“I think the real question investigators have right now is, what was he doing for six months?” McCaul asked. “And when he comes back, one of the first things he does is puts up a YouTube site that has radical, jihadist rhetoric on that website. And of course, nine months later, he pulls off the largest terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11.”
However, another congressional Republican, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, said in a Fox News interview Monday that a senior FBI official advised him that the bureau couldn’t have tracked Tsarnaev’s six-month visit to Russia in 2012 because “they misspelled his name” on an Aeroflot flight manifest.
“So it never went into the system that he actually went to Russia,” Graham said he was told by an assistant FBI director. Left unclear was whether Tsarnaev misspelled his own name in an online booking or the airline did so.
McCaul and King pointed in their letter to four other home-grown terrorists whom the FBI interviewed before they participated in attacks, including Nidal Hasan, the disaffected Army major who shot and killed 13 people and wounded 42 others at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009; and Anwar al-Awlaki, a Muslim cleric who preached radical jihad to Hasan and others for years until he was killed in Yemen by a CIA drone in late 2011.
The others were Carlos Bledsoe, also known as Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, who shot and killed one soldier and wounded another at a military recruiting center in Little Rock, Ark., in 2010; and David Headley, an American who was sentenced to 35 years in prison for helping plan the deadly 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai.
In a report by former FBI Director William Webster, the bureau was criticized for numerous lapses that allowed Hasan to go forward with the Fort Hood incident.
But Brian Jenkins, a terrorist expert for the Rand Corp., said that since 2001 the FBI “has made a remarkable transformation to become an effective domestic intelligence agency,” thwarting more than 40 attempted attacks before last week’s bombing.
Only three attempts by homegrown terrorists got past the bureau, including a failed bombing attempt in New York’s Times Square, he said.
“We’re not going to bat 1.000,” he said. “The volume of material is enormous. All intelligence organizations and analysts live in dread of the unattended dot that should have been connected and was not.”