With no arrests, Napolitano asks for public’s help, blasts ‘media churn’

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
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Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano told members of the House Committee on Homeland Security Thursday that no arrests have been made in Monday’s lethal double bombing at the Boston Marathon.

Napolitano was testifying on the department’s budget request for 2014, but recent acts of violence dominated the hearing. No suspects have been arrested over the bombing in Boston. A suspect was arrested last night in the ricin attacks on President Obama and Republican Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi. Speculation that the catastrophic explosion at a West, Texas, fertilizer plant also figured in Napolitano’s testimony.

Napolitano affirmed that the administration — with the FBI as lead agency — was pursuing the tragedy as an act of terror. But she had to tamp down a flurry of reports from Wednesday suggesting the authorities were close to solving the case.

House Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican, asked Napolitano to clarify details surrounding reports about the FBI having several suspects in custody.

“Based on the information I had from the Justice Department is that was not accurate information. Can you elaborate on that?” said McCaul

“Yes, Mr. Chairman, you are accurate,” said Napolitano, “There were no arrests made yesterday, or persons held in custody.”

“There’s been a fair amount of media churn on various things involving the investigation,” said Napolitano.

“All I will say, having spoken repeatedly with the FBI director, having spoken with the police commissioner in Boston, there’s very good lash up between local, state and federal resources up there,” she said.

Napolitano, whose mega-department was created under President George W. Bush and encompasses immigration, emergency management, transportation security, border and coastal security and many other federal agencies, ridiculed armchair critics of the lengthening Boston investigation. “This is not an NCIS episode,” she said. “Sometimes you have to take time to properly, you know, put the chain together to properly identify the perpetrators. But everyone is committed to seeing that that gets done in the right way.”

She also acknowledged the importance of the public’s role in helping investigators track down the perpetrators by providing local video and photographs from the scene of the attack.

Napolitano was short on details about the explosion at a fertilizer plant Wednesday evening in West, Texas, that killed at least three people and injured more than 100.

House members were broadly deferential to Napolitano, whose management of DHS was not discussed during the hearing.

Instead, members focused on whether the department’s initiatives on immigration and border security, disaster relief and cybersecurity would be adequately funded by her budget request. Homeland Security is looking to spend [pdf] $59.9 billion in 2014, a decrease of less than 2 percent from the department’s $60.6 billion in spending this year.

When asked by Ranking Member Bennie Thompson whether the department had enough money to do its job, Napolitano said, “Yes.”

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