How can one critically examine the Boston Strong security hype related to Beantown’s marathon without being accused of insensitivity?
For a commentator, that’s the way it should be. So let’s get to it:
America’s heart goes out to the bombing victims. The survivors have shown tremendous courage in the face of unimaginable difficulties, and their stories serve as the ultimate inspiration to never stop fighting.
That said, we must remove emotion and analyze the events leading up to the bombing, the ensuing search, and how America reacted.
It’s not a pretty picture, since we could face a more organized attack. Consider:
1) The bombing should have never happened. Despite Russian intelligence telling America numerous times (starting in 2011) that bomber Tsarnaev had violent ties to Muslim terrorists, he passed through our grasp at JFK Airport twice. And all because his name was spelled with an extra “y” in a database. So our intelligence can read our every email (but apparently weren’t listening in on the Tsarnaevs), and hack any computer, but it can’t red flag a watch-list name that’s off by one letter? That’s inexcusable, and it cost lives.
In what has become a disturbing pattern, our first line of defense tragically failed.
2) Compared to the precision of the 9/11 attackers, the Tsarnaevs were buffoons: no disguises, crude explosives with no strategic plan, and no escape contingency. Yet despite no-fly zones and a martial law lockdown of the city, law enforcement still failed to find them. Alert private citizens did.
4) The media hype was irresponsible and dangerously overblown. Nonstop stories, fueled by officials who felt compelled to share their detailed security plans (why??) and show off their tactical toys, first instilled fear. But soon thereafter, the monotony made people tune out. When the “cry wolf” syndrome sets in, people become less vigilant. The more warnings issued, the less seriously they are taken.
5) Despite Police Commissioner William Evans stating, “We are not going to scare people and make it look like it's an armed camp," his department did just that, publicizing its use of over 4,000 officers, 90 bomb-sniffing dogs, snipers, and state-of-the-art cameras scanning the city. And all was coordinated from a Cold War-like command bunker, which ABC News described as “an underground, futuristic coordination center boasting some 260 security officials representing more than 60 local, state and federal agencies.”
If that’s not an armed camp, what is? And what of the race official who declared that Boston would be “the safest place on the planet?” The stupidity of that proclamation is mind-blowing.
First, try telling that to all the victims of other crime in Boston on Marathon Monday. And such a boast would have blown up in officials’ faces should an attack have occurred under the imprimatur of “safest city.” What would have been the reaction? Quadruple the police? National Guard? Future races with no spectators? No more marathons?
In our culture of fear, it should be a no-brainer that speaking in absolutisms produces nothing positive, and could lead to widespread panic should the unthinkable occur. A mandatory lesson for all officials should be “under-promise and over-deliver. “
It’s time to stop the grandstanding that scares people instead of reassuring them, and start refining our intelligence capabilities so that we can institute real security measures.
Doing so is a marathon process, not a knee-jerk sprint. But if we commit to the long haul, we will truly become America Strong.
Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, Freindly Fire Zone Media. Read more reports from Chris Freind — Click Here Now.
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