Lawmakers: Perfect system for preventing attacks doesn't exist
April 28th, 2013
10:15 AM ET
10 years ago

Lawmakers: Perfect system for preventing attacks doesn't exist

(CNN) - A foolproof system for staving off terrorist attacks couldn't exist in an open democratic society, two lawmakers said Sunday.

Speaking on CNN's "State of the Union," Sen. Dan Coats, R-Indiana, and Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, agreed that while more robust intelligence-sharing should have taken place in the lead-up to the Boston Marathon bombings, the amount of surveillance required to protect fully against more violence could never exist in a democratic society.

"We're doing everything we can, but we have to be right 100% of the time. And they only have to be right 1%," said Coats, who sits on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Schiff, a member of the House intelligence panel, concurred.

"I think we might do a disservice to the American people if we suggest that there's always got to be a problem when anything bad happens," he told CNN chief political correspondent Candy Crowley. "The reality is we would need to take such intrusive steps, and make this country into a police state that no one would want to accept in order to completely prevent these low-tech attacks."

The discussion came after allegations of an intelligence failure in the years leading up to the Boston attack, which left three people dead and hundreds injured. Some lawmakers, mostly Republicans, have said a lack of informational sharing between intelligence agencies led one of the suspected perpetrators, Tameran Tsarnaev, to fall through the cracks. While he was identified as being potentially radicalized in 2011 by Russian authorities, who notified the FBI, he was cleared after questioning. He was, however, added to three federal terror databases.

Lawmakers contend an opportunity was missed when Tsarnaev traveled to Russia for six months in January 2012. His travel generated a notification to American intelligence, but no action was taken to determine how the trip affected Tsarnaev, who died last week after a confrontation with police.

"Somebody sitting somewhere could have said, you know, that name's familiar. I think we did a file on that. Let me check into that," Coats said Sunday.

Schiff argued for better cooperation with Russian intelligence, which he alleged was still withholding information from American officials. He cited the news, revealed Saturday, that Russia had intercepted a communication between the mother of the accused Boston Marathon bombers and someone who may have been one of her sons "discussing jihad" in 2011.

"There's got to be a basis for why they went up on her electronically or why they went up on one of her affiliates or associates," Schiff said. "We don't know that. We haven't received that information from the Russians. I think they do know more than they’re telling us."

The two lawmakers deviated on the issue of issuing Miranda rights to the surviving Boston bombing suspect. The warnings, which advise criminal suspects of their constitutional rights against self-incrimination, were first administered while a magistrate judge presided over a hearing in Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s hospital room.

Tsarnaev was not immediately apprised of those rights after his capture late April 19 under what is called the "public safety" exception. The exception allows for limited questioning by law enforcement of a suspect to determine if there is imminent danger to the public of attack.

After being read his rights, Tsarnaev has since not answered "substantive" questions from investigators, officials have told CNN.

Coats argued that exception should have been prolonged to gather more information from the suspect.

“I was very surprised that they moved as quickly as they did,” he said. “We had, I think, legal reasons and follow-up investigative reasons to drag this out a little bit longer. We could have done that.”

But Schiff alleged that holding off any longer would have been harmful to Tsarnaev’s eventual prosecution since the statements he made before being read his rights could be legally challenged.

“Already I think the statements that the suspect made are going to be challenged by the defense team,” he said. “And while the priority has to be on making use of any information that could protect the public, it's also valuable to be able to admit those into evidence.”

CNN’s Bill Mears contributed to this report.

Filed under: Boston Marathon bombing • Dan Coats
soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. GOP = Greed Over People

    WOW, the true breaking news aspect however, is the fact that a Republican finally embraces the truth!

    April 28, 2013 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  2. Lynn

    Now if we could get the democrats to tell the truth for once maybe we could get somewhere.

    April 28, 2013 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  3. Name willard

    Republican are great strongest charge against terroist
    God blessing for republican

    April 28, 2013 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  4. ThinkAgain

    That's right, no system like that exists.

    So here's the choice: Sit on your hands and whine about your problems, or do what you can to reduce the incidence of attacks.

    April 28, 2013 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  5. ThinkAgain

    @Name willard: "Republican are great strongest charge against terroist. God blessing for republican.

    Turn off Fox, buddy. Don't you remember who was in the White House on 9/11?
    Hint: The same guy who ignored the Clinton national security transition team's warnings about al Qaeda and bin Laden.

    April 28, 2013 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  6. ThinkAgain

    @Lynn: "Now if we could get the democrats to tell the truth for once maybe we could get somewhere."

    Poor, poor, Lynn. one-trick pony, lame transcriber of false GOP talking points, incapable of accepting the reality that her pathetic GOP had as it's official campaign policy “We’re not going let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers” (Neil Newhouse, Romney campaign pollster, August 2012).

    April 28, 2013 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  7. vicki

    I think most Americans are sick of taking care of other countries. How about taking care of our own infrastructure.

    April 28, 2013 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  8. GonzoinHouston

    We have two problems here,

    Security isn't convenient, and

    They're right, no system is perfect in a free society. If accepting the small but realistic risk is the price of maintaining what freedoms we have left, well, we pay it.

    April 28, 2013 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  9. J.V.Hodgson

    Hi regarding what these two say I have a question to all potential bloggers and anti mirandising thinkers of this Boston guy.
    What is the difference if these guys had shot and killed 4 ( last count ) I believe and injured and say 60 or more in a minute with a BUSH AR functioning well as modified, and the same person doing it with pressure cooker bomb?
    In its more simple form what is the difference between a murderer killing by gun ( any kind one or more people) and guys with a pressure cooker bomb killing people.
    Answer by some its simple you idiot I have a constitutional individual right to a weapon and to defend my right against a perceived government not responsive to the prople by oppression. OK I know I'm an idiot but in the end the murderer or terrorist effect is the same people are dead but the assumption because they chose a pressure cooker as a weapon = they are terrorists immediately is not yet proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Also most murderers are given the miranda rights on arrest automatically even though it usually takes weeks or even months to catch up with them.
    My point you wanna treat them as terrorists without miranda right you dont arrest them until you have adequate arraignable evidence to get them arrested awaiting a trial, thats in effect the ability we give to even serial killers and murderers because we aint sure who or what they are , and OH of course sandy hook type gun killers are all metally ill ( nothing to do with the weapons capacity) why not pressure cooker bombers.
    Ah the media must be the first to know on our behalf and just look at all the crazy stuff that has needed correction and still we do not know if these two were Islamic terrorists only hints with no proof that would pass any reasonable Jurisprudence test.

    April 29, 2013 01:05 am at 1:05 am |
  10. king

    i wonder by blocking any reform to change terrorism with assault weapons and background checks by repubs, how much safer are we in America?

    April 29, 2013 07:48 am at 7:48 am |