Editorial: FBI secrecy

Should James B. Comey become the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, there’s already a fire that he’s going to have to put out, one that is of interest to Massachusetts residents.

The Boston Globe reported last week that the FBI has ordered that the autopsy report on Ibragim Todashev, a friend of suspected Boston Marathon bomber, be kept closed. Todashev was shot and killed by a FBI agent on May 22 during an interrogation.

“The FBI has informed this office that the case is still under active investigation and thus not to release the document,” Tony Miranda, forensic records coordinator for Orange and Osceola counties in Orlando, said in a letter to the media.

Todashev had come under FBI and Massachusetts State Police scrutiny following the bombings in Boston, in part for a connection to the 2011 slayings of three men in Waltham. Law enforcement officials now think that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the marathon bombing suspects who was killed during a shootout with police, and Todashev were responsible for those killings.

As to what happened during Todashev’s questioning at his Orlando apartment, details have been sketchy from the beginning. It has been reported that during that interrogation the 27-year-old Chechen American began arguing and lunged at one of the officers present. He was either armed with a knife, some sort of object, or was unarmed. At which point an FBI agent, with other FBI agents and two Massachusetts state police officers in the apartment, shot him seven times.

This wasn’t some drive-by shooting or incident where what happened should be murky. And there were FBI agents and state police officers right there, so getting information shouldn’t be an issue, even in conducting a thorough investigation.

But the FBI has clamped down on any kind of release about what happened. And now, roughly two months after the shooting, the FBI appears no nearer to providing the public with an explanation of what happened.

And the longer this goes on, the more it appears that the FBI is trying to sanitize what happened.

That isn’t good.

We’d like to think that others in federal law enforcement see it this way, too. The Department of Justice and attorney general’s office have launched their own probes into the matter.

Keeping the facts under wrap does nothing to further the cause of justice and only lessens the public’s respect for the FBI.

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