Graham: 'It's People Like This That You Don't Want to Let Out of Your Sight'

By Susan Jones | April 22, 2013 | 6:21am EDT

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)

( - Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), appearing Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union With Candy Crowley," said the FBI dropped the ball on Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the older of the two Boston Marathon bombing suspects.

In 2011, responding to concerns raised by the Russian government, the FBI looked into Tamerlan's activities, but the FBI said its one interview with him did not turn up any terrorism concerns. A year later, Tamerlan spent six months in Russia, and the question is, with whom did he meet while there?

Sen. Graham said that anyone brought to the FBI's attention by a foreign government should be red-flagged: "The ball was dropped in one of two ways: The FBI missed a lot of things is one potential answer, or our laws do not allow the FBI to follow up in a sound, solid way.

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"There was a lot to be learned from this guy," Graham said. "He was on websites talking about killing Americans. He went overseas...He was clearly talking about radical ideas, he was visiting radical areas. And the fact that we could not track him has to be fixed.

"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 are insufficient or the FBI failed, but we're at war with radical Islamists and we need to up our game."

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chairman of the House Homeland Security Chairman has written a letter to the FBI and other federal agencies, raising questions "about the efficacy of federal counter-terrorism efforts." The letter notes that Tamerlan Tsarnaev is the fifth person since Sept. 11, 2001 to attempt or to carry out a terrorist attack despite being under investigation by the FBI.

"My job and my obligation as chairman of Homeland Security is to review these matters to see what if anything went wrong and how can we prevent that in the future," McCaul said.

He said he believes "something happened" during the six months Tamerlan spent in Russia, near Chechyna, because when he came back to the U.S., "one of the first things he does is puts up a YouTube website throwing out a lot of jihadist rhetoric."

McCaul said he believes Tamerlan may have "radicalized" during those six months.

"I'm very concerned that six months was very important. So why is this FBI interview important? Because if he was on the radar and they let him go, he's on the Russians' radar, and 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 Russia has on him as well. I would suspect that they may have monitored him when he was in Russia."

McCaul said Tamerlan applied for U.S. citizenship -- "and the Department of Homeland Security put a hold on him, based upon his FBI interview. "So there were concerns about this individual. And yet, when he travels abroad, again, to a very dangerous part of the world, nothing seems to be done."

McCaul described the Chechen rebels as "some of the fiercest jihadist warriors out there...They've also made an alliance with al-Qaida."

McCaul said he's also "questioning what the father's role is. The fathers always play a heavy role, the father's part of this Chechen revolution. So what role did he play there?"

The bigger question, McCaul said, is how far the terrorist cell extends. "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 this cell in the United States?"

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