Transcript: Testimony of Sen. Joe Lieberman on the Boston Marathon bombings before the House Committee on Homeland Security – May 9, 2013

Partial transcript of former Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (I-Conn.) testimony on the Boston Marathon bombings before the House Committee on Homeland Security on May 9, 2013:

…After the terrorist attacks on America on 9/11/01, I was privileged to work with colleagues in both houses, both parties, and the executive branch to enact the most comprehensive reforms of our national system since the beginning of the Cold War in the late 1940s. And that was appropriate because as a result of 9/11, [we] entered a new phase of our security history against the very unconventional enemy.

I am grateful that the reforms we adopted and the organizations we have created have worked very well to protect the American people from terrorist attacks since 9/11. But as we saw in Boston, they are not perfect.

Here’s the record in brief. Since 9/11, no terrorist plot planned and launched from abroad against our homeland has succeeded. At least 65 homegrown terrorist plots have been stopped. That’s a remarkable record and a tribute to the men and women – civilian and military, public and private – who have devoted their lives to keeping us safe.

But the reality is that three terrorist attacks – all homegrown – have succeeded:

Carlos Bledsoe, who killed an Army recruiter in Little Rock in 2009;
Nidal Hasan, who killed 13 at Fort Hood later that same year;
And now the Tsarnaev brothers, who’ve killed four and severely wounded many more in Boston less than a month ago.

The Boston attack was in fact the first successful terrorist attack, foreign or homegrown, on civilian, non-military personnel in America since 9/11.

Could it have been prevented and stopped?

Well, from what I know of the facts in Boston – and none of us know them all at this point – and from what I’ve learned over the years about homegrown Islamist terrorism, I believe that though it would not have been easy, that it was possible to have prevented the terrorist attacks in Boston. In a literal sense, the homeland security system, we must acknowledge, that we built after 9/11 to protect the American people from terrorist attacks failed to stop the Tsarnaev brothers.

With your help, we must find out why and fix it.

I remember a leader in our homeland security system actually once said to me that terrorists can keep coming at us and they only have to succeed once; we have to stop them every time, and that’s almost impossible but that’s the standard our homeland security defenders hold themselves to and we have to as well.

That’s why I’m so grateful you’ve begun this investigation. I think you’ve got to go back step by step, pull it apart, and ask what more could the public and private individuals involved here [could] have done to prevent this?

If I may respectfully offer four brief points of counsel:

The first is that in today’s political environment, whenever there’s a governmental failure, there’s also the risk that the administration in power will become defensive and not share information and that Congress will be divided by partisan politics and lose sight of its overriding mission, which of course is to protect the American people from the next planned terrorist attack. I hope and believe that this Congress and this administration will not let that happen this time.

Second, the Boston Marathon attacks should again teach us that the enemy we face is violent Islamic extremism – not just Al Qaeda. Osama bin Laden is dead and the remaining leadership of Al Qaeda is on the run, but the ideology of violent Islamist extremism is rapidly spreading. We don’t know yet whether the Tsarnaev brothers were involved with any foreign group but we do know that they adopted the outrageously false narrative of violent Islamist extremism – that Islam and America are involved in a struggle to the death with each other. That fact compels us to ask again how this ideology and radicalization… can be countered and ultimately stopped. The leaders and members of the world’s Muslim communities, including our own fellow American who are Muslim, probably have the greatest capacity to do the most important work of counter-radicalization but the rest of us have a responsibility to help.

Three, prior to 9/11…there was too little sharing of information about terrorist threats among government agencies and therefore the so-called dots cannot be connected because they weren’t even on the same board. Our post-9/11 reforms aimed to overcome that serious problem and to a significant degree they did. In fact, today there’s so much information being shared on the same metaphorical boards by governmental agencies that the larger problem for our homeland security personnel may be being able to separate the wheat from the chaff to identify the most important dots on the boards so that they can be connected. And that may have been a big part of the problem in the Boston case. I urge you to try to determine whether it was as well as to ask whether lingering failures to share information – in this case, particularly by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security – made it more difficult to prevent the Boston attack.

It may be that the most damaging failure to share information was committed by the Russian intelligence service, whose original inquiries to the FBI and CIA were quite vague and apparently whose knowledge of what Tamerlan Tsarnaev did in Dagestan and Chechnya last year was not really conveyed to our government in any degree until after the Boston Marathon attacks.

However, we still got to ask and I hope you will – shouldn’t the fact that the first notice of Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s possible radicalization came to us from a very uncommon source – Russian intelligence – have marked the case for special handling by our government and guarantee that this file would not be closed? Were the original FBI interviews of Tamerlan Tsarnaev adequate to determine whether he was likely to radicalize to violent Islamist extremism? Was the FBI investigation curtailed by existing Attorney General guidelines on such investigations, which go back to the previous administration? Did the FBI enlist the help of state and local law enforcement either on or off the Joint Terrorism Task Force in Boston to continue to watch Tamerlan, engage with his friends, associates, and community leaders and monitor his Internet activities for the purpose of assessing whether he was radicalizing even further? And why didn’t the Department of Homeland Security notify the FBI and the Boston JTTF when its system pinged that Tamerlan Tsarnaev had returned from Dagestan and Chechnya?

And finally, fourth, when it comes to preventing homegrown terrorists from attacking our homeland – from attacking us… our homeland security agencies cannot do it alone. The government needs the help of the American people. If people see something suspicious, they must say something to our government. In this case, there were people who clearly could have prevented the massacre at the marathon by just saying something. Most obvious are the three friends of Dzhokhar…that have been arrested. Certainly, they should have told police what they saw and heard instead of allegedly obstructing justice. It’s also true that the leaders – the members of the Boston mosque that threw Tamerlan out because of his extreme views could have said something to the police and even done something to counter his radicalization. Even members of the Tsarnaev family, including Tamerlan’s wife, could have saved lives, including Tamerlan’s if they had said something or asked someone for help.

Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member, the cost of silence as we learned again on April 15th can be enormous, as enormous as the cost of not aggressively carrying out the post-mortem investigations that you in Congress and the administration have now begun. I thank you for that, and I will do anything I can to help you in this investigation…


Learn More:

2 Comments on “Transcript: Testimony of Sen. Joe Lieberman on the Boston Marathon bombings before the House Committee on Homeland Security – May 9, 2013

  1. Pingback: ANALYSIS: Former Sen. Joe Lieberman suggests AG guidelines may have "constrained" FBI from investigating Tamerlan Tsarnaev more aggressively | What The Folly?!

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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.