Graham backs off FBI criticism over bombing suspect
April 22nd, 2013
10:53 AM ET
5 years ago

Graham backs off FBI criticism over bombing suspect

(CNN) – Sen. Lindsey Graham, who said Sunday the FBI may have dropped the ball in its investigation of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, began easing off that claim Monday, saying instead the agency "responsibly handled" the situation.

The Republican senator from South Carolina said he talked to the assistant director of the FBI after he made his assertions Sunday and had some of his questions answered, including why the case was cleared and how Tsarnaev may have been able to travel to Russia in 2012, a 'misspelling' keeping his name from getting flagged.

Tsarnaev and his younger brother, Dzhokhar, are the two prime suspects in last week's Boston Marathon bombing. Tsnaraev died following a shootout with police Thursday night, while his younger brother, 19, is hospitalized and in federal custody.

Graham was one of many lawmakers- including Republicans and Democrats-who demanded answers from the FBI on what happened following their investigation of Tsarnaev in 2011. Russian authorities tipped off the FBI that Tsarnaev, who's ethnically Chechan but came to the U.S. from Kyrgyzstan, may be becoming radicalized.

Tsarnaev traveled to Russia for six months in 2012. Some have argued that he was already being radicalized and received further training during that trip.

On CNN's "State of the Union," Graham told Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley 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."

But on Monday, Graham apparently had some of his questions answered. In an interview with CNN's Jim Acosta, the Republican senator confirmed he talked to the assistant director of the FBI after he made his assertions Sunday. The FBI interviewed Tsarnaev, his parents, and the people he went to school with, Graham said Monday.

"They put his name through the system and they sent back this information to the Russians and said, 'Do you have anything else?' And they never got a reply back," he said.

Graham was also fuming Sunday that a red flag wasn't placed on Tsarnaev when he left the country the following a year. But on Monday, he said that was apparently because of a misspelling reported by the Russian airline, Aeroflot.

"It didn't get into the system because of a misspelling," he told CNN. "Now whether or not he intentionally changed his name or Aeroflot just got the spelling wrong, I don't know. That's to be determined."

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, told CNN she's calling for a hearing with the FBI to find out when Russia called to ask about Tsarnaev, as well a host of other questions.

"What did he do when he went back for six months? Did he sit in his aunt and uncle's home for six months, or was he doing something else? And when he came back to this country, why didn't it ring a bell with the FBI intelligence unit that he should be checked out and vetted again?"

"The (Department of Homeland Security) clearly denied him to be naturalized as a citizen for some reason so I think, not to criticize because I am a big fan of the FBI's, but to go back and see that we plug loopholes is really critical," she added.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney repeated a statement from the FBI during the daily press briefing Monday, saying the agency "thoroughly investigated" the information it received from Russia in 2011.

In addition to interviews with Tsarnaev and his family members, the FBI says it checked databases, phone conversations, travel history and plans, and associations with persons of interest.

At the time, Carney said, they "did not find any terrorism activity, domestic or foreign."

As for apparent warning signs that occurred within the last year, such as YouTube postings of radical Islamists, Graham said the FBI told him "they have limitations on what they can do."

"So maybe it's the system failed, didn't provide the FBI with the tools, or maybe they didn't use it properly," he added. "That's why maybe we need to find out what happened."

His comments sounded similar to those made by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, who defended the FBI on Sunday, saying on NBC the agency "did their due diligence" but Russian authorities "stopped cooperating" when the U.S. sought further clarification. Rogers also said they believed Tsarnaev may have traveled overseas on an alias.

Graham said Monday that the country needs to revisit its laws for how it investigates extremism on U.S. soil.

"I don't want a police state, but I want a nation where the police can protect us," he said on "Fox and Friends."

The senator reiterated his stance that he wants the younger Tsarnaev to be held as an "enemy combatant," so authorities can question him without a lawyer present for intelligence purposes. That information, he insisted, could not be used against him in court.

"When we're trying to defend ourselves against enemy attacks, you don't give people lawyers," he argued. "Lawyers are for criminal process. We're talking about national security information being gathered here. And you don't have a right to a lawyer there."

But Carney announced Monday he "will not be treated as an enemy combatant."

The hospitalized suspect has "made an initial appearance in the hospital room in front of a federal magistrate judge," Gary Wente, circuit executive for 1st Circuit federal courts, told CNN on Monday.

The federal complaint against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is under seal, Wente said.

- CNN National Political Correspondent Jim Acosta contributed to this report.

soundoff (295 Responses)
  1. ralph

    You have to give these guys (FBI) a break. They need to make decisions based on the evidence at hand, and sometimes there will be mistakes. They'll analyze and try to not make the same mistakes again, but they're only human.

    April 22, 2013 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  2. fsjunkie

    I swear, people like Lindsay Graham and Michelle Bachmann make our Congress look like an absolue joke. Overly opinionated, shoot-from-the-hip radicals.

    April 22, 2013 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  3. NYVeteran

    And the Army flubbed its investigation of you before DADT you closet case. Come out and be proud of the log closet Republican you are Lindsey. Take John McCain's ventriloquist hand out of your butt and speak for yourself and let the world and your voting constituents in Conservative Red State SC that you are gay!

    April 22, 2013 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  4. Mark Bernadiner

    If democrats did not infected America and American organizations with Muslim Brotherhood representatives and supporeter, we would be safe country.

    April 22, 2013 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  5. Chris

    "...the Republican senator confirmed he talked to the assistant director of the FBI after he made his assertions Sunday." How about speaking with them BEFORE you open your mouth!

    April 22, 2013 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  6. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer


    No Sir, you did not answer my question simply because there are convicted felons who are out on bail killing our prison wardens, state prosecutors and Americans on a daily basis because our judicial and legislative system have failed us!

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

    Graham let his alligator mouth overload his hummingbird brain...again!

    April 22, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  8. John from Brooklyn

    Yet he hasn't backed off his claim that a US citizen should be stripped of their citizenship and constitutional protections simply by virtue of being a SUSPECT in a terrorism case. Are you sure your hand actually touched that Bible when you swore to uphold the constitution, Mr. Senator?

    April 22, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  9. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer


    Correction: Convicted felons out on parole!

    April 22, 2013 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  10. Refguy

    Misspelling? If so, the name and passport number wouldn't match, which would have raised a red flag (no pun intended) in Russia and the US. But Ted Kennedy was on a no-fly list.

    April 22, 2013 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  11. Mike

    Typical GOP- shoot from the lip.

    April 22, 2013 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  12. ALLuh

    He's a liar and leech on society, another blowhard GOP

    April 22, 2013 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  13. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Let me see if I get this right...members of the Senate who just voted OVERWHELMINGLY against background checks are now accusing the FBI of not conducting background checks on these indiciduals? And people in those states keep voting for these politicians over and over and over? God help us!

    April 22, 2013 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  14. cp

    Lindsay Graham has a need to see his name in the paper and to be on talk shows. He is very willing to make his thoughts none even if what he has to say is not necessarily accurate. He fails to understand the damage he does by speaking out without full knowledge of the facts. The people involved never really get their good names back. People still wonder if they are guilty.

    The media would do well to avoid him until facts are really known. The networks, media outlets, etc. are putting out bad information and causing hardships for those involved. Unfortunately, neither they or Graham are being faulted. We need to put a halt to this. Let these people know they are wrong and what they are doing is wrong, unjustified, and harmful to those involved who do not have the opportunity to speak for themselves.

    April 22, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  15. markfromdover

    Lindsey Graham, John McCain, and every other member of congress & senate drop the ball every day. If we, the American public, performed pur jobs like they do, we would all be fired for lack of production. These are some great Monday morning quarterbacks!

    April 22, 2013 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  16. WM Walker

    This country will be better off when Graham is out of office!!!....and John McCain!! Dweedle Dee & Dum

    April 22, 2013 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  17. TRH

    Rather than commenting publically about 4 deaths and ~200 wounded in one incident...he should be doing his job in congress and dealing with the ~30,000 deaths that are occuring each and every year. Or forget the gun issue if that's too hot of a about doing his job and balancing the budget just like every other person without a 6 figure job has to in this country. Or how about legislation to insure our veterens don't have to wait a YEAR for their claims to be processed? Or how about feeding the hungry in this country?

    Shut up Graham. Get your behind back to work.

    April 22, 2013 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  18. Confused!

    If they jail people for no reason, then people complain. If they don't and something happens, then they are finger pointed as slackers. It is a tough position to be in. We Muslim need to be a help here and understand the serious job the FBI had to do and work with them. In some cases, we may not like the decision they make, but we should work with them to help make better decision and produce better results. Finger pointing and blaming does not work.

    April 22, 2013 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  19. M-W-T

    Can you believe just how stupid some of our elected officials are?????
    How did "Lindsey" ever get elected in the first place.?????
    If Bachmann can get elected, I guess all you have to be is STUPID
    Come On America,......lets get rid of the IDIOTS in Washington
    Vote NO on STUPID!!!!

    April 22, 2013 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  20. GOP = Greed Over People

    And isn't this drama queen looking quite the fool today!

    Yesterday, Ms. Graham gets her hoop skirts in a twist AND her granny panties in a knot and today she needs to backtrack.

    What is next, draw and quqartering the clerk that misspelled his name on the Washington Mall?

    April 22, 2013 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  21. f ray

    too little too late. just another load mouth GOP chump

    April 22, 2013 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  22. Fair is Fair

    Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer


    No Sir, you did not answer my question simply because there are convicted felons who are out on bail killing our prison wardens, state prosecutors and Americans on a daily basis because our judicial and legislative system have failed us!
    First of all, it's not "sir", K? Second, if there are convicted felons out on parole shooting up people, it's not because of lack of restrictions to the 2nd amendment... it's due to the failure of the judicial system as well as the failure of the executive branch to enforce existing laws.

    April 22, 2013 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  23. sankar

    So annoyed about the distraction by Rand Paul and his drone Filibuster. People like him does not allow the administrative arm to function.

    April 22, 2013 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  24. sc

    it is called being a flamer. anyway they probally showed him some pics and he backed up. pun intended.

    April 22, 2013 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  25. Greg

    Idiots like this and the likes are whats leading our country and the reason why Common Sense seems absent most times.

    April 22, 2013 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
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