New Watchdog Report Raises More Questions on Whether Boston Bombings Could Have Been Prevented

The FBI agent who looked into Tsarnaev “said that the travel would not have been significant because the assessment was closed and the FBI already had asked the Russians for additional derogatory information,” according to the summary. “When asked whether he would have considered taking further investigative steps had he learned of the travel at the time, the [FBI] Agent said that he would not have done anything differently.”

But other FBI officials insisted the information about Tsarnaev’s travel would have been important.

For example, the head of Boston’s Joint Terrorism Task Force at the time “expressed the belief … that if someone had ‘pinged’ the [FBI] Agent about Tsarnaev’s travel, it would have ‘changed everything.’”

“He said that had he known about the travel, he probably would have reopened the assessment, interviewed Tsarnaev upon his departure from the United States, informed the [FBI legal attaché in Moscow] of the travel so that a determination could have been made about notifying the Russian government, and worked with the [legal attaché] to request information from the Russian government about Tsarnaev’s activities in Russia,” the summary continues.

Similarly, the legal attaché in Moscow from May 2011 to October 2012 characterized Tsarnaev’s travel as “huge” but said he wasn’t aware of it at the time. He said the “normal course of events” in such cases would have been for the FBI to reopen the assessment and seek additional information from Russian intelligence.

SEE OUR FULL COVERAGE OF THE BOSTON MARATHON BOMBINGS AND THEIR AFTERMATH The summary out Thursday noted that, beginning at least a year before the bombing, Tsarnaev collected and shared jihadist videos and other extremist materials. He downloaded the work of radical cleric Anwar Awlaki and had obtained at least seven issues of al Qaeda In the Arabian Peninsula’s Inspire magazine. In about October 2012, Tamerlan started posting jihadi videos on YouTube, but he only used his real name on the account months before the bombing.

The report notes that the FBI agent who interviewed Tsarnaev never interviewed Tsarnaev’s wife or former girlfriend – who, after the bombing last year, told authorities that Tsarnaev began to shift toward radical Islam in 2006.

With its exhaustive inquiry now completed, the intelligence community’s inspector general is offered a couple of recommendations to law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Among them, the summary said the FBI should “consider sharing threat information with state and local partners more proactively and uniformly.” In particular, the FBI should establish a procedure for notifying state and local officials when it has conducted a counterterrorism assessment of someone living in or tied to their areas, the summary said.

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