Has the trail of the Boston bomber already gone cold?
Update: After a great deal of confusion (and some evidently inaccurate early reporting from CNN), Reuters reports that “investigators believe they have identified a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing from security video,” but no arrest has yet been made. It is said the identification was made “based on surveillance tape from a Lord & Taylor department store.”
Update: News broke a little before 2:00 PM Eastern that a suspect has been identified from video taken around the Boston Marathon area, and an arrest has been made. More details should soon be forthcoming.
Yesterday we learned that the young Saudi student briefly considered a “person of interest” in the Boston Marathon bombings had been cleared of all involvement, following an extensive search of his apartment and interviews with his roommate.
And that, to our dismay and amazement, appears to leave the police with no solid leads to follow up on at all. Foreign Policy reports on the aftermath of a briefing delivered to the Senate Intelligence Committee:
Ranking Republican Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) emerged from the briefing and said he was told the 22-year old Saudi student who was injured during the bombings and remains in the care of a local hospital was no longer a focus of investigators.
“He was never categorized as a suspect; he was a person of interest. My understanding is that he totally cooperated and that he is no longer a person of interest,” Chambliss said.
Asked if there were any other persons of interest at this time, Chambliss said, “Not that I know of.”
Details about the bombings are still scarce and the investigation hasn’t yielded any firm conclusions about the perpetrator or the origin of the explosive devices yet, according to Chambliss.
“It’s a very fluid investigation, the FBI is in the lead, and I personally know the special agent in charge. He is one of the best, and they are doing a very good job of moving the investigation forward,” he said. “We don’t know at this point whether it was a home grown terrorist, whether it was an isolated incident or part of an overall scheme, whether it was a domestic terrorist or a foreign terrorist.”
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano stated “there is no current indication to suggest that the events in Boston are indicative of a broader plot.” That’s essentially a tautology in an atmosphere of zero knowledge; it would be equally valid to say we have no indication the Boston Marathon atrocity was not part of a broader plot. But doesn’t the ability of some individual or group to pull of this attack without leaving much of a trace suggest the significant possibility of a sophisticated (or diabolically lucky?) organization with the capability of striking again? It’s also troubling that no claim of responsibility has been made yet; that has a chilling “we’re not done yet” feeling about it. Turn the question around: what are the odds that something like this could be a one-off, if the people responsible are not apprehended?
Napolitano went on to say that due to an “abundance of caution, DHS continues to keep in place enhanced security measures at transportation hubs, utilizing measures both seen and unseen.” That might be an abundance of caution, but it doesn’t sound like an over-abundance.
It seems incredible that such a brazen attack could be carried out in broad daylight, surrounded by hundreds of people at a major event on an important local day of celebration, in an age when virtually everyone is carrying a mobile phone that doubles as a camera, and many buildings have video security… and leave a trail that goes cold in twenty-four hours.
This is not to say that justice has been forever thwarted. The investigation remains intense. The FBI has adopted a clever strategy of “crowd-sourcing” the hunt for clues through the gigabytes of photo and video data produced before and after the attack, releasing some images through an unclassified law-enforcement bulletin, and asking for citizens to submit their own pictures and video in turn. CBS News reports on a clue that has already been harvested:
The FBI said it is looking at what a Boston television station said are photos sent by a viewer that show the scene right before and after the bombs went off. One photo shows something next to a mailbox that appears to be a bag, but it’s unclear what the significance is.
“We’re taking a look at hundreds of photos, and that’s one of them,” FBI spokesman Jason Pack said.
Investigators said they haven’t determined what was used to set off the explosives.
[Lead FBI agent Richard] DesLauriers said there had been no claim of responsibility for the attack.
He urged people to come forward with anything suspicious, such as hearing someone express an interest in explosives or a desire to attack the marathon, seeing someone carrying a dark heavy bag at the race or hearing mysterious explosions recently.
“Someone knows who did this,” the FBI agent said.
Someone knows who did this has been the investigator’s battle cry since time immemorial. In the Information Age, the process of investigation can be more about sifting through a blizzard of extraneous or confusing data to find relevant connections, rather than squeezing tiny clues from barren crime scenes. Also, to spend a moment playing “angel’s advocate,” at this early stage it’s quite possible the authorities have a bit more solid information than they’re willing to discuss with the public. There’s a lot to be said for hiding some of our cards from the enemy who attacked us – whether they are foreign operatives, or domestic terrorists with one eye on the TV, and the other on a website full of international travel options.
CBS reports that the nature of the bombs has been definitively established as the “pressure cooker” model favored by al-Qaeda and featured in their magazine, although of course such devices can be built by anyone:
An intelligence bulletin issued to law enforcement and obtained by The Associated Press and the Reuters news agency late Tuesday included pictures of a mangled pressure cooker, a torn black bag, a circuit board and a battery connected to wires, all of which the bulletin said were from the two bombs used in the attack.
Both explosive devices appear to have been placed in metal pressure cookers packed with nails and ball bearings designed to amplify the damage from the explosions, CBS News correspondent Bob Orr reports.
Investigators believe the bombs were hidden in black nylon backpacks and housed inside the sealable metal pots called pressure cookers. Pressure cooker bombs can help boost the power of relatively small devices by briefly constraining the blast. And when the cookers do explode, they can add large chunks of metal to the shrapnel spray.
The IEDs have been popular with terrorists. Al Qaeda published a how-to recipe in an online Jihadi magazine. Several of the bombs were used in the 2006 attack on trains in Mumbai, India. Pressure cooker explosives have been recommended for lone-wolf operatives by al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen.
As for the nature of the perpetrators, nothing is known for certain. Fox News relates an FBI statement: “At this time, there are no claims of responsibility. The range of suspects and motives remains wide open.”
But the usual suspects are busy assigning blame to their favorite political targets. Dana Loesch at RedState compiled a roll call of shame yesterday, a parade of low blows let by a series of leftist lightweights who all seem to think they’re the first ones to notice that April 15 was Tax Day and Patriots Day.
David Sirota at Salon pitched in Tuesday night with a piece actually entitled, “Let’s hope the Boston Marathon bomber is a white American.” No link, because Sirota needs a mental health professional, not readers (and the editors of Salon need help finding their professional judgment, if not their souls.) But get a load of the first two paragraphs:
As we now move into the official Political Aftermath period of the Boston bombing — the period that will determine the long-term legislative fallout of the atrocity — the dynamics of privilege will undoubtedly influence the nation’s collective reaction to the attacks. That’s because privilege tends to determine: 1) which groups are — and are not — collectively denigrated or targeted for the unlawful actions of individuals; and 2) how big and politically game-changing the overall reaction ends up being.
This has been most obvious in the context of recent mass shootings. In those awful episodes, a religious or ethnic minority group lacking such privilege would likely be collectively slandered and/or targeted with surveillance or profiling (or worse) if some of its individuals comprised most of the mass shooters. However, white male privilege means white men are not collectively denigrated/targeted for those shootings — even though most come at the hands of white dudes.
Well, maybe Sirota just awakened from a long coma, and he doesn’t know that our friends on the Left – right up to the on-air talent at major news networks – raced to falsely blame every incident of domestic terrorism on white guys, conservatives, and/or the Tea Party (groups they see as having roughly 99 percent overlap), while tripping over each other to declare that the actual perpetrators were isolated lone wolves, as soon as their identity was discovered.
Hopefully Mr. Sirota will get the help he needs. If you have any unfounded theories about how the perpetrators of the Boston atrocity probably speak for some group you disagree with, please seek out a therapist immediately, and stay away from the Internet until those feelings subside. But if you know anything about the people who set off those bombs – anything at all – please contact the authorities in Boston at 1-800-494-TIPS.