Boston bombing: Lawmakers question FBI handling of Tamerlan Tsarnaev

Lawmakers Criticize FBI’s Handling of Boston Suspect

Lawmakers Criticize FBI’s Handling of Boston Suspect

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April 21 2013 5:42 PM

Lawmakers Criticize FBI for Failing To Keep a Closer Eye on Boston Suspect

The FBI came under fire from members of both parties Sunday as lawmakers questioned whether the bureau mishandled the case involving the deceased Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Several lawmakers said that considering Tsarnaev was already on the FBI’s radar, officials should have followed up with him after he traveled to Russia in 2012 for six months, reports the Wall Street Journal. The FBI had interviewed Tsarnaev in 2011 at the request of a foreign government. Bloomberg News points out that Tsarnaev’s application for U.S. citizenship was placed on hold after the interview, “raising questions about whether he could have been identified before carrying out the attack.”

“There are questions that have to be answered,” said Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, on CNN. “This man was pointed out by a foreign government to be dangerous. He was interviewed by the FBI once. What did they find out? What did they miss? Then he went to Russia and to Chechnya. Why wasn’t he interviewed when he came back?”

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham was even more direct, saying the FBI messed up the investigation. “The ball was dropped in one of two ways,” Graham said on CNN. The FBI either “missed a lot of things” during the investigation or laws did not allow officials to “follow up in a sound, solid way.”

Some lawmakers highlighted that it was important to get to the bottom of the question because it was hardly the first time the FBI appeared to drop the ball on an investigation like this. House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul said he and Rep. Peter King wrote a letter to the FBI noting that Tsarnaev "appears to be the fifth person since September 11, 2001, to participate in terror attacks despite being under investigation by the FBI,” reports Reuters.

Rep. Mike Rogers, a Republican who is chairman of the Intelligence Committee and a former FBI agent, defended the bureau, saying he believed Tsarnaev traveled to Russia under an alias. Rogers said the FBI was forced to close its investigation because it did not get cooperation from the “foreign intelligence service” that had raised a red flag on Tsarnaev. The agency was from Russia, according to Reuters.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the Today’s Papers column from 2006 to 2009. Follow him on Twitter.