LIGNET.com Managing Editor Fred Fleitz told Fox News on Saturday that the U.S. intelligence community — not Russia — dropped the ball on Boston bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
“The intelligence community has gotten too large and it’s tripping over itself,” said Fleitz, commenting on the possible intelligence failures involving Tsarnaev. He noted that the intelligence community often fears political repercussions.
“There’s been a chilling effect on U.S. intelligence agencies to use all the tools available to them because they’re worried about being prosecuted, or hauled before Congress or losing their job,” he explained. “ And I have met with intelligence collectors who have told me that in certain instances — even with foreigners in foreign countries — it’s too risky to use the tools they have available to go after these guys.”
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Tsarnaev was killed in a spectacular shootout with police days after two bombs exploded near the finish line of the annual race, killing three and injuring more than 260 people.
Fleitz said that Russia should not be blamed for the intelligence shortfall since it attempted to warn the U.S. of Tsarnaev’s ties to radical Islam at least twice.
“I think in this instance it was the U.S. that was probably guilty of intelligence failures. It was not the Russians that dropped the ball or did something wrong,” he said. “I really think it’s wrong for U.S. intelligence officials to try to pawn the blame off on the Russians.”
Fleitz, a former CIA analyst, said that intelligence officials should have known that Tsarnaev spent time in Russia after being interviewed by the FBI.
“When he came back to the U.S. after six months no one knew about it,” said Fleitz. “His passport was scanned leaving and entering the country. That should have been a red flag that would have required him to be interviewed and maybe surveillance conducted of him after he returned to the United States.”
Fleitz acknowledged that the U.S. and Russia have had a “complicated and difficult” relationship regarding shared intelligence.
“We know that the Russians in the past have listed people on terrorist lists who were not terrorists for political reasons,” he said. “But concerning the Boston Marathon bombers they gave us a good tip.”
He noted that the past relationship with Russia may have contributed to the intelligence failure with respect to Tsarnaev, whose 19-year-old brother Dzhokhar has been moved to a prison at Fort Devens, Mass. from the hospital where he had been held since his arrest by police a week ago.
“I think that the lack of trust probably affected how the FBI would deal with the intelligence tip, but there are so many other elements related," according to Fleitz. "The FBI apparently did not notify the CIA of its initial investigation. It did not tell the Boston (Commonwealth) Fusion Center which is responsible for protecting against terrorist threats in Boston.”
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