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. Terry Hull

    This senator can be counted on to be vocally critical of ANYTHING that is even remotely related to the administration. It used to be that the only two sure things were death and taxes. Now we can add Sen. Grahams 100% predictable attacks on the White House, either directly, or through executive branch surrogates.

    April 21, 2013 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  2. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    Hey Little Lindsey... I didn't hear you whining and moaning when the Bush Administration totally abdicated it's duties and let 911 happen.

    April 21, 2013 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  3. John McAdam

    This guy was not a US citizen. So, if he is "red flagged", using an alias, and dedicated to extremist's views, why didn't the US authorities deport him immediately? Did he have rights not to be expelled from the USA? While immigrants are welcome to finding a new life in America, those immigrants who become disenchanted with America should return to their home of birth to be disenchanted. It would seem that those who are unhappy are unhappy where ever they are. So be unhappy somewhere else.

    April 21, 2013 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  4. maximusvad

    Let the blame game begin.

    April 21, 2013 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  5. bob1223

    Its the Red Scare all over again, if you don't wave a flag you're the enemy?

    April 21, 2013 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  6. kurtinco

    Shut up Graham. Nobody is listening to you anymore.

    April 21, 2013 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  7. Anonymous

    Yes, they may have made a mistake. Our Senators never make mistakes and they are excellent at pointing out the mistakes of others. Of course to make a mistake you actually have to do something.

    April 21, 2013 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  8. waheid

    I'm no great fan of the FBI, but Lindsey Graham (McCain's acolyte) has little credibility. He craves publicity and will say or do anything to get it.

    April 21, 2013 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  9. basedonfact

    Laws are meaningless if we can pick and choose whether to apply them or who we apply them to.

    April 21, 2013 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  10. Blue

    This guy makes me sick. The FBI did a remarkable job.

    April 21, 2013 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  11. G. N. Peri

    Perhaps Congress missed the ball by allowing anyone to accumulate weapons of mass destruction with little to no background checking. Do you think????

    April 21, 2013 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  12. Richard Right

    We don't know enough about FBI procedures, but Congress needs to know.. Is the FBI under orders to fully clear someone if they don't have a clear admission of engaging in terrorism or other clear proof. Do they have authority to recommend electronic surveillance based on some degree of proof. Does FBI relook at people who were cleared what is their workload. Is FBI focusing on the important crimes, terror danger. A few years ago FBI investigated and made arrests involving chicken fighting in North Carolina, I say leave that to state or communities.

    April 21, 2013 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  13. LMC

    So easy to be an "armchair quaterback," isn't it?

    April 21, 2013 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  14. Rob1961

    Just what this nation needs, a "leading" Senator to place blame without any knowledge of what has transpired. The very least he should have done was to "keep his mouth shut" so that he doesn't prove those who think he is an idiot from being accurate!

    April 21, 2013 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  15. Marie MD

    Ms. lindsey, go have a color drink of mint and stay in the shade sweetheart.
    You rethugs are only good for witching and complaining. Next thing we know you are going to blame the President for personally allowing the terrorist wanna be to leave the country and come back.
    As of right now the guy made one trip in 2012 and it was to visit his parents. Unless the Russians were following his every step it's hard to know what he did.

    April 21, 2013 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  16. SARAH

    Bush's fault again !!

    April 21, 2013 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  17. Holdthe Profanityfool

    Immigration reform. But why? This Boston bombing is only another example of assimilation gone wrong... (I know, I know, just look it up okay?) Look up 'sarcasm' and 'satire' too while you're at it.

    April 21, 2013 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  18. Dr. Reality

    It would have been lovely, but, it's just not realistic to presume that the FBI can discover, meet, assess, detain and prevent any/all terrorists. I suppose assessing blame is key. That being said, I quite honestly have a lot more fear of American Christian Extremists and the damage they do (via PACs, lobbying and brainwashing the masses), and, as a first step in preventing such Christian terrorism, eliminate tax-exempt status for American churches.

    April 21, 2013 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  19. rs

    That must be the glass ball palm readers use Mr. Graham, the FBI isn't clairvoyant you know.

    April 21, 2013 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  20. Mr Q

    As it appears this was a case of hate crime planned by one brother executed by another...not connected to a group...one of them had a case of domestic violence probably had a restraining order against child and woman that turn his hate into craziness...its not possible to completely prevent a crime unless its acted.

    April 21, 2013 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  21. PtBarnumBoy

    What makes this guy the expert on FBI procedure/practice??? Mr. Graham has been spending too much time with Mr. McCain.

    April 21, 2013 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  22. pchelp, Juneau, AK

    "Some, including House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul, have argued that Tsarnaev was already being radicalized and received further training during that trip." If they have evidence other than hindsight I sure wish they'd make it public-otherwise all they're doing is arguing that the government should tap everybody who's reported as 'suspicious'. I wish they would as I'd report at least half of the Congressmen as 'suspicious' and worthy of intensive interrogation, phone tapping, mail opening, surveillance, etc. You know, all that stuff that dictatorships do.

    April 21, 2013 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  23. Michael F.

    The Blame Game...here we go...

    Dr. Reality's comment above is right on the money.

    April 21, 2013 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  24. Yanni

    Graham verdict is already in before the investigation. This must be a very good opportunity for the Trios to appear on Sunday TV. I wonder if these wise men and women were in power when our congress was planning the Iraq war the mistake wouldn’t have append. We should and must listen to these wise guys.

    April 21, 2013 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  25. OldAsDirt

    Russian Intelligence should not be critical to our defense.

    April 21, 2013 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
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