April 21st, 2013
10:50 AM ET
2 years ago

House Homeland Security chairman believes suspect trained in Russia

(CNN) – House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul said Sunday he believes Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the two Boston Marathon bombing suspects, received training during an extended trip to the Chechen region of Russia in 2012.

McCaul also questioned why the FBI did not take further action against Tsarnaev when he was investigated before his trip.

“I personally believe this man received training when he was over there and he radicalized from 2010 to the present,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

In 2011 the FBI interviewed Tsarnaev at the request of Russian authorities, according to a senior U.S. official. Tamerlan Tsarnaev died this week after a late-night shoot-out with police. His younger brother, the other suspect, is in federal custody.

McCaul and fellow Republican Rep. Peter King, the former House committee chairman, prepared a letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller and Attorney General Eric Holder, seeking details about their questioning, a GOP congressional source said Saturday.

Following his interview with the FBI, Tsarnaev traveled to Russia for six months and returned in July 2012. The Tsarnaev family originally hails from the Russian republic of Chechnya and fled the brutal wars there in the 1990s. Tsarnaev's father currently resides in Dagestan.

After Tsarnaev came back, he created a YouTube channel with links to a number of videos–two of which were tagged under a category labeled "Terrorists" and were deleted. It's not clear when or by whom.

“If he was on the radar and they let him go–he's on the Russians' radar–why wasn't a flag put on him, some sort of customs flag? I've done this before. You put a customs flag up on the individual coming in and out. And I’d like to know what intelligence of Russia has on him as well. I would suspect that they may have monitored him when he was in Russia,” McCaul told CNN's chief political correspondent Candy Crowley.

Analysis of his social media accounts and interviews with his family members suggest Tsarnaev became increasingly radical in the last three or four years. But so far, there is no evidence of active association with international jihadist groups.

His uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, who lives in Maryland, told CNN Saturday that he believed Tsarnaev’s radicalization began in 2009 by a friend and recent convert to Islam in the Boston area who Tsnarni says "brainwashed” Tsarnaev.

“I’d suggest this is when it started. This started, all I hear, when I heard on news yesterday it says its radicalization started 2010. No it’s not 2010. It started 2009. And it started right there in Cambridge… The seed was planted there. He didn’t bring it from Dagestan. Using Chechnya is irrelevant at all because they have nothing to do with Chechnya.”

A group of North Caucasus rebels in Dagestan have denied any link to the Boston bombing, according to a statement on a website used by the rebels who call themselves 'Mujahideen of the Caucasus Emirate Province of Dagestan.'

McCaul also argued Tsarnaev was already being radicalized before he went to Russia but maintained his ties to Chechnya could be a strong factor. He said Chechen rebels have had links with Al Qaeda in the past and are considered "some of the fiercest jihadist warriors out there."

The types of explosives that Tsarnaev and his brother are believed to have used last week were similar to weapons used by Al Qaeda, McCaul said.

“I think the larger question right now–If I’m a U.S. attorney is how is - is there more to this cell? Is it just these two or should I cast a wider net to see if anyone else is out there that may be tied to the cell in the United States?”

– CNN's Dana Bash, Elise Labott, and Gregory Wallace 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 (135 Responses)
  1. Anonymous

    My god it is a setup.

    My god how how could they do this

    April 21, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  2. Anonymous

    "The types of explosives that Tsarnaev and his brother are believed to have used last week were similar to weapons used by Al Qaeda, McCaul said."

    These explosives have been around since forever. Google is your friend, McCaul. Similar bombing was done in Ireland using pressure cookers. But, hey. Good luck invading Chechnya. Or, going by GOP logic of targeting the wrong country, perhaps we should invade Becki-Becki-Stan.

    Oh, that's right. The "terrorist" in this case is now dead. The other one will be tried accordingly to our Constitution.

    April 21, 2013 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  3. Thomas

    House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul , why dose the GOP appoint the ignorant to such high positions ?

    April 21, 2013 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  4. Anonymous

    Oh, by all means have your inquiry. Chances are we're going to find out that Al Qaeda didn't want this guy anymore than his parents seemed to have wanted him. Nothing but an upset punk who lashed out because didn't get his way in life paved with golden tributes he felt were owed to him.

    April 21, 2013 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  5. jpmichigan

    I to would question the FBI. If the foreign country needed answers about this guy, that in it self should have been a heads up about him, and even though they came up with nothing, common sense (which this administration lacks) would have him on a watch list. Isn't is a repeat of the 9/11 bombers?

    April 21, 2013 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  6. JohnRJohnson

    If this is true, then Tamalan's father was an accomplice to the attack because he has publicly stated that Tamarlan was with him the entire time he was in Russia.

    April 21, 2013 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  7. Transporter

    Right from the get-go on this situation, every time I saw McCaul interviewed or read what he had to say in interviews, I just couldn't help but think that this guy just speaks off-the-cuff, unsupported by fact, and that he was really more concerned about making himself look good than anything else.

    April 21, 2013 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  8. Larry L

    Interesting that the "party of small government" expects the FBI to do some sort of 24/7 surveillance on every disgruntled person in America. Exactly what do you do after you've interviewed the person and they've broken no laws? These guys are worried about registered guns but have no trouble with people being "on the radar"? What about putting all members of right-leaning militias "on the radar"? What good is the House Homeland Security Committee if they only address concerns when the hope of political capital is the only motive?

    April 21, 2013 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  9. JohnRJohnson

    This incident provides Rep. McCaul with the opportunity to get all the media attention he has craved since coming to Washington. He has NOTHING worthwhile or useful to contribute to any of this discussion. He's just looking for his 15 minutes.

    April 21, 2013 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  10. kenneth

    First of all being with his father does not mean he did it these guys were set by fbi his

    mother said that the fbi came seen them and was cleared my problem is why the was a syrain let go and sent backto syria also hear that mrs obama visted this guy wwile he was in the hostpital this a fail fbi op andthen a teen age boy is aresseted saturday for trying jion a terrroist unit is this not odd.

    April 21, 2013 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  11. Matt Navarre

    Why is CNN reporting this story like Suspect 1 was for sure trained in Chechnya? McCaul just says that he "believes" that he was trained there. How about the possibility that he might have actually been with his family the entire time and is an upset homegrown domestic terrorist i.e. Timothy McVeigh? Not every angry person has to be linked to Al Qaeda. McCaul comes across like a conspiracy theorist but maybe I'm just being optimistic. Good job by the other commentator to point out that pressure cooker bombs have been used for years by many terrorist groups.

    April 21, 2013 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  12. GI Joe

    Convicted without a trial?

    Keep voting GOP. NOT

    April 21, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  13. Namejohnny

    We won't have a trial for this guy.they will make him an informant and turn him loose.. They will set his family up or at least strap suicide bombs to him and drop him out of a plane on some target with a message telling them he did it because they called his mamma a thief. We will probably see him the news again in later years when he turns on us again with bin laden. They spent too much money getting this kid to not get something out of it.

    April 21, 2013 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  14. GI Joe

    @ Kenneth

    You "heard"???? Where did you "hear it"? What is your reliable source??

    April 21, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  15. GI Joe

    Too many conspiracy theories and suppositions with no evidence of any of them.

    Use the evidence ONLY.

    April 21, 2013 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  16. ednv

    Just like a Republican - He will put his Beliefs BEFORE the facts - well done Congressman

    April 21, 2013 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  17. NameFrank Deery

    Homeland Security thwarted many terror attempts in Obama's first term, and Obama's
    Team nailed bin Laden as well. Seems strange that these two suspects, one on FBI radar, got by them. Why?

    Congress needs to investigate the worst attack on US soil since 9/11.

    April 21, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  18. Tim

    first they said the one bomber was run over by his brother. Now they say he was killed by gunfire. Which is it? Why cant we get reliable information?

    April 21, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  19. Larry L

    Being a Monday-morning quarterback is always more satisfying when the real motive is political. I wonder where these "conspiracy" folks were when Cheney dishonestly started the Iraq War? Where were they when Cheney was communicating daily with Ken Lay immediately BEFORE ENRON went under? Is that insider trading? How about when Cheney pushed-thru a bonus for Halliburton after they were charged by the DoD Inspector General for cheating the military on contracts? How about when Cheney pushed-thru the "Halliburton Loophole" (Google it) to give his company the right to pollute w/o EPA oversight? Are those conspiracies not interesting enough?

    April 21, 2013 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  20. Dr Tom

    They call McCall, House Homeland Security Chairman. There is NO SUCH position. He is House Homeland Security COMMITTEE Chairman. Come on CNN, will you ever go back to precise reporting?

    April 21, 2013 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  21. brian

    This is another colossal faiure by the FBI. This is not a question of "DID THE FBI SCREW UP?" as I have heard and seen asked in mainstream media. THEY DID as EVIDENCED by the terrorism, innocent deaths, mutiple difiguring injuries and mayhem by this individual. This is a case where a warning regarding this guy came from the Russian govt. and the FBI found "nothing". What are we missing? And who in the FBI or other intelligence agencies are going to be held accountable? Maybe we should be outsourcing our intelligence services to the Russians!

    April 21, 2013 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  22. eg

    there sno place like home

    April 21, 2013 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  23. todd

    What happened is when the FBI talked to him, he just claimed Chechens are friendly US ally and Russians alerted you guys because they hate me. Well seems to me Russians were right and FBI screwed up big time. There are no friendly muslims. FBI still has the cold war mentality, seems to me. Instead of listening to allies they took advice from a terrorist. Whoever interviewed him, needs to be fired. 8 year old is dead because of your mistakes.

    April 21, 2013 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  24. Robert

    How is it that liberals blame Republicans for how this situation has been carried out? Obama is president and Boston is a city run by Democrats. If anyone is to blame, it's them.

    April 21, 2013 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  25. just askin

    why is it that now, after the bombing and terrorization of a large metropolitan area for nearly a week, that it is coming out that this older brother was interviewed and cleared by the fbi? why are all his links about radical muslim web sites coming to light? his uncle sure knew this guy turned back in 2009, which was before the fbi interviewed him. fbi dropped the ball big time but i'm sure this will all get covered up.

    April 21, 2013 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
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