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. Frank

    Oh look, a politician clutching at hindsight to try to further his own agenda.

    April 21, 2013 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  2. Jeff Cohee

    Yep, just as I expected. As soon has the dust settled a little and there's room for attention one of our idiot Congressmen starts pointing the finger. You would think someone in that capacity would have a better read on American and do what everyone else in the county is trying to do.......pull together. I hope someone bounces his behind out of office......our country doesn't need that kind of representation!

    April 21, 2013 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  3. chuck

    FBI is i major damage control but wait till this breaks,

    On Sunday, a 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.

    looks like a major coverup is starting to unravel

    April 21, 2013 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  4. Scout

    The Terrorists that this guy never mentions is the Ku Klux Klan and other members of his South Carolina voting base. But let me compliment him. He gets on TV every week of his life and he has never been right about anything. The FBI and the Palmer Raids, illegal surveillance of MLK crazy monitoring of Malcom X, harassment of anti war citizens. Years of distortion and out right lies by the Mafia denier J E Hoover. So much to say about that gang of republicans at the FBI. As far as dropping the ball goes, don't forget the November election.

    April 21, 2013 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  5. Mike-sc

    what does Lindsay say abut the report of the BND that was send to the CIA that the Iraqi curveball was lying not fabricated his story? That was before the Iraq invasion. Of course Lindsey has no comment to that story

    April 21, 2013 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  6. Polopoint

    Oh, it's Sunday. Must be time again for Lindsay Graham on a Sunday morning talk show, shooting from the lip.

    April 21, 2013 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  7. Independent4life

    Wow, does graham support any facet of government? What a slap in the face to those that protect him from receiving the hate mail and packages that must come his way, probably daily. Let them drop the ball then.

    April 21, 2013 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  8. Bob

    My daughter was in the grandstand at the finish line, my son locked down in Boston...All of Boston is strong. Linsey: please show some strength and integrity and save your campaigning for at least a period of respectful distance...a shame you are so fast to blame and I never saw you here for a NY minute.

    April 21, 2013 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  9. Polopoint

    Graham knows nothing at this point, yet he is so eager to play sheriff, he's just got to run his gob every Sunday morning acting like he's Mr Answer man. What an interfering, no-solution buffoon.

    April 21, 2013 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  10. BO

    What about the department of Homeland Security headed up by Janet Nopalitano?

    April 21, 2013 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  11. Guest

    We will never know why obama let these boys get by with this. Imagine, 2 yrs ago Russia warned us and then the older brother went to Russia for at least 6 months. This admin is in cohoots with terrorists.

    April 21, 2013 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  12. Ketsui

    Basically what he is saying is even though the FBI did their job as best they could they need to begin violating citizen rights and hold people indefinitely like a dictatorship country.

    April 21, 2013 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  13. Exchequer

    Lindsay Graham is a negative personality who is always quick to blame either the overreaction of policing forces or the underperformance of the same. It would be nice to see him offer some positive ways to help build America. This is just an offshore view from Eastern Canada. Congratulations to all of the forces who cooperated and used their collective resources to bring a speedy resolution to this terrorist act.

    April 21, 2013 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  14. mddong

    Just another Republican Politician. Its like buying Vanilla Ice cream. No matter what the brand, its WHITE all the time and is the SAME all the time.

    April 21, 2013 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  15. gphx

    FBI interviews are obviously incapable of preventing terrorism. Tell me again how background checks of lawful citizens will prevent all gun violence.

    April 21, 2013 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  16. Indomitus

    There was likely no reason for the FBI to think he may have been a serious threat. There had never before been a terrorist incident against America originating out of Chechnya, their big opponent has always been Moscow. It would be unlikely for them to sponsor terrorism against the US and force us into a closer alliance with the Russian Federation against their drive for independence.

    April 21, 2013 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  17. Jojo

    @cathi – my my! Did you forget that the US was attacked several times during the Clinton administration by al-Qaeda ? During the Clinton administration this group carried out five or six attacks and the US did nothing. There was a big attack in Africa against the US embassy that killed over 200 people and the US did nothing against this group. The 911 attack was planned years before the actual attack. It was probably intentionally planned on this date because a new president was in office. Hopefully most of the American people will realize what you are trying to do.

    April 21, 2013 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  18. Fact_Feed

    Russia alerted the U.S. about the fact Tamerlan Tsarnaev had been 'radicalized' and that he may represent "a clear & present danger" to both Russia and the U.S. – BUT - because the U.S. could find no evidence that Tsarnaev had "any ties to known terrorist groups" - the U.S. let Tsarnaev drop from its radar.

    Sound familiar? It should! That is the exact same, identical scenario that occurred in the Ft. Hood massacres by Hussein Nadal. U.S. Intelligence had advanced warnings that Nadal had been radicalized – BUT - because the U.S. could find no evidence that Nadal had "any ties to known terrorist groups" - the U.S. let Nadal drop from its radar.

    U.S. Intelligence needs to keep 'radicalized' extremists 'on the radar' - REGARDLESS of whether they have ties to known terrorist groups. Obviously, by definition, the home-grown lone-wolf variety of terrorist is often NOT going to have such ties to known terrorist groups, but that clearly does not mean that radicalized home-grown lone-wolf extremists "pose no real, imminent threat" or "clear & present danger" to the public.

    April 21, 2013 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  19. Nodack

    Another Republican doing what they do best, blame people for not doing their jobs. They think blaming people for not doing their jobs is their job. Is that what you voted for them for or was there another reason they were elected?

    April 21, 2013 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  20. jillib

    Mr Grahams excessive whining in the lead up to his next election is getting really tiresome.
    What exactly does he propose...that the fbi monitor every person that leaves the country and then returns?
    Jeez, it looks like Mr. Graham is the latest passenger in the gop clown car.

    April 21, 2013 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  21. Tom

    The FBI dropped the ball as much as the police dropped the ball in Newtown....


    April 21, 2013 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  22. iRex

    Does this mean if I report to the FBI that Lindsey Graham is radicalized, and they can't find evidence of it, they need to wiretap and follow him the rest of his life, just in case?

    April 21, 2013 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  23. USA

    Set back & throw a couple cold brewski's down! Thank goodness for citizen keeping an eye on things on his boat. Good job by ALL who were involved. Hope they find their balls. Good job. No fingerpainting.

    April 21, 2013 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  24. Name. G

    The US "intelligence" does nothing BUT drop the ball. After 911, nobody should have any confidence in it.

    April 21, 2013 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  25. Mark

    Graham, your mother and father dropped the ball having you. And apparently dropped you on your head.

    You so-called pro-law enforcement, faux "support the troops" types are now showing your true colors, and throwing the FBI under the bus just so you can score a few political points? If you were capable of shame, you'd be ashamed.

    April 21, 2013 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
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