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. F Stocking

    The whole of Congress need to go on a one way junket to South Sudan, but that is better that they deserve.

    April 22, 2013 03:42 am at 3:42 am |
  2. Concerned

    Quote: 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."

    As an excuse this sounds lame, but lack of cooperation assertion is serious and deserves scrutiny. As russian FSB contacted FBI, they must have had info on local contacts of Tsaraev that raised concern. FSB could stop cooperating on possible terrorism case only on political decision at Putin's level. I wonder what could make him do so. It doesn't seem that West hurt Putin's pride or interests in 2011 that much. Could it be creation of Magnitsky list? And who refused to cooperate, personally? What was the cited reason?

    Anyway, with Tsaraev FBI did not handle the case properly. Dagestan people fought against Chechen invasion in 1999, but radical islam grew roots there since then. If Tsaraev wanted to stay with family there, he would not return back to USA. A return after 6 month stay in North Caucasus without knowing who exactly he contacted there should have raised a BIG red flag on border crossing, same as if he traveled to Pakistan tribal region like London bombers did.
    I worry there can be more people like him who traveled to the same region and might have been the same way.

    April 22, 2013 03:44 am at 3:44 am |
  3. Iamnotfooled

    Let the FBI do their job and you do yours Mr. Graham! Maybe just maybe America could move forward with JOBS, and rebuilding America. Constant investigations are holding up progress. Stop wasting our time and money.

    April 22, 2013 04:02 am at 4:02 am |
  4. Ted

    Graham has lost all credibility with moderates. Everything he says is an extreme right talking point and no one listens to him. It is really easy to point a finger. It is much harder to listen to people who are not giving you money for your campaign. In this, he fails.

    April 22, 2013 05:11 am at 5:11 am |
  5. KC

    The problem is that did he do anything wrong that could have been detected when the FBI first received word from Russia? Visiting jihadi websites does not constitute a crime. Unfortunately, the FBI only has about 13,000 agents nationwide so I don't think the FBI would have the resources to track every perceived threat let alone known threats to the US. That isn't a lot where the NYPD alone has 34,000 for their city alone. The US also doesn't have a domestic intelligence agency like MI5 in the UK to spy on people here in the US. The FBI is a law enforcement agency, not a spy agency. However, my question is did the FBI find anything funny and if they did were they able to pass it on to the CIA?

    April 22, 2013 05:19 am at 5:19 am |
  6. KC

    Another thing I want to add is that there are a lot of inter agency rivalry, which is stupid. Although cooperation is much better, our agency's compete to get the glory. That is stupid. We are all on the same team, and that is to keep the US safe.

    April 22, 2013 05:21 am at 5:21 am |
  7. Angela Butterfly

    I dont think the FBI dropped the ball. I think they investigated the case and found nothing to be worried about. At the time that they investigated, there very well may not have been anything to be worried about.
    I do think that they should not close any case of suspected terrorist issues...keep them open and reinvestigate here and there, to see if things change. If there was concern once, there must be a reason and just because it doesnt show then doesnt mean it wont later.

    April 22, 2013 05:25 am at 5:25 am |
  8. rob

    Yup the same liberals ate defending the FBI were the same liberals that blamed and claimed how incompetent they were after 9/11. Why? Because Bush was president. Now that Obama the lib is in, the FBI does a great job. Libs you're all a by ch of political hacks. Oh BTW, the same people were also wishing it was a white person are now yelling people to shut up....hahahaha priceless

    April 22, 2013 05:54 am at 5:54 am |
  9. francis

    Every time Graham opens his mouth he shows what a buffoon he is, I can't believe the people of South Carolina ever elected him. If he's the best the GOP has to offer South Carolina is in real trouble. He makes me ashamed to say that I'm a Republican.

    April 22, 2013 06:09 am at 6:09 am |
  10. stephenpe

    Good job, Lindsey. Start casting blame before even the blood has been cleaned up. Typical hypocritical politician.

    April 22, 2013 06:30 am at 6:30 am |
  11. reality check

    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.

    April 22, 2013 06:55 am at 6:55 am |
  12. chicadow

    It's amusing to watch legislators criticize other parts of the government. They almost look like they're drooling at the fact that they don't have to look like the MOST incompetent part of government for a couple days. The congressional hearing will be a hoot, just like the Benghazi joke.

    April 22, 2013 07:07 am at 7:07 am |
  13. Namemike

    You crack me up. Good to see your hindsight is perfect.
    I live here in cambridge,which is between boston and watertown. Everyone here was professional and thourough.
    Tell me,how can a sane community predice the insanity that occured?
    How can a free society complaine when we allow those we don't know the same rights we expect and demand?
    Why must we find additional victims when we have so many already?

    April 22, 2013 07:17 am at 7:17 am |
  14. mattski

    I don't think Graham was being political, I don't hear him blaming Obama, and I don't know why everyone is jumping on him. It's not up to the Russians to spoon feed us – they told us about this guy, that's all they needed to do. After that it was up to us. So I agree - either the law didn't allow the FBI to head this guy off at the pass (because he hadn't done anything yet), or they messed up. Period.

    April 22, 2013 07:20 am at 7:20 am |
  15. Craig Mellor

    Lindsey Graham is a self-serving politican who has no clue what he is talking about. He is part of the huge problem we have in politics today......I am a Republican and a conservative and constantly pray to God that the good people of South Carolina turn this guy out and defeat him in his next relection bid. Lindsey Graham, just like John McCain like to hear themselves talk.......they make little sense but they like to hear themselves talk and these two actually think they are knowledgeable about things!

    April 22, 2013 07:26 am at 7:26 am |
  16. MaryM

    South Carolina, please vote this obstructionist Graham out of office in 2014.

    April 22, 2013 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
  17. francis

    Sen Graham should be know as "The clown of South Carolina"

    April 22, 2013 07:29 am at 7:29 am |
  18. Really

    Maybe if the republicans weren't so hell bent on slashing government funding for useful programs this could have been avoided.

    April 22, 2013 07:39 am at 7:39 am |
  19. Name lynn

    Graham dont know what hes talking about he doesnt know if this bombing is over. Its still the bomber kind of people in the united states, an if you want to blame someone blame the government hes the cause of this happening let the people over here an buyig houses land stores an training them to do what they want to do.

    April 22, 2013 07:48 am at 7:48 am |
  20. Egads

    He says the FBI doesn.t have enough intel..Sounds like he does.t either..Can you just wait before you throw out some accusations and jumped to conclusions?

    April 22, 2013 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
  21. Tony

    This is inching towards blaming President Obama but that will not work, because many of you redumblicans will have to look for a job come 2014.

    April 22, 2013 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
  22. Bob

    Why do you expect one terrorist every five years to be caught before he ever commits a crime, but thousands of "men" can beat their wives for years and nobody cares until they leave enough marks? Many, many arguments could be made that the FBI was able to *carry* the ball considerably farther than is exactly comfortable. I think it's been done right, but debating and realizing we're operating at the extreme limits of law enforcement authority is a healthy thing. It needs to be watched closely.

    April 22, 2013 08:09 am at 8:09 am |
  23. al

    It seems to me that Lindsay Graham just love so blame anyone and everything for events that no one could forsee. Is he really the best we have got in this country? Does he want us to start issuing visas to people who want to travel outside the country. He really is a disgrace to this country and the perfect example of how typical republicans think these days, Its bad enough we have some clueless democrats but it appears as though the republicans have even fewer clues about things,

    April 22, 2013 08:13 am at 8:13 am |
  24. DavidnWalters

    Look at the extremes that Lindsey Graham aligns himself with I feel sorry for the people who voted for him, One can tell, he is just someone's puppet, in his case, a lot of peoples puppet. Sad that this person was elected to be a part of running this country stuck in the dark ages as he is.

    April 22, 2013 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
  25. Voter

    ...or the guy wasn't radicalized back then and only recently crossed the line between "strict belief" and jihadist. Anyone in congress needs to shut up asnd do THEIR job, not throw unsubstantiated balogna at others.

    April 22, 2013 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
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