FBI Under Fire, Didn't Tell Boston PD About Marathon Bombing Suspects

"Bombers succeeded because our system failed," says Homeland chair.

ByABC News
May 9, 2013, 11:25 AM

May 9, 2013 — -- The FBI never told the Boston police or the Massachusetts State Police about possible Russian terror connections of the suspected Marathon bombers until three and half days after the attack, law enforcement officials testified today before the House Homeland Security Committee.

"My fear is that the Boston bombers succeeded because our system failed," said committee chairman Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Texas).

Boston police commissioner Ed Davis told McCaul that his department was not told before the bombing that the FBI had opened an investigation into Tamerlan Tsarnaev in 2011, or that Tsarnaev had traveled to the North Caucasus in 2012, even though he had three detectives and a sergeant assigned to the Joint Terror Task Force with the FBI.

"Would you have liked to known that?" asked McCaul.

"Yes," said Davis, although he said later it was not clear that the knowledge would have prevented the bombings.

In a statement released today, the FBI said the Boston police department not only had access to the shared counter-terrorism incident management system, but the BPD "specifically had representatives assigned to the JTTF [Joint Terrorism Task Force] squad that conducted the 2011 Assessment of deceased terrorism suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev."

"State and local law enforcement personnel, analysts and FBI personnel at Fusion Centers who have the appropriate security clearances are afforded the same unrestricted access as their FBI colleagues," the FBI said. The FBI said it conducted some 1,000 assessments in the Boston area alone the same year as Tsarnaev's.

The Boston police commissioner also revealed that not a single student at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth called police after surveillance pictures of the other suspected bomber, 19-year old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a student at the school, were made public.

Authorities believe Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were responsible for detonating a pair of bombs near the finish line at the Boston Marathon April 15, killing three, including an 8-year-old boy, and injuring more than 260 others. Tamerlan was killed in a shootout with police days after the attack, while Dzhokhar was injured and later captured.

Today the Los Angeles Times reported an intelligence assessment distributed five days before the race identified the finish line of the Boston Marathon as an "area of increased vulnerability" and warned extremists may use "small scale bombings."

Massachusetts State Police spokesperson David Procopio told ABC News that such assessments are "routine" and "standard" and said similar language can be found in many threat assessments for large events.

"This is based on common sense and accumulated expertise in event security, and was not the result of actionable intelligence or any specific threat," Procopio said.

While the hearing in Washington was underway, police in Worcester revealed that the body of Tamerlan Tsarnaev had been removed from the city "and is now entombed" at a location that was not disclosed.

Investigators are now looking into whether a distant cousin of the Tsarnaev's may have influenced the older brother in his radicalization. The cousin, Magomed Kartashov, is allegedly the founder of a group called The Union of the Just, which reportedly promotes the application of strict Islamic Sharia law and has been known to be anti-American.

READ: Cousin of Accused Bomber Probed as Source of Radicalization

ABC News' Kirit Radia contributed to this report.

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