Authorities in Massachusetts were never told the Russian government warned the United States of suspected Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev, but investigators were largely preoccupied with another problem at the time: protesters.
The US Federal Bureau of Investigation opened a probe into Tamerlan Tsarnaev two years ago on the recommendation of Moscow, but closed their case without concluding he posed any threat — and without warning officials local to Boston that a suspected radical extremist was residing in their town. On the other hand, evidence has proved that a Boston police counterterror intelligence unit spent a significant amount of time and money in 2011 using a US Department of Homeland Security-funded fusion center to spy on and monitor protest groups, including Occupy Wall Street offshoots and anti-war demonstrators.
On Thursday, Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis admitted to a congressional panel that federal agents failed to warn his department of Tsarnaev, an ethnic Chechen who died last month during a firefight with police. Investigators believe he orchestrated a terror plot during the April 15 race with the help of his brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who has since been apprehended, charged and confined to a federal facility.
Hours after Davis told lawmakers “we would have liked to know” about the Russian tip-off, NBC News national investigative correspondent Michael Isikoff accused the FBI and DHS for failing to do their job, all the while concentrating their resources on a campaign to investigate peaceful demonstrators.
Last October, the American Civil Liberties Union in Massachusetts published a trove of documents confirming that the Boston Police Department spied on protesters and even relied on their local federally-funded fusion centers to further their probe.
“[O]fficers assigned to the Boston Regional Intelligence Center [BRIC] at the Boston Police Department are collecting and keeping information about constitutionally protected speech and political activity,” the ACLU announced at the time.