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CNN "State of the Union with Candy Crowley" - Transcript - Boston Bomber Suspect


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CROWLEY: Joining me now, House Homeland security chairman, Michael McCaul. Thank you for being here this morning. I want to talk first about this letter that you have written to the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI as well as to James clapper, head of the DNI.

So, in this letter, you write and say, "We want all the information you have. And here's a portion of that."

You're talking about the older brother, the now deceased suspect appears to be the fifth person since September 11, 2001, to participate in terrorist attacks despite being under investigation by the FBI, in addition to Anwar al-Awlaki, David Headley, Carlos Bledsoe and Nidal Hasan. In addition, Farooq Abdul Mutallab attempted a terror attack despite being identified to the CIA as a potential terrorist.

Five of these six intelligence failures have taken place since 2009. They raise the most serious questions about the efficacy of federal counterterrorism efforts. You seem to already feel that something was missed here.

MCCAUL: Well, let me say first that, you know, as a federal prosecutor and work with the FBI, the job the FBI, joint terrorism task force, Boston police, Watertown police did a magnificent job bringing this horrible nightmare to a successful ending in less than a week. So, I really commend what they did.

My job and my obligation as chairman of homeland security is to review these matters to see what if anything went wrong and how can we prevent that in the future.

CROWLEY: And what we know so far and what CNN and others have confirmed is that this second suspect, the older brother was, in fact, questioned by the FBI because Russia says he may have ties to an Islamist terrorist group.

MCCAUL: Right. My understanding is Russian intelligence service contacted the FBI and said you have an individual that has potential ties to extremism. That he was interviewed by the FBI in 2011 and let go. And after that time is what's very interesting is that the older brother travels back to Russia. His father lives in the Chechen region. He spends six months there. He comes back.

One of the first things he does is puts up a YouTube website throwing out a lot of jihadist rhetoric. Clearly, something happened in my judgment in that six-month timeframe. He radicalized at some point in time. Where was that and how did that happen? I'm very concerned. That six months is very important. So, why is the FBI interview important?

Because if he was on the radar and they let him go, he's on the Russians radar, why wasn't a flag put on him, some sort of customs flag? I've done this before. You put a customs flag up on the individual coming in and out. And I'd like to know what intelligence Russia has on him as well. I would suspect that they may have monitored him when he was in Russia.

CROWLEY: Let me just be devil's advocate here and that is that there are rules and it's a free country and this was a man with papers. He was a legalized permanent. He was a permanent resident of the U.S. They get a request from Russian intelligence to check out this guy. We think that he has, you know, ties with terrorism. They look at him and they find no ties to terrorism and no criminal activity. Do you put a flag next to somebody that you find nothing about?

MCCAUL: Well, it's important enough to have a foreign government tie him to extremism. I'm not -- again, I always give the FBI the benefit of the doubt. I'm sure they interviewed him. You can't detain all lawful persons in the United States. This man is now -- he's a U.S. citizen -- or not -- he's not a U.S. citizen, his brother is. He actually applied for citizenship and the Department of Homeland Security put that on hold based upon his FBI interview.

So, there were concerns about this individual, and yet, when he travels abroad and gets to a very dangerous part of the world, nothing seems to be done. Why is Chechnya important? I think the American people need to understand this. The Chechen rebels are some of the fiercest jihadist warriors out there.

CROWLEY: They're angry with Russia.

MCCAUL: They're angry with Russia but they have also made an alliance with al Qaeda. They have to understand that they're worked with al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan. One of my constituent's sons was killed in Iraq by nine Chechen rebels. So, they're in the fight. And so, he goes over there, the tools of trade of warfare for al Qaeda are precisely the devices that he built, this cooker pressure device, you know, explosive device.

You know, there are reports that they had suicide vests on. You don't learn that overnight. I personally believe that this man received training when he was over there and he radicalized from 2010 to the present. And then, nine months after he comes back from the Chechnya region, he pulls off the largest terror attack since 9/11.

CROWLEY: So, you see -- there is a difference between being influence by al Qaeda or other terrorist groups and getting help and assistance from them. You think it's the latter.

MCCAUL: I think it's very probable that when he's in the region, that's a very dangerous region that they're known for his tactics that he possibly could have been trained at that point. I believe he was already radicalizing. I'm questioning what the father's role is. The fathers always play a heavy role, the father's part of this Chechen revolution.

So, what role did he play there? But when he comes back, he pulls his brother into this plot. I think the larger question right now if I'm U.S. attorney is how is -- is there any -- is there more to this cell? Is it just these two or cast a wider net to see if anyone else is out there that may be tied to the cell in the United States? I think they're probably --

CROWLEY: Other potential bombers you're talking about, not people that are in the --

MCCAUL: Well, people who may have plotted and conspired and prepared in this attack. I do believe that overseas we will hopefully find at some point in time that the training was provided to him over there, but I think as it pertains to the homeland, the biggest concern is what do we have inside this country to protect American lives.

CROWLEY: Congressman Michael McCaul, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, thank you.

MCCAUL: Thank you so much for having me.


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