The Nature of the Attack Gives Few Clues About Those Responsible
An MIT terrorism expert says it's hard to rule out possibilities.
In the wake of Monday’s attack near the Boston Marathon finish line, authorities are still searching for answers: Who was behind such senseless tragedy, and what was their purpose? As rumors about a suspect in custody swirled Wednesday, Jim Walsh, an expert in international security and a research associate at MITâ€™s Security Studies Program, weighed in:
1. There are a lot of possibilities, and at this point we donâ€™t have enough information to definitively rule many of them out.
Mondayâ€™s attack was an act of terror, but that doesnâ€™t mean an organized terrorist organization committed it. â€śPeople who arenâ€™t terrorists can commit acts of terror,â€ť explains Walsh. â€śAnd as youâ€™re trying to figure out what happened, you have to hold open both the possibility that it [was committed by] someone who has a political agenda, or by someone who has mental health issues and who doesnâ€™t have an agenda.â€ť
â€śThere are lots of possibilities. If itâ€™s terrorism, it might be foreign or it might be domestic,â€ť says Walsh. â€śIf itâ€™s foreign, it could be al Qaeda or another extremist group from the Middle East who were trying to seek revenge for drone killings or other policies in those areas.â€ť
â€śIf itâ€™s domestic, it might be a group like white supremacists, which have a long track record here,â€ť says Walsh. â€śIt might be domestic individuals who are unaffiliated with extremism, but for whatever [reason] feel sympathetic and [are] acting out on their own. Or it might be domestic folks with a domestic agenda, or that are sympathetic to others outside the U.S. even if theyâ€™re not directly connected to them.â€ť
At this point, we just donâ€™t know.
2. The nature of the attack doesnâ€™t give investigators a lot to go on.
The attack was relatively small in scale: â€śThe explosives used were not weapons grade. They were relatively low to the ground so they couldnâ€™t kill as many people as they could have if they were higher. They didnâ€™t detonate until two hours after many of the runners crossed the finish line,â€ť explains Walsh. â€śSomeone could point to all that and say this group isnâ€™t competent.â€ť
â€śOn the other hand, there were simultaneous multiple explosions,â€ť says Walsh. â€śAnd someone could look at that as a sign of sophistication.â€ť
In some ways, the small scale of the attack actually makes it more difficult to identify its perpetrator. â€śThe more sophisticated an attack, the more it would rule out certain possibilities. The more particular the design, the greater the chance that we could associate it with one terrorist group or another.â€ť
3. That no one has taken responsibility for the attack doesnâ€™t tell us a lot, either.
â€śIf you look at the record in the past, itâ€™s all over the place in terms of people taking responsibility,â€ť says Walsh.
4. In the meantime, all we can do is to continue to help investigators and victims.
â€śThe first order of business is to respond to the law enforcement. If you were at the event, and you have photographs and any data relevant, then you should share that with the police,â€ť says Walsh. â€śAnd if any your loved ones or colleagues or acquaintances talked about the events or gave you reasons to be suspicious, then you should report it.â€ť
â€śAnd lastly, people should continue to do what Iâ€™ve seen unfold: They should support the families whoâ€™ve suffered as a consequence of this. Theyâ€™re going to need our support next week, next year, and for years to come. We need to steer our emotional energy into that, so that these folks arenâ€™t left on their own once the cameras turn to the next story. And if we do that, that will be a tremendous accomplishment.â€ť
Source URL: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/blog/2013/04/17/terrorism-expert-draft/