Politics deep-sixes bombing hearing

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Residents flee near Franklin Street in Watertown on April 19, 2013.

By Globe Columnist 

Mourn the victims, honor the survivors, applaud the first responders — and demand accountability from the FBI and other law enforcement agencies when it comes to last April’s Boston Marathon attack.

Unfortunately, the quest for accountability lags. A report by the House Homeland Security Committee that was due out in early February has yet to be released and a rare field hearing that was supposed to be held in Boston is being called off after Mayor Martin J. Walsh expressed concerns about it.


The mayor said it’s a question of timing. But it seems more a matter of politics — the parochial, partisan kind.

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Walsh told US Representative William R. Keating — the Massachusetts Democrat who serves on the committee — he didn’t want any Republicans traveling to “my city” to bash President Obama and the FBI, according to a source familiar with the conversation. US Representative Michael McCaul, a Republican from Texas, chairs the Homeland Security Committee. Walsh and assorted City Hall emissaries lobbied others, including bombing victims, to get out the word that a Boston hearing is unwelcome.

Keating declined comment. He previously said he hoped a hearing could be held before this year’s Marathon, which is scheduled for April 21.

Congressional hearings have been held on local turf in other sensitive cases, including 9/11 and the Sandy Hook massacre. But Walsh said that holding a Boston hearing before the one-year Marathon bombing anniversary “is a poor idea.”

On April 15, he and Governor Deval Patrick are scheduled to host a tribute at the Hynes Convention Center to pay homage to the victims, survivors, and first responders. According to Walsh, a hearing would be “a distraction” from the planning around that event and the intense security arrangements around this year’s marathon.


Asked if he has specific concerns about giving Republican lawmakers a Boston platform to criticize the Obama administration, the mayor said, “It has nothing to do with Democrat or Republican . . . The day after the Marathon, I have no problem with it.”

Keating is the rare Democrat who dared to suggest that better government information sharing might have stopped Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev before they carried out their deadly attack. Keating, a former prosecutor, has also pushed for the government to fully assess what law enforcement did right and what could have been done better.

But state officials have resisted calls for investigations into the spree of shootings that broke out during the search for the Tsarnaev brothers. It ended with the deaths of an MIT police officer and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and the near-death of an MBTA police officer.

Patrick and Attorney General Martha Coakley also rejected calls for the Bay State to conduct its own investigation into a Florida shooting that involved the FBI and Massachusetts state troopers. Massachusetts left it to a Florida prosecutor to look into the death of Ibragim Todashev, who was being questioned about a triple slaying in Waltham that might be tied to Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The Florida report also awaits release.

Getting to the bottom of a terrorist attack should not be a partisan issue — and it should not take years to let the American people know the full circumstances behind such an attack. This week, Democratic Representative Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts and Republican Representative Walter Jones of North Carolina called upon the Obama administration to declassify 28 pages of a joint investigation by the House and Senate intelligence committees relating to 9/11. Lynch said they “contain information that is vital to a full understanding of the events and circumstances surrounding this tragedy.”

That horrific attack occurred 13 years ago. What happened in Boston is only coming upon its one-year anniversary. It’s important to respect the moment and not showcase it for political gain.


But neither should the traumatic memories associated with that terrible day be used as excuses to duck questions that need answers.

Joan Vennochi can be reached at
Follow her on Twitter @Joan_Vennochi.