April 21st, 2013
10:50 AM ET
10 years ago

House Homeland Security chairman believes suspect trained in Russia

(CNN) – House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul said Sunday he believes Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the two Boston Marathon bombing suspects, received training during an extended trip to the Chechen region of Russia in 2012.

McCaul also questioned why the FBI did not take further action against Tsarnaev when he was investigated before his trip.

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“I personally believe this man received training when he was over there and he radicalized from 2010 to the present,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

In 2011 the FBI interviewed Tsarnaev at the request of Russian authorities, according to a senior U.S. official. Tamerlan Tsarnaev died this week after a late-night shoot-out with police. His younger brother, the other suspect, is in federal custody.

McCaul and fellow Republican Rep. Peter King, the former House committee chairman, prepared a letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller and Attorney General Eric Holder, seeking details about their questioning, a GOP congressional source said Saturday.

Following his interview with the FBI, Tsarnaev traveled to Russia for six months and returned in July 2012. The Tsarnaev family originally hails from the Russian republic of Chechnya and fled the brutal wars there in the 1990s. Tsarnaev's father currently resides in Dagestan.

After Tsarnaev came back, he created a YouTube channel with links to a number of videos–two of which were tagged under a category labeled "Terrorists" and were deleted. It's not clear when or by whom.

“If he was on the radar and they let him go–he's on the Russians' radar–why wasn't a flag put on him, some sort of customs flag? I've done this before. You put a customs flag up on the individual coming in and out. And I’d like to know what intelligence of Russia has on him as well. I would suspect that they may have monitored him when he was in Russia,” McCaul told CNN's chief political correspondent Candy Crowley.

Analysis of his social media accounts and interviews with his family members suggest Tsarnaev became increasingly radical in the last three or four years. But so far, there is no evidence of active association with international jihadist groups.

His uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, who lives in Maryland, told CNN Saturday that he believed Tsarnaev’s radicalization began in 2009 by a friend and recent convert to Islam in the Boston area who Tsnarni says "brainwashed” Tsarnaev.

“I’d suggest this is when it started. This started, all I hear, when I heard on news yesterday it says its radicalization started 2010. No it’s not 2010. It started 2009. And it started right there in Cambridge… The seed was planted there. He didn’t bring it from Dagestan. Using Chechnya is irrelevant at all because they have nothing to do with Chechnya.”

A group of North Caucasus rebels in Dagestan have denied any link to the Boston bombing, according to a statement on a website used by the rebels who call themselves 'Mujahideen of the Caucasus Emirate Province of Dagestan.'

McCaul also argued Tsarnaev was already being radicalized before he went to Russia but maintained his ties to Chechnya could be a strong factor. He said Chechen rebels have had links with Al Qaeda in the past and are considered "some of the fiercest jihadist warriors out there."

The types of explosives that Tsarnaev and his brother are believed to have used last week were similar to weapons used by Al Qaeda, McCaul said.

“I think the larger question right now–If I’m a U.S. attorney is how is - is there more to this cell? Is it just these two or should I cast a wider net to see if anyone else is out there that may be tied to the cell in the United States?”

- CNN's Dana Bash, Elise Labott, and Gregory Wallace 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 (135 Responses)
  1. Tommy G

    How is it that liberals blame Republicans for how this situation has been carried out? Obama is president and Boston is a city run by Democrats

    The entire STATE is run by Democrats. In many ways, Mass. is the BLUEST state in the country. (ONLY state to vote for George McGovern!) But blaming others for their failures is what the left does. I believe the correct term is propaganda machine.

    April 21, 2013 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  2. VIP

    Wake up FBI. The Russians gave you valid information 2 years ago that you sat on.

    April 21, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  3. buongiorno

    why not go after all these groups that train terrorist all countries help get rid of these guys all at the same time and give rewards to the people who help turn them in people need money all over the world they would love to be a part of making the world safer we are all sick of ugly people

    April 21, 2013 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  4. lagnua_greg

    Oh, so they don't KNOW yet?

    April 21, 2013 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  5. Anthony in California

    I to would question the FBI. If the foreign country needed answers about this guy, that in it self should have been a heads up about him, and even though they came up with nothing, common sense (which this administration lacks) would have him on a watch list. Isn't is a repeat of the 9/11 bombers?

    NO. It isn't "a repeat of the 9-11 bombers". That case had legitimate reports Bin Laden was going to strike a major American city using planes. Saying two Russian boys were radicalized in the 6 months they were there, yet when interviewed, the FBI "came up with nothing" is NOT the same. Good try though. Too bad intelligent Americans wont fall for it.

    So what you're saying is every single person of suspicion in this country should be on a "watch list" and surveyed around the clock? Would they have arrested these two guys for having done nothing? or having bought a "pressure cooker"? or assign someone to follow them 24/7 so when they got to the marathon they were arrested on the spot? (yeah, thats realistic).

    1. Isn't that even bigger Government?
    2. Isn't that impeding on privacy?
    3. So America should now apply common sense to "potential" suspects, yet turn a blind cheek to expanding background checks for firearms?


    April 21, 2013 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  6. Tammy Lozano

    Start with arresting investigating the Islam convert who convinced Tsarnaev to radicalize in 2009. Before its too late and he copy cats

    April 21, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  7. NameFrank Deery

    The Obama Administration and the FBI blew this, The Worst attack on US soil since 9/11.

    The liberal media isn't asking WHY two seemingly amateurish terrorists slipped through the same Obama team that got bin Laden and thwarted other such attacks-in his first term! Somebody was asleep at the wheel!

    As a Republican, who did not vote for Obama, I want my party to start asking How this happened-Now!

    April 21, 2013 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  8. Doc1

    @Matt Naverre,
    You make too much sense. Your opinion would never be considered by someone like McCaul. I however, enjoyed reading it.

    April 21, 2013 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  9. lagnua_greg

    Hi Ropbert,

    Yours- "How is it that liberals blame Republicans for how this situation has been carried out? Obama is president and Boston is a city run by Democrats. If anyone is to blame, it's them."

    Well, you know very well why they're complaining along those lines. They were let in the country when Bush was president, and his administration created and ran Homeland Security, et cetera.

    So now we have a republican appointee running Homeland Security who doesn't know even what the FBI knows, and has made a public pronouncement without getting enough background information. I think the House was responsible indirectly for his appointment, and I think I'd like to complain about that going forward.

    April 21, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  10. Dan

    Hindsight is 20/20.

    April 21, 2013 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  11. Cooler

    Chechnya is a predominantly Muslim part of Russia with a turbulent history. It declared independence in 1991, after the breakup of the Soviet Union. Chechnya fought wars with Russia for much of the 1990s, and Chechens have been involved in terrorist attacks in Russia in the years since.

    April 21, 2013 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  12. Cooler

    In 2002, Chechen militants seized a Moscow theater and held 800 people hostage for two days. Special forces raided the building and killed 41 hostage-takers; 129 hostages were killed, mostly from gas used by Russian forces.

    In 2004, Chechen insurgents took hundreds of hostages in the Russian town of Beslan. The siege came to a bloody end two days later, and 330 people, about half children, were killed.

    April 21, 2013 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  13. aaron masser

    It is shameful that we have incompetents like McCaul in any authority position.
    He would ban wikipedia/pressure cookers... but guns... no problem there.

    You sir are a menace to the United States.

    April 21, 2013 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  14. ros10

    How did this man McCaul get this job as Chairman of the House Homeland Security, I was watching him this morning and
    said, he from Texas what do we expect from him. He just wasn't making any sense, just like his Governor there.

    April 21, 2013 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  15. GI Joe

    So many don't know the difference between Islam, Muslim, Al Quaida, and Taliban.

    HINT: Some Americans belong to AlQuaida, but they are not Muslim and do not practice the religion of Islam. Some places the Taliban fight Al Quaida.

    Figure it out.

    April 21, 2013 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  16. EveT

    The US justice system presumes innocence unless guilt is shown beyond a reasonable doubt. If there was no evidence of guilt at the time the FBI interviewed Tsirnaev, it is only right that he was not charged with anything. Law enforcement cannot watch over everyone's shoulder 24/7. Law enforcement also cannot forbid people from traveling between the US and Russia. The more important question is, how were these brothers able to get guns and explosives?

    April 21, 2013 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  17. Anonymous

    McCaul is trying to gain political points. Think he is more shocked that these guys were as white as him! These guys were religious dummy extremists, no different than any other. Throw a lot of crazy into the mix and you have years of trying to rationalize the impossible. Hope the surviving idiot gets forever in a four corner cell and no windows.

    April 21, 2013 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  18. Andrey

    FBI did halfassed job of interviewing the guy because the requests came from Russia. If it were from any of American allies like UK – those people from Boston would probably be alive, safe and sound!

    April 21, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  19. Steve Fielder

    Rep. Michael McCaul needs to be reminded of the fact that it doesn't matter what he believes, the only thing that matters is what can actually be proven. It's Congressman McCaul's mind-set, unproven beliefs, that got us into the Iraq War and justified the use of torture. And how did Rep. Peter King ever end up as a Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee!? Considering the fact that Mr. King spent YEARS defending IRA terrorist bombings in Northern Ireland, even ones that killed innocent civilians, he's got some nerve shooting his mouth off....

    April 21, 2013 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  20. Ajax

    This guy is a dissembling fool looking for political sound bytes. If he was honest he would tell you that the practice of Chechnyan soldiers-for-hire has been part of the fabric of their society for decades and everybody with the money hires them to fight all over the world. Everybody! Google Chechen mercenaries. They even work for DynCorp and Executive Outcomes. For some reason this doesn't seem to be common knowledge in the U.S. I don't know why. These guys may or may not have been lone wolves but the older one was trained at one of the same places they are all trained at.

    April 21, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  21. MyGunsTrumpsYourLife

    Republicans will not mention that these 2 legal immigrants bought a bunch of war mongering weapons and none of it was for self defense.

    April 21, 2013 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  22. PrinceofPL

    Interesting.. So they kept a radar on the older brother.... Yet they knew he went to Russia for six months in 2012??!!! Came back in July 2012 and on September 11 2012 they still let him become a naturalized American citizen???? Something is really weird in here...

    April 21, 2013 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  23. brownie

    we still have question about the benghazi attack now this

    April 21, 2013 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  24. PrinceofPL

    They let him become a citizen Sept 11 2012 knowing he went to Russia for 6months prior coming back in July, and they kept a radar on him then?? WTH???

    April 21, 2013 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  25. AndrewC

    How is it that a white native-born American kills dozens of children in a school and isn't called a terrorist, but these two bombing suspects are? The kid in Newtown was labelled mentally distrubed and the Boston suspects are labelled terrorists? If I'd committed the same crime as the Boston suspects I'd be called a deranged, murderer not a terrorist.

    April 21, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
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