Boston Attacks Highlight FBI ‘Tripwire’ System to Catch Bombers

Tuesday, 16 Apr 2013 09:44 AM

By Lisa Barron

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In the wake of the deadly blasts at the Boston Marathon Monday, the FBI is reviewing its so-called tripwire system for identifying would-be bombers before they can build an explosive device.

While federal agents have long requested businesses selling materials that could be used in making bombs to tell authorities about any suspicious orders, the types of tripwires in place have evolved over the years, reported The Wall Street Journal.

In the late 1990s, after the Oklahoma City bombings of April 1995, law enforcement was reportedly concerned mainly with the types of fertilizer-based explosives used in that attack. In the past decade, though, with the growing threat of weapons of mass destruction, authorities have worried mostly about chemical-based bombs.

“The tripwires have certainly been successful in the past,” Don Borelli, a former counterterrorism official at the FBI who now works for the Soufan Group, told the Journal.

A case in point, he said, is the June 2012 conviction of Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari, a Saudi man in the United States on a student visa who had been planning a terrorist attack. That investigation began in February 2011 after a tip from a North Carolina chemical-supply company about a suspicious $435 order by Aldawsari.

Investigators have not yet said what kind of ingredients and materials were used in the explosives that went off at the Boston Marathon finish line, so it is not yet clear if the tripwire system should have triggered.

After the explosions, counterterrorism officials rushed to inspect several discarded bags in and around the city, finding some additional suspicious items that were being investigated Monday evening, the Journal reported.

The head of the Boston FBI office, Richard DesLauriers, said the agency’s joint terrorism task force will take the lead on the investigation.

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