Transcript: President Obama on the review of intelligence-gathering prior to the Boston Marathon attacks – April 30, 2013 press conference
Transcript of remarks by President Barack Obama on the review of intelligence-gathering prior to the Boston Marathon attacks. The press conference was held on April 30, 2013:
There’s a report that your Director of National Intelligence has ordered a broad review — this is regards to the Boston Marathon bombing — that your DNI has ordered a broad review of all the intelligence-gathering prior to the attack. There is also a series of senators — Susan Collins, Saxby Chambliss, Lindsey Graham — who allege that all these years after 9/11, there still wasn’t enough intelligence shared prior to the attack. And now, Lindsey Graham, who is a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, has said that Benghazi and Boston are both examples of the U.S. going backwards on national security. Is he right? And did our intelligence miss something?
President Barack Obama:
No, Mr. Graham is not right on this issue, although I’m sure generated some headlines.
I think that what we saw in Boston was state, local, federal officials, every agency rallying around a city that had been attacked — identifying the perpetrators just hours after the scene had been examined. We now have one individual deceased, one in custody. Charges have been brought.
I think that all our law enforcement officials performed in an exemplary fashion after the bombing had taken place. And we should be very proud of their work, as obviously we’re proud of the people of Boston and all the first responders and the medical personnel that helped save lives.
What we also know is that the Russian intelligence services had alerted U.S. intelligence about the older brother, as well as the mother, indicating that they might be sympathizers to extremists. The FBI investigated that older brother. It’s not as if the FBI did nothing. They not only investigated the older brother, they interviewed the older brother. They concluded that there were no signs that he was engaging in extremist activity. So that much we know.
And the question then is was there something that happened that triggered radicalization and an actual decision by the brother to engage in the tragic attack we actually saw in Boston, and are there additional things that could have been done in that interim that might have prevented it.
Now, what Director Clapper is doing is standard procedure around here, which is when an event like this happens we want to go back and we want to review every step that was taken. We want to leave no stone unturned. We want to see, is there, in fact, additional protocols and procedures that could be put in place that would further improve and enhance our ability to detect a potential attack? And we won’t know that until that review is completed. We won’t know that until the investigation of the actual crime is fully completed. And that’s still ongoing.
But what I can say is that based on what I’ve seen so far, the FBI performed its duties, the Department of Homeland Security did what it was supposed to be doing.
But this is hard stuff. And I’ve said for quite some time that because of the pressure that we put on al Qaeda core, because of the pressure that we’ve put on these networks that are well-financed and more sophisticated and can engage in and project transnational threats against the United States, one of the dangers that we now face are self-radicalized individuals who are already here in the United States — in some cases, may not be part of any kind of network, but because of whatever warped, twisted ideas they may have, may decide to carry out an attack. And those are in some ways more difficult to prevent.
And so what I’ve done for months now is to indicate to our entire counterterrorism team, what more can we do on that threat that is looming on the horizon? Are there more things that we can do, whether it’s engaging with communities where there’s a potential for self-radicalization of this sort? Is there work that can be done in terms of detection? But all of this has to be done in the context of our laws, due process.
And so part of what Director Clapper is doing, then, is going to be to see if we can determine any lessons learned from what happened.
Are you getting all the intelligence and information you need from the Russians? And should Americans be worried when they go to big, public events now?
President Barack Obama:
The Russians have been very cooperative with us since the Boston bombing. Obviously, old habits die hard; there are still suspicions sometimes between our intelligence and law enforcement agencies that date back 10, 20, 30 years, back to the Cold War. But they’re continually improving. I’ve spoken to President Putin directly. He’s committed to working with me to make sure that those who report to us are cooperating fully in not only this investigation, but how do we work on counterterrorism issues generally.
In terms of the response of the American people, I think everybody can take a cue from Boston. You don’t get a sense that anybody is intimidated when they go to Fenway Park a couple days after the bombing. There are joggers right now, I guarantee you, all throughout Boston and Cambridge and Watertown. And I think one of the things that I’ve been most proud of in watching the country’s response to the terrible tragedy there, is a sense of resilience and toughness, and we’re not going to be intimidated. We are going to live our lives.
And people, I think, understand that we’ve got to do everything we can to prevent these kinds of attacks from taking place, but people also understand — in the same way they understand after a shooting in Aurora or Newtown or Virginia Tech, or after the foiled attempts in Times Square or in Detroit — that we’re not going to stop living our lives because warped, twisted individuals try to intimidate us. We’re going to do what we do — which is go to work, raise our kids, go to ball games, run in marathons. And at the same time, we’re going to make sure that everybody is cooperating and is vigilant in doing everything we can, without being naïve, to try to prevent these attacks from happening in the future.
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