By JOSH GERSTEIN
WASHINGTON — The terrorist tracking task force in Boston failed to act on notices that one of the alleged Boston Marathon bombers had traveled to and from Russia last year, FBI Director Robert Mueller told lawmakers Thursday.
Mueller said the authorities would “do better” next time in following up on such information.
Mueller said that before Tamerlan Tsarnaev went to Russia in early 2012 a member of the Joint Terrorism Task Force got a notification from a database known as TECS (formerly the Treasury Enforcement Communications System). Tamerlan’s travel was being flagged because of information the Russian intelligence service gave the FBI in 2011 that he’d become more religious and was interested in joining Islamic radical groups in Russia.
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Read his statement Thursday before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies
Good morning Chairwoman Mikulski, Ranking Member Shelby, and members of the subcommittee. I look forward to discussing the FBI’s efforts as a threat-driven, intelligence-led organization that is guided by clear operational strategies and priorities.
The FBI has established strong practices for sharing intelligence, leveraged key technologies to help us be more efficient and productive, and hired some of the best to serve as special agents, intelligence analysts, and professional staff. We have built a workforce and leadership cadre that view change and transformation as a positive tool for keeping the FBI focused on the key threats facing our nation.
Just as our national security and criminal adversaries and threats constantly adapt and evolve, so must the FBI be able to quickly respond with new or revised strategies and operations to counter these threats. Looking forward, a key challenge facing the FBI will be maintaining its current capabilities and capacities to respond to these threats at a time when the budgetary environment remains constrained.
We live now, and will for the foreseeable future, in a time of acute and persistent threats to our national security, economy, and community safety from terrorists, foreign adversaries, criminals and violent gangs, and cyber attackers. The attacks in Boston are vivid examples of the threat. This subcommittee understands these threats—and the consequences of failing to address them. I look forward to working with the subcommittee to ensure that the FBI maintains the intelligence, investigative, and infrastructure capabilities and capacities needed to deal with these threats and crime problems within the current fiscal climate. One lesson we have learned is that those who would do harm to the nation and its citizens will exploit any weakness they perceive in the ability and capacity of the U.S. government to counter their activities. We must identify and fix those gaps while not allowing new weaknesses or opportunities for terrorists, cyber criminals, foreign agents, and criminals to exploit.
The FBI’s fiscal year (FY) 2014 budget request totals $8.4 billion in direct budget authority, including 34,787 permanent positions (13,082 special agents, 3,026 intelligence analysts, and 18,679 professional staff). This funding level provides critical funding to address threats posed by terrorists, cyber attackers, and criminals.
The threats facing the homeland, briefly outlined below, underscore the complexity and breadth of the FBI’s mission to protect the nation in a post-9/11 world. Let me briefly summarize the key national security threats and crime problems that this funding supports.
National Security Threats
We have pursued those who committed, or sought to commit, acts of terrorism against the United States. Along with our partners in the military and intelligence communities, we have taken the fight against terrorism to our adversaries’ own sanctuaries in the far corners of the world—including Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Southwest Asia, and the Horn of Africa. We have worked to uncover terrorist cells and supporters within the United States and disrupted terrorist financial, communications, and operational lifelines at home and abroad. We have built strong partnerships with law enforcement in countries around the world.
The threat from terrorism remains complex and ever-changing. We are seeing more groups and individuals engaged in terrorism, a wider array of terrorist targets, greater cooperation among terrorist groups, and continued evolution and adaptation in tactics and communication.
Threats from homegrown terrorists are also of great concern. These individuals are difficult to detect, able to connect with other extremists, and—in some instances—highly capable operationally. There is no typical profile of a homegrown terrorist; their experiences and motivating factors are distinct. Many questions remain as to the precise motivation, planning, and possible support to the attacks in Boston. However, it is increasingly likely that the Boston attacks may prove to be the latest example of homegrown extremism.
Radicalization to violence remains an issue of great concern. Many factors appear to contribute to radicalization here at home, and those factors may explain why radicalization is more prevalent now than in the past. First, American extremists appear to be attracted to wars in foreign countries. We have already seen a number of Americans travel overseas to train and fight with extremist groups. The increase and availability of extremist propaganda in English perpetuate the problem.
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