Graham: ‘Ball was dropped’ in probe of Tamerlan Tsarnaev
April 21st, 2013
12:51 PM ET
2 years ago

Graham: ‘Ball was dropped’ in probe of Tamerlan Tsarnaev

(CNN) - The federal government messed up following the FBI’s investigation of Boston bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said Sunday.

The agency was looking into Tsarnaev’s extremist ties two years ago.

“The ball was dropped in one of two ways,” Graham said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

In 2011, the FBI interviewed Tsarnaev after Russian authorities alerted the U.S. government, according to a senior U.S. official.

Tsarnaev, 26, died early Friday after a shootout with police. His younger brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev – also suspected in the bombings and other crimes in Boston last week – is hospitalized under federal custody and could be arraigned at his bedside Sunday.

The senator from South Carolina said the FBI either “missed a lot of things” in its investigation, or federal laws did not allow the FBI to “follow up in a sound, solid way.”

Tsarnaev, who’s ethnically Chechen, traveled to Russia for six months in 2012. Some, including House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul, have argued that Tsarnaev was already being radicalized and received further training during that trip.

Graham said the elder Tsarnaev should have been flagged after the FBI interview and tracked during his visit overseas.

“It's people like this that you don't want to let out of your sight, and this was a mistake. I don't know if our laws were inefficient or if the FBI failed, but we're at war with radical Islamists and we need to up our game,” the senator said.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, agreed there needs to be an examination of why Tsarnaev’s activity was not closely monitored in such a way to prevent last week’s terror attack that left three people dead and more than 170 wounded. Authorities also believe the brothers were involved in the shooting death of an MIT police officer Thursday.

“While the FBI has done a very good job over the last 10 years, I think there are questions that have to be answered,” Schumer said.

“Why wasn't he interviewed when he came back?”

Another Republican, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, said Sunday the FBI did their "due diligence" when it checked into concerns about his "possible radicalization." But Rogers said the case came to a halt when the Russians, who had tipped off the U.S. about Tsarnaev, stopped "cooperating."

"(The FBI) did a very thorough job about trying to run that to the ground," Rogers said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press." "(They) then asked (for) some more help from that intelligence service to try to get further clarification and, unfortunately, that intelligence service stopped cooperating. So what happens is that case gets closed down."

He added that Tsarnaev may have had traveled on an alias when he left the U.S., making it difficult to be tracked.

Responding to a report that Tsarnaev took other trips in addition to his travels in 2012, McCaul told CNN that last year's trip is the only one "that's been made public at this point in time."

"Obviously my biggest concern are other trips," he said. "I could speculate that he was probably going over there more often. We don't have - I don't have the evidence of that just yet. But that's obviously an area of focus. I know the intelligence community is scrubbing through all their records and that travel is very important."

– CNN's Lindy Royce-Bartlet contributed to this report.

Watch State of the Union with Candy Crowley Sundays at 9am ET. For the latest from State of the Union click here.

soundoff (400 Responses)
  1. tim

    Who droped the ball for 9\11 clinton he had osama three times,and did nothing.Typical dem

    April 21, 2013 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  2. Reflecting Pool

    We know that Russia alerted the U.S. about the fact Tamerlan Tsarnaev had been 'radicalized' and that he may represent "a clear & present danger" to both Russia and the U.S. – BUT - because the U.S. could find no evidence that Tsarnaev had "any ties to terrorist groups" - the U.S. let Tsarnaev drop from its radar.

    Sound familiar? It should! That is the exact same, identical scenario that occurred in the Ft. Hood massacres by Hussein Nadal. U.S. Intelligence had advanced warnings that Nadal had been radicalized – BUT - because the U.S. could find no evidence that Nadal had "any ties to terrorist groups" - the U.S. let Nadal drop from its radar.

    Miller is missing the point. U.S. Intelligence needs to create a 'compartment' or category that keeps 'radicalized' extremists 'on the radar' on the grounds that they are "radicallized extremists" - REGARDLESS of whether they have ties to known terrorist groups. Obviously, by definition, the home-grown lone-wolf variety of terrorist is often NOT going to have such ties to known terrorist groups, but that clearly does not mean that radicalized home-grown lone-wolf extremists "pose no real, imminent threat" or "clear & present danger" to the public. We need to have a learning curve about this and keep radicalized extremists 'on the radar' even if they find no ties to known terrorist groups.

    April 21, 2013 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  3. Patrish

    Here we go again; Republicanshave to blame someone . Bet we wouldn't have hear a peep, if we had Republican President. FRI did a fine job. Stop; looking for a scapegoat. They can't catch everything.. Blame on the actually people that committed the act. Graham's always whining about something anyway. What shall we do stop everyone from traveling?

    April 21, 2013 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  4. David

    Interesting that congressmen are falling all over themselves to condemn the FBI, saying they "dropped the ball." And yet, we see these same congressmen, and Congress in general, drop the ball almost daily. I hold their actions — or non-actions — far more accountable. Deflecting criticism is such an art in Washington these days, I'm almost amazed none of our "ELECTED" officials haven't won Academy Awards. How stupid do they think we are out here? I guess pretty stupid. These same clowns keep getting re-elected. As Pogo so eloquently said, "we have met the enemy, and he is us."

    April 21, 2013 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  5. jat

    Feunstein Blame it on a military combatant before knowing anything,..Why arent you all griping about that?
    Kinda calling the kettle black there!

    April 21, 2013 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  6. Joe

    Senator Graham is disgusting. Just trying to fault the FBI and gain some publicity for himself. The FBI did a fantastic job on this investigation, along with the Boston and MA Police, ATF and everyone else involved. So now Senator Graham is suggesting that the FBI didnt figure out a guy who made a LEGAL trip to Russia, where his family lives was a terrorist??? What Next? Hire a a million more agents to interview everyone that goes to a country that could have terrorists?????? Senator go away.

    April 21, 2013 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  7. David

    Oh, and Sen. Graham, as a postscript: everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. But ... you are not entitled to your own facts. Let's let the facts come out and go from there, what do you say!!

    April 21, 2013 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  8. Mike

    The politics begin. Look in the mirror and see who dropped the ball on sequestration and gun control!!!

    April 21, 2013 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  9. jat

    did you liberals not read this part?

    Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, agreed there needs to be an examination of why Tsarnaev’s activity was not closely monitored in such a way to prevent last week’s terror attack that left three people dead and more than 170 wounded. Authorities also believe the brothers were involved in the shooting death of an MIT police officer Thursday.

    April 21, 2013 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  10. soob

    I agree with Senator Graham on this one. Didnt FBI miss 911 warning signs too? They're too busy setting up idiots with fake bombs and arresting them that they miss the real threats.

    April 21, 2013 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  11. David Soares

    I guess he doesn't realize that after a while–people get tired of the crap that comes out of your mouth

    April 21, 2013 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  12. Jake Shuttle

    this is a new low for graham no class

    April 21, 2013 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  13. Donna

    I'm from Boston. Do you know why the suspects were caught? Because there were no politicians involved. The FBI, homeland security, Boston Police, Swat teams from around New England, I could go on and on, did their jobs. There was no blame and no pointing of fingers.
    Let's take this tragedy and learn from it! Let Boston heal and go forward.

    April 21, 2013 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  14. Name

    Last Fri night, the night of terror in Boston, I said to spouse , "I wonder which Repub will cry foul the first?". Well it didn't take long, and guess who. Little Lindsay. He has to or he will be "primaried.". It didn't take long now did it for this senator to come forth. He has been frothing at the mouth for so long he just couldn't wait.

    April 21, 2013 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  15. Bob R., Maryland

    The real dangers to our freedom in the USA are the shoot-from-the-hip, right-wing so-called conservatives like this mouth piece. This dude, like that oft-called Veit-nam-era traitor friend of his, would have us all US Persons under their thumbs.

    April 21, 2013 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  16. Judie

    So Senator....has it occurred to you that when the FBI interviewed him (the older brother), they really ticked him off! He boiled with anger that the FBI was no better than the Russian KGB...and finally went back to his homeland to let off steam and to get encouragement from "the group" ! Family and friends all seem to agree that he was a different person when he returned. And why would the FBI re-interview him when he was cleared 2 years previously??? Give the FBI a break...! And let those who know of what they speak do the talking!

    April 21, 2013 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  17. Dee

    How would a senator from South Carolina know this info? He must need TV time to make accusations for airtime. Shame on giving him time to make accusations with no evidence or proof!

    April 21, 2013 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  18. Bushmaster special

    The good senator should lead the charge against terrorism and invade Iran the way Israel would have wanted it.
    I am sure they are somehow involved in this. Does not matter. Hit first,ask questions later. Americans will take it hook line and sinker. Just ask General Bush. I am sure there was a Nuclear device in Iraq. We just haven't found it.

    April 21, 2013 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  19. twophad

    Senator, shut up. Do YOUR job–we really, really need Senators and Congressmen to do the work of the people right now!–and let others do theirs. You are no expert on intelligence, or crimefighting, or....what ARE you an expert on?

    April 21, 2013 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  20. Larry

    Here it comes – let's spend millions on a worthless investigation into the workings of the FBI. Man I can't believe how good a job Obama is doing that these scum have to reach for something like this to find complaint. Thank you OBAMA:)

    April 21, 2013 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  21. George

    Count down, 24 hours until Krauthammer blames Obama for this. Better yet, Eric Holder. Monday Night on Fox, you heard here first.

    April 21, 2013 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  22. commonsense

    The senator from South Carolina said the FBI either “missed a lot of things” in its investigation, or federal laws did not allow the FBI to “follow up in a sound, solid way.”

    Get ready folks. Here it comes. They will soon be trying to further suppress our freedoms in the name of national security. If the Patriot Act did not give them enough power to keep this country safe then I do not want to live in a "safe Country".

    April 21, 2013 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  23. sandyj

    Another know if all who would fill his britches if he had to search for these guys...the way his mouth rattles, we will be at war with the Islamists for his shoot from the hip comments!

    April 21, 2013 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  24. SokrMom

    I'm so tired of Republicans criticizing anything and everything. If they want to criticize something, there's good reason to believe the person in the mirror might be a good place to start.

    April 21, 2013 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  25. Lake-it

    Division and politics? Now? Seriously? Time for unity and problem solving. I'm pretty sure that everyone from the White House, down through the FBI and DHS, to the lowest ranking officers and ground staff all want to do their best to protect the USA. Are you implying that somehow the Obama administration did something to prevent these individuals from doing their jobs? As I recall, Bush directly reviewed a document before 9/11 stating "Bin Laden determined to strike within the US", and yet they were not able to prevent that attack. Are you implying that Obama or upper-level intelligence staff were notified about the investigation into the Chechen brothers? Of course they weren't. Clearly such reviews are the responsibility of hard-working, patriotic, lower-level staff. Your criticism does nothing to help the situation at this point. Shame on you.

    April 21, 2013 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
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