Washington –- Former Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman told a House panel Thursday that the Boston bombings could have been prevented.
Speaking at a House Homeland Security Committee hearing on the April 15 terrorist attack that killed four people and injured more than 260, Lieberman said there were several opportunities to stop the attacks.
“It would have been hard to stop this one, but it would have been possible,” he said.
A former chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Lieberman said a failure by federal authorities to share information with local police “may be one of the most significant and painful take-away lessons” from the Boston Marathon attacks.
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul of Texas was one of several Republicans who, like Lieberman, said the nation’s homeland security system failed.
“We can and must do better,” McCaul said.
McCaul invited Lieberman to testify before his panel. Once a Democrat, Lieberman abandoned the party to become an independent, retiring at the end of the last Congress.
He said all terrorists attacks on Americans since 9/11 have been planned and carried out by “homegrown” terrorists, like Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, brothers who are suspected of carrying out the bombings and killing a campus security officer at MIT in an attempted escape.
Russian intelligence agencies had requested that the United States look into Tamerlan Tsarnaev for possible terrorist ties. The FBI and CIA both investigated him, and the CIA had put him on a terrorist watch list.
But it appears little else was done.
Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis testified that the Boston Police Department was not aware of the investigations.
“Why didn’t they involve the local law enforcers, who could have stayed on this case and picked up signals from some of the students who interacted with him, from the people in the mosque who threw out Tamerlan?” Lieberman said. “That could have prevented all this from happening.”
Lieberman also said that Tamerlan’s widow could have told authorities that “she was worried about what he was up to.”
“She could have saved her husband’s life,” Lieberman said during a break in the hearing. “There are various points in which Tamerlan Tsarnaev in particular should have jumped up as a person of interest.”
Thursday’s hearing is the first in several Congress plans to hold on the Boston bombings.
Lieberman said partisanship should play no role in the congressional investigation of the bombings.
“It’s important to look back with really no defensiveness because we’re only going to stop another terrorist attack if we know how this one happened.”
Kurt Schwartz, undersecretary in Massachusetts for Homeland Security, and Erroll Southers, a terrorism expert from the University of Southern California, also testified Thursday.