Mass. ACLU sues for documents about terrorism unit
The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts filed a lawsuit yesterday against the FBI and the U.S. attorney in Boston for failing to provide documents about a joint terrorism unit involved in the Boston Marathon bombing investigation including a Florida man allegedly linked to one of the bombers.
Ibragim Todashev, 27, was shot dead by a member of the task force during an interrogation at his home in May. A Florida prosecutor and the Justice Department cleared the FBI agent who shot Todashev of criminal wrongdoing. Redacted documents about the incident were released in March, which the ACLU states provided more questions than answers.
The ACLU filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Boston, claiming that the FBI and U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz did not respond to their request in December for more information on the Todashev case, the task force in general and investigations opened by the FBI office in Boston.
The 14-page lawsuit states, “The federal government’s collaboration with Massachusetts state and local police, especially through the (task force) has for years been shrouded in secrecy. The Massachusetts (task force) conducts hundreds of investigations in Massachusetts every year. Yet little is known about their structure and function.”
Members of the task unit were questioning Todashev about his relationship with Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the deceased suspected marathon bomber, when he was shot. Todashev allegedly confessed that he and Tsarnaev were involved in a triple slaying in Waltham in 2011.
An ACLU attorney, Laura Rotolo, said the Todashev case particularly highlights the task force’s lack of transparency.
“We don’t know who is in charge of this task force,” Rotolo said. “So when something goes wrong, we don’t know who to hold accountable,” she said.
The lawsuit states, “When law enforcement officials kill someone in his own home, the public deserves to know who was there, why and under what authority.”
A message was left at the U.S. attorney’s office in Boston. The FBI declined to comment.