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Joseph Lieberman: Boston Attack Could Have Been Prevented

Former U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman testified Thursday before the House Committee on Homeland Security.
Former U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman testified Thursday before the House Committee on Homeland Security. Photo Credit: File

STAMFORD, Conn. -- U.S. homeland security agencies "failed" and could have done more to prevent the deadly bombings at the Boston Marathon last month, said Joseph Lieberman, a former U.S. senator from Connecticut and Stamford resident.

"The Boston attack was the first successful terrorist attack – either homegrown or launched from abroad –on a nonmilitary target in America since 9-11," Lieberman said in prepared remarks to a House Committee on Homeland Security on Thursday morning.

"From what I know of the facts and what I know about homegrown Islamist terrorism and our efforts to prevent it, I believe it would have been hard – but not impossible – to have stopped the Tzarnaev brothers before the attacks. To put it bluntly, our homeland defense system failed in Boston. With your help, we must find out why and fix it."

Three people were killed and more than 250 people injured in the two bombings near the finish line of the race in downtown Boston on April 15. Suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was killed during a confrontation with police four days after the bombings. His brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, is recovering from gunshot wounds in a Massachusetts prison medical facility.

"Unlike 9/11, the ability of the Tzarnaev brothers to plan, arm themselves, and carry out the bombings without detection right here in the United States was not the result of a failure of imagination," Lieberman said.

"Rather an attack like this had been predicted for years, which leads me to conclude that the success of these attacks was the result of errors made within our existing homeland security system – both public and private – and by a failure to do enough at the federal, state, and local levels to counter homegrown terrorism inspired by VIE [violent Islamist extremism] in the first place."

Lieberman, who was an Independent, said it  too early to determine what mistakes were made but criticized U.S. agencies Thursday for not sharing information among agencies.

Lieberman questioned whether Tamerlan Tzarnaev’s case warranted special handling after an inquiry from the Russian intelligence service. He also asked whether the FBI’s interviews and surveillance of Tzarnaev were adequate.

He also asked whether the FBI enlisted the help of state and local law enforcement, either on or off the Joint Terrorism Task Force, to continue to watch the brothers or monitor their Internet activities – including Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s YouTube account, which included radical videos.

As a senator, Lieberman introduced legislation that led to the creation of the Department of Homeland Security after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He retired from the Senate in January.

"We must find ways to stop the spread of VIE and stop the radicalization process even if no crime has been committed," Lieberman said. "That is one of the primary policy challenges before us as we try to identify ways to prevent an attack like the one in Boston from ever happening again."

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