Remember in the wake of 9-11 when we were told how all the different intelligence and law enforcement agencies didn’t speak with each other? Remember how the Department of Homeland Security was supposed to fix all those communications issues? Well apparently the problems still exist.

The FBI admitted this past week that they had interviewed the now-deceased Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev two years ago and failed to find any incriminating information about him.

The FBI interviewed Tsarnaev, the elder brother of the now in-custody bomber number two, Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, at the request of the Russians to see if he had any extremist ties, but failed to find any linkage.

Tsarnaev on FBI radar

Yet despite the FBI’s claim, the Department of Homeland Security held up processing Tamerlan’s U.S. citizenship application when they found that he had been questioned by the FBI in 2011.

The application also prompted the FBI to do “additional investigation” but it’s unknown whether the investigation had gone forward, what was uncovered and where it stood as of last week.

Officials at the Homeland Security Department contacted the FBI late last year to learn more about its interview with Tamerlan and the agency reported that he did not present a threat.

Is the FBI that bad? Virtually everyone that knew Tamerlan realized he had become radicalized.

Yet despite the FBI’s claim that he did not present a threat immigration officials neither approved nor denied the application, instead leaving it open for “additional review.”

When the facts of the prior FBI investigations came to light U.S. lawmakers from both parties roundly criticized the FBI for failing to spot the extremist leanings of Tamerlan and demanded to know why the agency did not at least follow up with the elder brother following a six-month trip to Russia in 2012.

Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-South Carolina) said, “The ball was dropped,” by the federal agency by either missing “a lot of things” during their initial investigation of the suspect or did not allow investigators to “follow up in a sound, solid way.”

Rather than looking inwards, the FBI has responded by standing by their initial public statement issued last week, which said that the agency closed their investigation on Tamerlan in 2011 after failing to find any “terrorism activity, domestic or foreign.”

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul wrote to the FBI and other officials asking why Tamerlan Tsarnaev did not raise suspicions after Russia asked the bureau to investigate him two years ago.

“Because if he was on the radar and they let him go, he’s on the Russians’ radar, why wasn’t a flag put on him, some sort of customs flag?,” McCaul, a Texas Republican, said on CNN’s State of the Union. “And I’d like to know what intelligence Russia has on him as well.”

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York) said, “There were things on his website that indicated that he had been radicalized. I think there’s a lot of questions that have to be answered.”

The FBI interviewed Tamerlan in 2011, shortly after Russia’s Federal Security Service asked the agency to look into him as a possible Islamist radical who might soon travel to Russia.

Less than a year after the FBI interview, Tamerlan did in fact travel to the volatile Dagestan region of southern Russia on a six-month trip out of the United States. Much of what Tamerlan did on that trip is still a mystery to U.S. investigators, according to Reuters. Tamerlan spent at least a few weeks in Dagestan, a predominantly Muslim region where Islamist militants have long been a thorn in the side of Moscow.

Republican Representative Peter King of New York said he wondered why the FBI did not take more action after Tsarnaev returned to the United States last year and put statements on his website “talking about radical imams.”

Tamerlan Tsarnaev was not put on any no-fly list of suspected terrorists, U.S. officials said, but they were concerned enough about his citizenship application to do further investigating.

Officials of the Homeland Security Department decided to give his application extra scrutiny because of the FBI interview and was still pending when the bombing occurred.

One U.S. counterterrorism official urged perspective. “If we thoroughly investigated every one of these terrorism tips we get, we’d never get anything done,” he said.

Yet how many people are specifically called out by another nation for investigation? How many travel to areas known for radical Islamic movements? And how many of those people then come home to promote radical religious leaders?

A senior U.S. law enforcement source said that the number of tips received from Russian intelligence to the FBI each year is “not that many.”

“The 26-year-old Boston bomber is the fifth person since September 11, 2001, to participate in terror attacks despite being under investigation by the FBI,” McCaul and King said in a joint letter.

The letter identified the other four as Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born cleric and leader of al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen who was killed in a U.S. drone strike; David Headley, an American who admitted scouting targets for a 2008 Islamic militant raid on Mumbai; Carlos Bledsoe, who killed an Army private outside a military recruiting office in Arkansas in 2009; and Nidal Hasan, who killed 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009.

Beyond those identified, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, tried to bring down a U.S. jetliner over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009, and had been identified to the CIA as a potential terrorist, the letter said, adding the cases “raise the most serious questions about the efficacy of federal counterterrorism efforts.”

There was much the Department of Homeland Security knew about the older brother, yet did not communicate with their own FBI office in Boston. Had Boston law enforcement officials been aware that there was a questionable person, under investigation, in their midst, perhaps they would’ve been able to keep an eye out on his actions, such as amassing explosives and firearms.

Nearly 12 years after 9-11 it seems that much still needs to be done to keep Americans safe. Sadly the vast Homeland Security Department and its multi-billion dollar budget hasn’t addressed the most basic issues that were revealed after the attacks of 9-11.


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