Graham: ‘Ball was dropped’ in probe of Tamerlan Tsarnaev
April 21st, 2013
12:51 PM ET
10 years 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.

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“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. U.S. Navy (Ret)

    Polititians are idiots. If we as a nation had to wait for them to find those terrorists, we'd still be waiting for them to bring it up for a vote on the floor. FBI and all the law enforcement agencies involved in the capture of the bomb suspects and all other idiots intent on harming inocent people are heroes.

    To all the men and women dedicated in protecting us while we sleep; THANK YOU!! and WE HAVE YOUR BACK!!

    April 22, 2013 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  2. lash1943

    If any ball was dropped it was the Senate when gun background check legislation was tabled.

    April 22, 2013 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  3. Freedom Storm

    Here are some real heroes. A couple of very brave AMERICAN citizens have come forward and recounted the reality of what happened to suspect #1. What they saw with their own eyes completely contradicts the great work of fiction created by the police chief and others. Suspect #1 was, indeed run over, but AFTERWARD was when he was shot repeatedly. Seek the truth. Defeat tyranny.

    April 22, 2013 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  4. The REAL Truth...

    Hindsight most certainly is 20/20!! This is the same Obstructionist politician who says we dropped the ball on Benghazi too. Perhaps Sen's Graham, McCain et al. should try living in the real world for a while instead of the hallowed Halls of Congress where reality is far removed.

    April 22, 2013 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  5. rs

    "Its amazing how many on this site side with the terrorists. These are the facts: 1) Russia warns us that these two are teerorists 2) We still let them in the country 3) We asked them if they were terrorists, they said no. And we believed them 4) Brother goes back overseas to chechnya, we ignore it 5) Boston Marathon blown up. For anyone to say that a deeper investigation isn't warranted is ridiculous. This is not a repub or dem issue. Its a friggin public safety issue. Common sense people."
    Common sense- these people are American citizens- got it? You know the people you idiots are worried might get hurt by drones in Afghanistan. Face it dude- you're just a whiny GOPper looking to politcize YET another tragedy.

    April 22, 2013 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  6. maine liberal

    "FBI either “missed a lot of things” in its investigation" in the words of Condi Rice and GW Bush after the August 2001 PDB. There were no specifics or actionable inrtelligence......,

    April 22, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  7. Brad

    Graham is a total Idiot, all he does is sit back and play armchair quarterback, everyone with the advantage of 20/20 vision can talk trash, but instead of offeingr solutions he goes after people who actually get things done,(unlike the repub congress). We need more problem solvers in washington instead of finger pointers!

    April 22, 2013 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  8. rs

    "Dagistani police official source revealed to NBC News that the Russian internal security service contacted the FBI in November with some questions about Tamerlan and handed over a copy of a case file on him."
    Unlike Russia, we can't arrest or detain people who haven' committed a crime (on a foreign agent's say so). This is Amerca buddy, and these guys were citizens. Get it?
    And knock off the conspiracy stupidity!

    April 22, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  9. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    CNNs coverage of this event was awful. Just awful. I expect better from news organizations. I expect better from CNN
    Awful and shameful, full of misinformation and innuendoes..."dark-skinned" suspects..they ran with that one.

    April 22, 2013 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  10. Al-NY,NY

    Common sense- these people are American citizens- got it? You know the people you idiots are worried might get hurt by drones in Afghanistan. Face it dude- you're just a whiny GOPper looking to politcize YET another tragedy.

    as tragic as this is, the guys were American citizens...correct? If so, they deserve any and all rights afforded to citizens. Anyone that complains should put themselves in the same situation with maybe one of their family members. They'd be screaming bloody murder if, as a citizen you were denied due process. And as usual, you could put money on the rabid GOP'ers trying to make this an "Obama impeachment" or "Obama....." moment

    April 22, 2013 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  11. Cyp

    Why is Lindsey Graham still relevant in the American Political Scene ?

    April 22, 2013 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  12. joet

    I love the faux outrage, but then again I would expect nothing less from a senior Republican Senator.

    April 22, 2013 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  13. Ben Thare

    Graham. Typical coward. Provides no action before an incident, but is quick to say "I told you so."

    Even 5th graders are more astute than that.

    April 22, 2013 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  14. TNGO

    wouldn't be the first time the FBI screwed up. They dropped the ball on at least three possible field office investigations that may have illuminated the community to the 9/11 hijacker plot. But, they were dumb then and they are still dumb now.

    April 22, 2013 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  15. TB

    Once again, Graham inserts foot into mouth. A complete idiot by anyone's standards. Shut up Lindsey and go home

    April 22, 2013 11:27 am at 11:27 am |

    This guy Graham is a wimpy powder puff, who talks tough to impress his lame brained constituents. Mr. Graham,..too bad you don't have any balls to drop.

    April 22, 2013 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  17. Kevin

    Isn't this guy one of the people who says that you can't legislate against evil?

    And then he comes back and says the reason there was a bombing was that we weren't diligent enough to stop crazy people from getting their hands on dangerous weapons?

    April 22, 2013 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  18. Palin Power

    If Sarah Palin is president instead of Obama, this incident would have never happened. President Palin would have easily foiled these two brother's plot.

    April 22, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  19. John

    Typical Pub. Instead of bringing everyone together in unity, he only wants to judge others and point out their "mistakes". Wait until the next elections... Vote out every Pub in office, then we will be a truly free country. Or better yet, go to Texas and pay taxes to Emperor Perry.

    April 22, 2013 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  20. Cephus

    The cowardly act on Boston marathon cannot be tolerated but, No ball was dropped! They just found a gold mine to sell more merchandise under antiterrorism then they sent these behavioral goons to push the boy to the limit.

    April 22, 2013 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  21. Cephus

    This time Libin have pushed the wrong buttons! Just about time for the whole world to see what goes on behind corporate closed doors and in that toothless bull dog aka homeland security time to change the name to kitchen security

    April 22, 2013 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  22. Luther Brixton

    It's almost as if we should have expanded background checks on the lunatics who are able to arm themselves to the teethe and commit mass-murder and ... oh, wait ..... Heckuva job, wingnuts!

    April 22, 2013 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  23. Fire Marshal Bill

    Well, apply Sharia law to Muslims. Isn't that fair? Why are we providing North American justice – free lawyers, three meals a day at taxpayer's expense, pool table, appeals, etc? Drag 'em off to the public square and ceremoniously behead them. Let the people watch and learn what will happen to those who come after them who jack us around. I believe that every Muslim who perpetrates a murder in the U.S. should be applied Sharia Law. Fair is fair.

    April 22, 2013 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  24. Carol

    To put it clearly, what goes around, comes around. The only justice for Tsarnaev is to collect all of the shrapnel from the bombs they made for others and return it to him in the same fashion that it was delivered to the innocent and unsuspecting public. Let him feel the same pain that he and his brother created for others. That is justice. Make him accountable for his actions.

    April 22, 2013 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  25. gahh

    Remember the nut job that killed 13 soldiers at FT Hood, 3 and a half years ago. Why doesn't Graham do something useful, like find out why it's taking so long to prosecute this terrorist murderer? Is it going to be this way, when this psycho murderer, is charged with his terrorist crimes? Taking years to bring a terrorist to justice,is just stupid.

    April 22, 2013 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
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