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Was Boston Marathon bombing a US 'intelligence failure'? (+video)

House and Senate intelligence committees will ask that question of FBI officials during closed hearings Tuesday about the Boston Marathon bombing. They will want to know if any red flags popped up when Tamerlan Tsarnaev traveled to Russia in 2011-12.

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Was the Boston Marathon bombing the result of an intelligence failure? That’s the question members of the House and Senate intelligence committees will be asking senior FBI officials at closed hearings on Tuesday.

In particular they and other lawmakers want to know how Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s six-month trip to Russia in 2011 and 2012 could have escaped the FBI’s attention, despite the fact that he had already been investigated for possible extremist ties.

Senate intelligence panel chairman Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) of California on Monday said she did not understand why the elder Tsarnaev brother’s visit to his homeland did not ring a bell with the FBI and lead to further interviews.

The purpose of probing that issue in today’s Senate hearing, said Senator Feinstein, was “not to criticize, because I am a big fan of the FBI’s, but to go back and plug loopholes.”

Other lawmakers have been more pointed. Last week Rep. Michael McCaul (R) of Texas, head of the House Homeland Security Committee, and panel member Rep. Peter King (R) of New York sent a letter to the FBI and US intelligence agencies that flatly called the FBI’s handling of the case an “intelligence failure.”

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