WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama said Tuesday his counterterrorism bureaucracy “did what it was supposed to be doing” before the Boston Marathon bombing as his top intelligence official began a review into whether sensitive information was adequately shared and whether the U.S. government could have disrupted the attack.
“We want to go back and we want to review every step that was taken,” Obama told a White House news conference. “We want to leave no stone unturned. We want to see, is there in fact additional protocols and procedures that could be put in place that would further improve and enhance our ability to detect a potential attack.”
The 90-day review is also a political pre-emptive strike as Republican lawmakers question whether the administration’s law enforcement and intelligence agencies failed to share crucial counterterrorism information — the same error blamed for missing the clues before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Some Republican lawmakers have already suggested forming a select committee to investigate the Boston bombings, just as they are calling for a similar committee to delve further into the militant attacks that killed four Americans last year in Benghazi, Libya.
Shawn Turner, a spokesman for Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, said the review covers only the period before the Boston attack because the investigation of the bombings is still under way. Initiated earlier this week, it’s being led by I. Charles McCullough III, the independent intelligence community inspector general. He is authorized to reach into any U.S. intelligence agency.
The effort includes inspectors general from the CIA, the Justice Department and the Homeland Security Department.
In a letter dated Tuesday and signed by the four inspectors, the officials said they had initiated and coordinated an independent review into the government’s handling of intelligence leading up to the bombings. They said in the letter, which was released to the Associated Press, that they would carry out the review in a way to make sure they do not interfere with any ongoing intelligence activities, criminal investigations and prosecutions related to the attacks.
Homeland Security Deputy Inspector General Charles K. Edwards said in a statement Tuesday that “it is vital that we determine all the facts ... and thereby provide the entire law enforcement community with lessons learned and valuable insights.”
Questions will center on whether the FBI, CIA and Homeland Security Department shared enough with each other about Tamerlan Tsarnaev, a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings who died in an escape attempt. The Russian government had tipped off the FBI and the CIA about his possible links to militancy. His brother, Dzokhar, also a suspect, is in custody.
The intelligence community review does not preclude any other reviews by Congress.