Senior lawmakers knew little more than the public on Tuesday about the Boston attacks, as U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials could provide only scant information about a fluid and ongoing investigation.
Gen. James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, told Senate Intelligence Committee members that the FBI is taking the lead and the person of interest that had been questioned has been released.
“The DNI just gave us an update and, frankly, as we suspected there is not a whole lot of update to give,” said Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., the ranking member on the Senate Intelligence Committee. “We just don’t know a whole lot more now than we did earlier today.”
Lawmakers who have spoken with U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials said they still do not know who was responsible for the bombings in Boston or whether it was a foreign group or domestic that planned and conducted the attack.
“We don’t know yet whether it was a home-grown lone wolf American citizen or whether it was a plot that originated overseas,” said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. “It does appear that it was pretty carefully planned and coordinated and involved a number of devices, but that really doesn’t answer the question about who was involved.”
While some members were raising questions about what U.S. officials knew before the attack and what they have learned so far in the ongoing investigation, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein seemed to caution against criticizing U.S. intelligence.
“We’ve done a very good job of it up to now for 12 years,” said Feinstein, D-Calif. “I think there are over 100 potential terrorist attacks that have been stopped because of the excellent work of the FBI in this country and the CIA abroad.”
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., also said it was way too soon to assess the administration's handling or response.
Lawmakers largely refrained from speculating about Boston. Their list of questions for U.S. officials ran the gamut, from suspects and motives to what more could have been done to prevent the attack.
While most members were offering words of support for Boston, some were using the bombings as reason to slow action on big pieces of legislation, including immigration.
“Some of the speculation that has come out is that yes, it was a foreign national and, speculating here, that it was potentially a person on a student visa,” conservative Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said, according to a National Review story. “If that’s the case, then we need to take a look at the big picture.”
But others, including fellow Republican Rep. Raul Labrador and Sen. Marco Rubio, quickly distanced themselves from King’s comments.
“We should really be very cautious about using any language that links these two things in any way,” said Rubio, a member of the Senate’s Gang of Eight that has produced a comprehensive reform plan. “We know very little about Boston other than that it was obviously an act of terror, we don’t who carried it out, or why they carried it out, and I would caution everyone to be very careful about linking the two.”
Billy House and Rebecca Kaplan contributed. contributed to this article.