CAPITOL HILL — The House of Representatives' Homeland Security Committee held a hearing to examine whether the Boston Marathon bombings, which left three people dead and more than 260 injured, could have been prevented and to look at ways to prevent future attacks. Some Republican lawmakers criticized the Obama administration for not stating clearly that the attacks were inspired by Islamic extremists.
The bombings spread panic among runners and their supporters. But first responders reacted quickly, saving many lives.
At this first Congressional hearing, Republican Representative Michael McCaul, who chairs the Homeland Security Committee, said victims and their families deserve to know how the bombings happened and how security can be improved.
One of the suspects, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, died after a shootout with police. His brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was captured and has been charged.
"While we don’t know if this attack was foreign-directed, we certainly know it was foreign-inspired. Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s trip to the Chechen region, the radical videos proclaiming the Caliphate that he posted when he returned, and the type of bombs he and his younger brother used, all signal an al Qaida-inspired terrorist attack," said McCaul.
McCaul said he fears intelligence failures allowed the bombers to succeed. And he asked Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis if Federal agencies had shared warnings from Russia about Tamerlan Tsaranev with officials in Massachusetts.
"They tell me they received no word on that individual prior to the bombing," Davis said.
Republican Congressman Peter King said the Obama administration needs to clearly state that the Boston attack was inspired by Islamic extremists.
"I have not heard one administration official, including the Attorney General and the President, use the term 'Islamist.' As Chairman McCaul said, how are we going to know the enemy if we do not identify the enemy?," King said.
Former Democratic Senator Joseph Lieberman, an advocate of tightened security, said the Tsarnaev brothers were clearly inspired by Islamic extremism.
"Osama bin Laden is dead, and the remaining leadership of al-Qaida is on the run. But the ideology of violent Islamic extremism is rapidly spreading," he said.
Some Democratic lawmakers cautioned that that the investigations are ongoing and that the Boston bombings should not be politicized. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas.
"This is not a place to raise a partisan divide between Congress and the administration. This is a place to stand against this never happening again," she said.
Several lawmakers from both parties agreed that the Boston tragedy should unite Americans to prevent attacks in the future.