The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s failure to recognize political Islam as a driver of jihadist terrorism is partly to blame for the FBI not identifying one of the Boston Marathon bombers in 2011 as a security risk, according to U.S. officials and private counterterrorism analysts.
The FBI revealed last week that it was warned by a foreign government in 2011 that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was killed Friday, was tied to “radical Islam” but the FBI was unable to confirm the links.
“The fact is religion has been expunged from counterterrorism training,” said Sebastian Gorka, a counterterrorism specialist with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “The FBI can’t talk about Islam and they can’t talk about jihad.”
Added Patrick S. Poole, another counterterrorism specialist, about FBI policies on Islam: “I have zero doubt it affected their investigation of Tsarnaev.”
A U.S. official said FBI policies of playing down Islamic links to terrorism resulted in the FBI not identifying Tsarnaev, 26, or his brother, Dzhokar Tsarnaev, 19, who was charged with last week’s bombing, as Islamist terrorists.
Instead, the FBI is limiting its description of the two men as ethnic Chechens who became “radicalized” prior to the April 15 bombing of the Boston Marathon. Three people were killed and more than 200 injured in the attack using two homemade bombs placed in pressure cookers and remotely detonated.
Former Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R., Mich.), who until he retired in 2011 headed the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said an investigation into the FBI’s questioning of Tamerlan Tsarnaev is needed.
“I think that is one of the things that we’re really going to have to take a closer look at,” Hoekstra told the online intelligence newsletter Lignet.
“What kind of information did we get and why did we miss signals?” Hoekstra asked. He stopped short of calling the lapse an intelligence failure.
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