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TODAY   |  April 24, 2013

Boston bombing raises intelligence failure concern

NBC’s Pete Williams discusses Congress’ concerns about a potential failure to share intelligence between the FBI and other agencies, allowing information about suspected Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev to fall through the cracks.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> get to justice correspondent, pete williams . he's following the information from these investigative ends. pete, good morning to you. let me first try to track down one thing that's been in some newspapers. and that is that these suspects may have been intent on traveling to new york. what do you know about that?

>> i think that's been pretty well discounted by now. it's based on a statement made by the owner of the car who was carjacked. he told investigators that most of the time, the two brothers spoke a foreign language . they said, well, did you understand anything they said? and he said, yes, i thought they said the word "manhattan." but, you know, i think they think, how many people say, i'm going to manhattan. people say, i'm going to new york. he didn't really understand what they were saying, unless they were speaking english. so it certainly was something they considered that day. that's why they stopped a train that they thought he might have been on, but i think by now, they've pretty well discounted it.

>> all right. meantime, on capitol hill , lawmakers had a closed-door briefing about the investigation and a lot of senators came out expressing some concerns that potentially, agencies were not sharing information with regard to tamerlan's trip to russia in 2012 . is this another case of, as we saw after 9/11, there's concern that agencies weren't sharing information with one another?

>> well, the fbi insists that they were contacted about tamerlan tsarnaev once in early 2011 by the russian intelligence service who said they had reason to believe that he was becoming a follower of radical islam . agents checked the u.s. terrorism databases, they were looking for such things as contact with suspected terrorists, then they interviewed him and members of his family and found nothing negative. so officials say the fbi asked the russians for more information, but never got a response. and they say that was the only contact from the russians about him, just that once. so there is a broader question here, about what should be done in cases like this, when a foreign government indicates concern about a u.s. person . when that person is checked out, and nothing negative is found, should the case be closed or should it create some yellow flag in the system? should that person be on some kind of watch list , so that if future questions arise or future travel plans are known, that person's status can be rechecked.

>> a significant issue for lawmakers to grapple with in the coming days. pete williams in washington for us, thank you. for more on the attack in boston, the hunt for answers, catch a special "dateline" tonight, 7:00,/8:00 central here on nbc.