|
|
|
McPhersonSentinel - McPherson, KS
  • After-action analysis on Boston bombings

  • After Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, there was a broad consensus of what must be done to meet the terrorist threat. Americans wanted police to be well-trained and well-equipped. We wanted seamless coordination among law enforcement agencies. We got what we asked for.
    • email print
      Comment
  • After Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, there was a broad consensus of what must be done to meet the terrorist threat. Americans wanted police to be well-trained and well-equipped. We wanted seamless coordination among law enforcement agencies. We got what we asked for.
    The response to the Boston Marathon bombings showed the results of a decade of effort and the investment of hundreds of billions of dollars in homeland security. The performance of first responders and civilians to the initial blast was heroic, and Boston's medical providers lived up to their sterling reputation. Law enforcement officers by the thousands secured the crime scene and the city, identified two suspects, killed one in firefight and captured the second.
    Impressive resources were brought to bear: helicopters with thermal imaging cameras; a robot used to tear the cover off the boat where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was hiding; and automated phone calls to inform citizens of the "shelter in place" order.
    Elected officials showed effective leadership. Gov. Deval Patrick, Mayor Tom Menino and their top public safety chiefs communicated clearly with the public, striking a difficult balance between reassurance and caution. Inspirational notes struck by President Barack Obama in his speech at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross reverberated in the "Boston Strong" spirit that has helped a shaken region recover.
    Now that the applause has faded, it's time for a serious review of the week's events. Law enforcement may have been good, but it was also lucky: There were just two members of the conspiracy, and they weren't especially smart or competent. All rejoice they were caught before they could harm others, which was apparently their intent. But while there's no arguing with success, every engagement deserves an after-action assessment.
    The first assessment concerns whether the bombings could have been prevented. Tamerlin, the older brother, was reportedly on a “watch list,” but it was a long list of about 750,000 members. Officials must determine if procedures were followed, if Tamerlin should have been monitored more closely, or if the procedures should be changed.
    All involved will surely take a fresh look at security precautions at major sporting events. Should the Tsarnaevs' backpacks have been inspected, a more secure perimeter established at the finish line?
    Questions already are being asked about the identification of the suspects. Plenty of cameras caught the suspects' faces, but the initial word was that police couldn't identify them until after Tamerlin had been killed and his fingerprints checked. Would better cameras, or better face recognition capability, have allowed earlier identification?
    While most officers reported good cooperation and professionalism, the news that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was unarmed when hiding in the boat in a Watertown yard raises questions about the firefight that preceded his arrest. Who ordered the boat be fired on, and why?
    Page 2 of 2 - Two areas of inquiry into the "shelter in place" order given by Patrick early Friday deserve attention. First, was it necessary or was it expensive overkill? Citizens would prefer officials err on the side of prudence, and most were happy to get out of the way of the manhunt. But Patrick and his team seemed to be making up strategy as they went along, and might have benefited from guidelines.
    Legal questions must also be answered. Was the lockdown an order or a request? How should such an order be enforced? How long can people be expected to voluntary comply? What is the penalty if they don't?
    By what legal authority did government order house-to-house searches in Watertown? What if a homeowner had refused entry, demanding to see a search warrant? We may see lawsuits filed by residents inconvenienced by the manhunt, but lawmakers shouldn't wait for the courts to determine if the actions taken in the emergency had a sound legal footing.
    The decision to file federal terrorism charges against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev instead of state murder charges for the killing at the finish line — he may still face state charges in the death of MIT police officer Sean Collier — will almost certainly be challenged in court, as will the 16-hour delay in reading the suspect his Miranda rights. Either state or federal courts are capable of delivering justice in this case, but the question of why this massacre is different from the massacre at a Colorado movie theater is worthy of discussion.
    With the Boston Marathon skirmish in that war won, it's time for a careful review of how all those weapons worked, and what can be done to improve them before the next battle. — MetroWest, Mass., Daily News

        calendar