The FBI has admitted that it received a warning about Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the Boston Marathon bombing suspect, in early 2011 from the Russian government. Tsarnaev died in a police shootout early Friday morning. His younger brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was apprehended by police Friday night.
In a press release posted on the agency’s website on Friday, the FBI said a “foreign government” (which it now admits is Russia) contacted the FBI and asked for information about Tamerlan Tsarnaev because “he was a follower of radical Islam and a strong believer, and that he had changed drastically since 2010 as he prepared to leave the United States for travel to the country’s region to join unspecified underground groups.”
The FBI’s release further disclosed that it interviewed Tsarnaev and his family and checked various government databases but “did not find any terrorism activity, domestic or foreign.”
FBI agents never re-interviewed Tamerlan Tsarnaev after he came back to the states following his trip to Chechnya and other areas in Russia, however. “But the F.B.I. never followed up on Tamerlan once he returned, a senior law enforcement official acknowledged on Saturday, adding that its investigation did not turn up anything and it did not have the legal authority to keep tabs on him. Investigators are now scrambling to review that trip, and learn about any extremists who might have influenced, trained or directed Tamerlan while he was there.”
US Senator Lindsey Graham (R – S.C.) said today on national television that he believes the FBI or perhaps the law enforcement/homeland security system in general dropped the ball in the Tamerlan Tsarnaev investigation after receiving the tip:
“Once you’re brought to attention by a foreign government, I think you should have a red flag put then, to be taken off later. The ball was dropped in one of two ways — the FBI missed a lot of things, as one potential answer or our laws do not allow the FBI to follow up in a sound solid way. There was a lot to be learned from this guy. He was on websites talking about killing Americans. He went overseas … he was clearly talking about radical ideas. He was visiting radical areas.
Added Graham: “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.”
Graham also emphasized that the younger Tsarnaev deserves a fair trial in federal court but should also be designated as an enemy combatant once the public safety exception expires.
Rep. Peter King (R – N.Y.) claimed during a television interview this morning that “This is the latest in a series of cases like this … where the FBI is given information about someone as being a potential terrorist. They look at them, and then they don’t take action, and then they go out and commit murders.”
Watch the clip of Sen. Graham commenting on the FBI investigation of Tamerlan Tsarnaev: