Friday, April 19, 2013

Two Brothers in Boston

Congratulations are in order for the outstanding work done in Boston this week by the police, State police, FBI, ATF, and other agencies supporting them.  Kudos are in order too to the citizens and businesses -- all of them and there were many -- who handed in their photos and video in an effort to find a needle in a haystack, i.e. images of the person who had planted the Boston Marathon bombs.  The hard work paid off handsomely.  I was not surprised that two men were involved -- two different bomb locations, bombs exploding so close in time, I doubted one person could have done that.  What surprised me was that the two were still in the Boston area three days after the bombing.

After thinking about it, though, remaining in place, carrying on with their usual routines, could work as a tactic to hide in plain sight.  They apparently didn't consider two things: ubiquitous cameras and the intense emotional reaction to the bombing.  Bostonians, in my experience, do not suffer fools gladly or take anything lying down.  Then you add the layer of patriotic pride, and there was no way that the bomber(s) would ever get away with it.  Americans learned from the pain of 9/11.  We even chose to give up some freedom for security, e.g. ubiquitous cameras, and we don't even have as many as the Brits, who of course acquired their experience fighting IRA terrorists who liked to bomb London, among other places.

What I find particularly painful about the bombers is what friends, acquaintances, coaches, fellow students were saying about them all this morning during the TV coverage I was watching.  These people, one after another, expressed shock and disbelief that these two young men were the bombers.  Underlying their words was a pain and grief feeding their shock.  They described them as nice guys, respectful, helpful, funny, an extrovert and an introvert, interested in athletics, the piano -- just normal young men.  They did not fit the profile of radical loners, spewing ideological rants or following extremist religious groups.  No one had any clue what these two were up to.

Just before I turned off the TV, I heard the latest on the possibility of accomplices.  I'm sure even more information will be collected and analyzed and discussed in the coming days and weeks.  But it is looking more and more like these two brothers in Boston had changed their minds about America for reasons only known to them, at least for the moment.  What triggered that change?  In the last two years, they had quietly planned, apparently, their operation; or perhaps they had joined with others to form a terrorist cell; or maybe they became adherents of an off-shoot of Al-qeada; but they did it without anyone noticing.

I think when all this is over and the federal, state and local agencies involved in protecting and defending against terrorism are conducting post-analysis, they need to pay attention to how these two brothers in Boston managed to sneak up on us.  Then, if possible, to pick apart their lives to find the hints in their behavior, their internet postings or interests, the casual remark here or disgruntled one there.  They are human, after all, and imperfect.  They had to have made little mistakes along the way that no one noticed but should have.

To me, those two brothers in Boston miscalculated their tactical advantage for staying in the Boston area.  That was a big mistake....  

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