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. Annie, Atlanta

    The FBI dropped the ball re 9/11 too, ignoring that agent in a field office in upper Midwest, warning there were people at flight school not caring about learning how to land.

    Does this guy seem unusually whiney, or is it just me (=Graham, that is).

    April 21, 2013 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  2. Dave

    More importantly, how did Tamerlan Tsarnaev, after having been interviewed and followed by the FBI, manage to acquire firearms? It seems even the most basic background check would have prevented these two from acquiring weapons. So how did our elected Senate(this includes YOU, Mr. Graham) manage to "drop the ball" on effective and reasonable background checks for gun buyers when they voted down the most recent gun control legislation?? Would Officer Sean Collier be alive today had he not been gunned down by this miscreants? Senator Graham, you voted down the last Senate Gun Control bill! Your attempts at deflecting responsibility for this sad tragedy are pathetic. Man up and take responsibility for your misguided interpretations of the 2nd amendment. You are as much to blame as the pack of spineless elected cowards who failed to confront the runaway gun lobby in last week's vote. Shame on you–Shame on your fellow arms industry sycophants!

    April 21, 2013 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  3. james

    The FBI do a far better job than all the democraps ever will

    April 21, 2013 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  4. g

    to become a police state or military state- the constitution and a lot of laws would have to be changed

    April 21, 2013 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  5. sammy750

    Who really has dropped the ball, the DC politicians. Those law makers who have done zero since 2010 and the Republicans gain control. The very Republicans who are taking away the rights of the people, in healthcare, voting rights, union rights. The Republicans who in Republican states are changing the laws so Republicans gain the leadership. Republicans and law makers are TRAITORS to the voters and American people. Who is Graham, McCain and others to say how this killer gets justice. What they say is nonsense. People don't listen to the Senile lawmakers, they are all for the lobbyist and the money they can haul in. Law makers who would not pass a gun check bill, but favor the NRA. These are the Traitors we are dealing with. They care less about the people of this nation. It is about themselves, becoming a millionaire and getting re elected. They care NOTHING about the people who elect them.

    April 21, 2013 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  6. sammy750

    Who created the war in Iraq, the Traitor BUSH and Cheney. The Republicans love wars. Who tore this nation apart economically and lost of jobs, the Republicans. Fire them and lets DEFEAT the Traitor Republicans.

    April 21, 2013 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  7. Rick McDaniel

    That would be the under statement of the year.

    April 21, 2013 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  8. james

    The FBI and police did a great job to bad the lying democraps can't do better than lie

    April 21, 2013 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  9. Golden Girl

    "(They) then asked (for) some more help from that intelligence service to try to get further clarification and, unfortunately, that intelligence service stopped cooperating." This sounds like someone sent an email or made a phone call that didn't get returned so they figured they had done everything they could. So easy to try to blame someone else when you didn't do your job.

    April 21, 2013 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  10. Cleaver

    I'd like 2 know what Lindsay was doing while serving in the US Senate to combat terrorism both home and abroad. Our congress is made of men of jell-o molds who use the news, mostly bad because they've vacated their responsibilities, to snare the unwitting into thinking their Monday QB's is really deeply insightful.

    April 21, 2013 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  11. Robert

    There is nothing more frustrating than someone pointing the finger that did nothing to remedy the complaint

    April 21, 2013 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  12. Cecil

    Senator Graham has spoken out against the Obama Administration for pursuing terror ties, stating it is a violation of civil liberties. Now the F.B.I. dropped the ball? I am sorry but Senator Graham can not have it both ways. The government either goes after terrorist or they don't. Senator Rand Paul wants due process for terrorist, and states the United States is not a war zone. I say Senator Rand Paul is wrong, and so is Senator Graham. The entire planet is a war zone as long as there are people who live on it who would seek to attack innocent bystanders. Make no mistake about it, America is at war and the war zone is where ever the terrorist decide to attack. Suspect #1 got justice. I refuse to give his name print on the principal he should get no press time. Not his pictures or his name. The victims and the 1st responders should get medals for their heroism.

    April 21, 2013 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  13. RINO Bill

    Very nice of this clown to start second guessing the FBI. Maybe we should get rid of all law enforcement personnel and just let the omniscient Lindsey Graham do everything.

    It is so obvious that the GOP is bent on making political hay out of everything and anything no matter what the circumstances..

    April 21, 2013 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  14. Loki

    as usual–the finger pointing starts–Graham I had a different finger for you and all politicians

    April 21, 2013 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  15. havamom

    no more patience with this sad excuse for a human being..... please 'do not re-elect this person' - his ignorance, bigotry, and general ugliness brings shame to your state

    April 21, 2013 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  16. First Last

    How did those two, especially the cray cray religious fanatic older brother who was NOT a U.S. citizen, GET GUNS?? Whether illegally or legally, there was NO BACKGROUND CHECK. Had there been a background check, authorities would have learned immediately that here is a non citizen who recently has been questioned by the FBI regarding ties to Islamic extremists and who has been going back and forth to Russia. If they had not had guns, then maybe that poor campus police officer would still be alive. Granted, they killed and maimed with bombs, but still, I just want to know, how, from where and from whom did they get their guns???? And why aren't we doing background checks on sketchy people trying to buy guns?

    April 21, 2013 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  17. Gordon

    Lindsey Graham obviously likes the sound of his own voice. Hopefully his meaningless rhetoric will convince his constituents of their gross error in their choice come next election. This guy gives new meaning to the word STUPID !!

    April 21, 2013 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  18. Donnie the Lion

    Tamerlan would have lied through his teeth even if he had been interviewed by the FBI. So, the FBI would have been faced with the decision whether to wiretap/monitor a legal (non-citizen) resident who hadn't committed any crime to that point.

    Personally, I would have been okay with the FBI taking those steps. But would the average U.S. citizen approve if he or she were the subject of investigation?

    Suppose the information from the Russian government was bogus?

    April 21, 2013 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  19. Bret

    Maybe I'm too soft but this story seems sad on all angles. I feel horrible for the amazing city of Boston. The people who died and those injured both physically and psychologically. And for two young men who became so disenfranchised (or followed their big brothers disenfranchisement) they went on a cold blooded killing spree. The whole thing is sad.

    April 21, 2013 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  20. Tom LI

    Every street and local cop interviews a potential criminal – with no past criminal behavior, who then goes on and breaks the law. Every well-trained federal field agent has done the same. We have to rely on the best instincts of the men and woman in the filed and sometimes someone is going to slip thru. Better train the agents and officers – but dont tighten the laws to maybe, maybe, catch one more – while infringing more and more on our civil rights to assemble and freely, and to be questioned by authorities for honest and fair reasons.

    The Senators are jumping the gun here. Let the events of last week settle, before announcing a witch-hunt on Federal agents. Too soon Senators, too soon for political aggrandizing and posturing.

    April 21, 2013 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  21. Zwei Stein

    Monday morning quarterback!

    April 21, 2013 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  22. Teamski

    Hilarious! Here is a Republican want a smaller government, but an FBI agent on every terrorist suspect. If the FBI did anymore, they would have been charged with harassment. I can't see how the FBI messed this up. What were they supposed to do? Send him to Guantanamo for suspicion?

    April 21, 2013 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  23. Steve

    Did this nitwit forget to take his medicine again? I'm a republican and this is embarrassing!

    April 21, 2013 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  24. john

    Went through most of the comments here and found there is little support for Graham himself and his position on this issue.
    He is everything that is wrong with the GOP and should not be reelected. Besides that he is a whiney girly man and should go away.

    April 21, 2013 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  25. some guy in New Hampshire

    Senators are always quick to condemn those who do the hardest work when they don't do everything perfectly all the time. Would Mr. Graham like to take over and show us all how it should be done - and take the blame when a federal agency doesn't work perfectly in all cases? What a putz.

    April 21, 2013 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
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