Assessments of the response to last year's Marathon Bombings offer high praise for the brave response of local, state and federal law enforcement, but the reviews also point to lingering gaps in information sharing.
The gaps are especially frustrating because similar issues were pointed out in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks, gaps that were pointed out by a special commission that studied how Al Qaeda was able to launch the coordinated strikes against America in 2001.
"With the 9/11 report that came out about 10 years ago they pointed to deficiencies in information sharing among law enforcement authorities at that time. Yet when we had the hearings in the aftermath of the Marathon bombing they told us we still have these gaps. So what occurred in the last 10 years can not occur again going forward," said Congressman Bill Keating, D-Mass., who sits on the House Homeland Security Committee.
That committee issued a report last month that pointed to a warning from Russia to the FBI in 2011 about bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev in which the Russian government "expressed concern that he had become radicalized and that he might return to Russia and join extremist groups there".
In response, the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force, or JTTF, in Boston conducted an assessment, which included interviewing Tamerlan and his parents.
"(T)he FBI did not find any evidence of terrorist activity" and "the Boston JTTF officially closed their assessment on June 24, 2011," Keating's report found.
The Boston JTTF is made up of members from various law enforcement agencies, including representatives from Boston police. But former Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis says he was never aware of the FBI investigation of Tamerlan Tsarnaev until after the bombings.
Davis testified last week before the committee, saying all agencies should be working together, like they do in other countries like the United Kingdom.
"I think that the FBI came 90 yards down the field by establishing the JTTFs, but I think there was some bureaucracy that prevented it from going over the goal line," Davis testified.
The report from Keating's committee points out JTTF members can only share information with their parent agencies with FBI approval. The report recommended "finding ways to increase and enhance the information sharing".
The FBI has refused to appear before the committee, but FOX Undercover reporter Mike Beaudet caught up with Kieran Ramsey, an assistant special agent in charge for the FBI in Boston.
"Obviously all of these public safety agencies are taking every precaution necessary should a threat pop up and certainly the communication has been second to none," Ramsey said last month.
Ramsey spoke after a gathering last month at the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency headquarters of representatives from local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. They spoke about embracing a spirit of cooperation as they prepared for this year's Boston Marathon.
Beaudet asked Ramsey's about Davis' concerns, which he had already stated publicly, about not knowing about the warning from Russia regarding Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
"Are the lines of communication open more now than they were a year ago?" Beaudet asked.
"I don't want to characterize what (Davis) said then. All I can tell you is, as was the case then as is the case today, that JTTF is an unfettered information sharing organization. There is absolute constant communication going on not only between all these agencies here but all the other agencies that represent the JTTF for the very reason we are in the business to prevent these threats from occurring," Ramsey replied.
"The fact that Tamerlan was on FBI's radar, do you have any regrets?" Beaudet asked Ramsey.
"I'm not going to answer that question other than to say the investigation of what happened is still ongoing, there is a pending prosecution. Our mission now in supporting all these municipalities and towns is to make sure that this is a safe event," Ramsey replied.
State Police Col. Timothy Alben echoed Ramsey's conclusions about cooperation between agencies.
"Are you convinced that agencies -- federal, local, state -- are sharing all the information?" Beaudet asked.
"Well, Mike, I was convinced of it last year and I said that publicly and I'll repeat it. I never saw an information embargo in any way shape or form," Alben replied.
Another report, issued by the inspector general for the intelligence community, points the finger at the Russian government for failing to provide detailed information about Tamerlan Tsarnaev despite being asked for additional information by the FBI.
But Keating stands by his committee's investigation, and it's report.
"Frankly, it's just not true that the information's being shared," he told FOX Undercover.
"Do you think these Marathon bombings could have been prevented if more information sharing was going on?" Beaudet asked Keating.
"We'll never know the answer to that with any certainty. However we do know this, and the reports highlights it: there were four, maybe five, red flags. Each one of those could have been very impactful that were missed. And they were missed for different reasons," Keating replied.
To read the report, visit: http://tinyurl.com/pvv3u22
© 2017 Cox Media Group.
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