Thoughts on Security Post Boston Marathon
As the dust settles on the bombing in Boston, and the flurry of misinformation and speculation finally begins to settle down now that the two primary suspects have been killed and apprehended, respectively, it’s possible to begin reflecting thoughtfully on the incident and what it means from a security policy perspective.
First and foremost it’s a reminder that pan-Islamic jihad continues to exist, much to the befuddlement of legacy media. However, in an exception that proves the rule sort of way, it’s also a reminder that we are relatively safe from such attacks in America, which have proven to be extremely rare even in this day of heightened global Islamist activity. For whatever reason – whether because attempts have been foiled by good intelligence, or because we have kept the fight overseas, among other possible reasons – we have not seen the kind of increase in attacks that I think many expected would follow 9/11.
Absent additional information, it appears the Tsarnaev brothers were self-radicalizing, which is difficult to defend against. We’ve been pretty effective at undermining the capabilities of the major organized terrorist groups wanting to operate in the US. But from an intelligence point of view, self-radicalized individuals are much more difficult to identify. Even with reports that the FBI was asked to look into the older brother, Tamerlan, evidence is hard to find when there isn’t any group for the individual to interact with.
Overall the evidence at this stage seems to point to an individual, Tamerlan, who was angry, unsuccessful in his endeavors and prone to violence. He found, perhaps due in part to his Chechen background where such extremism is common, an outlet through which to direct his violence in the form radical Islam. His influence then brought his brother into the fold.
All of this is to say, there’s very little here to suggest a need for systemic or drastic changes to our intelligence and counter-terrorism efforts. The tendency when things like this happen is to overreact, but it’s important to keep perspective on how rare such occurrences have been. Otherwise, you run the risk of adopting bad ideas that expand the power and size of the state at the expense of individual freedom.