Truman National Security Project

Boston and Terror

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By Glenn Sulmasy | 4.16.13
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Make no mistake about it: the bombs that went off at the end of the Boston Marathon were acts of terror. We do not yet know whether they were foreign, domestic or home grown acts of terror, but nonetheless, they were terrorists acts. It was Patriots Day, Tax day, punishment for drones, al Qaeda attacks, or even some have asserted the acts were to “celebrate” the birthday of Kim Jong Un’s grandfather. These attacks remind us of the changed world we now live in the United States. The scene yesterday in Boston was similar to ones witnessed in war torn Syria, Iraq or Libya. Truly horrifying.

No doubt, many theories will circulate over the next few days, weeks, perhaps even months as to the motive or sponsor of the acts. All intelligence reports have shown little chatter occurred prior to the attacks and, at the time of this writing, no one has taken responsibility. [One suspect is in custody, a Saudi national seen acting strangely before the act and tackled by a citizen after the bomb exploded - but no one should read into this further at this point.] Thus, it is likely the speculation will go on for some time. But the primitive nature of the bombs, and their placement in garbage cans, reveal an unsophisticated attack. Also, the rapid response of the Boston police, fireman, and emergency personnel, successfully ensured the “capture” of one bomb prior to detonation. In so doing, the FBI and local police and others can now better understand the motivation and origins of the attack. Credit, once again, must be given to our first responders as well as the medical personal involved in reacting to a truly unexpected attack.

Regardless, there will be more to follow and we should all remind ourselves that terrorism now impacts the US as a matter of fact. Many attacks have actually been prevented. In this case (as in all attacks), it really does not matter who did the act – the fact is the intent of terrorists is the same – to frighten and scare people to promote a certain political interest or action. Boston needs to respond quickly, and demonstrate quickly, that these cowardly acts will not effect the people, business, industry and great culture of one of America’s finest cities. I am confident Mayor Menino and Governor Patrick will rise to the occasion and rally the citizens of Boston to continue their normal day to day routines. While Bostonians go back to “business” in the next couple of days, I am confident the authorities will determine whom, and what, was the catalyst for the disruption of one of Massachusetts’ great annual events – Patriots Day/The Boston Marathon.

The great irony of yesterday was that I started my day reading an alleged al Qaeda fighter imprisoned at Gitmo’s oped in the New York Times, and ended it perplexed as to who, or why, someone would murder innocent children, like the 8 year old killed Monday in Boston. Terrorism is now part of the American life – an unfortunate reality we all must confront after the events of April 15, 2013.

Glenn Sulmasy is a professor of law at USCGA and a Homeland and National Security Law Fellow at the Center for National Policy in Washington DC. The views expressed herein are his own.