By ALICIA A. CALDWELL and EILEEN SULLIVAN
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Boston’s police commissioner told lawmakers conducting the first congressional hearing on the Marathon bombings that government should tighten security around celebratory public events and consider using more undercover officers, special police units and technology, including surveillance cameras _ but only in ways that don’t run afoul of civil liberties.
“I do not endorse actions that move Boston and our nation into a police state mentality, with surveillance cameras attached to every light pole in the city,” Commissioner Edward Davis said in prepared remarks for the House Homeland Security Committee. “We do not and cannot live in a protective enclosure because of the actions of extremists who seek to disrupt our way of life.”
Investigators used surveillance video from a restaurant near one of the explosions to help identify Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who died in a police shootout, and his younger brother, Dzhokhar, who survived, as the bombing suspects.
“Images from cameras do not lie. They do not forget,” Davis said. “They can be viewed by a jury as evidence of what occurred. These efforts are not intended to chill or stifle free speech, but rather to protect the integrity and freedom of that speech and to protect the rights of victims and suspects alike.”
The Associated Press obtained a copy of Davis’ remarks.
The hearing on Capitol Hill comes less than three weeks after Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s arrest. The committee chairman, Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said it will be the first in a series of hearings to review the government’s initial response, what information authorities received about the brothers before the bombings and whether they handled it correctly. The FBI and CIA separately received vague warnings from Russia’s government in 2011 that Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his mother were religious militants.
“What we want to know is … what happened that day, what mistakes may have been made and what we can do in the future to prevent another terrorist attack on American soil,” McCaul told the AP.
No one from the federal government was expected to testify at Thursday’s hearing.
Davis had harsh words for the bombing suspects, calling them “cowardly” and “reprehensible deviants.”
The Massachusetts homeland security director, Kurt Schwartz, and former Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut also were scheduled to testify.
Davis and Schwartz said in their prepared remarks that federal homeland security money spent since the 2001 terror attacks has benefited Boston, and they urged Congress not to reduce that spending.
In his written testimony, Lieberman said the “homeland defense system failed in Boston.”
Lieberman, former chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, co-wrote the legislation that created the Homeland Security Department and overhauled the U.S. intelligence system after the 9/11 attacks. His committee held hearings examining the threat of radicalization and homegrown terrorism in the U.S. It also issued a report on the government’s failure to prevent the deadly 2009 mass shootings at Fort Hood, Texas.