Republicans Fear Pattern of Intel Failures
House Speaker John Boehner today added his concern to a growing population in Congress questioning whether the federal government has been plagued by intelligence failures after failing to exploit opportunities to thwart cases of terrorism, including the Boston Bombings.
Boehner said he expected relevant committees in the House to examine the facts, particularly why details of bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev's international travel were not shared between the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI after Russia asked the United States for help in 2011 investigating his alleged ties to Islamic extremists.
"I have concerns about what agencies knew what and the fact that it wasn't shared," Boehner, R-Ohio, said. "If the information is good enough for one agency of the government, why shouldn't it be appropriate for other agencies of the government? We're going to get to the bottom of it."
In the wake of the Boston attacks, House Homeland Security Chairman Mike McCaul and Rep. Pete King, a member of the homeland security and intelligence committees, co-authored a letter April 20 to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and FBI Director Robert Mueller III to question the "efficacy of federal counterterrorism efforts."
Republicans McCaul of Texas and King of New York point to five separate terrorists tied to terror attempts in the United States since 9/11/2001, including Anwar al-Awlaki, David Headley, Carlos Bledsoe and Nidal Hasan, in addition to Faruq Abdulmutallab, who attempted the underwear bombing despite being identified as a potential terrorist by the CIA.
As President George W. Bush prepares to open his presidential library in Dallas, Texas Thursday, Rep. Tom Cotton, a freshman Republican from Arkansas, went to the House floor this afternoon to "express grave doubts about the Obama Administration's counterterrorism policies and programs" and contrast President Obama and Bush's records to protect the country from terrorism after 9/11.
"Counterterrorism is often shrouded in secrecy, as it should be, so let us judge by the results," Cotton, who served tours as an infantry officer in Iraq and Afghanistan, said. "In barely four years in office, five jihadists have reached their targets in the United States under Barack Obama: the Boston Marathon bomber, the underwear bomber, the Times Square Bomber, the Fort Hood shooter, and in my own state-the Little Rock recruiting office shooter. In the over seven years after 9/11 under George W. Bush, how many terrorists reached their target in the United States? Zero!
"We need to ask: Why is the Obama Administration failing in its mission to stop terrorism before it reaches its targets in the United States?" he said.
"It raises some serious questions," Boehner said. "I don't want to get in the business of indicting agencies or agency heads until we have all the facts and there may be facts to support each of these five cases, but … we want to understand exactly what happened, and what didn't happen, and hold those responsible that if, in fact, there were opportunities to stop these people when we didn't do it."
Lawmakers briefed Tuesday evening also said top officials have been unable to explain why the FBI stopped tracking Tsarnaev after the assistance to the Russians was completed.
"The main question is the FBI's investigation going back to 2011 and why it was not followed up since then," King told reporters after a classified briefing by Mueller, Napolitano and National Counter Terrorism Center Director Matthew Olsen Tuesday evening. "There were answers given but, again, I think we have to look into it more."
"The FBI has a lot of work to do," McCaul added. "They've admitted as such, and that this investigation now after the fact has really just begun."
For all the frustration about missed opportunities, Boehner had high praise for everyone involved in the manhunt and capture of bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Friday night.
"Last week was a rough week for our nation, but I think our law enforcement officials at every level did a very outstanding job of working together and doing their best to keep America safe," he said.
Officials from the FBI are expected to privately brief members of the House Intelligence committee later today while another update is planned at the Homeland Security committee Thursday.