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. smithdp

    Be watchful if Republicans try to politicize this. FBI agents put out information just before 9/11 about the threat of Middle Eastern aviation students with ties to Bin Laden who may have plans to use airplanes in terrorist acts. As long as Graham and McCain are consistent it's all good, if they weren't outraged then they better not become outraged now. This is why the uproar over Benghazi was such a joke. The Bush administration had just as much reason to take action before 9/11 and did nothing. Except then over 2000 Americans died. Don't take anyone seriously now who didn't have the same or greater reaction after 9/11.

    April 21, 2013 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  2. Frank

    Sounds like they are already thinking of making some law changes that will affect us all.

    April 21, 2013 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  3. HBsushi

    Leave it to Senator Graham to use the bombing in Boston as a campaign opportunity.

    April 21, 2013 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  4. Alex Kolpin

    Exactly. How were the preparatory actions and research by the elder 'joker' different from those of the scumbag implicated in the Christmas Day bombing attempt? Who was it that downgraded the possible risks from the "gift of the Chechen nation to the people of Massachusetts," so thoughtfully imported fresh from the foreign freak farms? Does it really take a U.S. senator to come to this conclusion? I think that the next time those wonderful state troopers and local police sit all day in a speed trap rather than follow up cases like the one that was allowed to brew and foment inside the 'pressure cooker' of the lovely brothers' inbred hatred of anybody who's not proudly Chechen, we should pull over ourselves, come up to them and ask, "Really?! You got no one else to chase after?" Serve and (preemptively) protect, yo!

    April 21, 2013 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  5. Gerry

    Here we go criticizing again. Maybe someone out to criticizing you every time you don't do something the way the American Public thinks you should. Senate and Congress sure have done and excellent job over the past ten years. What a joke. Too bad you could not be half as good ass the FBI and all other law enforcement agencies are. How about a WE rather then I. Enough is enough is enough. Go back to South Carolina and count the your millions>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    April 21, 2013 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  6. Oh well

    This man plays the ultimate Monday morning quarterback, it is always so easy to judge in hind site but to use this tragedy to score political points is sleazy. What else to expect from him, or from the GOP, vote them out of office at every oportunity.

    April 21, 2013 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  7. Mike

    Just another example of a politician thinking they're an expert on all things. Go do whatever it is you were hired to do, Senator. Leave the important things to people who are qualified to do them.

    April 21, 2013 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  8. vad

    Seeing how these "Senators" like to throw around blame, how about blaming them for a national debt approaching 17 trillion! How about allowing laws restricting our freedom like the patriot act and no protest zones going into effect? How about passing complicated tax and health care laws without even reading them? It's funny, I was just reading a story criticizing the FBI because they don't want to read the younger brother Miranda but is seems they blame the FBI for not arresting the older brother in 2011. The FBI just can't win with 20/20 hindsight vision like congress has.

    April 21, 2013 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  9. ndanielle1968

    Was this really necessary? I mean, dang! The FBI can't watch every living soul, every moment of every day!

    What does Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham gain in making this statement?

    Finger pointing? Really? How about patting the FBI and all the other agencies on the back for a job well done!!

    I'm not sure why this rankles me so much!! But it does!

    April 21, 2013 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  10. john

    What was the FBI to do, follow this guy around 24/7 ? Quite obvious Graham will, a some point, try to blame the Obama administration for this shortcoming.

    April 21, 2013 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  11. Chuck Finley

    Eh, we all have perfect 20/20 hindsight.

    April 21, 2013 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  12. Phaerisee

    Quite an accusation. Might be one of the reasons he is facing a primary challenge from within his own party.

    April 21, 2013 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  13. beachnut

    Lindsey always first in line when pointing blame at someone.

    April 21, 2013 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  14. NameGoose

    No ones perfect. I am sure the FBI did the best they could...Actually, I think the FBI, ATF,
    DEA, Boston PD., State Police, etc. did an excellent job capturing the Boston Terrorist's.

    April 21, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  15. spock500

    Did the FBI equally "drop the ball" in August 2001 after they were alerted that terrorists Mohammed Atta, Zacarias Moussaoui, and his accomplices had received flight training in the US? Did Lindsay Graham and his co-Republicans express their self-righteous indignation over that following the terrorist attacks on Sept 11? Right . . .

    April 21, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  16. Jeff Cox

    The only people that dropped the ball were the ones who voted this self-serving (insert epithet here) to the Senate.

    April 21, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  17. Chuck

    Another "armchair quarterback". Took some time out from cashing special interest checks to rip on the FBI. I wish we had term limits.

    April 21, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  18. HenryB

    Oh, my lord, here comes Lindsey Graham again. Does he not realize that, besides being able to obstruct, his rhetoric is meaningless and no longer considered.

    April 21, 2013 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  19. ketrick lehmann

    By the idiotic standards set by Republican after there executive incompetence led to the tragedy of Sept 11-Lindsey Graham hates america-loves terrorists and is a godless traitor! Also we should invade Iraq! Corporate bootlick Republicans are the true enemy of the American people

    April 21, 2013 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  20. I think there I am

    WOW! yet another politician with 20/20 hindsight. So easy to point fingers at the FBI after it is all done and other with. What's the flip side of the coin? A Federal lawsuit for civil rights violations or harassment if they had closely monitored him? I'm sure the ACLU would have loved to jump on that wagon. Either way you go you lose.

    April 21, 2013 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  21. Rick

    The FBI are like baseball umpires. You only notice them when they blow a call. Give them some credit.

    April 21, 2013 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  22. Randy, San Francisco

    Rush to judgement? The FBI investigation should not be politicized before all the facts are made known. Too often misleading claims and falsehoods become accepted as facts by political pundits and talk show entertainers.

    April 21, 2013 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  23. Ed

    Too soon for finger-pointing? Apparently not.

    April 21, 2013 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  24. edpeters101

    Typical Congressman: Given the facts they make up lies, without the facts they rush to judgement. A Stupid Senator...

    April 21, 2013 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  25. Thor

    So Senator, any word on whomever else the ball may have been dropped? Now the ownus is in your court!

    April 21, 2013 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
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