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. vdanker

    Considering recent votes in the Senate, Senator, you really shouldn't talk about someone dropping the ball.

    April 21, 2013 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  2. Dr Tom

    I'd like to know how many requests to check out people the FBI gets from foreign a year. Is it 10 or 10,000? Also, maybe the FBI let him go on purpose hoping he would lead them to some higher ups either here or in Russia. Then they lost track of him or didn't realize he was planning an attack.

    April 21, 2013 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  3. Frank Maston

    Senator Graham – always conclusions before facts. He's a media addict; loves to see his name in print. There is lots to know, yes. However, it will come out without Senator Graham's typical grandstanding encouragement.

    April 21, 2013 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  4. SallyRock

    What an absolutely sorry waste of a senate desk...How desperate he is for attention, no matter what the cost. I'm proud of the FBI efforts. If he raises his hand again, don't call on him...

    April 21, 2013 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  5. MJW

    it amuses me that those same Republicans are the same ones who did not have the guts to stand up to the NRA and vote for background check. Now they have the audacity to find fault or criticize people who put their lives on the line everyday. Also calling military style justice against the suspect, I respect the CIA, FBI and Justice Department to make the right decision. Lindsay Graham and Kelly you remember animal farm or the boy who cried wolf too many times? No one is listening to you anymore. You are irrelevant and is just annoying as nats.

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

    It's weird to see Senators calling everyone else inept. Elected officials in America are the dumbest people on the face of the earth.

    April 21, 2013 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  7. don in albuquerque

    Hey Graham. What happened to wanting smaller government? I kind of think the FBI should be tailing you and checking into your fascist leanings.

    April 21, 2013 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  8. balloyd53

    well they aren't gonna get 'em many do they look at how many have they gotten right...Lindsay Grahams too damn perfect for his own goode

    April 21, 2013 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  9. Roamngknome

    Its possible the ball was dropped after the bombing. Maybe its not as easy as it looks in the "Bourne" movies, but I do know "Facial Recognition Software" exists. It would stand to reason after they had video of suspect #1 and #2, they would have pulled FBI files at least of LOCALLY previously investigated "people of concern", taken their picture from their file and compared it to the video from the marathon with "Facial Recognition Software". The FBI could have then co-ordinated and controlled the arrest instead of the brothers going rogue. As I am a normal citizen & not an expert on this type of software, maybe it would have been too time consuming or just not plausible.

    April 21, 2013 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  10. HBsushi

    South Carolina deserves Graham as their Senator since they put him in office. He is a perfect example of what is wrong in Washington. Was Senator McCain standing next to him when he made this totally stupid statement?

    April 21, 2013 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  11. Jacque Ahas

    Fire this guy.

    April 21, 2013 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  12. ted

    I wasn't surprised to see Sen Graham's mug after reading the headline. He has to be the most screwed up guy, always complaining, but never offering any plans or solutions. Just a shoot from the hip right winger.

    April 21, 2013 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  13. herbert

    It amazes me how certain people do not want to respect that people american citizens and legal residents have certain rights and cannot be hounded (remember innocent until proven guilty ) and their constitution rights violated but just mention gun rights and they wrap the 2nd amendment around themselves. the FBI had limits to what they could do without proof.

    April 21, 2013 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  14. resigned

    I wonder how many times we receive warnings from a major source about someone in our country that travels to a terrorism hot spot for undefined purposes and develops radical views that no one here seems to think strange is ovelooked by the FBI?

    April 21, 2013 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  15. Michael

    Agreed. Lindsey likes to stay in the limelight. But remember he's from S. Carolina so what do you expect ? That's states rights and Strom Thurmond land that was first in our nation... to secede.

    April 21, 2013 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  16. iceload9

    How many millions of foreigners are in y this country on any given day? I don't hear the senator suggesting investigating H1B visa holders or any one else. In the senators infinite wisdom maybe he can pinpoint who will do this next.

    April 21, 2013 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  17. Prez Obozo da Clown

    I have to say the FBI/CIA have done a commendable job of protecting Americans. We have not had a terrorist attack since 9/11. Truth be known the corrupt/office for sale pig-a-ticians in Washington aid the enemies of America with money. Look at homeland Janet Neo-Nazis Pigatono. She is ready to ink a deal with Saudi Arabia to allow Saudi Nationals easy access to enter the US!!!!!!! 14 of 19 911 hijackers were Saudi Nationals!!!!!!!

    April 21, 2013 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  18. leegull

    Senator Graham should wait for all the facts before shooting off his mouth

    April 21, 2013 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  19. tim

    The libs don,t care about who is to blame and try to fix it .They only care about birthcontroll and free hand out's.You can tell by there last election.

    April 21, 2013 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  20. bill tomey

    GRAHAM,do us all a favor-go to the bath room drop ur drawers bend over and kiss ur backside goodbye. he still thinks the CIVIL WAR is going on. get a life u imposter hear me SENATOR------HELLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO; -GRAHAM is about 40 blocks shy of a full load. I didn't hear gthat yokel complaining when idiot B USH lied to us about WMD'S IF HE WOULD HAAVD BENT OVER LOOKEDbetween his legs i'm sure he would have found the WMD'S–right GEORGE

    April 21, 2013 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  21. tim

    The lib's only care to blame the rup not salve the problem.

    April 21, 2013 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  22. Scott

    Senator Graham rarely, if ever, actually knows what he is talking about. And if he remotely makes sense, then he is being hypocritical at that. For example...“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. "...he wants greater government intervention which ultimately affects individual rights and freedoms and kind of smells like nazism. Yes...where was he when the Bush administration dropped the ball twice...first after they were forewarned about Al Queda planning on using jets as missiles in the US, and secondly, after we knowingly had Bin Laden holed up in Bora Bora and let him walk away. Why does Graham speak out of one side of his mouth only?

    April 21, 2013 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  23. DJCowboy

    So easy to play the blame game in hindsight. "Look! Up there in the sky; it's Captain Hindsight!!" (south park reference)

    April 21, 2013 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  24. Greg

    Agreed with everyone else. Not enough facts to know if the ball was dropped. And more laws? Seriously? Let's just take a seat and chill for a little bit Mr. Senator.

    April 21, 2013 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  25. scott

    what a jerk...sen graham, do u know the story, 100%??? let there be hearings to find out. let director mueler and the atty general speak, but don't point fingers before u know the story 100%. u should know this being a former army prosecutor...investigate first, then criticize, if there is any to go around...I really hate this 24hr news cycle

    April 21, 2013 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
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