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. Telly Standing Bear

    Pointing fingers wont help the nation move on! God has a plan for the world!

    April 21, 2013 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  2. NN

    These simple-minded politicians seem to be working on the assumption that the Russians are somehow in partnership with the U.S. in the war against terror. Nothing could be further from the truth, Russia seems to be doing their level best to supply weapons to quite a few groups, or governments that sponsor groups, the U.S. classifies as terrorist organizations, the Middle East is a prime example. The U.S. and Russia are clearly at odds on just exactly who or what is classified as terrorist.

    April 21, 2013 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  3. ted

    Lindsey Graham dropped everything.

    April 21, 2013 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  4. Evergreen

    Mr. Graham, make sure that those departments responsible for our security are adequately funded.

    April 21, 2013 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  5. captnavenger

    "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.'"

    So what the reality-challenged Graham, who has proven himself a blowhard at pretty much every possible opportunity the past couple of years is saying, is, either he has somebody to blame, or he has cause to try to push for more federal authority a la the Patriot Act. Either way, it sounds like a big bonus for his career.

    April 21, 2013 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  6. rs

    How stupid!
    Graham is part f the cadre of Republicans who hate the government and who gutted the BATF for the NRA. What is the FBI supposed to do? As any good beat cop will tell you you can't arrest people until they do something. If the hounded the guy, idiots like Graham would have been shout that the FBI was abusing thier power or some similar nonsense. The suspect was a U.S.Citizen- we couldn't deport or imprison him.

    The idiocy of the GOP has hit new heights.

    April 21, 2013 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  7. dw

    this senator is an idiot ! what's the FBI supposed to do? follow everyone who ever comes to their attention as some sort of possible terrorist or criminal for the rest of their lives! the FBI did a great job solving this terrible event.

    April 21, 2013 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  8. Larry Forrest

    Some one dropped the ball on your head.

    April 21, 2013 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  9. Pearl Lea

    Seems to me the FBI was harassing the guy long before he became a "radical", according to the interview with his mother ( before SHE disappeared from the radar) ...and the younger brother that none of his friends can believe he had a part in this, who lies unable to speak, in a hospital, with no representation and everyone calling for his death before he has.even been charged...has anyone even thought that maybe he really didnt know what was up? This is America folks, he should get to tell his story, unless, of course, someone threatens him if he does tell his side. So many sheep in this beloved country of ours. If that was your son, brother, husband etc. And you nor his friend could believe he was guilty, wouldnt you want the full, true story? Why all the rush to convict and put to death a young man who could very well have been lied to and had no idea what his brother was up to ? And what If his brother was working for someone else, inside our country...why doesnt anyone want to know? We are like a mob on a witch hunt...kill first, ask questions later. That is vigilante justice my friends. Count me out.Just saying.

    April 21, 2013 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  10. Julie

    I am sorry, but this stinks. First the FBI denied they had any contact with the suspects; then the mother spoke out.
    Now, it is being said that the FBI didn't follow up and interview the suspect because the Russians stopped cooperating; so they closed the case???

    April 21, 2013 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  11. Nick

    So what does Senator Graham propose? Start issuing exit visas to people who want to travel out of the country just like they did in the communist countries? You could very well swap out the Aurora or Newtown shooter with the Boston bomber. The result would have been the same. The nationality or residency of the perpetrators means very little in this case. Some events/places are just hard to police. He may have visited the Caucasus regions could very well have developed a radical streak during his trip, but where is the evidence? There is none. It is easy for a country like Russia to detain people without giving them access to due process. That thankfully doesn't exist in the US where there is at least some semblance of the rule of law. What is the FBI supposed to do? Short of transmitting the details of every flight to Moscow to the CIA guy there and then putting a tail on every person who lands in Moscow, what is the US government supposed to do?

    April 21, 2013 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  12. pkfops

    This guy is up for reelection.

    April 21, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  13. Dave Seavy

    This is why our country's economy is in the tank. These "know it all" politicians are now going to divert the attention from the problems we can do something about, to problems that might not even exist. The fact is, the FBI can not possibly monitor every potential threat to the USA. The sheer numbers forbid it. We'd have to expand the bureau to include almost every US citizen if we're to keep track of every situation that might look fishy. Further, if the Russian intelligence agency stopped cooperating, what could the bureau do? For these senators who think the FBI dropped the ball by not tailing the guy, how would they feel if suddenly they were being watched closely – all because someone thought they might be up to no good? They'd be screaming like a banshee. We have to balance security with rights, and we also have to have the cooperation of countries like Russia, if we're to effectively monitor all potentially serious threats. Perhaps these senators should leave their cushy offices and go out in the field to monitor suspected terrorists. We'd soon see they are quick to run their mouths, but slow to do anything of real value for the American people.

    April 21, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  14. gregory21

    Why does't that big mouth shutup and wait till all the facts are in. Surprised him and mccain haven't blamed the Press.

    April 21, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  15. David

    This is the way politicians operate ALL THE TIME. Lob accusations at people who are working their asses off to protect us, and who have done an absolutely phenomenal job. Seriously, this is an agency that has probably stopped more attacks than we will ever know about, and when attack tragically succeeds, there is a politician standing ready to criticize. Do we need to learn from this? Absolutely. Do we need to take cheap shots at the FBI to get on TV? Absolutely not. This is one American who wants to give the FBI and all law enforcement people a Shout Out for God only knows how many times you protect us on a DAILY BASIS. Thank You!

    April 21, 2013 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  16. Gerry

    Well you can bet somewhere along the line they will blame mostly every one. Mc Cain and this South Carolina goof ball are the two biggest cry babies in our government. I certainly hope the voters of So. Carolina will have smartened up enough to vote him out come election time.

    April 21, 2013 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  17. Stuart

    So another Republican who says we need the government watching our every move. This is from the Republican party who says the government is interfering in its citizens business. According to Senator Graham every resident of our country needs someone to keep a watch over each of us. Sounds like the Republicans want an oppressive paranoid government to me.

    April 21, 2013 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  18. Halil

    Why did FBI even ask public's help to finding these guys, that's my question? They interview one guy before, so they had him in the database, pictures, fingerprints and such, and the other guy just became us citizen last year, so they had him on file as well and they couldn't find who they are? Wow, what a bunch of lies. None of that had to happen if they didn't WANT it to happen, the chasing, searching, shootings....They had pictures of suspect after bombings, they couldn't have easily figured who these guys are, and they couldn't have just went and picked them up, they weren't even hiding. NONSENSE

    April 21, 2013 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  19. 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.

    April 21, 2013 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  20. 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.

    April 21, 2013 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  21. cathi

    Like, you and your party did not drop the ball on 9/11? The American people have not forgot what you and your party have done to America and the American Prople. You should be ashamed to even open your mouth!

    April 21, 2013 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  22. Real America

    Lindsay Graham is determined to remain relevant and any crisis will cause him to spout something ridiculous..

    April 21, 2013 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  23. Joe

    Why would we spend more money following people for years when nothing may come of it. I don't thing giving the law more power want work for the same reasons. If you can attract these kids to teach them how to kill then by the same means you can counter and teach them not to with more educational ads and so on. Public services announcements. Attract the issues that drive these people in the wrong direction and show them another way to get what they want and need.

    April 21, 2013 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  24. ed dugan

    Why does anyone give this stupid loudmouth any time to spout his garbage. He is a disgrace to the Senate (along with many of his Republican buddies) and only opens his mouth to change feet.

    April 21, 2013 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  25. Lenny Pincus

    Senator Graham looks like the ball was dropped–on his head. Sounds like it too.

    April 21, 2013 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
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