Transcript: Q&A with Rep. Michael McCaul on the Boston Marathon bombings before the House Committee on Homeland Security – May 9, 2013

Partial transcript of Q&A with Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) on the Boston Marathon bombings before the House Committee on Homeland Security on May 9, 2013:

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas):
Commissioner Davis…as I said, post-bombing the actions of the police department and all law enforcement – federal, state, and local – was unparalleled, and I commend that…Before the bombing, were you aware of the Russian intelligence warning regarding Tamerlan and the fact that he may travel overseas to meet with extremists?

Ed Davis, Boston Police Commissioner:
We have three detectives and a sergeant who were assigned to the Joint Terrorism Task Force. One of my detectives is actually in the squad that investigated that. We have access to all the databases. But we were not, in fact, informed of that particular development.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas):
So it’s fair to say that your police officers assigned to the Joint Terrorism Task Force did not know this information?

Ed Davis, Boston Police Commissioner:
That’s correct.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas):
Would you have liked to have known that information?

Ed Davis, Boston Police Commissioner:
In hindsight, certainly.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas):
Before the bombing, were you aware that based on the Russian intelligence that the FBI opened an investigation into Tamerlan?

Ed Davis, Boston Police Commissioner:
We were not aware of that.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas):
Would you have liked to known about that?

Ed Davis, Boston Police Commissioner:
Yes.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas):
Before the bombing, were you aware that Mr. Tamerlan traveled to the Chechen region?

Ed Davis, Boston Police Commissioner:
No, we were not.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas):
Again, would you have liked to known that?

Ed Davis, Boston Police Commissioner:
Yes.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas):
Before the bombing, were you told that he posted radical jihadist video websites online?

Ed Davis, Boston Police Commissioner:
No, Mr. Chairman. We were not aware of the two brothers – we were not aware of Tamerlan’s activities.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas):
And again, would you have liked to known that fact?

Ed Davis, Boston Police Commissioner:
Yes, sir.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas):
We know that there was a Department of Homeland Security officer in the Joint Terrorism Task Force who was alerted of Mr. Tamerlan’s oversea trips to the Russian – Chechen region. Were you aware of that information before the bombing?

Ed Davis, Boston Police Commissioner:
I was not.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas):
Were the officers that you assigned to the Joint Terrorism Task Force aware of this?

Ed Davis, Boston Police Commissioner:
They tell me they received no word on that individual prior to the bombing.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas):
After the bombing, were you made aware of this information?

Ed Davis, Boston Police Commissioner:
Yes.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas):
And at what point in time was that?

Ed Davis, Boston Police Commissioner:
The information started to come in immediately upon our identification of Mr. Tamerlan, of the older brother on the morning of the Watertown arrest. So the shootout occurred late in the evening on Thursday into Friday. And Friday in the early morning hours, we started to get information about the identity of the individuals.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas):
And Commissioner Davis, if you’d had this information before the bombing, would you have done – your police force and you – would you have done anything differently?

Ed Davis, Boston Police Commissioner:
That’s very hard to say. We would certainly look at the information. We would certainly talk to the individual. From the information I received, the FBI did that and closed the case out. I can’t say that I would have come to a different conclusion based upon the information that was known at that particular time.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas):
But if you knew the Russian intelligence warning that this man is an extremist and they traveled overseas and the fact that he did travel overseas and he came back into the United States, would that may not have caused you to give this individual a second look?

Ed Davis, Boston Police Commissioner:
Absolutely.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas):
Undersecretary Schwartz, the Department of Homeland Security funds these fusion centers. Was the fusion center given any of this information that I just asked the Commissioner?

Kurt Schwartz, Undersecretary of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security:
Like the Boston Police Department, the State Police through the Commonwealth Fusion Center has, I believe, seven troopers assigned on a full-time basis to the JTTF. My understanding is that at no time prior to the bombings did any member of the Massachusetts State Police or the fusion center had any information or knowledge about the Tsarnaev brothers.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas):
This is the whole point of having fusion centers and Joint Terrorism Task Forces is to share information and coordinate…But the idea that the feds have this information and it’s not shared with the state and locals defies, you know, why we created the Department of Homeland Security in the first place, and it’s very troubling to me.

Sen. Lieberman, you went through a litany of cases where individuals – Awlaki, Bledsoe, the Fort Hood shooting that you did a fantastic investigation looking at why the dots weren’t connected – here we are 12 years later. We’ve put billions of dollars into this. Why are we still having problems connecting the dots?

Former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.):
…Let me first say that the line of questioning that you just carried out with Commissioner Davis and Secretary Schwartz and their answers are very important, and this may be one of the most significant and painful takeaway lessons from the Boston Marathon terrorist attacks. Because particularly when you’re dealing with homegrown radicals, the community around them is probably going to be your first line of defense. And state and local law enforcement will always have a better knowledge of the neighborhood, of the institutions that the people might be involved in. So I’d say that the fact that neither the FBI nor the Department of Homeland Security in the one case of that Customs and Border Protection agent didn’t notify the local members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force in Boston is really a serious and aggravating omission.

So, look, you know, as the Commissioner said nobody bats 0.1000. That’s true. And FBI and DHS – I’m probably one of their biggest fans and admirers in the country. But here was a case – and they’ve got to look back at it themselves – why didn’t they involve the local law enforcers who could have stayed on this case and picked up signals from some of the students who interacted with them, from the people in the mosque who threw out Tamerlan because he was such an extremist, or seen the videos that he posted when he came back from Dagestan that could have prevented all this from happening. So how do you explain it? You know, people are imperfect.

The information is being shared in a technological way, constantly – a lot of the old stove pipes have come down but in this case, aggravatingly, you have two of our great homeland security agencies that didn’t involve before the event the local state authorities that could have helped us prevent the attack on the marathon.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas):
And in closing, I completely agree with you, Senator. We have stopped so many of these cases and they’re very difficult to stop, and I do applaud the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, Department of Homeland Security, state and locals. But I’m concerned and troubled by the fact that maybe in this case there wasn’t shared even within the federal government jurisdictionally and it’s certainly by the testimony here today was not shared with the state and locals, which…are really the eyes and ears because they’re on the ground. And if just maybe someone have looked at him when he came back, just going up on his YouTube website may have possibly seen that this person had radicalized after he came back from a very dangerous part of the world.

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One Comment on “Transcript: Q&A with Rep. Michael McCaul on the Boston Marathon bombings before the House Committee on Homeland Security – May 9, 2013

  1. Pingback: FBI did not inform Boston Police of Russian intel on Tamerlan Tsarnaev | What The Folly?!

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