If it wasn’t clear before, we now know the biggest obstacle in trying to prevent terrorism is our failure to communicate.
The 9/11 Commission’s investigation into the 2001 attacks revealed that federal agencies failed to share information about would-be terrorists and plots, and ignored important information that was shared, which could have prevented the attacks.
In response to these failures, the federal government, among other things, created the Department of Homeland Security. The addition of yet another agency, however, has added another layer of bureaucracy in which information can be lost, or not shared.
A congressional hearing Thursday into the Boston Marathon bombings revealed that the FBI did not tell the Boston police about the 2011 Russian warning about Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the two brothers accused in the bombings that killed three people and injured 264, the New York Times reported.
“We learned over a decade ago the danger in failing to connect the dots. My fear is that the Boston bombers may have succeeded because our system failed,” said the committee’s chairman, Rep. Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican who is a former federal counterterrorism prosecutor.
One area that needs scrutiny is laid out in the book, “The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI’s Manufactured War on Terrorism,” by investigative journalist Trevor Aaronson. These are the “plots” organized by the FBI, and then later “thwarted” in a “sting operation.” The public is then told another horrific plan has been stopped in its tracks. Aaronson says there are more than 150 such cases. “…The FBI that provided them with everything — the bomb, the transportation, everything they needed to move forward in a terrorism plot that on their own, they never would have been able to do.”
Is it possible that if the FBI were less busy concocting plots, they would have more time to concentrate on real ones?
We now know the Boston Marathon bombers weren’t on any agency’s radar enough to bother to communicate it to other agencies, including the Boston police, despite the concerns about Tsarnaev raised by Russia. (Since 9/11 and the passage of the Patriot Act, government agencies have great power to monitor our online activities — without a warrant. Was this happening in Tsarnaev’s case? Why not?)
As Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis said: “I’m not ready to vilify anyone at this point in time, but there are questions that need to be answered. And I’m looking forward to the review of what occurred so we can get to the bottom of a lot of different questions.”
And as Rep. McCaul said: “We can and we must do better.”