FOX UNDERCOVER (MyFoxBoston.com) -- The FBI's muted response to pointed questions over early warnings about one of the accused Boston Marathon bombers is drawing criticism from a Bay State Congressman that the federal government isn't sharing enough sensitive information with other law enforcement officials, a failure he says detracts from the country's ability to prevent future terror attacks.
Cong. William R. Keating, D-Bourne, told FOX Undercover he continues to be frustrated at the FBI's response to his questions about why state and local police weren't told by the FBI that Russian intelligence officials had warned US officials about Cambridge resident Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
The FBI responded to Keating's questions in a letter, which he released today to FOX Undercover. The letter answers questions Keating asked in July.
"(Information sharing) was an important piece after 9/11, and I'm not seeing any kind of formal effort to take information that's there and share it with local law enforcement," Keating told FOX Undercover reporter Mike Beaudet.
Keating sits on Congress' Committee on Homeland Security and has traveled to Russia to investigate Tsarnaev's time there and the two warnings Russia had sent about the elder Tsarnaev brother.
The FBI has said they followed up on a detailed warning from Russia issued March 4, 2011 but were ignored by the Russians. A Russian security official denied to Keating that any follow-up from the FBI had occurred. The FBI also interviewed Tsarnaev but closed the case on him.
In its response to Keating, the FBI reiterated that members of the Boston Police Department and others who are part of the Joint Terrorism Task Force have access to a computer system called Guardian which contained information about Tsarnaev and the Russian warnings .
But Keating says that's not real information sharing, and it leaves one troubling question unanswered.
"Do you think information sharing could have possibly prevented the Marathon bombings?" Beaudet asked.
"The view we're taking now is it's important to state this is that our goal is to look forward and where can we do better to perhaps prevent another tragedy from occurring," Keating said. "It was the Russian head of counterterrorism that thought it could have made a big difference. But we'll never know the answer to that but we do know that's an important piece going forward."
The FBI in its letter wrote, "Many state and local departments, including the Boston Police Department (BPD), have representatives who are full-time members of the Boston JTTF, and specifically had representatives assigned to the JTTF squad that conducted the 2011 assessment of deceased terrorism suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The primary purpose of Guardian is to make immediately available threat and suspicious activity information to all system users and to provide all users with the capability to search all incidents for threat trend analysis."
But Keating said that's not enough to upload the information to a database.
"There's no way any police officer can sit there that has access to that, it's just a needle in a haystack. Not knowing what you're looking for begs the question of sharing information," he said.
Cong. Keating is not the only lawmaker in Washington, putting pressure on the FBI.
In October, FOX Undercover was the first to report on a letter written by Sen. Chuck Grassley where the Iowa Republican questioned whether the FBI knew the identities of the Tsarnaev brothers after the bombings but before they released their pictures to the public. The FBI adamantly denies the charge. Grassley, too, has said he is frustrated with what he calls the FBI's lack of responsiveness.
Take a look at Keating's July letter to the FBI.
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