Lawmakers Seek Answers on Boston Attacks

Evan Vucci/AP

Senior lawmakers knew little more than the public on Tuesday about the Boston attacks and were looking to afternoon briefings scheduled with U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officers for answers.

While some members were beginning to raise questions about what U.S. officials knew before the attack and what they have learned so far in the ongoing investigation, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein seemed to caution against criticizing U.S. intelligence.

“We’ve done a very good job of it up to now for 12 years,” said Feinstein, D-Calif. “I think there are over 100 potential terrorist attacks that have been stopped because of the excellent work of the FBI in this country and the CIA abroad.”

Senate Intelligence had a meeting that was scheduled to start at 2:30 p.m. with Gen. James Clapper. It was a previously planned budget session that is expected to become a Boston briefing. The FBI also has a briefing scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.

Among the few members of Congress who have talked with senior U.S. officials, Feinstein said she spoke with Sean Joyce, the deputy director of the FBI, last night “and that frankly not much is new” since then. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. said that he also has had intelligence briefings on the Boston attacks but would not elaborate on them.

Lawmakers largely refrained from speculating about who planned and conducted the bombings in Boston. Their list of questions ran the gamut, from suspects and motives to what more could have been done to prevent the attaci.

 “What's the source of this and was there more that could have been done?" said Sen. Dick Durbin, D.-Ill., when asked what questions he has for the administration.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is in Boston and getting more frequent, almost hourly updates that she is sharing with other members, according to Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.

Most members were offering words of support and saying, as did Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, that Congress should "make sure the administration has enough resources to fully investigate everything.”

But some were already using the Boston bombings as reason to slow action on big pieces of legislation, including immigration.

“Some of the speculation that has come out is that yes, it was a foreign national and, speculating here, that it was potentially a person on a student visa,” Conservative Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said, according to a National Review story. “If that’s the case, then we need to take a look at the big picture.”

But he has not yet been joined by other conservatives. Rep. Raul Labrador, when asked about King’s suggestion, said, “I think we need to take our time to comment on Boston.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell took to the Senate floor Tuesday morning to suggest “the complacency that prevailed prior to September 11th has returned.”

The Kentucky Republican echoed President Obama’s sentiment that “the two parties stand united today in our deepest sympathy for all of those who were affected,” but he quickly raised concerns that the sense of vigilance after September 11th, 2001, has abated.

“On 9/11, we were forever disabused of the notion that attacks like the one that rocked Boston yesterday only happen on the field of battle, or in distant countries. With the passage of time, however, and the vigilant efforts of our military, intelligence, and law enforcement professionals, I think it’s safe to say that, for many, the complacency that prevailed prior to September 11th has returned,” he said.

Many members – Republicans and Democrats – quickly distanced themselves from that sentiment.

“We can never get complacent but I think knowing -- speaking to the FBI and the NYPD all the time --they are not complacent in my judgment,” Schumer said.

Billy House contributed to this report.

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