Over the weekend, lawmakers from both parties raised questions about why Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s six-month trip to Russia in 2011-12 apparently went unnoticed by the FBI, despite the fact he had already been investigated for possible ties to extremist groups. GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, who was among the FBI’s most vocal critics on Sunday, thinks he now has the answer to that question: Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s name was misspelled by the airline. Politico snags the relevant quotes from Graham’s Fox News interview this morning:
“He went over to Russia, but apparently when he got on the airplane, they misspelled his name, so it never went into the system that he actually went to Russia,” Graham said on Fox News, saying he spoke to an assistant director of the FBI. … “One of two things happened,” Graham said Monday on Fox News, “the FBI either dropped the ball or our system doesn’t allow the FBI to follow this guy in an appropriate fashion. I think once the Russians made the request, the FBI did a good job of looking at him. The reason we didn’t know he went to Russia is because the name was misspelled.”
The FBI has confirmed that it interviewed Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the older of the two brothers authorities say were behind last week’s Boston Marathon bombings, in 2011 at the request of a foreign government, which officials have since identified as Russia. The FBI, however, says that its agents didn’t find any evidence of sucpicious activity and, as a result, closed the case. Here’s the official statement from Friday night:
The request stated that it was based on information that 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.
In response to this 2011 request, the FBI checked U.S. government databases and other information to look for such things as derogatory telephone communications, possible use of online sites associated with the promotion of radical activity, associations with other persons of interest, travel history and plans, and education history. The FBI also interviewed Tamerlan Tsarnaev and family members. The FBI did not find any terrorism activity, domestic or foreign, and those results were provided to the foreign government in the summer of 2011. The FBI requested but did not receive more specific or additional information from the foreign government.
“There are questions that have to be answered,” Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer told CNN on Sunday. “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?”