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May 9, 2013

Boston chief wasn’t told FBI got Tsarnaev warning

WASHINGTON —

FBI agents did not tell Boston police they had receiving warnings from Russia’s government in 2011 about suspected bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev and had performed a cursory investigation, Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis told Congress Thursday, in the first hearing into last month’s terror attack on the Boston Marathon.

Davis said that none of four people he had assigned to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force was aware that the FBI investigated the vague warning, found nothing and had closed the file. One of his detectives was in the dark despite being assigned to the unit that investigated Tsarnaev, Davis said.

“They tell me they received no word about that individual prior to the bombing,” Davis said.

Davis said he would have liked to have known but conceded that it might not have prevented the attack. The commissioner said his detectives would have wanted to interview Tsarnaev.

“The FBI did that and they closed the case out,” he said. “I can’t say I would’ve come to a different conclusion based on the information at the time.”

The House Homeland Security Committee hearing came less than three weeks after Tsarnaev died in a police shootout. His brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was arrested and faces federal terrorism charges.

The committee chairman, Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said the hearing will be the first in a series to review the government’s initial response, ask what information authorities received about the brothers before the bombings and whether they handled it correctly.

Thursday’s hearing was unlikely to shed much light on those questions. Nobody from the federal government testified.

But in a time of widespread budget cuts, the hearing began laying the groundwork for an expected push for more counterterrorism money. Both Davis and Kurt Schwartz, the Massachusetts homeland security chief, praised federal grants that for years have kept cities flush with money for equipment and manpower.

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