Graham: ‘Ball was dropped’ in probe of Tamerlan Tsarnaev
April 21st, 2013
12:51 PM ET
12 months 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. Jim g

    I am sorry but Sem Graham is an idiot. He and his co horts in the do nothing Congress, keep cutting the budget, and then said they dropped the ball. He is one of the leaders that crafts the laws the FBI and others use to protect us. So to you Mr Graham, put the most blame where it belongs, right at this Congresses door step. Keep on doing nothing and keep blaming others for your failures. Pathetic

    April 21, 2013 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  2. eleridge

    The FBI can not be everywhere all the time.

    April 21, 2013 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  3. GTGT

    "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.'”

    There's a third, much more plausible explanation that reflects ill on the senator.

    April 21, 2013 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  4. Adebayo

    Graham is absolutely right. It was carelesness from the part of the FBI. It have been prevented. FBI, be watchful.

    April 21, 2013 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    OK I want to see his bank account. Where did he get his money from?

    April 21, 2013 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  6. JohnRJohnson

    For once, I have to agree with Graham. If the Russians come to us with a warning about one of our citizens being radicalized, we need to put that person on a watch list and follow up ourselves. Blaming the Russians for not following up is fairly outrageous. A perfunctory search of Tamerlan's YouTube account in the last 6 months would have been enough to raise red flags.

    April 21, 2013 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  7. kommy

    No kidding, they dropped the ball...or were told to drop the ball. Most prolific "freedom fighters in Caucasus lived and studied in US, look at these "Swiss army knives"- they got a blade for anything! Stealing a car on fly with most sophisticated anti-theft system- no problem, shooting good enough outpacing any law officer in US- you gocha, built a device out of mouthwash, socks and pot- peanuts!

    You cannot get such training jumping like a goat in the mountains in 6 months, this is the years of training- most of their life.

    I wonder what was their attendance in MIT.

    April 21, 2013 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  8. Robert Roane

    Talk about dropped the ball...the Senate had an opportunity to take forward steps to stop future events like this. What did they do? They voted down the gun control legislation. Senator Graham, I don't know how you voted but, as a whole, the Senate dropped the ball....BIG TIME.

    As for the FBI, what an incredible job they did in concert with other law enforcement agencies to quickly apprehend these terrorists. Senator Graham, SHAME ON YOU for your comments!!!!!! Honestly, I don't know how you and your colleagues can sleep at night knowing what you failed to do to stop this type of violence.

    April 21, 2013 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  9. bob from SC

    One can not lock up someone "before" they commit an atrocious, illegal act. At times it would be tempting I must admit, but then I don't care to live in a dictatorship. This is one of those "damned if you do, and damned if you don't" situations.

    April 21, 2013 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  10. Tom

    Well, we will see how the next meeting of the "Hindsight is 20/20 Committee" goes.

    April 21, 2013 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  11. Ruth

    The United States of America's leaders for the past 30 years have dropped the ball,ever since Nixon they have kicked this can down the road,we turned our heads when Iran captured our people ,NOTHING was done,Clinton had evey chance when on February 26,1993 when the Twin Towers were first bombed and HE DID NOTHING,when 3 of our embassy's were bombed,when the USS Cole was bombed he said "they will be found and prosecuted",nothing happened to anyone...when will this countyr get to know the face of evil,ask our ancestors what the face of evil looks like,we as kids in school in the 50's and 60's LEARNED about the face of evil . We better start teaching this new generation instead of babying them or the face of evil will come sooner than we think and they will not be prepared.So take your Ipods out of your ears,your face out of the iphone ,get away from youtube and facebook and LEARN

    April 21, 2013 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  12. bearitstrong

    Lindsey Graham – I'm sure you are an expert and it is so IMPORTANT to get your negative comments at this time.

    April 21, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  13. Patriot

    Disinformation propaganda.

    April 21, 2013 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  14. Pete

    What specifically did they miss Senator? If there was nothing to be found at that time what do you expect the FBI to do? Take out a crystal ball? Arrest people on a "hunch"? Perhaps the Senate dropped the ball for not directing the FBI in how to do investigations.

    April 21, 2013 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  15. jk

    Sen. Lindsey Graham has dropped the ball... this country will never be safe and never prosper given that he and his colleagues are no longer representations of the American people. By the people of the people for the people doesn't apply to congress, we might as well have foreigners running this country because they don't listen to the people only to lobbyists.

    April 21, 2013 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  16. Jules

    I hate the finger pointing.

    April 21, 2013 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  17. GW

    This is the man who bragged about having an assault rifle and who want to take away the constitutional rights of a citizen to a fair trial in American courts. He is a disgraceful politician who betrays his own country and its ideals.

    April 21, 2013 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  18. wootdude

    Good for you Lindsey, way to use that 20-20 hindsight to figure out the solution. I bet he even knows how to win WWII.

    April 21, 2013 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  19. Leftcoastrocky

    We need to impose an additional dime tax on gasoline to pay for expanded FBI and other first responders

    April 21, 2013 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  20. Sean

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

    Translation: We are going to destroy whatever remaining vestiges of protection US citizens enjoy under the 4th in the name of "public safety", or possibly, "for the children".

    I hate politicians.

    April 21, 2013 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  21. Pattypal

    I am no fan of our gov't or its agencies (FBI, et al), but this is typical political grandstanding. We do not yet know if they dropped the ball. Has the Senator spent the last few days combing thru this 2 year old case? Sooo transparent and doesn't put you in a very good light, Senator.

    April 21, 2013 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  22. Stephen

    Intelligence anaiysis from the cheap seats? What reports did you read? Who did you interview? Have you actually opened a file at all yet? Just firing from the hip to make some cheap political points? Most bad guys don't carry membership cards. A first timer won't have a portfolio or wear a t-shirt that makes him easy to identify. Cheap political opportunists should sit down and let those who can do the job do it without trying to be an armchair quarterback, or senator.

    April 21, 2013 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  23. Will Kautz

    Graham should clean his own house before critiquing the FBI. The coward was bought by the NRA and voted against the people's will to establish background checks on gun sales. Thanks to this jerk, the mentally ill can buy an assault rifle at any gun show. Idiot!

    April 21, 2013 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  24. skyler

    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.”

    C'mon. If federal laws didn't allow the FBI to 'follow up in a sound, solid way,' isn't that congress' fault and isn't Mr. Graham a member of that congress?

    April 21, 2013 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  25. nadinesh

    This after the FBI did such a great job. What a lowlife.

    April 21, 2013 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
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