Lawmakers don’t have to agree with every recommendation in the report issued last Wednesday by Representative Michael McCaul, the Texas Republican who led a congressional inquiry into the missteps of federal law enforcement before the Boston Marathon bombing. But the decision by almost all of the Democrats on the House Committee on Homeland Security to simply boycott the report does Americans a disservice, and potentially undermines efforts to fix the problems the investigation revealed. Those issues need to be debated seriously, not obscured in a partisan fog.
Members of the committee, including the Democrats, spent months investigating whether the FBI could have done more to stop accused bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev from carrying out the attack last April. Russian authorities had relayed warnings about Tsarnaev to the FBI in 2011, but the agency’s investigation at the time did not detect his apparent radicalization. Tsarnaev’s name was added to a terrorism watch list, but he was able to fly into and out of the United States anyway.
Scrutinizing the federal government’s handling of the tip from Russia, and also suggesting better ways to handle such information in the future, was a sensible use of congressional oversight power. Among other recommendations, the report calls for the FBI to share more data with local law enforcement agencies, for enhanced secondary checks of known suspects at airports, and for tighter regulations on the handling of terrorism watch lists.
None of the Democrats who refused to sign on to the report have raised objections to its actual findings or recommendations. Rather, they maintain they were left out of the process of compiling it and did not see the final, redacted version until Wednesday. But hearings were public, Democrats participated in the Russia trip, and members had access to a draft of the report for weeks. There’s simply no excuse for throwing sand in the gears of an important investigation over an apparently minor point of pique.
It’s probably no coincidence that the only Democrat to endorse the report was William R. Keating, who is also the committee’s only member from Massachusetts. Perhaps, having seen the carnage of the Marathon bombings up close, Keating understands that learning from that terrible event is more important than carrying on petty political fights.