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. I AM

    Never trust a politician from South Carolina.

    April 22, 2013 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  2. Adventure49

    I guess Senator Graham would prefer a police state to the risk of terrorism. Of course there are countries that have police states and they still have terrorist acts. Is there a better example than Russia and the terrorist attacks by Chetznians?

    April 22, 2013 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  3. PraiseTheLard

    Senator Graham just wants to find out what Susan Rice and Hillary Clinton knew about Tamerlan Tsarnaev and when they knew it !!!!

    April 22, 2013 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  4. Name

    Dave....
    Because you have definitive proof he aquiried his firearms legally right

    April 22, 2013 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  5. Jay

    Lindsey Graham's opinions are so relevant - NOT

    April 22, 2013 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  6. Jed

    This is not the time to point fingers or initiate a witch hunt. This was a very unfortunate tragedy. Compare the outcome to what happened in Mumbai. The Indian police failed to neutralize the terrorist and the military had to come in to do the job. The Boston police, ATF, and the FBI combined forces and dealt with the situation with no innocent bystanders getting killed or wounded unlike the LAPD in its hunt for the roge cop. Senator, chill......please.

    April 22, 2013 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  7. tOM lEGARE

    Do intelligent people really take Lindsay Graham serious?? He's like mint julep away from never never land most of the time. A real southern belle if ever I saw one. Running his mouth constantly about things which he doesn't have a clue! Does he ever have anything nice to say ??

    April 22, 2013 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  8. Poodlepuff

    The problem with Graham is that he has no brains, but keeps flapping his lips. Will he ever just go away?

    April 22, 2013 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  9. John

    In my humble opinion everyone involved did miraculous work on this case with the lone exception of the FBI. My big concern or issue is that once they had a video of the terrorist why did they need the public’s help finding them! They already had a report on the older brother. Someone dropped the ball on that, if they could of matched the report to the video then they could of ambushed them and maybe of taken both alive and have a wealth of information. Instead it went public and the two terrorist ran, which resulted in the death of a MIT officer and casualties to many other officers and maybe the loss of the best intelligence source. Someone at the FBI should be feeling pretty sick that this happened this way.

    April 22, 2013 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  10. Steve

    Why dont you send the terrorists to a gun show Lindsey .

    April 22, 2013 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  11. rs

    Fascinating- Graham would use this one event to take away American freedoms, essentially creating a duel justice system for those deemed "terrorists". Who can see the problem with THAT?

    20 school shootings, and Graham says "this isn't the time", and we mustn't "abridge rights", yet in this case he would attack most of the Bill of Rights.

    Who is the fascist Senator?

    April 22, 2013 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  12. stainpouch

    Too bad these terrorist weren't also bankers, then Graham would have offered an endorsement and a bailout.

    April 22, 2013 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  13. rs

    IF Graham is now the typical Republican- then it is safe to say they are the MOST revolting people on the planet.

    April 22, 2013 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  14. Warren

    Why is this man allowed to talk??

    April 22, 2013 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  15. 1UncleAl

    Lindsey Graham is a perfect example of one who suffers from Napoleon Complex. He will complain about anything and everything that is not republican born and bred. If the Bush administration was still in office, he would be complimenting the FBI to no end.

    April 22, 2013 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  16. Anonymous

    Graham is an idiot. He complains bitterly about wasteful government spending, but thinks the FBI should have the man-power capable of monitoring every resident or citizen 24/7.
    They investigated, they checked background, travel, known associates, interviewed people and found nothing that made it worth their while to keep tabs on these guys. And yet Sen. Graham thinks the FBI should have kept watching them for the past three years.
    South Carlinians, do yourselves and the rest of the country a favor: vote this oxygen-stealer out of office.

    April 22, 2013 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  17. Lynda/Minnesota

    "Do intelligent people really take Lindsay Graham serious?? "

    Might I add: Do intelligent people really take CNN serious? It is CNN after all who is jumping all over themselves to get the Lindsey Graham interviews. And the John McCain interviews... And the Sarah Palin interviews (or Facebook twitterings)... And the Rand Paul interviews... Etc. Etc. Etc.

    When is the last time any of the aforementioned have been truthful? Why should CNN who caters to these folks be any different in their coverage?

    CNNs coverage of this event was awful. Just awful. I expect better from news organizations. I expect better from CNN.

    April 22, 2013 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  18. George

    How long before they identify this as Obama's fault? I bet $10 Sean hannity has his staff working on that angle as I type. "Hmm.. how can we blame Obama? how can we blame Eric Holder? any ideas?"

    April 22, 2013 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  19. atlposter

    Am I the only one who finds it amazing when a politician thinks someone is not doing their job?

    April 22, 2013 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  20. Rose McDonald

    How typical for this repulsive sack of guts to jump into a tragedy and start casting blame for it on the President.This man has no sense of decency or shame, but instead is trying to make political capital out of the deaths and maiming of innocent Americans.

    April 22, 2013 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  21. Craig in Pa.

    Lindsey Graham....'nuff said right there...non story...retire this clown next election

    April 22, 2013 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  22. mclark

    The republican ramblings of another tired old bag of hot, stale air.

    April 22, 2013 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  23. GatorDude

    There are many attacks on Lindsay Graham this morning. It's almost as if a bunch of activists are sitting in a room with nothing to do, but make ad hominem attacks on someone asking a legitimate question of the administration and the FBI. Perhaps an e-mail went out to everyone on a list and they immediately went to comment sections to counteract a negative story. Very interesting.

    April 22, 2013 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  24. WhataJoke

    "Or federal laws did not allow the FBI to “follow up in a sound, solid way.”

    What a great opportunity to use a tragedy such as this to push the need to strip away more rights and freedoms of Americans. What a sick pathetic politician.

    April 22, 2013 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  25. Tony

    Why go the trouble of treating him if you are going to kill him anyway? Why not eliminate the middle man and cut to the end? Especially since we seem to have done away with due process and decided that on the basis of media presentations of speculation, bias, inuendo and prejudice that he is guilty anyway. Innocent until proven guilty and all that inconvenience.

    April 22, 2013 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
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