Boston Bombings

It was bound to happen. There is no way to keep it from happening. It will happen again, despite all our efforts and no matter how much liberty we give up in a vain attempt to achieve 100% security. That’s the first lesson.

The second lesson is, Don’t trust any initial reporting on a major incident like this. Look at what we got wrong in the first hours:
Bomb at the JFK: There was no bomb at the JFK library. It was a fire-related explosion. In the first hours, nobody seems to have called the library and asked.
Number of bombs at the Marathon: Just the two. Other reports may be because of controlled detonations of suspicious packages
Suspects: None. A Saudi man, who was close enough to be injured, was detained (probably because of who and where he was) and then questioned further because he apparently was over-staying his visa. He gave permission for his house to be searched, and nothing bomb related was found. Update: he was just running away.
Cell phones: Depending on who you ask, local cell phone towers were (police), or were not (phone companies) turned off to prevent remote detonations. Nobody seems to have considered the possibility that having ten thousand people trying to call out at the same instant in time might have overloaded the towers.

The third lesson is, Don’t trust speculation by talking heads, desperate for something to fill the air time. There were two bombs, which is a common terrorist trick in order to kill rescuers. The bombs were packed with ball bearings to provide shrapnel, another terrorist trick. My take on it? The location (too far from the first bomb), and the timing (too close to the first explosion) says to me that we have someone who just wanted to plant multiple bombs. The use of ball bearings (or maybe BBs) may have originated with IEDs in Iraq, but is now pretty well-known around the world.

The fact is, almost anyone could have conducted this attack. If by terrorist we are using a media code word meaning an organized foreign, probably Muslim group, yes that’s a possibility. Or it could a simple extremist — another media code word, for a lone white male, probably of right-wing persuasion and possibly mentally unstable. The fact is that right now, with what’s publicly available, we don’t know. We flat don’t know.

Bottom Line: The bombs went off some yards from the finish, and some hours after the finish, probably because the existing security kept the bomber away until then. If we had heightened security, the bombs would have been planted further away. There’s no way to keep that from happening. There’s no way to protect crowds that gather wherever crowds gather. With an effort, you can protect a point target — the finish line, the speaker’s stand — but there’s not enough security in the world to protect every inch of a Marathon. The best you can do is push the site away from the cameras.

Footnote: I’m writing this less than 24hrs after the event. Everything I just said about not trusting initial reporting and talking heads applies to this essay as well.


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4 Responses to “Boston Bombings”

  1. Kurt Kremer Says:

    Your caveat said, once I turned off my own speculation stream, I came to the same conclusions–that is, these are perfectly logical conclusions based on the past. On NPR this morning, a rep from Homeland Security thought–based on the homegrown feel and the lack of claiming credit, that it was more likely a domestic rather than foreign source. Although, living in a world community, those distinctions mean less and less except at the extremes. The worst part–the TSA will be having a field day (for no particularly good reason).

    • FoundOnWeb Says:

      I’m inclined to think domestic also, but it could also be a “self-selector” — someone who wants to be a Jihadi but isn’t hooked up in an obvious way with the overseas bad guys. Which kind of counts both ways.

  2. johnboy Says:

    Probably the most astute assessment of the situation I have read so far.

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