April 21st, 2013
10:50 AM ET
1 year 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. John Henderson

    He didn't have to train in Chechnya. There are several obscure groups operating in Dagestan, which we know he visited. He is known to have posted videos on his VKantakte (Russian social media site) account that were published by some of these obscure groups in Checnya and Dagestan including a video created by Gadzhimurad Dolgatov's group, a leader of a fairly obscure terror group that was killed by Russian forces in Makhachkala last September. It is possible, not certain, but possible, he came into contact with one of these groups while he was in Russia. It seems like a fair question of the congressman to ask the FBI if they dropped the ball and to ask if he received training from one of these groups while he was in Russia? Perhaps we might take Russian intel a little more serious next time.

    April 21, 2013 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  2. Tom Wittmann

    Is Congress an or used plitically. investigative police??

    No info at all should be given to its members, as it is "filtered" (meaning sold) immediately to the media

    As for the FBI, the Russian tip years ago was related to anti-Russian activities by Chenians in exile, and had nothing to do nor it could be suspected with anti-american activities. If each person like this should be followed up, the FBI would eliminate immediately any unemployment in the US!!

    April 21, 2013 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  3. Dan

    That's great that he believes that Tamerlan had training in Russia, but does he have any proof?
    Of course not, and politicians continue to make irresponsible claims.

    April 21, 2013 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  4. Josh G.

    McCaul nobody cares what you believe. In this country's judicial system we use facts not beliefs.

    April 21, 2013 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  5. apetra

    This immigrant terrorist is a traitor and an agent of foreign interests. To Guantanamo with him! If we can't because he has the "rights" of a natural born citizen, it's the fault of Democrats who have perverted our naturalization laws and processes for their political gains.

    It's time for Democrats to take responsibility for the crazy extended family "reunification" provisions written by Boston's own Ted Kennedy, which admitted both immigrant terrorists. Kennedy, Clinton (whose justice department vastly expanded their applicability) and Obama (who accelerated naturalizations, and indeed naturalized one of the terrorists) are at fault in the murder of so many natural born Americans.

    April 21, 2013 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  6. Jim Minnema

    I want to see who he was getting his money from. Will we ever see that FBI ?

    April 21, 2013 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  7. Matt

    How about for once everyone stops pushing their political bias. I know it's just a public forum, and everyone is 'hidden' behind a computer screen, but holy crap half of these comments are 'insert political party here' screwed up and caused this. If it was your 8 year old son who had died or wife who just had her leg blown off would you still feel the same? Let the investigation run its course, the facts will come out. Then you can start blaming other people/organizations other then the 2 suspects that we KNOW caused this.

    April 21, 2013 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  8. MUSA

    America is still hanging on security.

    April 21, 2013 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  9. JLS1950

    Typical Republicans... STILL looking for "Communists" and "Ruskis" under the bedclothes! They want SOoo desperately to turn this – and everything else – into an indictment of the Democrats and the Obama Administration. They ALWAYS act like they are the "legitimate" government of the United States – and Obama is an illegitimate usurper. When Democrats reach out for bipartisan action, Republicans get all petulant and stonewall – but whenever anything happens that they think they can blame on Democrats, they insist on being invited to the inner circle so they can dig up all the dirt, carefully filter out anything that looks bad for Republicans, and then point their fingers in blame.

    Republicans represent a form of schizophrenia in the political discourse of this nation: a split personality of MPD entity that hates its personality "sibling" so much it will try to kill the body do murder its counterpart. Republicans are the true anarchists in our country.

    April 21, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  10. sd

    Why is his american wife not interrogated ? She must have heard/seen the radicalization too.

    April 21, 2013 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  11. charlene

    lots of theories and conspiracies?? what about questioning bush and cheney,and also include blair for the good times they made in iraq...cheney got good companies as well as blair, and bush sitting pretty now...afterall they started the mess for this country..

    April 21, 2013 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  12. Ash

    I PERSONALLY BELIEVE....really that is what it has come down to?

    If this guy was being watched and he became 'radicalized' then the FBI would have stopped him.

    The only explanation is that this has nothing to do with 'radicalization'. He was a phsyco and probably dragged his seemingly normal brother into this.

    How can the media miss any opportunity to establish that Islam=violence... after all we are supposed to renew our hatred for Muslims... all 2.6 Million of them in the USA because of these 2 lunies...God forbid we stop fearing organized terror...God forbid we ask questions like why we need to go to wars...God forbid we cut our spending on defense while our schools close down, our states become bankrupt, our elderly are told that they will receive lesser benefits...God forbid we start thinking !!!!

    April 21, 2013 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  13. mike

    Radicalized in Cambridge ! go figure LOL. So much for left wing liberal education.

    April 21, 2013 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  14. ug

    Tell that to the victims then...it just shows that we need to keep illegals out of this country!

    April 21, 2013 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  15. Donna

    I don't think these men did this alone without some inspiration or encouragement. What ever needs to be done to track down others internally or elsewhere, we need to do, so perhaps we can discourage a reoccurance. This is not a Democrat/Repub;ican issue. It is a human issue. Worldwide issue. This type of sickness is everywhere. As human beings who care about each other, we need to discourage this horror from happening to anyone anywhere in thr world.

    April 21, 2013 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  16. cfoxusmc

    Has anyone else noticed that whenever somebody says "I personally believe" what they really mean is "there is no evidence to support this, but..."

    April 21, 2013 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  17. Name

    Cast a wider net!!

    April 21, 2013 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  18. braun

    Conspiracy? Part of a worldwide terrorist plan?
    I'm just waiting for the Jews or Zionists as the responsible party.
    This is a continuation of 9/11 but much smaller scale.
    Just don't know what was in it for the younger brother?
    I doubt he was brainwashed.

    April 21, 2013 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  19. Name

    And while all of America watched this in horror on April 19 the controversial Cyber Intelligence Protection Act was passed unnoticed.

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

    How do people like Michael McCaul keep getting these high profile jobs? This guy is a tool and should be shown the door.

    April 21, 2013 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  21. S.B. Stein

    Where is this guy's evidence? There is enough hate and bomb making information going around that anyone could have done this without training.

    April 21, 2013 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  22. cougarcat

    This guy is only stating his beliefs. No reason to jump into conclusions pro and contra. The article never claims that this person's beliefs are facts. He's asking for more information, further investigation. The investigation is still ongoing and I think it's only prudent to have no stone unturned for the future safety of people. Yes, it is important to know whether the FBI screwed up or not – if we don't get clarity, how can anyone learn from mistakes?

    We do not know for sure whether the suspect was trained by Chechens. However, I wouldn't bet my dollar on Chechens being friendly US allies in general. They are Islamic extremists – you can draw your own conclusions based on the experience of 9/11. It doesn't matter that they did not accept responsibility – neither did the Taliban for a while until they could no longer hide their ties to terrorists. Let's just wait and see how all this will unfold.

    April 21, 2013 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  23. Austine

    Let us don't fast in conclusion rather the FBI should just smart over it, what terrorists are doing now our days is what we can't even say. Here in Nigeria what the so called BOKOHARAMS are doing is what i can't explain, bombing everywhere, peoples are dying here and there. The FBI should sit up.

    April 21, 2013 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  24. carlos

    Bush's fault.

    April 21, 2013 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  25. andy55

    Unless Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul has specific information to back up the the man trained in Russia for terrorism acts, he should not make statements like that.

    April 21, 2013 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
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