Linda Chavez
Twelve years after September 11, our intelligence and federal law enforcement agencies still haven't fixed the data-sharing problems that make us vulnerable to more attacks. It's difficult to reach any other conclusion after unnamed counterterrorism officials at the CIA this week revealed that Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev remained in their system as a person with possible ties to terrorism, while the FBI had closed its investigation into the man.

If this information had been shared between the agencies and the FBI had continued to monitor his activities, could the bombing have been prevented? That is a question no one can answer definitively. It may be that our laws still would not have given the FBI sufficient authority to track him. And the sheer number of individuals whose profiles suggest they pose similar risks may simply overwhelm our ability to keep a close eye on all of them.

But one thing does seem clear: Government authorities should have been able to identify him as a suspect almost immediately after the bombing. If they had done so, it would have saved MIT police officer Sean Collier's life, prevented injuries to other police officers who pursued the brothers, and perhaps saved millions of dollars in shutting down major sections of Boston and surrounding communities and the police efforts required to apprehend the suspects.

Since the FBI was involved in the investigation into the bombing from the beginning, why didn't they search their database for individuals who had been investigated for potential ties to terrorism over the past several years? Surely Tsarnaev's name would have turned up. And if not, why not?

If his name had come up, wouldn't the FBI or other law enforcement figures have gone out to interview him immediately after the bombing? We know from the secretary of homeland security that his departure for Russia was noted in the department's counterterrorism database. Surely investigators who knew that he'd recently visited the Russian province of Dagestan, a hotbed of Muslim extremism, should have quickly put him on a list of possible suspects. If the information available to the CIA and homeland security were available to all federal counterterrorism agencies, it should have triggered alarms as soon as the bombing occurred.


Linda Chavez

Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .

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