Monday, April 15, 2013

Early Thoughts on Boston Bombing 15 April 2013: #1 Remember Tonight

            Remember tonight -- because right now we do not know who did this.

            The FBI has several unexploded devices in hand, and my bet is they will have a pretty good line on the origin of the attack very soon. Bomb makers have unique styles, almost like fingerprints. In fact, the FBI may find finger prints inside. But we don’t have that evidence right now.

The materials from the bombs will eventually give us lots of clues as well. For example, many amateurs favor improvised explosives like PETN, as opposed to military or even commercial grades of high explosives. The pictures of the event (lack of blown out windows, etc.) seem to indicate a low order explosive. But right now, we do not know for certain. One early medical report indicated a lack of nails, ball bearings, marbles, etc. which is surprising. A different report claimed that such materials, intended to create shrapnel and casualties, were in the bombs.  More contradictory information will come out before the truth emerges.

And so far, no one has claimed credit.  If past experience holds true, before long, several fakers will claim they did it.

So there is a lot of evidence to go on, and authorities will soon have some hard leads. But not right now. All we know right now is that the attacker (attackers?) falls into one of several categories:

1.      INTERNATIONAL TERRORIST – which means an attack mounted from overseas by a foreigner and concerning an overseas political issue. (Example: Al Qaeda, Hamas, etc.)

2.      DOMESTIC TERRORIST – an American who mounted the attack from inside the US over an internal / domestic political issue. (Example: radical right, radical left, radical environmentalist, etc.)

3.      HOME GROWN TERRORIST  – US citizen inspired by overseas political issues, perhaps supported by overseas resources. (Example: Times Square bomber)

4.      DOMESTIC CRIMINAL – US citizen with a financial motive for the attack (unlikely in this case, but it could happen).

5.      TRANSNATIONAL CRIMINAL – International origin with a financial motive for the attack (drug cartel, Russian mafia -- probably not in this case, but a growing concern).

6.      DOMESTIC NUT (pardon the technical term) – US citizen with a personal agenda (Example: Uni-bomber)

Not only do we not know the origin of the Boston attacks at this moment, but the situation is so uncertain that no experienced analyst is willing to stake his (or her) reputation on a guess. That is the part we need to remember.

Because some political ideologues are right now fairly panting at the prospect that the attacker might ultimately be linked to their political opponents. Once the attacker is identified, these opportunists will claim the link is the inevitable result of their opponent’s political views, and use this to justify restrictions on political speech. And thus the actual crime may be used as grounds for an even greater crime – the murder of the right to free speech.

Of course, groups that espouse violence really are dangerous and should be recognized as such. In particular, some groups have declared war on America and the American people. We can’t just ignore their threat.

But political disagreement alone does not constitute a threat. This is a good rule to remember when the identity of the Boston bomber(s) becomes known, and ideologues begin to argue that the linkage to their opponents’ political ideas made violence inevitable.

            Don’t over react. Don’t spend money unnecessarily for the unnecessary consolidation of bureaucratic power. Don’t surrender rights and liberties in the pursuit of perfect security. We don’t know much tonight. But we do know these truths. In the coming days, it would serve us well to remember them.

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