The House Committee on Homeland Security’s hearing on the Boston Marathon bombings on Thursday amounted to more than the usual political posturing: It exposed clear deficiencies in communications among intelligence- and law-enforcement agencies. In their testimony, Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis and Massachusetts undersecretary for homeland security Kurt Schwartz offered significant insights into how federal and local authorities might address the deficiencies that apparently allowed Tamerlan Tsarnaev to plan and execute the attack despite concerns by the FBI and Russian intelligence agencies about his growing radicalism.
At the hearing, Davis said that the Boston police had no knowledge of those reports. A few hours later, the FBI issued a statement saying that the 2011 assessment of Tsarnaev was in a database that was available to a Boston-area terrorism task force — one that includes Boston police. Just seeing the assessment might not have stopped the attack, as Davis pointed out. But whatever the cause of the breakdown, the failure to share the information — and the continued finger-pointing between agencies yesterday — shows the need to improve coordination.