House committee hearing on Boston bombings Thursday, as investigators continue to trace activities of Tsarnaev brothers

The House Committee on Homeland Security will hold a hearing Thursday on the deadly bombings, which killed three and injured more than 200. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex.), the committee’s chairman, called for the hearing to investigate and review what U.S. agencies knew about the alleged bombers before the attacks.

Some reports have suggested that one of the brothers, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, met withmilitants in the strife-torn region of Dagestan last year during his six months in Russia. But one U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that issue was “still in the category of question marks.”

At the same time, agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are trying to trace the gun that Tsarnaev allegedly used in a gunfight with police before he was killed April 19. They are hoping that identifying the first purchaser of the gun could shed light on where Tsarnaev obtained the firearm.

A U.S. official said that the FBI, the National Counterterrorism Center and the Department of Homeland Security are developing a formal intelligence assessment on the factors that moved the Tsarnaevs toward hard-line Islamist views, and whether there was a single development or tipping point in their alleged turn to violence.

“We need to understand it to counter it,” the official said. “From that we look at how do you put a brake in the radicalization process, and can you put something in that path to detect it.”

The official said the research, which involves experts on radicalization at NCTC and other agencies, is expected to take several months, culminating in a formal intelligence assessment that could be distributed across the executive branch.

US authorities failed to connect Abdulmutallab with al-Qaida’s attack plans, Obama criticizes

Authorities say the National Security Agency (NSA) knew in August 2009 that a branch of al-Qaida in Yemen might try to use a Nigerian for a terrorist attack on Christmas Day. Had the information been examined together with information the State Department, the CIA, and the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) put together in October 2009 based on conversations with Abdulmutallab’s father, it may have provided what was needed to uncover the pending attack.

The terrorist’s father gave the US Embassy in Nigeria, including the CIA and the State Department, text messages from his son that indicated his radicalization. “Look at the texts he’s sending. He’s a security threat,” his cousin quoted him as saying. He never directly accused his son of planning to bomb a plane.

In November 2009 upon the warnings, the CIA alerted NCTC, who put his name on the half-million large terrorism watch list. The CIA also compiled biographical data on Abdulmutallab but did not share it with other security agencies. They also decided there was not enough information about him to pursue moving him to smaller, more refined lists of people who require extra scrutiny at airports.

Routine procedure also had an e-notice of Abdulmutallab’s purchase of a plane ticket sent to homeland security officials on December 16.

“The right information did not get to the right people—there’s no question about that,” a senior intelligence official said. “If all known information had been provided, we would have been down a different path.”

Some blame the NCTC for the failure, which was created in 2004 collate information from across the US’s national security system. Others blame the CIA.

Some officials feel information is being shared, and that isn’t the problem. It’s the volume of information collected. Setting thresholds of what’s pointing to impending violence amidst huge amounts of data can be tricky.

Obama calls it a systematic failure that is totally unacceptable.

Republicans are using the failure as ammunition against democrats, positioning Obama as a president who won’t take security seriously enough. Democrats are accusing Republicans of blocking needed resource increases while exploiting public fear.