Lieberman: Congress must provide more funding to local police in terror fight

Congress should give more money to state and local law enforcement agencies in the “war” with homegrown terrorists, former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) told House lawmakers on Thursday.

“We’re in a war and, as I said, it’s against an ideology that is not receding; it’s spreading,” the former senator said.

“Particularly with homegrown terrorists, state and local law enforcers are in the best position to create the relationships within the communities that will allow them — and have allowed them in numerous cases — to stop terrorist attacks before they occur. And they’re simply not going to do it without funding.”

Lieberman’s comments came during the first congressional hearing on the government’s failure to thwart the bombings of the Boston Marathon, which killed three people and wounded more than 200 others.

The former chairman of the Senate’s Homeland Security Committee said the system failed in the lead-up to attacks.

Red flags should have been raised within federal intelligence agencies, he said, when Russia asked the FBI to look into concerns it had about Tamerlan Tsarnaev, whom it suspected had ties to the radical Islamist movement.

The FBI interviewed Tsarnaev in 2011 but did not track his subsequent movements or activities. It was caught unaware of his six-month trip to Russia in 2012, even though his name had been entered into a large terrorist watchlist.

Lieberman argued that Russia’s request should have led authorities to keep close tabs on Tsarnaev because Russian and U.S. intelligence agencies have been hesitant to share information with one another since the Cold War.

“This really should have raised it to a very high profile internally because of where it came from,” Lieberman said in testimony before the House Homeland Security Committee.

Lieberman, and several lawmakers on the panel, raised the idea of looking further into the attorney general and FBI guidelines that govern when and how the FBI can investigate, while adhering to a set of civil liberty standards.

Lieberman also said it is possible that Russian officials did not tell U.S. law enforcement all of the necessary details about Tamerlan Tsarnaev and why they were suspicious of him.

Separately, Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis raised tempers on the House panel when he told lawmakers that his department was not told by the FBI of the possible extremist links that the bombing suspect had to Islamic terrorism until three days after the attacks.

Davis told lawmakers that "it's hard to say" whether better information-sharing between federal and local officials would have prevented the attacks.