Graham: ‘Ball was dropped’ in probe of Tamerlan Tsarnaev
April 21st, 2013
12:51 PM ET
9 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. Carlitos Way BLOG

    With all due respect but YES the law is insufficient. We do not want people like him living in our country, in our communities, attending our schools and work places. If you are flagged as a person who has links with terrorism, it is very simple: you have to get out of hear...

    April 21, 2013 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  2. CB FL

    This comes from a man with butter fingers. He does indeed know a lot about dropping balls.

    April 21, 2013 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  3. GOP = Greed Over People

    "Graham said the elder Tsarnaev should have been flagged after the FBI interview and tracked during his visit overseas."

    So, now Ms. Graham wants the FBI to take on Gestapo tactics and track every immigrant that flies home to be tracked daily?

    “Why wasn't he interviewed when he came back?”

    Maybe, because you belong to the party of "small government" and insist on shrinking the government down so it can be drowned in a bathtub? Not sure that position allows enough funds to interview and track every traveling U.S. immigrant over a 3 year time span.

    Just stop your 20/20 armchair detective sleuthing, and work on seeing that laws/funds are in place so it is not repeated.

    April 21, 2013 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  4. GI Joe

    We don't have enough agents to follow every radical in this country. SC alone would cost us trillions in FBI agents.

    April 21, 2013 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  5. Dennis Freeman

    Sen. Graham (and Sen. McCain) need to spend their Sundays chilling-out a little instead of appearing every week on a talk show. Instead of critiquing everyone's job performance they should start with themselves and pass some meaningful legislation. Either that or just head to Dancing With The Stars.

    April 21, 2013 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  6. The "M" word... the new unspeakable word

    Why are people in this country so afraid of saying the obvious??? These guys did this because they were MUSLIM radicals attacking in the name of Allah and jihad, for some extremist Muslim terror group. Until we are ready to allow open and honest definition of who the enemy is, we will never, I repeat NEVER, be able to begin to address this problem.

    The FACT is that a percentage of the Muslim religion is engaged in jihad against the rest of the world, including the USA. When we were at war with Germany and Japan, would we have allowed millions of them to come here and like among us? Think about it people.

    April 21, 2013 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  7. Larry L

    Were at a time when Americans can (and should) feel proud of our citizens, police, federal assets, state leaders, and our President. Instead this useless, slimy politician trys to start yet another political conspiracy. Is it possible for a Southern state to offer America a real statesman? Is every red-state politician as completely worthless as Lindsey Graham?

    April 21, 2013 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  8. chuck

    Completely agree.

    April 21, 2013 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  9. Marita Donalds

    I have never been impressed with Sen. Graham, but in this instance, I agree with him. After the Heads-up from Russia, it's mind-boggling these individuals were granted Citizenship!! It appears, the FBI gets lost in their own back-yard! And, Yes, I would like some answers! – @Marita.

    April 21, 2013 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |

    Let's not forget the ball that was ignored with BUSH 911! Shame on you Graham!

    April 21, 2013 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  11. PJ

    "I don't know if our laws were inefficient.............."
    Well, you serve in the Legislative Branch of the Federal Government as a Senior Senator from South Caroline.
    As such, you help write the laws.
    You are a lawyer.
    So, are our laws "inefficient" and did you "drop the ball"?

    April 21, 2013 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  12. Thomas

    “Why wasn't he interviewed when he came back?”
    Could it be man power , funding , no taxes mean less budget .

    What I would like to ask Sen. Lindsey Graham is his stance on deregulation concerning the Texas Fertilizer plant explosion.
    A day after the explosion in West, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a new report documenting a widespread lack of workplace inspections by state OSHA programs. After surveying 22 state-run programs, it found that the agencies had problems with hiring and retaining inspectors, in part due to low pay. State budget cuts have had a big impact, leading to funding problems, and the federal agency often hasn’t taken over state plans because its own budget is too tight. This has meant that a workplace only gets a visit from OSHA inspectors every 99 years on average, with some state programs even worse. In Texas, a plant can only expect an inspection every 126 years.

    April 21, 2013 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  13. Name lynn

    Lindsey please dont talk so much about a ball being drop in boston We dont know nothing about,nothng all we do is need to,pray an stop so much talking.

    April 21, 2013 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  14. Cathy

    Why? He was questioned,no evidence found and released.If he was tracked and was not involved in this,then you would be screaming privacy infringement and money wasting.I'm sure the FBI knows how to do their job Mr.Graham.You just want to stir the pot and find some way to blame this on Obama.

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

    Leave it to a couple of senators/ LAWMAKERS. oth sides of the aisle) to say in an interview "...I don't know if our laws were inefficient...". Maybe one of the furloughed federal agentscouldn't make the trip.

    April 21, 2013 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  16. George Dixon


    However, isn't the Primary Job of Napolitano's DHS the PREVENTION of Domestic Terrorism?

    April 21, 2013 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  17. avis

    Lets then focus on others who have been warned – rather than politicizing !!!

    April 21, 2013 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  18. GaryOwen27

    Well, since Graham was one of the ones asleep at the wheel on 9/11/01, we really don't need any critque from him.

    April 21, 2013 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  19. Jim Macdonald

    Has Mr. Graham considered that being hauled in and questioned by the FBI might have been what radicalized Mr. Tsarnaev in the first place?

    April 21, 2013 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  20. Thomas

    Question for Sen. Lindsey Graham.

    Since he is a firm advocate for deregulation , what is his stance on the regulation violations regarding the Texas fertilizer plant explosion ?

    How is it different in regards to homeland security ?

    April 21, 2013 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  21. BobbleHeadinChief

    Well qualified knuckleheads continue to run this country.

    April 21, 2013 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  22. Doc1

    My question is. how can Republicans talk so much about 'small government', then suggest a guy like this should be followed 24/7?

    April 21, 2013 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  23. oh

    sounds like Graham is doing what he does best- talking out his back side with no knowledge of what really happened. Another tool of the GOP with no real ability to reason for himself.

    April 21, 2013 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  24. unc66

    How hard can it be to track his travel? Passports have imbedded computer chips within, and are scanned every time someone leaves or enters the US. The days of simply stamping a passport at ports of entry are long gone. Every departure and re-entry is in the government's database. They simply do not wish to disclose the information - for whatever reason they may have.

    April 21, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  25. rsk

    Does this man and his friend John McCain ever stop moaning, groaning and complaining? I hear their voices and I start to moan. This guy must have a miserable daily routine.

    April 21, 2013 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
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