By Justin Sink - 04/25/13 04:35 PM EDT
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Thursday that the Obama administration was ultimately to blame for failing to prevent last week's attack at the Boston Marathon.
The South Carolina lawmaker was asked if he believed Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was responsible for terror suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev avoiding detection by federal law enforcement. American authorities were tipped off by Russian intelligence that Tsarnaev had ties to overseas terror groups.
"The FBI and the CIA are ... they have great people, but you know we're going backwards in national security. Benghazi and Boston to me are examples of us going backward."
Tsarnaev was killed last Friday after a shoot-out with police in the Boston suburbs. His brother, Dzhokhar, was arrested hours later and has been charged as a co-conspirator in the terror attack that left three dead and hundreds wounded.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev was interviewed in 2011 by the FBI and reportedly put onto a terror watch list by the CIA. Other reports have suggested that his naturalization application was halted after the Russian tip.
"That’s system failure, 12 years after 9/11," Graham said. "And it gets worse, the suspected radical Islamist, the person we got warning letters about is openly on the Internet for months talking about killing Americans and engaging in radical jihad against the United States and we were unable to connect the dots and pick that up. The rest is history."
On Wednesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said that the government's handling of the Tsarnaev terror tip was "under investigation."
"The issues related to this case and procedures and how they worked, what we learned in a warning from Russia, for example, and the action that sparked the FBI to take and to look into Tamerlan Tsarnaev — all of these issues are obviously under investigation," Carney said.
In a statement, the FBI said the Russian government had provided them "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."
The agency said it investigated Tsarnaev's phone records, online activity, known associations, travel history and education. The FBI also interviewed Tsarnaev and his family.
"The FBI did not find any terrorism activity, domestic or foreign, and those results were provided to the foreign government in the summer of 2001," the agency said in a statement.
- Jeremey Herb contributed. Updated at 2:28 p.m.