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. rjm

    First, this article is pathetic – if this congressman has real information, he should either disclose it or be quiet. If he's just making it up, which is how it reads, then he should just be quiet. Far too many congress people today just speculating and CNN posting as news. The whole week has confirmed for me a recent decline in CNN quality. Mike365 – do you remember the day of the Oklahoma CIty bombing – plenty of worthless speculation about foreign terrorists then also. Unfortunately, I have no doubt there will be more home-grown terrorists in our future. Let's get all the facts, then we can debate who make which mistakes when, and hopefully learn from this.

    April 21, 2013 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  2. Aurelio

    Not a lot of training is needed. For better and also for worse, all this information is available online. Perhaps he was indoctrinated overseas but the skill to build IED's does not need to come from Russia. Unfortunately, too much of the technology overlaps with peaceful use technology freely available.

    April 21, 2013 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  3. Vegascelt

    Benghazi, part II

    April 21, 2013 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  4. Olaf Big

    I wish this McCaul guy could speak English; it is really hard to understand what he is trying to say. The fact is, individual acts of terror are very difficult to prevent, and even if Tsarnayev was questioned by the authorities, nothing suspicious may have come up. This is just a case of perfect hindsight.

    April 21, 2013 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    The boston bombing aftermath is the set back of the inmigration reform per republicans,after they found out that the terrorist were legal alien and naturalized american. Regardless your status of resident alien or citizen,the mind changes for good or bad acts.Some people go for good acts and others go for bad acts, that play a role into the society. these are positive and negative in the society.

    April 21, 2013 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  6. KMS

    Nothing like trying to drag Russia into the mess that is America. Pfft! Anyone can find instructions online; blame bill gates.

    April 21, 2013 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  7. Still Confused

    So if the Russian authorities had to ask the Americans if these two brothers had any connection to radical Islamist groups, how are the Russian authorities in a position to say they received training in the chechenya?

    Also, why would a terrorist label a youtube channel of leaders he respects and follows as Terrorist? Terrorists don't consider themselves as terrorists,

    April 21, 2013 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  8. Average American

    They always wonder why people were able to travel between countries so easily when doing their "terrorist" training. It assumes that things like the no-fly list are serious anti-terrorism tools rather than a way to punish innocent people that exercise their first amendment rights.

    April 21, 2013 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  9. Lon

    Wow no one followed up on these two brothers who might have been trained in Chechnya. Well that's how it has to be! don't you see HLS is checking out only right wing, ex -US military or baptist or people who own and carry a bible.

    April 21, 2013 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  10. Mohamed Jurham

    Why make this a political issue? Terrorism neither a Republican or Democratic issue, it's an American issue, period. Investigate this and find out what went wrong and correct it, stop politicizing it and using it for politcal points! The American people are tired of everyone both the left and right of making this about politics!

    April 21, 2013 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  11. abmri60

    terrorists blow themselves up and go on a suicide mission, when they are detonating a bomb.

    April 21, 2013 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  12. Matt Norris

    To add an almost completely pointless observation about this discussion: Analysis and speculation that all of you are now following routine lines of "wasting your time" is now about to become evident in committees, subcommittees, hearings, studies, and political ads.

    When those are done, you'll forget that you still don't know how to vote. It is important that "don't know how" means that showing up and voting doesn't move you out of the group of people that don't know how to vote.

    Good grief, this is all cannon fodder for a homework assignment where I claim free elections failed to account for the outcome of poor education being applied to a ballot.

    April 21, 2013 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  13. Matt Norris

    One extra juicy piece of Failure of Press where the actual blame lies with voters? It's the part where they just had no better story than a 19th century issue in Russia that was now as you saw it for 5 minutes a night on your television in the late 1990's.

    All the press really told you was about a conflict, just that it is existed, and didn't have enough information to tell you anything else. Unfortunately, they hadn't dumped from their minds the stories they'd run up to that point that excused us from prior mistakes overseas, via redemption through our amazing financial management skills.

    In other words, you were all told that your impact in the Soviet's bank account was a good reason to just forget what you found out after being lied to, and be too busy with Berlin when the whole mustard gas in Iran disaster slipped out into the open.

    You lost the extra cookie made available, if you could look at the whole Iran story, and realize it was a moron deciding he'd finally found a way to beat the Soviets by applying good ol

    April 21, 2013 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  14. Jayakumar

    There has been a lot of questions regarding why he was not followed or an trap set up for him like they have preventd a lot of other lunatics from killing people. The aanswer is simple. His name sounded russian and did not have any muslim sounding names like mohammed or ali or something like that at the end of his name. Moreover he did not look middle eastern or asian or african and hence did not fit the Racial stereotype of a terrorist and slipped through the radar.

    April 21, 2013 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  15. Michael Olenick

    This is not a "red scare" issue: the Russians have been chasing Chechen terrorists for much longer than we have. Russians TRIED to warn us, and we did not listen. It us not the US against Russia. It is, or should be, the US and Russia against global terrorism, whether the terrorists are in our backyard or theirs. Nobody seems to be asking why the Tsarnaev's came here as "refugees" then the brothers returned for a six-month visit and the father moved back. They obviously did not fear persecution there or they would not have gone back, unless the "persecution" is not being allowed to run with known terrorists.

    April 21, 2013 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  16. Matt Norris

    Good ol' American business savvy to the Soviet strategy in Vietnam. This time, we didn't even need to kill Americans! Iran Contra looks like a combo of wire fraud, cheating on taxes, and falsifying end of year reports for a business.

    Well, imagine the horror of just skipping to the point, realizing somebody at your place has done it again, and now their actions mean you have to go fight in Iraq to pursue redemption.

    It was all completely confusing by way of lying, again. Just viewing it as a nervous breakdown over an unarmed takeover of an embassy still would have been impossible, due to lying.

    Still, starting off on Russia as "too mean" and landing at "too busy with 2004 reporting of Iraq and Afghanistan" to inform you about a problem in Russia that had no possible level of justification? You didn't get much about what looked to be some alliance of serial killers chasing after children, and their teachers.

    They got up to 300 or 400 dead kids and teachers in one attack. I just looked up some of the printed stories. I guess a box score on dead kids was the best we could do in 2004, especially when it was more Muslims and it would have meant that you STILL had to realize that not all of them did this stuff.

    April 21, 2013 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  17. DJ Reality

    The problem is that they could have learned all the stuff they did here in the USA. They could have learned how to make the bombs from the internet. As for hand gun use well, just like the kid who shoot up Newtown he could have learned that here. They could have gone to a gun range here.

    April 21, 2013 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  18. Namejoeg

    Where there is one rat there ate many. Ship him to guantonimo for interigation before his crew strike again. Fourth of July is a big day for the U.S.A. be vigilant.

    April 21, 2013 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  19. Freedom Fascist

    Pfft, this is so laughable. This is all set-up. They're coming to get your guns and lock you down big time. Good luck!

    April 21, 2013 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  20. Namejoeg

    Send him to Cuba for interigation then go after thr rest of his cell. July 4th. a big day for our country. Stay vigilant.

    April 21, 2013 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  21. Larry L

    How on earth does what you posted relate to a conspiracy? Every major public event has bomb search drills – it's called planning. The terrorists weren't "real enough" for you? We all saw the extensive footage and heard the analysis – then considered them guilty. You'd have to be an idiot to assume otherwise. Their pressure cooker bombs were quite effective. Maybe getting your hands on C4 is tough these days. Conspiracy freaks are simply searching for something to use to discredit the President – like the moronic "birthers" or the gun-nuts who bought $700 ARs $2K. "The liberal media won't print this but.... blah, blah....".

    April 21, 2013 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  22. Thomas

    Pure politics !

    Since he has so much time , I hope Michael McCaul looks into the the cause of the explosion of the Texas fertilizer plant that destroyed half the town !

    Less Government , less regulations ?

    April 21, 2013 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  23. Bill

    The uncle indicates that a local friend was involved in radicalizing these guys – hopefully someone is looking for them.

    April 21, 2013 10:39 pm at 10:39 pm |
  24. TLUnrine

    So why aren't we bombing Russia like we bombed Iraq and Afghanistan? OH, we thought we could beat Iraq and Afghanistan as third world countries, we can ignore Russian involvement, those ICBM are nasty after all.

    April 21, 2013 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  25. Phaerisee

    With even China starting to publicly rebuke North Korea, it would behoove Russia to review their current alliances. Bedfellows like Iran and North Korea, Assad of Syria and the regime in Mozambique just to name a few, do not translate to a secure future. If Russia is sincere about joining us in the fight against global terrorists they ought to renounce the criminal regimes that cultivate their existence.

    April 21, 2013 10:58 pm at 10:58 pm |
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