Ambassador James Woolsey, who ran the CIA under President Clinton, tells Newsmax TV that U.S. law enforcement appears to have failed to use all of the tools at its disposal to monitor Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
“This is not an intelligence matter,” said Woolsey in an exclusive interview on Wednesday. “This is a law enforcement matter. It’s not the CIA’s business to try to prevent crime in the United States or arrest people or any of that.”
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While the Federal Bureau of Investigation interviewed the 26-year-old bombing suspect, who was killed in last week’s dramatic shootout with police, they presumably concluded that the older brother did not pose a danger or risk to the United States.
Woolsey, who now serves as the chairman of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said that the FBI might have been able to obtain a warrant under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to keep a watchful eye on Tsarnaev, particularly since Russian authorities had attempted to alert the U.S. to his ties with radical Islam.
“The Bureau might have gotten a warrant from a FISA court and been able to follow what Tamerlan was doing for several years given the fact that the Russians had taken the trouble to warn us about him,” Woolsey explained. “I don’t know why they didn’t’ use the FISA warrant. I don’t know why they closed the investigation but it doesn’t look to me as if we — the law enforcement side — used the tools that they had under American law.”
Meanwhile, he said, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police “did a much better job” of keeping tabs on two unrelated suspects who allegedly had been plotting to blow up a train bound from Toronto to New York.
“They’d been keeping up with them for a couple of years and they decided to move and to arrest them, presumably for conspiracy, because they were worried that they might take action,” said Woolsey, who was director of America’s top spy agency from 1993 to 1995.
“The Canadians didn’t close their file after they started looking into it,” he observed. “They kept at it.”
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Woolsey said he could not fault the CIA since it is not the agency’s job to watch American citizens on U.S. soil.
“The CIA doesn’t spy on people in the United States,” he explained. “If anybody is going to have an informant inside an organization here in the US to keep them up to speed on what a potential terrorist might do in the US, that’s law enforcement.”
He praised New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly for being “very aggressive” in tracking down potential threats to his city.
“They run operations in New York to keep track of what’s going on in potential terrorists and they do a very good job of it,” according to Woolsey, who has been labeled a neoconservative Democrat.
“What happened in 9/11 was that there was not good communication between the CIA and the FBI,” he recalled. “That’s true, but that detailed communication was in very many ways barred by a Justice Department ruling that was put out during the Clinton administration that build a so-called Chinese wall not only between intelligence and law enforcement, but between parts of the FBI to where the people doing criminal investigations in the bureau were not able to talk to the people who were doing counterintelligence.”
He said it was a “very close call” as to whether the Obama administration should have treated surviving suspect, 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as an enemy combatant.
Woolsey could only recall one case of U.S. citizens being arrested, prosecuted, and executed on American soil during World War II.
“World War II was a different kind of war than we are in now and some people would say we’re really at peace and these are just isolated incidents,” he said. “And so we ought to deal with each terrorist as if he were a bank robber and give him all the rights that an American criminal defendant has, whereas an illegal combatant overseas, say in Afghanistan today, obviously does not have those kinds of rights.”
While the Tsarnaev brothers may have posed a legal tightrope for law enforcement officials, the Obama administration has stretched “political correctness” in a number of cases, according to Woolsey.
“The administration really, really stretches the political correctness there to try to make it look as if they’ve already won the war on terror and this is just something else,” he said, pointing to the case of the Ft. Hood shooter, whom the administration classified under workplace violence.
“He has a business card that effectively calls himself a jihadi, and when he kills the 13 soldiers at Ft. Hood, he’s shouting, 'Allahu Akbar,’” Woolsey recalls. “Now, it’s pretty hard to think of that as workplace violence but that’s what the administration has done and the report on Major Hasan never even mentioned the words ‘Islam,’ ‘jihad,’ or anything like that.”
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