Graham: ‘Ball was dropped’ in probe of Tamerlan Tsarnaev
April 21st, 2013
12:51 PM ET
1 year 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. TeeDeeDubya

    Here come the finger pointers.

    April 21, 2013 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  2. Rick Former Marine

    Graham, you do plenty of damage to our country in your quest for re-election. You're an enemy of the people.

    April 21, 2013 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  3. GDP

    Senator Graham ... wants to wrap himself in the American flag, and throw others under the bus ....Let wait for the facts before we grandstand and point fingers ... This tragic episode brought out the best in some people ....and as it turns out, exposes others as opportunistic political hacks .....The great state of South Carolina deserves better than this !

    April 21, 2013 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  4. Nanci Sullivan

    What? Look at dc in 2002. Boston acted and resolved within less than a week. No ball was dropped. I am so proud of the people of Boston and to be a part of New England. Day one, people rushed to help strangers and saved lives, Boston shut down and conducted a most effective man hunt keeping the public safe, captured their man, people celebrated and honored the living and dead and brought pride to America. If there were any errors made in the past watching the brothers or any other immigrants, that's the Feds and liberal government issue. Not local. We need our country back.

    April 21, 2013 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  5. Thomas

    @Thomas
    Senator Graham needs to stop talking until he has the facts. Most of us Americans get tired of these talking heads talking before people can asked the question. The guy was just caught a few days ago. Graham got all the answers by saying the FBI dropped the ball. The police kept this guy alive and now we will know the answers to some of the complex questions. So, senator Graham muzzle until we get some answers from the guy who committed the crimes.

    I agree with you !

    April 21, 2013 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  6. Neurotoxin

    Remember when guys like Graham and McCain were the leaders of the Republican Party? Now there's about 5 of them in Senate and they vote with Obama against Rand Paul and Ted Cruz on everything – best political Schadenfreude since the destruction of the Dixiecrats in the 1960s. What he's saying here is total nonsense. The FBI interviews 10,000s of people yearly – it can't possibly follow them all or we'll go bankrupt even earlier than expected, and he's not presenting any reason to believe that it can accurately profile who will become a psychotic fundamentalist murderer in the next 2 years. Stop proposing further shredding of the Constitution to hysterical masses looking for peace of mind, Mr. Graham – you sound like Obama with his gun control, and you're trying to cover up for your own thorough lack of expertise on national security policy.

    April 21, 2013 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  7. Just a thought

    I can't believe we would take one milli-second to listen to this putz of a person...him and his party of clowns haven't even gotten lucky and guessed right about anything related to these attacks on American citizens. I mean even a blind squirrel can find a nut every now and then just be happenstance but the GOP/Tea-A-Turds are just as wrong as two left shoes everyday of the week and twice on Sundays.

    April 21, 2013 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  8. mightyduk

    With all the senators, they listen to this idiot.

    April 21, 2013 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  9. hank

    Graham need to shut up and talk in private. All he wants is headlines. He knows nothing about this case, that we need to hear.

    April 21, 2013 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  10. penguin

    George Orwell was off by about 30 years. "1984" is finally here with nearly ubiqutous video monitoring. Republican politicians want even more spying on our citizens.
    I wonder if they think bombs should be outlawed. After all bombs don't kill, people kill. And bomb bans apparently don't work. Everyone should one. The new NRA mantra should be a bomb in every pressure cooker and a howitzer in every yard. It is part of the republican "New Deal" (my apogies to FDR)
    I wonder if Grahm

    April 21, 2013 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  11. me

    Graham shows his stupidity again.

    April 21, 2013 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  12. Bing

    The only people who "Dropped the Ball" Miss Graham, are the people who voted you back into office you are always first in line to shoot off your mouth about someone elses performance while you are the bottom-feeder who always throws feces at people better than yourself. You are a typical, self-righteous, transparent hypocrite who exploits every opportunity to criticize someone elses behaviour in order to divert attentiion from your own pitiful career.

    What is the FBI supposed to do? Read minds? Arrest perps before they act? Ms. Lindsey, you dropped the ball (as usual.)

    April 21, 2013 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  13. Abel

    It is clear that these brothers did not act alone on the bombings. Why is the U.S government is so blind about it???? The older brother absolutely had links and training from terrorist groups in Russia. The worst part is that we are still targets of these terrorists overseas. These brothers are just puppets of a huge terrorist organization in south Russia. Instead of placing so much emphasis on a 19 year old, the US should be more proactive in finding the right roots of the problem . Seriously people get real, The truth is out there.

    April 21, 2013 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  14. Larry L

    Graham is what's wrong with American politics and certainly what's wrong with the Repbulican Party. He works towards one goal – reelection. I hope the folks ij South Carolina have the good sense to quit letting this self-serving windbag represent you and find a true statesman (or stateswoman) to serve. Find somebody who doesn't work only to discredit the other party and to obstruct progress in America. Find somebody who care about all Americans – not just the rich, white, fundamental Christians of his party's base. Find a patriot rather than a sleaze-ball politician!

    April 21, 2013 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  15. mtbeau

    Senator Graham has always been a Monday night quarterback. Whenever he speaks, I want to take him more seriously,but I can not.

    April 21, 2013 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  16. Jayakumar

    Cannot blame the FBI for this. I think they are doing a great job. As the IRA once said after the failed assasination attempt of PM Thatcher, " you have to be lucky everytime, we have to be lucky only once" . This was bound to happen, but the new homeland regulations and increased cooperation prevented the brothers from acquiring powerful explosives (they used a much weaker black powder) or flying a plane into a building. But they were able to acquire powerful guns to fight the police with and that is because of a virtuallly non-existent gun regulation in this country. We need to tighten that part of our law and make background checks mandatory, reduce magazine size etc. Criminals can easily buy guns from a gun owner without aby background checks in many states.

    April 21, 2013 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  17. ronald

    Ya I Democratic drops the ball thy always try to cover it up with what happened in the past makes them better some how

    April 21, 2013 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  18. ks

    what amazes me it took 9000 officers, cops and military and over a billion dollars to find 1 person. this country has major issues

    April 21, 2013 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  19. Rain

    Define war? How are we at war with terrorist?

    Noun
    A state of armed conflict between different nations or states or different groups within a nation or state.

    If we are at war with terrorist, then does that justify their attacks? I mean isn't that how war works? The opposing sides attack each other back and forth?

    April 21, 2013 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  20. f ray

    lol this guy is a joke. how on earth did anyone put him(her) in office?

    April 21, 2013 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  21. Muslim...The "M" word... the new unspeakable word

    Well his uncle sure knew he had changed... Russians picked up on it. FBI did see it? They interviewed him? Did they expect him to say, dang, ya got me! It would interesting to see just how deeply they dung on this guy. I'm sure the FBI bought his story that the Russians were just out to get him because he is Chechen.

    Sorry, but the FBI is showing a pattern of dropping the ball on people that turn out to be terrorists. 9/11 and now this guy. They need to really pick up their game and people need to review why these guys are getting through. All you folos blindly dismissing this as political attack are obama hacks. Stop trying to defend him and his administration at the expense of Americans.

    April 21, 2013 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  22. Muslim...The "M" word... the new unspeakable word

    lerianis
    No we are not at war with Islamist extremists. They are no more of a danger than the Mafia are and quite substantially less, crime number compared to crime number, in the real world.
    --

    Looks like Barack Obama or Eric Holder is posting to this thread....

    April 21, 2013 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  23. sarah

    He really needs to go away

    April 21, 2013 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  24. Anonymous

    Lawsuit. Let the victims take the Government to court over this. Time for Boston Legal.

    April 21, 2013 10:09 pm at 10:09 pm |
  25. stan

    Lawsuit. Boston Legal. Time to let the jury decide if they dropped the ball. Victims with no legs and their spouses should be seeking major damages. Screw the rest of you.

    April 21, 2013 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
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