WASHINGTON, April 9 (UPI) -- Nearly a year to the day after twin bombings at the Boston Marathon finish line and the resulting manhunt left four people dead and hundreds injured, a congressional report found the actions of local law enforcement helped prevent a second, potentially worse attack, even as it found much to improve upon.
Members of the House Homeland Security Committee commended the response of the Boston and Watertown law enforcement in the moments and days following the bombings, when they moved quickly to transport the injured to hospitals and secure the crime scene. They also worked together smoothly across agencies to track down the brothers responsible for carrying out the attack.
"What is not so well known is that had it not been for the efforts of [former Boston Police] Commissioner Ed Davis and his efforts, and those of the Watertown police force, our nation could have been further terrorized," said committee Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas. "Those terrorists had six more bombs in their car and were on their way to Times Square."
The report released by the committee last month -- as did an independent report compiled by Professor Herman Leonard at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard -- found that the "respond in Boston was as good as one could reasonably have hoped."
But the committee's report also detailed a number of red flags, now well known to the public, that were missed by federal law enforcement in the several years before the bombings. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the older of the brothers and the one believed to have masterminded the attack, had been on the FBI's radar as he became radicalized and traveled to and from a region in Russia known for its restive Chechen population.
Davis, now a fellow at the Kennedy School, said he agreed wholeheartedly with the recommendations made by the congressional report that offered a number of ways to improve information sharing between federal and local law enforcement agencies in order to catch another would-be Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
Davis agreed with members of the committee that a potential plan by the Obama administration to consolidate the Urban Areas Security Initiative, which funded some of the training programs he said were key to preparing Boston law enforcement to react efficiently and effectively to the bombing, could be detrimental.
"The programs as they are set up have been very effective," Davis said. "Our ability to coordinate with other agencies ... to game it out on table tops and in real-life situations ... that money all comes from our Homeland Security grants and UASI funding."
"The UASI program works because it goes right to the cities," he explained, warning that consolidating the funding would make it "watered-down," and prevent trainings like a "Mumbai-style attack" simulation Boston ran in 2012 that allowed them to prepare for a multi-pronged attack.
Lawmakers also said they were concerned that officials in New York had not been warned after Dzohkar Tsarnaev told interrogators in the hospital of their plan to hit Times Square, especially when investigators still believed a third perpetrator could be involved. New York Republican Peter King said New York law enforcement only learned of the plan three days after the manhunt was over.
"I really think that we may be holding this information too closely in the interest of prosecution of having justice be the only thing that we think about," Davis agreed. "Because in addition to justice, there's the issue of safety in allowing people to get systems in place if there is a wider conspiracy."