Skip Navigation

Close and don't show again.

Your browser is out of date.

You may not get the full experience here on National Journal.

Please upgrade your browser to any of the following supported browsers:

'No Politics' Doesn't Mean No Accountability for Obama Administration in Boston Bombings 'No Politics' Doesn't Mean No Accountability for Obama Administration ...

This ad will end in seconds
 
Close X

Not a member? Learn More »

Forget Your Password?

Don't have an account? Register »

Reveal Navigation
 

 

Politics

'No Politics' Doesn't Mean No Accountability for Obama Administration in Boston Bombings

Congress, White House must investigate and learn from terrorist strike.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano struggles to explain how the Boston Marathon suspects slipped through the cracks.(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

photo of Ron Fournier
April 25, 2013

“Who’s playing politics with the Boston bombing?” That question was posed by many journalists, including me, almost immediately after the marathon attack, when a few Washington politicians tried to exploit the tragedy.

Some Republicans said the terrorist strike should raise questions about immigration reform. Certain Democrats said “sequestration” spending cuts (and by inference, the GOP) would hurt Boston’s recovery. It was shameful.

But let’s be clear: “No politics” does not mean “no accountability.” Congress must launch, and the White House must accommodate, a full and fair review of what the U.S. government knew about the two Boston Marathon suspects and what, if anything could have been done to prevent it.

 

If mistakes were made, admit them – and learn from it.

Early reports suggest there is a dangerous lack of communication between federal agencies, which actually isn’t a surprise. A federal audit in January warned there is a “high risk” that the government’s information-sharing system would not prevent a terror attack, the Boston Globe reports.

We also know that the FBI conducted a preliminary inquiry into Tamerlan Tsarnaev after Russia’s state security warned the bureau in 2011 that he was an increasingly radical Islamist prepared to leave the United States to join terrorist groups in Dagestan. (Tsarnaev, one of two brothers suspected in the Boston attacks, died during a firefight with police.)

FBI agents checked government databases and interviewed Tsarnaev and family members. They concluded he was not a threat. Still, the FBI added Tsarnaev to a government list of suspicious individuals who have not been tied to terrorist groups.

Despite that precaution, the FBI failed to detect his travel to the Dagestan region of Russia for six months in 2012 because his name was misspelled wrong on an airline passenger list, according to reports. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said U.S. authorities knew of his departure, but not of his return.

In the latest wrinkle, the Washington Post reported today that the CIA wanted to have Tsarnaev placed on a high-threat counterterrorism watch list more than a year before the attacks, after Russia warned the intelligence agency about Tsarnaev.

What else don’t we know? Who else knew about Tsarnaev’s radicalization? When did they learn of it? What did they do about it? There are countless other questions that must be answered, just as each step leading to the 9/11 attacks were scrutinized.

The White House is understandably dubious about Republicans’ ability to investigate the attacks fairly. But voters will factor out partisanship, and they will punish Republicans if they overreach (remember Bill Clinton’s impeachment?). Setting aside hyper-partisans, the general public is level-headed.

Americans understand that the FBI and other U.S. agencies field thousands – maybe tens of thousands – of warnings similar to those issued about Tsarnaev.  They don’t expect their government to be perfect. But they will demand it be competent, transparent and accountable.

Job Board
Search Jobs
Digital and Content Manager, E4C
American Society of Civil Engineers | New York, NY
PRODUCT REVIEW ENGINEER
American Society of Civil Engineers | CA
Neighborhood Traffic Safety Services Intern
American Society of Civil Engineers | Bellevue, WA
United Technologies Research Fellow
American Society of Civil Engineers | New York, NY
Process Engineering Co-op
American Society of Civil Engineers | Conshohocken, PA
Electrical Engineer Co-op
American Society of Civil Engineers | Findlay, OH
Application Engineer/Developer INTERN - Complex Fluids
American Society of Civil Engineers | Brisbane, CA
Application Engineer - Internships CAE/CFD Metro Detroit
American Society of Civil Engineers | Livonia, MI
Chief Geoscientist
American Society of Civil Engineers
Application Engineer - Internships CAE/CFD Metro Boston
American Society of Civil Engineers | Burlington, MA
Professional Development Program Engineer
American Society of Civil Engineers | Farmington Hills, MI
Civil Enginering Intern - Water/Wastewater/Site-Development
American Society of Civil Engineers | Sacramento, CA
Staff Accountant
American Society of Civil Engineers | Englewood, CO
Biomedical Service Internship Position
American Society of Civil Engineers | Flint, MI
 
Comments
comments powered by Disqus