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. Pete/Ark

    Lispy Lindsey is always quick to call others failures...aside from suckling at the public teat,what has HE ever done to secure and protect the Nation??

    April 21, 2013 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  2. AgrippaMT

    Lindsey Graham is a truly despicable Republican senator and right wing extremist.

    April 21, 2013 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  3. Mack

    Okay Graham, so who in the Senate "dropped the ball" last week on the gun legislation?
    You and John McCain need to retire from being Career Senators.

    April 21, 2013 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  4. Steven Posey

    I'm tired of reading "ethnically whatever" these are American men. They have been here most of their lives since childhood. Americans committed these crimes. Why are we trying to find someone else to blame? How can we stop this from happening again if we refuse to accept what happened in the first place?

    April 21, 2013 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  5. Sue Frasier

    Even a bigger question here is what's up with the scent dogs used in Boston's K-9 unit??Here ya have a criminal on the run with no car and leaving a blood trail behind everywhere he goes and not a single police dog could find him?? THEN, you have 2 of them walking up several blocks of Boyleston Street with major gun powder loads on board X 2 and not a single scent dog finds them out enroute?? Something is seriously wrong with the dogs, I say.

    April 21, 2013 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  6. notogop

    I wondered how long it would take for the finger pointing to begin. Can always rely on either Graham or McCain. These two are sooooooo irrevelant, but unfortunately are big cheeses in the GOP. About time to freshen up the Patriot Act, too.

    April 21, 2013 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  7. Mike Buck

    So what has South Carolina provided the U.S.A.? Tobacco plantations, slavery, left the union, started the Civil War, Joe "You Lie" Wilson, and horrible Senators, Strom Thurmond and Lindsey Graham. Wait...they did give us Stephen Colbert!

    April 21, 2013 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  8. Dave

    Isn't this a case of Obama lied(al-qaeda is no longer a threat) and people died?

    April 21, 2013 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  9. Anthony in California

    Hey Graham.. still waiting for you guys to pick up the ball you dropped from 9-11. You know.. ignored intel... over 3000 dead...

    And did GW Bush ever catch that guy? Oh wait.. he INVADED IRAQ.

    April 21, 2013 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  10. JIM

    He is just another big butt, doubled chin jerk who thinks he knows it all, just trying to grab attention, wonder what he has done thats usefull to his state, Anybody else see that these yahoo's always point out the problems but never seem to have a solution that is workable.

    April 21, 2013 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  11. MikeR

    Graham: ‘Ball was dropped’ in probe of Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

    Thank you, Senator Hindsight-is-20/20.

    April 21, 2013 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    "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.”

    Missed a lot of things vs not allowed to follow up are completely different and not considered dropping the ball.

    April 21, 2013 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  13. CraigRB

    Graham is always complaining and pointing his finger at others. What has he accomplished lately; he should put his money where his mouth is. I'm sick of him and most of the Senate.

    April 21, 2013 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  14. Enoch

    I find this funny coming from a guy who has been in a Congress that hasn't done its own job.

    April 21, 2013 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  15. TamarS

    Let's wait until we have more solid information Senator Smarty Pants (Lindsey Graham). You always seem to put yourself in such high regard. Senate and Congress Please keep quiet – until you have a FULL collection of FACTS. I know that will be hard for you but why not try it just for once?

    April 21, 2013 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  16. Juxtapoz

    Soldiers in Iraq, cops and firefighters killed or wounded on 9/11, Benghazi, Libya...ever notice a pattern of how we watch good people work themselves to death just so that Congress(the guys with lower approval ratings than the IRS) can stand around assigning blame from the comfort of an arm chair? Ever noticed how often the Congressmen who are chosen for tv interviews have NO EXPERIENCE AT ALL in the doing the jobs of the people they criticize(and that includes the President, no matter which party he/she belongs to)?

    Well, that's what you get when elections become a super-expensive cycle of endless fundraising and campaigning so that a bunch of spoiled ivy league legacy brats, trust fund babies, and lawyers can keep jobs they're not even qualified for.

    April 21, 2013 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  17. steve

    Excellent 20/29 vision!

    April 21, 2013 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  18. Bill Zimmerman

    Here we go again. :( Finger pointing without knowing ALL of the FACTS !!!

    April 21, 2013 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  19. Ricksta

    Lindsey Graham has never caught the ball to have a chance to drop it.

    April 21, 2013 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  20. Engineer

    Our society needs to stop blaming and do what is right in the here and now. We all know we cannot catch every single item. We do not have time machines and if I take that point of view the Senator of SC is to blame because they do not issue the laws to find potential terrorist. In short, amend parts of the constitution. Let's get to work and work hard together. We all know what is at stake and should persevere together. If the Senator, is that factual and all knowing, he would have known two years ago that Obama would have a second term but as we can see his Crystal Ball was malfunctioned.

    Life is full of ups and yes, downs. Terrible things can happen but we must endeavor to move forward. These dis functional folks (terrorists) want to change our lifestyle. The losers don't understand that we as a society are above their whines and childish reasoning. Yet, in truth, they (terrorists) wish they had life like we have it. We as Americans are successful and make our lives wondrous and fulfilling. Terrorists balk at the challenge of doing better as they are losers and that claim to jihad is rather weak. They cannot Man up to making something of their lives like giving women rights, protecting children instead of setting out as cannon fodder and abusing them. Terrorists give Islam a bad rap.

    We have wonderful array of law enforcement professional. I am so proud of them and all that they do. They make me feel safe at night and I know while I continue with my life dealings, they are making the best decisions needed to keep me and mine safe whether their business is foreign or domestic. I don't need the details nor updates. They have my support and I consider them all 1st rate. I will not diminish their sacrifice by saying law enforcement professional are to blame. Such comments are in my humble opinion to be a wee bit cowardly. This is not "Minority Report". I don't see the Seantor from SC saving anyone's lives except his own tail. I hope he will become a bigger adult than what I have read so far but,
    I doubt it. Only the intelligent recognize their faults and become better people.

    April 21, 2013 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  21. Zubu Tine

    I don't know what the FBI knew or didn't know – and neither does Senator Graham. He's a Republican, towing the Republican party line. He should wait until the facts are out and he should have some faith in our investigative and judicial processes and personnel. Our Constitution has served us well for more than 200 years. Now it seems, any time the word terror or terrorist is whispered, the Republicans want to throw out the Constitution along with all of it's protections. Senator Graham and his buddy Sen McCain should both resign since they have no faith in the Constitution that they have sworn to defend and protect.

    April 21, 2013 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  22. Earthling147

    Put this meatball in the front lines at the FBI and let's see how he does. Frikin jerk would probably shoot himself in the butt.

    April 21, 2013 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  23. Jeff C

    So,..the 9/11 hijackers were know individuals by the FBI ahead of the attack, and the Boston bomber also was 'watched; by the FBI. They've e changed the meaning of the 4th Amendment with the Patriot Act, created the biggest bureacracy in 70 years called Homeland Security.....So I ask,...What do we pay these guys for. I'm no more safe today than I was in the before this decade of violence

    April 21, 2013 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  24. Marcus

    Where did these guys get there guns that they used to kill the Police Office and have those big gun fights with police? And why did we just vote down background checks?

    April 21, 2013 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  25. Ar45

    This new gang of 4 can not do their jobs properly but always eager to find fault with agencies or the administration. Whar are they suggesting ? Dismental FBI ? They do fabulous job. We all should be proud of. Such a huge agency and the voluminous job. Errors and omissions are bound to happen. Correct and move on. Do not criticize in public.

    April 21, 2013 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
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