulDirks
PaulDirks

There's this pesky thing called the First Amendment which among other things prevents us from being arrested for what we think and say. Ironically the same people who will scream the loudest that the administration should have done more are precisely the same people quaking in their boots over a "National Gun Registry" To them freedom is absolute unless we' re talking about one of THEM!

S_Deemer
S_Deemer

Perfect security is impossible, and with 20/20 hindsight, clearly someone dropped the ball, but consider that the KGB, which is not known as a kid glove operation, found nothing sufficiently alarming about Tamerlan Tsarnaev during his 2012 visit to bring him in for questioning. Achieving still greater security to prevent terrorist attacks such as Boston, Newtown, Aurora, and Oklahoma City would require living in a police state that would restrict Americans' freedoms in ways that few would tolerate.

I have lived in a well run police state (Saudi Arabia, 1978-83), and after the 1979 seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, the 67 suspects were captured, tried, and beheaded (in various cities around the Kingdom, on TV, following the late night newscast) within weeks. If they hadn't been guilty, they wouldn't have been arrested and executed, which is a far cry from "presumed innocent until proven guilty."

jjj1112
jjj1112

@hummingbird , No it couldn't have.  The CIA and FBI do not have the funding and resources to closely monitor every last person suspected of being radicalized, and they cannot legally tap phone lines, get access to cell phone and e-mail records, and so on just because of 'suspicion' or because someone makes a comment that, as bad as it is, is protected under freedom of speech.

jjj1112
jjj1112

@MrObvious We've actually done a great job preventing terrorist attacks at home since 9/11.  There must be lessons that can be learned from this incident that will help us to create an even more secure America without violating your average citizens Constitutional Rights.  I agree completely with your comment--let's learn from this rather than blame people.  Most people have been doing their job as best as they can given the limited resources they have and the restrictions that have placed on them in terms of what they are and are not allowed to do within the law.

jjj1112
jjj1112

@paulejb Not true.  Obama has stepped up drone attacks overseas in the Pakistani tribal regions, and Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 and was more about a personal grudge with Saddam as far as I can tell. The Bush regime let bin Laden slip away and was initially quite reluctant to carry out operations in Pakistan, whereas the Obama administration assassinated bin Laden with boots on the ground in Pakistan.  I'm not Democrat, but don't let politics get in the way.  Overall we've been pretty darn safe post 9/11 whether it was Bush in charge or Obama.  You can't stop every last terrorist attack in a society that prides itself on civil liberties and freedom.  No one is being "killed with impunity".  One attack in the last 10+ years is not being "killed with impunity'.  Go travel to Israel, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Chad, .... you'll see we're almost never attacked here and about as safe as it gets for a country with a lot of Jihadist enemies who would like to harm us.

jjj1112
jjj1112

@paulejb I do think immigration laws should be reformed.  Cut out the pork from some of these bills and you'd actually have enough funding to do serious criminal/terrorist background checks on people, interview them, and let in anyone very quickly who has a job waiting for them and can prove it.  As for those who have no employment waiting or cannot pass such background checks or show red flags during interviews, deny them entry.  The reason our country has been successful is not because the Constitution is/was perfect, or that we are a free nation where anyone can come here... it's because we can adapt well, amend and change laws when it makes sense to, and maintain the spirit of our forefathers but change and/or re-interpret old laws from the late 1700's, 1800's, and 1900's when they become glaringly out of date and don't make sense anymore given the current environment.

glennra3
glennra3

@paulejb

Because, "[t]here's no evidence that immigrants — or even illegal immigrants — are necessarily any more or less likely to be committing crimes than the population at large..."


This is from the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, which OPPOSES increased immigration.


Native-born American men between 18–39 are five times more likely to be incarcerated than immigrants in the same demographic.



paulejb
paulejb

@ACorcoran 

Contrary to your fuzzy thinking AC, the Boston Marathon bombing was not an accident. It was not an act of nature. It was not an act of God. It was a deliberate attack  by subhumans who subscribe to a perverted interpretation of Islam.

jjj1112
jjj1112

@BradFoley Exactly.  We have sequestration going on right now and in order to "properly monitor" everyone on the list, you would need to increase the CIA and FBI budgets by at LEAST $1B annually, if not more like $3B.  Then there's the fact that, due to all the laws that protect U.S. citizens, there's still only so much you can do in terms of monitoring some of these people who are only suspected, but have no yet done anything that would allow wire tapping, seizing e-mails, cell phone records, etc.

jjj1112
jjj1112

@kellyjo5150 And how do you know this?  The facts are still not out.  I could easily see them being identified within 24 hrs, then the FBI researching who their family and friends were, who they call on cell phones, trying to track these people down to put them under surveillance, and then releasing the photos and "playing dumb" when they knew who these people were.... the reason would be to monitor their inner circle and see how they act after seeing photos of people they *knew* committed heinous crimes.  If they immediately turned them in, then they are probable good law-abiding people who weren't involved.  If they get on the phone and call the brothers to warn them, and the FBI is tapping their phones, that could provide great evidence that others were involved or helped to try to cover it up.  If they tried to immediately flee the country, that doesn't mean guilt, but it's certainly suspicious.  Don't be so quick to judge when you have no clue what was really going on.  The media doesn't get all the info, and don't ever put it past a smart FBI or CIA official to come up with a plan where they "play dumb" for a very good reason when they know darn well who they are looking for.

jjj1112
jjj1112

@glennra3 No.  Today's politicians love themselves, their families, friends, and their rich donors more than they love anything else.  It doesn't matter what party they're in.

jjj1112
jjj1112

@S_Deemer At least someone who is willing to take a logical side/stand who doesn't want to have his cake and eat it too.  I don't want a police state, and I don't want perfect security because, as you say, we would have to give up too many rights, but I wouldn't mind giving up some limited rights in order to have a bit more secure country, albeit not perfect.  For instance, if I post a bunch of videos that are pro-Jihad, call for Jihad on Twitter, and so on, I think the Government should be able to present that to a judge and, most likely, be allowed to seize my e-mails, tap my phone lines, and so on, but there should still be civil liberties and right protected.  For instance, if they determine I'm a drug dealer (just an example!), they shouldn't be able to use that information because they are specifically monitoring me for terrorist like attacks.  However, if they determine I'm an imminent threat or that I have even some thought and plans to perhaps put together an attack, I think they should indeed be allowed to arrest me.  A lot of americans aren't willing to give up such rights, but I respect those people so long as they don't simultaneously want 100% security, which is going to be impossible as you state.

jjj1112
jjj1112

@paulejb @ACorcoran Unfortunately that 'perverted' interpretation of Islam seems to be the norm in many countries these days.  Luckily that's not so here in the U.S.