Boston Bombings: Lingering Questions…

The Boston bombings terror is finally over. Now it’s time to address some vexing questions about how and why this national tragedy occurred in the post-9/11 era of the Patriot Act and Big Brother. To wit:

  • Why was the national intelligence community completely unaware of this terrorist plot?
  • Is it possible this insidious act could have been prevented?
  • What did the intelligence community know about these brothers, and when did they know it?
  • What about the Saudi national who was initially deemed a “person of interest” and considered for deportation?

Multiple news reports have surfaced that a “foreign government” (ie. Russia) had actually informed U.S. intelligence officials about one of the Boston terrorist suspects a couple of years back. The FBI allegedly followed up on the tip and checked out the now dead terrorist, known as “Suspect #1” (the older brother).

But what happened after that? Well, just check out the FBI press release issued Friday, 4/19. Nevertheless, more questions remain:

  • Was there another communications breakdown between intelligence and law enforcement agencies with overlapping missions?
  • Did the FBI or CIA know about the 2012 trip to Russia by “Suspect #1”?
  • If so, did the two agencies collaborate on intel and information sharing?
  • Didn’t we already address and fix this very problem after 9/11?
  • In essence, how was this malicious and cowardly plot hatched under the nose of federal, state and local law enforcement and intelligence officials?

We should keep in mind that the Boston bombings could have been much worse.

It’s a scary thought, but imagine what would have transpired if the terrorists had access to higher-grade explosives, a “dirty bomb” or a deadly chemical agent. Surely, hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent lives would have been lost. Thus:

  • What are the lessons learned here?
  • Where is the so-called “teachable moment”?
  • Going forward, what could or should the U.S. Government do differently, if anything?
  • What could or should the American public do differently, if anything?

For now, we offer our collective sympathies and prayers to all of the victims and their families. We hope and pray there will be no “next time” this time.

Yet many perplexing questions must first be answered for Boston and the nation to heal, recover and move forward.

And the sooner, the better.


* All views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author only.

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Henry Brown

IMO Two crazies blow off a bomb which kills 3 people and wounds several hundred and the price paid by the population of the area (~4 million) was rather high and the price paid by the ~700 thousand of Boston proper was very high. After shutting down the entire city (think about that cost) for well over 12 hours. It was only after the lockdown stopped was the wounded bomber found by one of the people who was forbidden to leave his home.

Henry Brown

Depends on how much freedom you want to take away to prevent this kind of incident…. Guess we could ban the purchase of BB’s and pressure cookers or anything else that could be used to make a bomb… probably not too practical when most bomb making material has useful non-lethal purposes… Sure not going to ban rapid fire firearms or military grade bullets.

Gues we could “enforce” a ban on organizations which have displayed or talked about violence. Guess we could ban all discussions of violence between 2 people or more. Guess we could ban all books (and burn all current books) which discussed violence.

Not a country I want to live in!

IMO we (the citizens of America) will never know how much the federal law enforcement agencies knew or didn’t know(don’t want to embaress the directors)…

Can these crimes be prevented, yes if we are willing to pay the price, everybody will be screened continously, all conversations will be monitored, any body carrying a package on the street will be searched. Personally I don’t want to pay this price and will do everything in my power to ensure that these rather dracronian policies are NOT put in place.

Yes it is terrible that the 4 people who were in Boston had to pay the ultimate price for these 2 crazies, but we don’t significantly change our laws and styles of living everytime someone kills 3 or 4 people for whatever reason.

Henry Brown

Interesting, which could/should start/restart a whole new line of discussion…

From “The Hill’s” Blog

The two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings were not licensed to have the firearms they used in several shootouts with police on Friday, Reuters reported Sunday night.

The news that the suspects were not authorized to own firearms will likely add fuel to calls for tougher gun laws – an issue that was put on the back-burner last week after the Senate blocked the central elements of a gun-control package backed by President Obama.

Because Massachusetts state law bars handgun ownership for those younger than 21, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, age 26, was the only brother who could have obtained a license from the town of Cambridge, Mass., where he lived. But he didn’t take that step, Dan Riviello, spokesman for the Cambridge Police Department, told Reuters.

“There is no record of him having a license to carry,” Riviello said, according to the news service.

Massachusetts state law allows residents under 21 to have rifles, but only those weapons holding 10 rounds of ammunition or less, and only then if the holder has a police-issued ID card. Several local jurisdictions where the younger brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, has lived and studied told Reuters they have no record of issuing him such a card.

David B. Grinberg

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Trip to Russia Focus of Probe

  • “The FBI is particularly interested in Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s trip from January to July 2012 to Makhachkala, Dagestan, where Mr. Tsarnaev’s father now lives, U.S. officials said.”

  • “The visit and whether he associated with militants is “key to what happened since we last talked to him,” said a U.S. law enforcement official familiar with the investigation.”

  • “Another U.S. official briefed on the probe said the biggest question is “what he did on the trip and did he receive training or ideological guidance?”

  • “The brothers identified themselves as ethnic Chechens. Dagestan is a Russian region that borders Chechnya, which has been the center of a bloody separatist uprising against Russia.”

Henry Brown

Almost on cue regarding the mindset that more security will solve all our problems…

Too many blog postings to even begin to post them where various people wanting the spotlight for whatever reason are advocating doing away with immigration reform to “protect us”….


Suspect alot of this noise including the Wall Street Journal article is an attempt to get a piece of the pie to protect the budget process of various agencies…

Have been indirectly involved in the background investigations for application for US Citizenship and would offer that if there had been anything at all which would have been cause for the two brothers to not be granted citizenship the younger brother would NOT have become an US Citizen.


From the Privacy blog on Network World:

Post Boston: Privacy advocates warn about coming tsunami of surveillance cameras
After Boston, there is a cry to increase surveillance cameras. But facial recognition didn’t identify the bombing suspects. Privacy advocates warn that creating more of a surveillance society, the loss of more privacy, is not the answer.

Yet EFF attorney Hanni Fakhoury said, “The only way to use these cameras to prevent crime is to have blanket surveillance, to have someone monitoring every intersection and nook and cranny, and that’s where we have problems.”

David B. Grinberg


Thanks so much for your astute comments and insights on these important issues — as well as sharing other articles/posts. Much obliged, sir!

Henry Brown

A quote from Senator Rand Paul
Why did the current system allow two individuals to immigrate to the United States from the Chechen Republic in Russia, an area known as a hotbed of Islamic extremism, who then committed acts of terrorism?

Read the explanation from the Washington Post:

And although the Post doesn’t directly mention it I will add that the asylum request was made in April 2002, which was approved during an republican administration

Henry Brown

Has anyone heard anything further on the issue of What about the Saudi national who was initially deemed a “person of interest” and considered for deportation? can find nothing except the Fox News Rants and denial by Homeland Security Secretary that there was any relationship between Bombing and deportation

David B. Grinberg

The mainstream media finally begin to rasie/report the same serious questions included in this post over the weekend of 4/20 (sampling):

  • ABC News (GMA) – “Alleged Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s name was included on two U.S. terror-watch databases in 2011 after Russia separately requested assistance from the FBI and the CIA to investigate his possible ties to Islamic extremism.”
  • NBC News & MSNBC – “What did the FBI and CIA know about bombing suspects, and when? One of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects landed in at least one low-level intelligence database two years ago, and the system alerted U.S. agents when he flew to Russia last year, federal officials told NBC News on Wednesday.”
  • Business Week (Bloomberg News): “U.S. lawmakers are examining whether the Homeland Security Department failed to alert the FBI last year when one of the Boston bombing suspects boarded a plane for Russia. Lawmakers said yesterday that law enforcement agencies may have failed to share information with each other, even after communications failures among government agencies were highlighted by the Sept. 11 terror attacks.”

That’s right, you heard it here FIRST on GovLoop.

David B. Grinberg

The Atlantic Wire reports:

Why the FBI Didn’t Catch Tamerlan Tsarnaev

  • “Reports that Tamerlan Tsarnaev had been added to the government’s terror watch list seems to bolster the argument that the marathon bombing is the result of FBI error. But that revisionism fails to take into account the scale and complexity of how the government tracks terror suspects.”

  • “The terror watch list, as it’s known, isn’t really a watch list. For one thing, it isn’t regularly watched. For another, it’s not one list. It’s more of a set of hierarchical, integrated databases which are checked under various circumstances, most notably when individuals want to travel.”

  • “In other words, there’s a sort of pyramid of terror investigation. At the bottom of the pyramid are hundreds of thousands of people who’ve come to the government’s attention for some reason. As the FBI and other agencies look into behavior and patterns, people can move up the pyramid.”

  • “Or, after a determined time, people can drop out of the pyramid entirely if they don’t behave in a way that raises suspicion. That’s the track Tsarnaev was on…In other words, Tsarnaev’s trip [to Russia] overlapped with the expiration date of the FBI’s ability to look into him as a threat. He’d dropped out of the pyramid.”

David B. Grinberg

Remember folks, you heard it all here first — last weekend.

What we have here is a failure to communicate…” – Guns & Roses

Communications breakdown, it’s always the same…” – Led Zeppelin

Federal Times reports today:

Boston bombing renews focus on gaps in information-sharing

  • “More than a decade after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks exposed potentially lethal holes in law enforcement and intelligence agencies’ ability to share information, the Boston Marathon bombings are reviving questions about whether gaps persist, despite an enormous investment of money and manpower to close them.”

  • “…the focal point appears to be a trip early last year to Russia by Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the older of the two brothers alleged to have carried out the bombings. The trip came after Tsarnaev had been interviewed by the FBI at the request of Russian authorities over possible links to extremist groups.”

  • “The sharing of terrorism-related information has been on the Government Accountability Office’s high-risk list since 2005.”

  • “The question of whether agencies missed something that could have averted the attack is certain to get scrutiny from both the House and Senate intelligence committees. Following a classified briefing this week by FBI, Homeland Security and National Counterterrorism Center officials, several Democratic members of the House committee said they had so far heard nothing that indicated a failure to communicate.”

Henry Brown

From the Washingtion Post:

The “easy-going, good humored” Saudi Arabian student who briefly became an object of intense suspicion after the Boston bombings broke two months of silence this week, telling The Islamic Monthly that media attention since the attacks “double injured” him.

Abdulrahman Ali Alharbi’s interview, which is worth hearing in full, sheds more light on the messy investigative aftermath of the attacks, which saw several men — many of African and Middle Eastern descent — wrongly accused in the media and on the Internet.