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. The Rev Dr Sherwood Forrester

    Senator Graham should be ashamed of himself for trying to politicize this tragedy. Or does this mean he and his party are finally going to also hold Dubya responsible for not acting on the memo warning that Bin Laden was going to attack US targets with hijacked planes? Unless he thinks nothing worth complaining about came of that little oversight.

    Or, more simply and obviously, Graham is just a partisan hypocrite.

    April 21, 2013 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  2. stan

    Lawsuit. Boston legal. Time to let the jury decide if they dropped the ball. Victims with no legs and their spouses should be seeking major damages.

    April 21, 2013 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  3. stan

    Lawsuit. Personal injury. No governmental immunity.

    April 21, 2013 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  4. Dave in Indy

    Glad to see so many who choose to see this for what it is. Dropped the ball? The FBI and other agencies may have failed to discover this duo's evil intent – but have successfully protected the nation from who knows how many others? Shame on this grossly ineffective would-be-statesman. Enragingly cynical.

    April 21, 2013 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  5. jim

    Has Lindsey been to SC lately? I believe he's dropped his balls too!

    April 21, 2013 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  6. pcox104

    If the FBI didn't find anything, then the ball was not dropped. They didn't find anything!

    What Graham is proposing is arresting people by way of racism.

    April 21, 2013 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  7. Justin

    "Ball was dropped" when Bubba Graham became US senator.

    April 21, 2013 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  8. g

    putin says it ,it must be true

    April 21, 2013 10:56 pm at 10:56 pm |
  9. Phil Thomas

    Judging from the comments on this message board Mr. Graham's actions are pretty transparent to Americans. That or the people who the Heritage foundation pays to troll these message boards don't work on Sunday. The FBI does a great job and they have kept us safe for more than a decade. They don't have a crystal ball and the fact that they honed in on this guy makes me impressed. I hope these guys who can't do thier own job stop criticizing agencies that have done theirs. Lets not talk about all the politics the GOP has played this year and the effect its has had on our countries safety

    April 21, 2013 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  10. K

    "or federal laws did not allow the FBI to follow up in sound solid ways" Have you read the Patriot Act? The Patriot Act trumps the 4th amendment and this guy wasn't even a US citizen. The FBI has entrapped radicals like this by offering them fake bombs to plant and then arresting the dupes. If this guy was too smart to entrap, they could have used warrantless wiretaps and countless other tactics authorized by the Patriot Act to watch this guy. If this guy was old enough to need a colonoscopy the FBI could have gotten photographic evidence of the interior condition of his colon because the Patriot Act trumps HIPA. I'm serious folks. When the FBI wants to watch somebody they have no limitations.

    April 21, 2013 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    Did anybody checked what citizenship the parents use in Russia now. Did anybody investigated if the family was receiving USA government checks while raising the kids and at the same time were hiding assets in Russia. Russia has strick rules for foreigners to live there do they live there as USA citizens or illigally kept 2 or 3 citizenships.

    April 21, 2013 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  12. A.N.

    Thank you, Senator Graham, for doing your part to perpetuate the elected official's mantra of embracing stupidity and doing everything possible to thwart any measure of constructive progress, by spewing inflammatory rhetoric without any forethought as to the ramifications.

    April 21, 2013 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  13. AnonymousCitizen143

    I have no respect for impulsive politicians (Republican or Democrat)...those who are quick to toss accusations without all the facts. I look forward to elections in 2014. This guy and others like him are really embarrassing to their respective states and nation.

    April 21, 2013 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  14. DarkAxel

    Hey, Senator Graham, Tsarnaev went to Russia last year. Why didn't THEY pick him up and ask him a few questions?

    April 22, 2013 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  15. dr

    This guy is the poster child for why the republican party has no shot in winning the presidency anytime soon. The slippery slope argument that centers around everything that hasto do with our protection (more extensive background checks, more cameras in public places) only caters to the extreme right. That group is loud but small, and the republicans cant figure out they cant win with just the tea party gun polishers...

    April 22, 2013 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  16. Ken

    I love this quote by Ben Franklin: “Those who would give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
    This illusion of "safety" or "security" is totally being sold by people who need you to need government. The best thing about watching the Boston Marathon and its aftermath watching my fellow americans come to the aid of others. The speed at which the suspects were caught was in part by people sharing information and working together. Not some new law or ammendment to the NDAA or the patriot act.

    April 22, 2013 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  17. You're no Charleton Heston

    Yes, this is the perfect time to bring this crap up, NOT.

    April 22, 2013 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  18. gregor1971

    Who is this Saudi terrorist that was taken into custody as part of the Boston Bombing custody? Why is he being deported despite protests from senior-level members of the administration? Something fishy is going down here?

    April 22, 2013 12:48 am at 12:48 am |
  19. J.V.Hodgson

    AH this guy comes everytime from the HINDSIGHT dream world of perfection which does not exist.
    fed up of CNN consistently blogging his inane hindsight wisdom as a politically meaningful activity.

    April 22, 2013 12:54 am at 12:54 am |
  20. jon

    Another stupid Monday morning quarterback heard from.

    April 22, 2013 01:05 am at 1:05 am |
  21. dbc

    I guarantee if you start digging into this "person's" background, you'll find that he's a Mall Dweller. By that, look in any Mall men's bathroom , and Lindsey will be there to lend "support." What a human stain he is and always will be.

    April 22, 2013 01:34 am at 1:34 am |
  22. Behjat

    When the bombing in Boston happened, and innocent people lost their lives, and lims, I was and still am sad and angry. As I read everything and watched hours of television about the brothers, who they were, and where they came from, I began to wonder, is it possible that two more misguided and disturbed individuals, very much like the person who killed many innocent people in Oklahoma, the one who killed all the beautiful children and teachers in Connecticut , the one who killed all the movie goers in Colorodo, the one who killed the people in Arizona, the kids who killed so many of their classmates in Colorado again,went crazy and committed a horrible act, and are not connected to any organized group? What if their names were John, Jamer, Eric or Kyle and were Christian, Jew, or Zoroastrian ? Would we still feel the same way about them, or simply blame their upbringing and the fact they were able to easily get ahold of so much explosives, guns and ammunition ?

    April 22, 2013 01:36 am at 1:36 am |
  23. North Dallas Don

    Is anyone surprised that Senator Graham is already politicizing the tragedy in Boston? He is an opportunist among opportunists when it comes to seeking cameras and flapping his jaw as if he has all the answers and everybody else is clueless.

    April 22, 2013 01:50 am at 1:50 am |
  24. Steve S

    Sen.Graham doesn't have the IQ of his belt size.
    South Carolina should be ashamed of this sorry old man.

    April 22, 2013 02:13 am at 2:13 am |
  25. Ken

    We should all be thanking and praising the efforts of the FBI and all law enforcement officials in their tireless and successful efforts. Ditto to the governor of Massachussets, the mayor of Boston, the Boston police chief, and every police officer, state and city! You folks are STARS!

    April 22, 2013 03:10 am at 3:10 am |
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