Intelligence report found vulnerability at Boston Marathon before bombing

Assessment made five days before race, House panel is told

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WASHINGTON -- Five days before two bombs tore through crowds at the Boston Marathon, an intelligence report identified the finish line of the race as an "area of increased vulnerability" and warned Boston police that extremists may use "small scale bombings" to attack spectators and runners at the April 15 event.

The 18-page report was written by the Boston Regional Intelligence Center, a command center funded in part by the Department of Homeland Security that helps disseminate intelligence information to local police and first responders. The "joint special event assessment" is dated April 10. It notes that at that time, there was "no credible, specific information indicating an imminent threat" to the race. "The FBI has not identified any specific lone offender or extremist group who pose a threat to the Boston marathon," reads the report, parts of which two officials read to a reporter.

Since the blasts, the FBI has acknowledged that agents had interviewed one of the suspected bombers, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, in 2011 but determined that he did not pose a threat. Customs agents were aware that Tsarnaev had traveled to Russia in 2012, but decided that he didn't require additional questioning when he returned to the United States later that year.

What was known to the FBI and other agencies before the Boston bombings was being examined Thursday by the House Homeland Security Committee in the first of a series of hearings investigating the attacks. Top police officials in Boston testified to the panel that the FBI never shared with local law enforcement agencies that Tsarnaev had visited Dagestan, and that FBI and Russian officials were concerned that he and possibly his younger brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, might become radicalized extremists.

"We would have liked to have known," said Edward F. Davis III, commissioner of the Boston Police Department. But he said, "We were not aware of the two brothers; we were not aware of their activities."

In fact, Mr. Davis testified, it was more than three days after the bombing, after Tamerlan was killed in a police shootout and Dzhokhar was on the run, before he learned about the Tsarnaevs. "We didn't look at the brothers until after the shootout," he said.

But he said he was uncertain what his local intelligence officers would have made of Tamerlan Tsarnaev's 2011 trip to Dagestan, noting that the FBI interviewed him but found nothing suspicious, and that Russian officials did not tell the FBI why they were interested in him. "We would certainly have looked at the information," Mr. Davis said. "We would certainly have talked to the individual." But he added, "I can't say I would have come to a different conclusion" than the FBI.

Kurt Schwartz, Massachusetts undersecretary for homeland security, echoed, "At no time were we told about the brothers."

Former Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., onetime Senate Homeland Security Committee chairman, said that if the FBI had shared information about the Tsarnaevs, it "could have prevented all this from happening," referring to the three killed and 260 injured in the marathon bombings.

Local communities "are going to be your first line of defense," he said. "So I'd say the fact that neither the FBI nor the Department of Homeland Security notified the local members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force is really a serious and aggravating omission."

"Nobody bats 1,000 percent, it's true," he said. "How do you explain it? People are imperfect."

A House Homeland Security Committee member, Peter King, R-N.Y., agreed, recalling that FBI officials also never told New York City police that they were aware of an unfolding plot to bomb Times Square before an arrest was made there. "The failure to share information is absolutely indefensible," he said.

Meanwhile, Tamerlan Tsarnaev's body has been interred in an undisclosed location, the Worcester Police Department said in a statement Thursday morning. "A courageous and compassionate individual came forward to provide the assistance needed to properly bury the deceased," read a statement on the department website also read Thursday morning in front of the city funeral home that handled Tsarnaev's body. A funeral home official said the body was moved late Wednesday and had been interred outside Massachusetts.

The move ends a saga that began when Tsarnaev, 26, was shot by police and then run over by a car driven by his brother, Dzhokhar, 19, after the two tried to elude authorities during the police chase that began April 18. Tamerlan Tsarnaev's body was claimed by an uncle, Ruslan Tsarni of Montgomery Village, Md., and mistakenly taken to a North Attleboro funeral home before being transported to Graham Putnam and Mahoney Funeral Parlors in Worcester.

Graham Putnam funeral director Peter Stefan struggled for six days to find a place to inter Tsarnaev after cemeteries near and far refused him. Police set up a detail as a handful of protesters admonished the funeral home for handling the body.

"This is what we do, this is the right thing to do," Mr. Stefan, unbowed by the criticism, said earlier this week. "We're burying a dead body."


The New York Times contributed.


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