Sen. Graham: ‘We’re At War’

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Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., listens during a press conference on Capitol Hill on March 7, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., listens during a press conference on Capitol Hill on March 7, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — A top Republican senator says the United States is “at war” following last Monday’s deadly Boston Marathon bombings.

Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told CNN Sunday that Islamist extremists are still a threat to the nation after authorities say Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev planted two bombs that killed three people and injured more than 180 people near the marathon’s finish line.

“I don’t know if our laws are insufficient or the FBI failed, but we’re at war with radical Islamists and we need to up our game,” Graham said.

Graham believes that the ball was dropped after the Federal Bureau of Investigation interviewed the 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev two years ago about possible extremist ties.

“The FBI missed a lot of things, as one potential answer or our laws do not allow the FBI to follow up in a sound, solid way,” Graham told CNN. “There was a lot to be learned from this guy. He was on websites talking about killing Americans.”

Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed after a shootout with Massachusetts authorities early Friday morning. Nineteen-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was discovered that evening hiding in a boat covered by a tarp in suburban Watertown with gunshot wounds to his neck and leg. He was taken into custody but not read his Miranda rights.

Graham supports the move and believes he should be held as an enemy combatant.

“Most Americans want to find out what he knew, who he associated with, does he know about terrorist organizations within or without the country that are trying to hurt us? Does he know about a future attack?” Graham told CNN.

As a U.S. citizen, Tsarnaev could not be tried by a military commission under current law; the only option for prosecuting an American is in civilian courts. A federal official with knowledge of the case said Tsarnaev was naturalized as a U.S. citizen in September 2012. The official was not authorized to speak publicly about details of the case and requested anonymity.

Tsarnaev remained hospitalized and unable to speak, with a gunshot wound to the throat. He was expected to be charged by federal authorities. The 19-year-old also is likely to face state charges in connection with the fatal shooting of MIT police officer Sean Collier in Cambridge, said Stephanie Guyotte, a spokeswoman for the Middlesex District Attorney’s office.

After the two brothers engaged in a gun battle with police early Friday, authorities found many unexploded homemade bombs at the scene, along with more than 250 rounds of ammunition.

Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis said the stockpile was “as dangerous as it gets in urban policing.”

“We have reason to believe, based upon the evidence that was found at that scene — the explosions, the explosive ordnance that was unexploded and the firepower that they had — that they were going to attack other individuals. That’s my belief at this point.” Davis told CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

On “Fox News Sunday,” he said authorities cannot be positive there are not more explosives somewhere that have not been found. But the people of Boston are safe, he insisted.

Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev are ethnic Chechens from southern Russia. The motive for the bombings remained unclear.

Sen. Dan Coats of Indiana, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the surviving brother’s throat wound raised questions about when he will be able to talk again, if ever.

The wound “doesn’t mean he can’t communicate, but right now I think he’s in a condition where we can’t get any information from him at all,” Coats told ABC’s “This Week.”

It was not clear whether Tsarnaev was shot by police or inflicted the wound himself.

In the final standoff with police, shots were fired from the boat, but investigators have not determined where the gunfire was aimed, Davis said.

In an interview with The Associated Press, the parents of Tamerlan Tsarnaev insisted Sunday that he came to Dagestan and Chechnya last year to visit relatives and had nothing to do with the militants operating in the volatile part of Russia. His father said he slept much of the time.

A lawyer for Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s wife told the AP Sunday night that federal authorities have asked to speak with her, and that he is discussing with them how to proceed.

Attorney Amato DeLuca said Katherine Russell Tsarnaev did not suspect her husband of anything, and that there was no reason for her to have suspected him. He said she had been working 70 to 80 hours, seven days a week, as a home health care aide. While she was at work, her husband cared for their toddler daughter, he said.

The younger Tsarnaev could be charged any day. The most serious charge available to federal prosecutors would be the use of a weapon of mass destruction to kill people, which carries a possible death sentence. Massachusetts does not have the death penalty.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was tracing the suspects’ weapons to try to determine how they were obtained.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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