Lessons Not Learned

Based on today’s House and Senate hears about the Boston Marathon Bombings, it seems that we still haven’t learned the lessons of 9/11, when it was clear that agencies were not sharing crucial information with each other.  In that instance, the CIA did not share information with the FBI about the men who hijacked the planes.

Now it seems that the FBI did not know about Tamarlan Tsarnaev’s trip to Russia in 2012, although the Department of Homeland Security did.

It also emerged that the Russians warned us “multiple times” about him.

25 comments on “Lessons Not Learned

  1. danielfee says:

    Why should the FBI have known that Tamarlan Tsarnaev was traveling to Russia? That is not within their jurisdiction. They investigate domestic activities not foreign travel. Even if they were informed of his travel their file was closed because they found nothing. What red flag should have been raised by a guy traveling to where his parents were living? DHS said their system pinged when he left the country. But since Russia would not share any information what reason would DHS have for preventing his travel or reentry? Don’t fall into the right-wing trap of blaming the agencies for not connecting dots which did not exist. When the CIA got the same request that the FBi had received 6 months prior, they referred it back to the FBI because it was a domestic investigation. Once again Russia wouldn’t provide any further info. It sound to me like the CIA and FBI were talking. After the fact people like to invent all kinds of dots to be connected that did not exist in real time. Here is the real interesting question, why did Russia let Tamarlan come into Russia and then allow him to leave if they had information they were not sharing.

    • We have FBI agents stationed at the U. S. embassy in Moscow.
      And if DHS knew, but the FBI didn’t know about the 2012 trip, then we’re back in pre-9/11 territory. Read Ali Soufan, the former FBI agent who threw up when he realized that the CIA knew about some of the 9/11 hijackers and kept it to themselves.

      • danielfee says:

        Don’t fall down the right-wing rabbit hole. We know that the FBI & CIA did talk it this case and they shared. Both got the same (lack of) information from the Russian. I am not sure why the FBI would have people stationed in Moscow, but if so don’t you think the local FBI would have obtained whatever info they had before closing their file? By going back to pre-911 and saying nothing has changed is laying the groundwork for eroding more civil liberties and violating constitutional rights. You are already starting to hear some right-wingers saying we need to expand warrantless wiretaps and that he should have gone on a terrorist watch list even though the FBI investigation turned up nothing. After the fact it is easy to say they should have done these things. However, in real time there were no dots to be connected to justify a warrant or to put put him on a watch list. But do we really want to turn our FBI into the KGB? Should there be open files on any and everyone that they receive tips on? This is the real slippery slope to undermining constitutional rights. Not background checks on gun sales.

      • I don’t see this as a right-wing thing.

      • I believe that we have consistently underestimated (or even misunderestimated!) threats from the Caucasus, seeing them as local threats to Russia rather than global threats that might impact us. There are both kinds of threats, and the global ones have been increasing.
        Tamerlan was on a watch list, but that list has half a million people on it, and if they don’t find something on you, you get taken off after 90 days. By the time he came back from Russia, he had expired.

      • I’m a citizen. To the extent the government is keeping tabs on someone like Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was not a citizen, I don’t see how that threatens my civil liberties. It just makes it more likely that when I attend a crowded event, I’ll go home with my legs attached. Why should Tamerlan Tsarnaev have the same rights I do?
        When you talk about turning the FBI into the KGB, that’s the kind of exaggerated, fear-mongering comment I hear on Fox News every day. These comments from either left or right don’t lead to reasonable policy-making that strikes a wise balance between liberty and security.

  2. danielfee says:

    I asked if you wanted to give the FBI the same authority as the KGB, that is to say allow them open a file on anyone they wish and keep it open as long as they want even if they have found nothing to support the initial suspicion or accusation, even if made by a foreign government? How is this fear mongering? Kind of sounds like J. Edgar Hoover’s secret files. If they had found any potential ties to terrorism then of course you keep an open file. But since when do we put so much faith in tips from Putin’s government when the FBI couldn’t find anything?
    Just remember it was the right-wing that threw the intelligence services under the bus for 9-11, even though they had given Bush the August 6th PDB which specifically outlined a possible attack in the U.S. Then they backed the bus up and ran over them again when no WMD’s turned up in Iraq even though the Bush administration cherry picked the info they wanted to make their case for going to war. They went so far as to set up their own special intelligence (I use this term loosely with Doug Feith) unit in the Defense Department to stovepipe unvetted data directly to Cheney’s office. But the NIA did not support the WMD claim.
    While I am not arguing that pre 9-11 the agencies did a good job of sharing data, I have seen no evidence in this case, just accusations that there was a lack of information sharing. In fact what I have seen is there was no information except the Russians said you should look at this guy. What I see is a lot of Monday morning quaterbacking claiming there were dots to be connected with benefit of hind sight.
    Remember the right-wing pushed the Patriot Act after 9-11 and the warrantless wiretapping in violation of the 4th amendment. If you don’t think they will try to use this bombing to push for the clamp down on civil rights a little further here is the letter from McCain & Ayotte moving in this direction. http://ktar.com/22/1629595/McCain-Ayotte-request-hearing-on-Boston
    Finally, you do not have to be a citizen to have constitutional protection of your rights. That argument also originated as a right-wing talking point years ago. You have to be a citizen to run for Congress or President. However, reread the amendments, such as the 4th, which says “the right of the people… ” not the right of the citizens. The founders distinguished in the Constitution as to when citizenship must apply. We have many people that live in this country that never become citizens but if they commit a crime (grand theft, murder etc.) they are entitled to due process, the right of habeas corpus and all other protections provided under the Constitution. We do not have a two-tier system in this country no matter how horrible the crime. However, I think this is what the right-wing has been trying to establish, a two-tier system where they get to decide to whom it applies.

    • I have no problem with the Patriot Act. I have no problem with warrantless wire-tapping reviewed by a FISA court.
      I was just saying that I don’t care if Tsarnaev has more government attention and fewer rights than I do, and I don’t think keeping tabs on him is a threat to my liberty. I’m not heading to Dagestan or Chechnya anytime soon. To me, it’s a two-tier system in the sense that if you’re not doing anything, they won’t bother you — they have more than enough real possibilities to follow, given the half million on the watch list.
      I’ve been surprised since 9/11 that we haven’t had more instances like the Boston bombings. I was expecting it. I’m more worried about attacks like this than losing my rights.
      The KGB doesn’t exist anymore, it’s the FSB, but anyway, I think it’s hyperbole to compare the FBI to Russian domestic security services. We’re a long, long way from there. To me, it’s like the NRA saying that expanded background checks mean a national gun registry. You’re jumping the gun, pun intended.
      The August 6 PDB doesn’t alter the fact that the CIA didn’t tell the FBI about the 9/11 hijackers they knew about.
      It makes no sense to me that they knew about Tamerlan’s trip, but didn’t keep tabs on him both while he was overseas and when he came home, why they didn’t do a kind of de-briefing.

    • Sorry, I had to leave to get one of my dogs to the vet.
      Tamerlan didn’t have the same rights as I do. I can’t be taken to an immigration court, I can’t be deported.
      Mostly I am frustrated at what I see as our government’s indifference to Russian warnings about Caucasian (in the geographic, not racial, sense) extremists, seeing them as oppressed by the Russians rather than as potential global terrorists. They see them as political freedom fighters, not Islamic terrorists. I’m no fan of Putin, he’s Tony Soprano with nuclear weapons, but sometimes our interests and security align with his.
      It was clear from Tamerlan’s online postings that he was a Salafist, and that he deserved more attention than your basic Muslim.

  3. danielfee says:

    I hope you dog is OK and it was just a routine visit. I don’t have a problem with the the entire Patriot Act, and it is much better since some of the worst parts were removed with subsequent renewals. But remember the issue about them secretly obtaining any ones library records. Which also made it a crime for the librarian to refuse or even talk about receiving the request. Or the National Security Letters that allowed the FBI to obtain whatever they wanted with no court oversight. I agree with the use of the FISA court, but the warrantless wiretapping program was called that because they were doing an end run around the FISA court. That is why it was warrantless.
    Tamerlan had legal status in the U.S. He couldn’t be taken to immigration court and deported either. He was not in the country illegally. In fact he had applied for his citizenship with his brother, who got his on 9-11-2012, but his application was held up by DHS for additional review because of the previous FBI investigation.
    But your comment that bothers me the most was “To me, it’s a two-tier system in the sense that if you’re not doing anything, they won’t bother you.” Do you not remember when Bush was President and the guy at Ohio State who turned his back on Bush during his commencement address and he was arrested. Or the couple that went to an event that had some anti-Bush statement on their tee-shirts and they were arrested, or the person in Colorado who had a No War for Oil bumper sticker on their car at a Bush event and was arrested. I could give you more examples, but you get the point. Of course the charges were all dropped later because they had no merit, but it just goes to show that it depends on who is in power as to whether or not you will be bothered. Some of the stuff you post on your blog could easily be taken the wrong way by a right-wing administration. We need to defend the principals in the Constitution even when they apply to someone like the Tsarnaev brothers.
    Tamerlan’s on-line posting became radical after he returned from Russia according to the reports. I don’t understand why you are frustrated with our government’s indifference to Russian warnings about Caucasian extremists. Are you aware of any other warnings than the one they gave us on Tamerlan? I am not. When they received this warning the FBI investigated and found nothing. They asked Russia for more information and were stonewalled. Why blame our FBI for Russia lack of cooperation? In a Time-World an article by Simon Shuster it indicated the Russian FSB had nothing more than Tamerlan made regular visits to a mosque that got more than its share of attention from the Russian police. It went on to say that they Russian security services never observed Tsarnaev making contact with any of the known insurgent leaders or suspected terrorist who operated in Dagestan. If true this maybe why they didn’t respond to the FBI’s request for additional information, because they had none.
    After the fact we call sit at our computers and say they should have done this or that. But before the bombing there were no dots to be connected, so we should not blame the intelligence agencies.

    • My dog has a very bad infection in his left front paw. He’s been at the vet every day since Sunday and will continue to go each day for awhile to have the infection cleaned out. They think it may be a spider bite. I noticed he was limping Sunday morning and got him in as soon as I could Sunday afternoon, but the infection was already very bad. Until he started limping, I had no idea anything was wrong. He has turned a corner, thank God, and they are no longer talking about the infection spreading through his body (sepsis) or having to amputate the paw. It’s been a very rough week. The amputation would have been a death sentence because he is old and has cancer, and I wouldn’t have put him through it as I would a younger, healthier dog. By the time he recovered from the surgery and adjusted, he’d probably be dead from the cancer. He’s a very sweet rescue dog, a black lab mix, I got on 9/10/11 from Four Paws of Utah where he’d lived for two years without getting adopted. I was supposed to foster him for a group here in CA, but he showed up with the cancer, so I just kept him. I don’t know about his life before the rescue place, but I assume it was crappy. I give my pets human names, but he came as Big Dude, so I kept it.

      • danielfee says:

        So you are also a failed foster parent. 🙂 So are we, twice. Our 3-legged dog Roo was our first foster we kept and our 3 1/2-legged Domino was our second. They were planning to amputate her left front paw that was almost torn of when she was hit by a car. But even though she has nerve damage and no feeling in the paw she learned how to make use of it so we never took her back for the amputation. I am glad to hear he has turned the corner and it is great that you could give him a good home in his old age.

      • I am a three-time failed foster mom. Besides this dog, I have Megan, a yellow lab mix, who has been here almost three years and is now 9 1/2. I also had a black lab who arrived when she was 14 1/2 and lived another 14 months, until June 2011. So right now there are two dogs and three cats here.
        But I plan to try to foster again! Fosters are the life blood of rescue organizations, and I feel guilty that I’m not fostering.

    • But Tamerlan clearly sided with the Salafists in the Caucasus, not the moderate Sufis. They should have been checking his postings after he came back from Russia. He posted video of the radical Abu Dujana, who was a leader of the Caucasus Emirate until the Russians killed him last December. Once the Russians warned us, I think that’s enough.
      Even with legal status, that can be revoked, and you can be sent back depending on what you did. I can’t be sent back anywhere, since I started out in Boston.
      I am bothered that Bush gave the Tsarnaev family asylum in the first place.
      I would revoke Dzhokhar’s citizenship as fraudulently obtained (he lied when he took the oath) and send him back. Let the Russians deal with him. Let him see if he likes their justice system better.
      I can understand that security is extra tight (and a little paranoid) when you are at an event with the President. The thing is that those charges are always dropped promptly. Basically, they just want to remove you from the event. That stuff happens whoever is Prez, not just right-wing administrations.

      • danielfee says:

        I know it is difficult after the fact to put yourself in the position of the FBI or CIA before the event. But nothing Tamerlan did before the bombing was illegal. Posting radical material is not illegal, and is protected by the Constitution. On what grounds would you have proposed to send him back, if he had done nothing illegal before the bombing? Let’s not scapegoat the agencies again because we have the benefit of 20-20 hindsight. If the Time-World article is correct the Russians also found no direct contact with any known radicals, but just attended a mosque they had under surveillance. In my opinion it is better to take a deep breath, step back and not over react and take actions that we then have to reverse later.

      • I’m not saying I would have sent Tamerlan back then, I’m saying he should have stayed on the watch list (such as it is, with all those names) and not been “timed out” for inactivity. That guy from the Caucasus Emirate Tamerlan admired so much was another bin Laden.
        But I would send Dzhokhar back now, strip his fraudulently-gained citizenship. I hate paying for his food and medical care.
        It seems the Russians did have more on him that they didn’t share specifically that we are trying to find out now.

    • I’m not aware of any warrantless wiretapping that isn’t under the jurisdiction of the FISA court. There are strict time limits about getting a warrant and everything is under the supervision of the court.

    • Under the FISA amendments passed last year, you have 7 days to get a warrant in an emergency, but you have to file an application with the FISA Court, so they are on notice about what you are doing, you are under their supervision. Also, if the application isn’t ultimately granted, you can’t use any evidence you collect during those seven days.

      This isn’t a right-wing thing — it passed the House last year 301-118 and the Senate 73-23.

      This stuff is so limited — it applies only to communications where one party is overseas.

      I think this is a reasonable compromise except for folks like Ron Paul.

      • danielfee says:

        If I recall right, it use to be they had 72 hours after taking an emergency action in order to file with the FISA court. Bush tried to argue that they needed to avoid the court because things were different after 9-11. For a year after their warrantless program was exposed they argued the President had the power to wiretap anyone they deemed a threat without any FISA court review. Finally in 2007 they gave up and agreed to start going to the FISA court. http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/01/17/domestic.spying/
        My position has always been that they must go to the FISA court to obtain a warrant. But that is not what was occurring. The compromise basically expanded the emergency provision time from 72 hours to 7 day. All the other provisions were already in the FISA law.

      • It was clear that sometimes they needed more time, and this was the compromise. Instead of getting rid of the FISA court, the answer was to extend the time to try to get stuff. I think there were some other tweaks in the 2012 amendments.

      • Just checked, they used to have 48 hours, which I thought was too brief. But even though they now have 7 days, they still have to notify the FISA court. And remember that if they don’t eventually get FISA approval for the wiretapping, anything they get is inadmissible. I think the law is a good balance.

  4. danielfee says:

    I agree, 48 hours might have been too short, but Bush turned it into “I don’t need to go to the court for approval.” This was all part of their “unitary executive theory” whereby the President in his role of Commander-in-Chief could take unilateral action with no oversight or review by the other branches. Based on your latest post I think our disagreement has been over how we define “warrantless.” When I used the term warrantless I meant that Bush’s NSA program had no intention of going to the FISA court, 48 hours or 7 days later, after initiating a wiretap. They didn’t believe they needed a warrant from a court, even the secret FISA court that was set up for these types of national security type issues. You seem to be using that term to apply to the interim period between when they take an emergency action and then follow up with the request to the FISA court. When I used that as an example way back in my early post I was saying they used the 9-11 attacks as a pretext to eliminate all of the court oversight in violation of the FISA laws. They got away with it for years until it was finally exposed in 2005. Then they argued for more that a year claiming they still didn’t need to get a warrant until they finally gave up and agreed to make changes to the FISA process.

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