WASHINGTON - Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis III said Thursday that his department was unaware that the Russian security service sent a query to the FBI about one of two brothers suspected in the Boston Marathon bombing long before the attack.
When asked whether he would have given the suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, a second look had he known, Davis told a congressional committee: "We would certainly look at the information. We would certainly talk to the individual."
Davis, testifying at the first congressional hearing into the April 15 bombing, said the FBI had interviewed Tsarnaev after the Russian warning and closed out the case without finding any derogatory information. "I can't say that I would have come to a different conclusion based upon the information that was known at that particular time," said Davis, adding that he should have known of information that "affects the safety of my community."
The Boston police chief also said his department was unaware of a later notice that Tsarnaev had spent six months last year in Dagestan, the site of an Islamist insurgency in southern Russia. Information about his travel was sent to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer with the Joint Terrorism Task Force in Boston, Davis said, but the officer did not notify four Boston police officers assigned to the group.
Rep. Michael McCaul (R., Texas), the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, called the hearing as the first in a series that will examine what U.S. agencies knew about the suspects in the months and years before the bombing and whether there were systemic failures in the run-up to the two blasts. Three people were killed in the bombing and more than 260 injured.
Tsarnaev, 26, was killed during a confrontation with police four days after the bombings. His brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, is recovering from gunshot wounds in a Massachusetts prison medical facility. They are also suspected in the fatal shooting of Sean Collier, an MIT campus police officer, before the older brother was killed.
Police in Worcester, Mass., said in a statement Thursday that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was finally buried after a week-long search for a cemetery willing to provide a plot. The location was not revealed because of threats that his grave would be desecrated.
The hearing provided little new information about the plot, the Tsarnaev brothers or any foreign contacts they might have had. But it seemed clear that the actions of the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security will be subject to continued and sometimes-hostile scrutiny by lawmakers in coming months that will echo the recriminations that followed the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
While the FBI has said there was no advance word of the bomb plot, an intelligence report prepared before the bombing said the marathon finish line was an "area of increased vulnerability" and that extremists could use "small-scale bombings" to target the event, according to the Los Angeles Times.