The Obama administration on Wednesday strongly denied reports that Saudi Arabia warned U.S. law enforcement officials last year that Boston bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev posed a threat.
Saudi Arabia sent the Department of Homeland Security a letter in 2012 singling out Tsarnaev and three Pakistanis as potential jihadists, Britain's Daily Mail reported, citing an unnamed Saudi official.
“We and other relevant U.S. Government agencies who deal with this kind of information have no record of any such letter being received,” National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden told The Hill in a statement.
A Homeland Security official likewise said the agency “has no knowledge of any communication from the Saudi government regarding information on the suspects in the Boston Marathon Bombing prior to the attack.”
The Saudi embassy in Washington also denied the report, along with allegations that it rejected a visa application from Tsarnaev to make a pilgrimage to Mecca.
“The Saudi government had no prior information about the Boston bombers. Therefore, it is not true that any information, written or otherwise, was passed to U.S. Department of Homeland Security or any other U.S. agency in this regard,” the embassy said in a statement. “The Saudi government also does not have any record of any application by Tamerlan Tsarnaev for an Ummrah visa.”
The allegations, if true, would raise new doubts about U.S. counterterrorism efforts 12 years after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
Intelligence agencies are already on the hot seat for ruling out Tsarnaev as a threat after Russia warned U.S. officials about his interest in Jihadi groups in 2011.
Lawmakers have expressed concerns that intelligence agencies are “stove-piping” information and failing to coordinate their activities, despite intelligence reforms enacted after 9/11.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called for the creation of a special panel to investigate the government's response to the twin bombings that killed three and injured more than 200 people last month.
“When it comes to Boston,” Graham said on CNN on Tuesday, “we need a joint select committee to look at the FBI, the CIA and Homeland Security. The system did not work as designed.”
President Obama defended the intelligence community and law enforcement groups during a Tuesday press conference, slamming Sen. Graham.
“No, Mr. Graham is not right on this issue, although I'm sure generated some headlines,” said Obama. “What I can say is that based on what I've seen so far, the FBI performed its duties, the Department of Homeland Security did what it was supposed to be doing.”