Thursday, December 5, 2013
The Associated Press
BOSTON — Lawmakers are asking tough questions about how the government tracked suspected Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev when he traveled to Russia last year, renewing criticism from after the Sept. 11 attacks that failure to share intelligence may have contributed to last week's deadly assault.
Following a closed-door briefing on Capitol Hill with the FBI and other law enforcement officials on Tuesday, Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said it doesn't appear yet that anyone "dropped the ball." But he said he was asking all the federal agencies for more information about who knew what about the suspect.
"There still seem to be serious problems with sharing information, including critical investigative information ... not only among agencies but also within the same agency in one case," said committee member Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.
Lawmakers intensified their scrutiny as funerals were held Tuesday for an 8-year-old boy killed in the bombings and a campus police officer who authorities said was shot by Tsarnaev and his younger brother days later. A memorial service for the officer, 26-year-old Sean Collier, is scheduled for Wednesday. Vice President Joe Biden is expected to speak.
Also Wednesday, Boylston Street, where the blasts occurred, reopened after being closed since the bombings. Two construction workers guarded fresh concrete still drying on the sidewalk where one of the bombs exploded.
A Starbucks allowed customers to retrieve purses, school bags and cellphones left under tables in the chaotic aftermath of the explosions.
"I don't think there's going to be a sense of normalcy for a while," said Tom Champoux, 48, who works a few blocks away, as he pointed to the fresh concrete and boarded-up windows. "There are scars here that will be with us for a long time."
While family said that the older Tsarnaev had been influenced by a Muslim convert to follow a strict type of Islam, 19-year-old brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev remained hospitalized after days of questioning over his role in the attacks. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was killed in a shootout with police last week.
Conflicting stories appeared to emerge about which agencies knew about Tamerlan Tsarnaev's six-month trip to Russia last year. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told the Senate Judiciary Committee on immigration legislation that her agency knew about Tsarnaev's journey to his homeland.
But Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said the FBI "told me they had no knowledge of him leaving or coming back."
Information-sharing failures between agencies prompted an overhaul of the U.S. intelligence system after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
Meanwhile, evidence mounted that Tsarnaev had embraced a radical, anti-American strain of Islam. Family members blamed the influence of a Muslim convert, known only to the family as Misha, for steering him toward a strict type of Islam.
"Somehow, he just took his brain," said Tamerlan's uncle, Ruslan Tsarni of Montgomery Village, Md., who recalled conversations with Tamerlan's worried father about Misha's influence.
Authorities don't believe Tsarnaev or his brother had links to terror groups. However, two U.S. officials said that Tsarnaev frequently looked at extremist websites, including Inspire magazine, an English-language online publication produced by al-Qaida's Yemen affiliate. The magazine has endorsed lone-wolf terror attacks.
Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly.
Eight-year-old Martin Richard, a Boston schoolboy and the youngest of those killed by the blasts, was laid to rest Tuesday after a family-only funeral Mass.
"The outpouring of love and support over the last week has been tremendous," the family said in a statement. "This has been the most difficult week of our lives."
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