For this month's Readers' Review: "All The Light We Cannot See" by Anthony Doerr. The 2014 novel weaves together the stories of a blind French girl and a German orphan during World War II.
The FBI is leading the investigation into explosions that killed three and injured about 140 people near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. A number of blocks in downtown Boston are being searched for clues. At the time of the blasts, the area was crowded with spectators and runners in what has traditionally been a day of celebration and pride in the city. In remarks last night, President Barack Obama pledged to put the full resources of the federal government behind the investigation. But many also warn not to rush to judgment. Diane and her guests discuss questions on the day after the deadly explosions in Boston.
- Susan Davis reporter for USA Today.
- Michael Greenberger founder and director at the University of Maryland Center for Health and Homeland Security and professor at the University of Maryland Carey School of Law.
- David Cole law professor at Georgetown University Law Center and author of "The Torture Memos: Rationalizing the Unthinkable." His previous books include "Less Safe, Less Free" and "Terrorism and the Constitution."
- Devlin Barrett reporter covering security and law enforcement for The Wall Street Journal.
- Rep. Jane Harman director, president and CEO of the Wilson Center and former chair of the House Homeland Security subcommittee on intelligence.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. After nearly a dozen years of foiled plots, the U.S., yesterday, suffered its first large-scale bombing since the attacks of 9/11. Joining me to talk about the investigation into the Boston Marathon explosions, what the authorities know and how the nation is reacting: David Cole of the Georgetown University Law Center, Devlin Barrett with The Wall Street Journal and Michael Greenberger of the University of Maryland Center for Health and Homeland Security.
MS. DIANE REHMAlso joining us, Jane Harman, she's former chair of the House Homeland Security subcommittee on intelligence. She is president and CEO of the Woodrow Wilson Center. I hope you'll join us, 800-433-8850. Send us your email to email@example.com. Feel free to follow us on Facebook or Twitter. And good morning to all of you.
PROF. DAVID COLEGood morning.
MR. DEVLIN BARRETTGood morning, Diane.
PROF. MICHAEL GREENBERGERGood morning.
REP. JANE HARMANGood morning.
REHMGood to have you all with us. Joining us by phone from Boston, Susan Davis, she's a reporter with USA Today. Susan, you're usually here in the studio on our Friday News Roundup. I gather you were in Boston for the marathon. Tell me about your experience.
MS. SUSAN DAVISThat's right, Diane. I had actually come up to Boston just for vacation to watch part of the marathon and, you know, the Red Sox game yesterday. And they play Monday morning games every year on Patriot's Day. After the game, which the Red Sox won in a battle to the ninth in a great game, there was a very celebratory feel to the streets, watched a little bit more of the marathon and was actually headed back to the airport to D.C. when a police officer walked by and said there has been an explosion near the finish line.
MS. SUSAN DAVISSo just sort of headed that way and got pretty close. I would say that police response was pretty dramatic and pretty swift. I know that they had some -- a hard time getting some EMT in there to help the victims, but in terms of walking down the area and creating a barricade, they actually moved very quickly and very smoothly.
MS. SUSAN DAVISImmediately found some people who had been at the scene and had been eyewitnesses and described -- I'm sure what you've heard is pretty horrific sounds of people losing limbs, of what this scene in the street was, about this sort of chaos that had erupted. And it was a pretty chaotic day around the city in that there were a lot of uncorroborated reports of additional bomb threats, the city was being barricaded at certain areas on and off, trying to get a grasp of the situation.
MS. SUSAN DAVISI could say, this morning, there is a notably different sense in the air. I think a lot of calm has returned to Boston. I'm standing actually in the corner of Boylston and Arlington Street, and I'm looking down Boylston Avenue, which is closed down and sort of sadly apocalyptic-looking. There's a lot of trash littering the street. There's no activity down it. But already, there's people gathering at the end of Boylston. They started a make-shift memorial with flowers winding up against the fences along the barricade.
MS. SUSAN DAVISMarathon runners are all over the city. You can see them proudly wearing their blue and yellow jacket that the runners get. They're all over town. You can see them everywhere. And they seem to be in pretty good spirit. So I think that there's a lot of sadness here, but I could say that, just being on the street, Boston is a very resilient city. And the people here have been very kind and very cooperative with each other.
REHMI'm glad you were with us this morning. Susan Davis, reporter for USA Today. Thanks for joining us, Susan.
REHMAnd to you, Jane Harman, the latest figures tell us that 176 people were injured, 17 critically, and three people dead. There is no one in custody. The president says, don't jump to conclusions. But senior White House official -- one senior White House official later called the incident an act of terror. How do you see it?
HARMANWell, I think it's premature to put labels on it, but I do think it will turn out to be an act of terror. The question is by whom or by what group. I think it is way premature to link this to any of the terror groups in the Middle East who are selling carnage against innocent Muslims there, more carnage, and against the West. But we'll see. I mean, let's understand this was Patriot's Day. We have a big gun vote and gun act, you know -- what is it -- banning gun violence approach in the Senate coming up.
HARMANSo there could be just affected Americans. What is very scary, Diane, is the easy availability of materials on the Web, some of them coming from what's called Inspire magazine, which is prepared in colloquial English in Yemen and disseminated, but others coming from other places that show you how to build these crude bombs. And my guess is that we're going to end up learning that there were two backpack bombs that were planted in exactly the right places and detonated remotely at the most impactful time in the marathon.
HARMANThe four-hour mark is where most runners are around and most of the viewers are around. And it was devastating. I mean, observers say that the use of ball bearings and all the blood reminded them of Iraq. But as Susan just said, we can't -- we should all say this, that the heroism of first responders and the paramedics is just amazing. And I hear that some of the runners went straight from the finish line to the hospitals to give blood to victims.
HARMANSo we are a resilient country, and I can't wait for the Boston Marathon next year. I may even go up there or even -- no, I'm not good enough to try to run it. I can't run a marathon. But I may be there. I think we should come out in force. And whoever these people are, first, we should apprehend them, but second of all, we have to show the strength of our country.
REHMDevlin Barrett, there was other reaction from Washington from Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
BARRETTYes. A lot of lawmakers were looking at this and trying to understand what it means and what it implies for the future. I think the reality is we haven't had a major explosion targeting civilians in this country in a number of years and -- at least not a successful one. And so, in addition to searching for the suspect or suspects in this, they have to also try and figure out how this plot was put together and what, if anything, may change in this sort of tripwire sensory systems that they have that would prevent another person from following this example.
REHMDavid Cole, how do you think investigators can actually go about finding out who did this and how it was done?
COLEWell, I think it's difficult. Apparently, there was no chatter beforehand that provides any leads that there was a plot, so you have to do it entirely after the fact. My guess is that the most likely leads would come from video footage, CCTV footage and the like. If you recall the bombings in London, July 7, 2004, within a day or -- they had identified the perpetrators because of CCTV footage in the tube stations and the like.
COLEAnd so I'm sure they're looking at a lot of video footage. I don't know whether the video cameras are as extensive in Boston as they are in London. I don't think they're anywhere as extensive as they are in London. But that...
REHMMichael Greenberger, talk about what David Cole just mentioned, no advance warning at all. What would that indicate?
GREENBERGERWell, I think it's important to restate what Jane Harman has said, that it's -- at this stage, it's very difficult to read the tea leaves and say...
GREENBERGERBut the fact -- I think I'm hearing from people inside law enforcement that the fact that there was no advance warning, that the bomb was of a very crude making, this Patriot Day thing -- it may sound paranoid, but Patriot Day, which is really to celebrate the battles of Lexington and Concord in the beginning of the American Revolution, formation of our democratic republic, has been converted in the last few years to people who are upset about extensive government interference as they see it.
GREENBERGERActually, Patriot Day in Massachusetts and Maine is the third Monday in April, but the traditional Patriot's Day is April 19. April 19, 1995 was when Timothy McVeigh set off the bomb that led to the Oklahoma City courthouse. And I think, as Jane Harman said, the gun control issue -- also, there were stories -- and I don't know if they've been verified -- that the last mile of the race was dedicated to the memory of the Newtown survivors, which links to gun control.
GREENBERGERFor whatever it's worth, I think this was a domestic situation. But I am confident that law enforcement is not going to have blinders, and they will go wherever the evidence leads.
COLEI guess I would say it's dangerous to leap to conclusions. You know, it could be domestic, for all the reasons Michael says, but it could also be foreign. I think back to when Jennifer Rubin, who blogs for The Washington Post, said, you know, with certainty that the Norwegian attack on those children was a classic Islamic militant attack. And, of course, it turned out to have nothing to do with that, and similarly with Oklahoma City. So I don't think we want to go in either direction until we have data.
REHMI see that both the police in Boston and the FBI are appealing to the public for videos or photos at the scene. That would say to me that they're reaching out to absolutely everyone. Devlin.
BARRETTAnd it's a huge technical challenge. If you think back to the Olympic bombing in Atlanta, they had some video and they had some photos. We are a world away, technology wise, from that event. So you have, if anything, too much information. And the task before the FBI and all the other investigators is monumental in terms of combing through all this video and trying to come up with the person or persons you think is your suspect.
REHMDevlin Barrett, he is a reporter covering security and law enforcement at The Wall Street Journal. We'll take a short break here. And when we come back, we'll have your calls, comments to the conversation.
REHMAnd welcome back. Here with me in the studio, Devlin Barrett of The Wall Street Journal. Michael Greenberger is founder and director at the University of Maryland Center for Health and Homeland Security. David Cole is professor of law at Georgetown University and author of "The Torture Memos: Rationalizing the Unthinkable." Joining us from her office is Jane Harman, director, president and CEO of the Woodrow Wilson Center, former chair of the House Homeland Security subcommittee on intelligence. Devlin, talk about the FBI's tripwire system.
BARRETTRight. The FBI has, for years, had a system in place designed to alert them when suspicious purchases of products that could be used to make bombs -- when those suspicious purposes -- purchases happen. For instance, in 2011, it was a tripwire that led them to focus on a Saudi student living in Texas who had ordered a bunch of chemicals. The tripwire system generally works better for chemical-type purchases because the sources of those and the means of getting them are fairly -- are a little more limited.
BARRETTBut, for example, the tripwire program really became expanded after Timothy McVeigh attacked Oklahoma City and there was a big focus on fertilizer bombs. And there was a large effort to just have the producers and distributors and sellers of those products keep a close eye and know their customers. You've seen it expand to all sorts of chemical products now, including hydrogen peroxide, which, you know, beauty shops use, things like that.
BARRETTWhat's interesting to me about what happened in Boston yesterday is just on the eyewitness accounts and some of the visuals of the attack, it's suggestive of a black powder-based bomb. If that turns out to be the case, that's a little bit harder of a material to track through trip wires because black powder is, for example, what you get in ammunition -- gun ammunition.
BARRETTAnd people -- there's plenty of folks, my relatives included, who make their own ammunition. And those are just purchases that happen every day. And if someone did a lot of small purchases, there's no reason to necessarily suspect that person X is hoarding that material to build a bomb.
REHMJane Harman, do you want to comment?
HARMANYeah. We can speculate all we want. I think law enforcement, plus our huge FBI and intelligence community assets, will figure this out fairly fast, and maybe there will be video. My guess is, even if it's not in the exact location showing people placing these backpacks or whatever the bombs were in, it will be close enough nearby when, you know, in the timeframe, we'll figure this out. But that speculation is very interesting to me.
HARMANI think this may turn out -- here I said I wouldn't speculate -- to be around the gun violence debate in Congress. And this Patriot Day just seems the perfect place, also this dedication to the Newtown families, that last mile, at the most impactful time. So we'll see. But I think there's another point to make, and I think we better make it now, or at least I'd like to, which is we have no evidence yet other than perhaps being directed by materials on the Web that this is connected to anything in the Middle East.
HARMANAnd the Woodrow Wilson Center has a huge Middle East program, and we are enormously concerned with developments there. And I just want to read a two-sentence email we got today from Anwar El Sadat, the nephew of Anwar Sadat, who was, as we can recall, the peacemaker in Egypt who was assassinated.
HARMANHis nephew, who was in the parliament, which has recently been disbanded but is a secular -- political person in Egypt, writes, "I am writing to express my heartfelt condolences to all of the victims of the vicious bombings in Boston yesterday. It took us in Egypt by shock. We are all alarmed by such waves of violence and barbarism that our world seems to be facing far too frequently. I am sorry to see how much a small group of terrorists" -- now, we don't know that they're terrorists -- "can ruin our faith in humanity. Sorry again for your loss."
HARMANAnd these emails are coming in from all over the world. I hope we don't leap to any conclusion about the connection of this to groups in the Middle East or connection of this to people who may have Middle Eastern backgrounds. I know there was some speculation about a Saudi student in the area. I don't know what the status of that is. But it is very important to keep an open mind and not use prejudiced reactions now to leap to conclusions.
REHMAll right. And, David, turning to you, we hear this word terrorist over and over again. Give me a legal definition. Can it not apply to American citizens as easily as to anyone foreign born?
COLEOh, absolutely. I mean, there are a variety of distinctions in terms of the definitions that various countries use and that we even use in different parts of our law. But it's basically an act of violence directed at civilians intended to spread fear and terror through the population. This, you know, almost certainly fills that…
REHMSo why would the president be reluctant to call it an act of terror or an act of terrorism when clearly these bombs, these explosives, were placed at a high -- highly populated area?
COLEWell, I think the president was speaking relatively soon after the events and was following the advice of all, you know, security people and people who thought about these issues, which is, again, don't jump to conclusions. It doesn't pay to jump to conclusions.
REHMBut what's the conclusion that is jumped to?
COLEWell, it could -- I mean, initially when I was driving home hearing about it, they weren't sure whether it was some explosion from, you know, the heating devices and the -- all the technical materials that were there for the filming. I mean, they just didn't know immediately whether it was a bomb or whether it was some other kind of explosion. I think it's just responsible, particularly if you're the, you know, the leader of the country to...
REHMOK. Would you call it an act of terror now?
COLEYeah. I think now it sounds like we have pretty clear evidence that it was bombs placed in garbage cans, you know, near the, you know, the finish line. Can I go just to something that, you know, has been -- we've been circulating around. But -- and that is this whether it's domestic or whether or it's foreign, you know, I don't want to take a position on whether it's domestic or whether it was caused by some foreign plot. But I do think it's important to keep in mind the difference in how we react if we conclude that it's foreign or domestic.
COLESo, for example, in the U.K., the initial reactions to the 7/7 bombing of the subway and bus bombing was, this is outrageous. We have to act against these foreign, you know, attackers. Then they discovered, oh, it was domestic. It was Britain's and residents of Britain who had done it. And then they had a very different reaction, a reaction that said, wait a minute, this is a problem within, not a problem outside. We can't just, you know, kick out and react against.
COLEWe have to look inside of ourselves. But realistically, I think we need to always be responding in a way that is -- as if we would respond to a domestic attack, that is that doesn't sort of react by negating the rise of foreigners, of people we don't associate ourselves with.
REHMAnd the AP is reporting, Michael Greenberger, that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has called the Boston bombings a cruel act of terror.
GREENBERGEROh, yes. I mean, I'm of a view. I know technical definitions. When two bombs go off in an urban area where innocent people are collected, there's one place, 100 yards down, there's panic in the streets, innocent civilians who have done nothing wrong are attacked, to my mind, that's an act of terror from the get-go. The problem people have is they think it's important to know if it's terror, who did it?
GREENBERGERBut, you know, a Nobel laureate prizewinner could've set those things off, and it technically, under the statutes, would be an act of terror. I think also there's -- it's been talked around here, but there is a worry that many people -- too many people associate terrorism with the Middle East. And I would suspect the president was hesitant to call it terror for fear of the kinds of things Jane Harman and David Cole have talked about. But there's not doubt about it.
GREENBERGERI frankly believe if this is a domestic who's done it, there will be no difference in the reaction. Hopefully our ability to punish will be heightened 'cause we don't have to go outside the country. But I think the American public -- this has been such an outrageous act. The New York Times today has a quote in the headline, "I've never seen so many people missing legs," from a Rhode Island State Trooper. It's a really very vicious act, and the worry, of course, is -- and I hope this doesn't happen -- is that it will be copycatted, repeated, and that will really, really cause problems.
BARRETTYeah. I mean, from my point of view, just covering federal law enforcement, I think the whole discussion of whether you'd call it terrorism around is kind of inconsequential because any normal human being looks at it and says, that's terrorism. Whatever the motive, that's terrorism. But I -- at the same time, I understand why officials, from their point of view, they're trying to find the facts.
BARRETTAnd they don't want to ascribe motives to things when they really don't know very much yet. And so I am sympathetic to the -- to their reluctance to just brand things terror right out of the gate. But at the same time, it doesn't really affect anything. They're going full bore on this. They're doing everything they can to put together a terror charge on whoever did this.
GREENBERGERYeah. I would just say that's mostly right, but the fact -- getting the federal government involved is easier if -- and when the president didn't say anything about terror, the White House was clear to say immediately, off the record, it was a terror act. And now you're saying this means they can bring in the justice part -- ATF, FBI -- without any worries about federalism or anything else.
GREENBERGERThe other thing is the punishment for committing a terror act compounds. In other words, if it's murder, maybe it's not a death sentence subject. But if it's a federal criminal terror act, then you've got to worry about death penalty. That happened with the sniper case here where they were very careful to prosecute in Virginia, where Virginia deemed it a terror act and therefore was subject to death penalty. I'm not saying that's right or wrong, but there are consequences.
HARMANI agree, and I think all of us are agreeing, Diane. I'm even assuming you agree with us, that, yes, this was an act of terror, but by whom and for what motive we don't know. And I'm just warning against leaping to conclusions. I do agree about -- with the comment about copycat attacks. I also agree -- and it hasn't been quite put this way -- that now if -- now is the time, in addition to showing the generosity of Americans and the competence of our law enforcement and health personnel, to live our values.
HARMANOur response to this has to be consistent with the rule of law. We have to show other people, both in the U.S. and outside, that we apply a fair standard to those we apprehend. And a piece of good news -- I don't know how to -- none of this is good news, but something that I at least am relieved to think about is that if we apprehend the person in the United States, especially if it's a U.S. person, that person will be tried in our -- in -- probably...
HARMAN...in our federal court system, and we won't go for this netherland of military commissions and others, other bodies with vague mandates...
HARMAN...because we have a strong record of conviction under our federal courts for people accused of terrorism-related crimes.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We have many callers. I'm going to open the phones, 800-433-8850, first to Tallahassee, Fla. Good morning, Bill.
BILLHi. Good morning.
REHMGood morning, sir.
BILLFirst-time -- yeah. First-time caller, big fan.
BILLMy question is I have this theory about black powder for years, and I'm just wondering how easy it is for a person to go around to, like, all the different Wal-Marts 'cause, you know, they are close by. You can pick up a can of black powder in, like, six different Wal-Marts, throw it in a towel with a couple of wires and a bagging, wrap it up with some duct tape. I mean, this is something that is so easy to do. And I'm just wondering why it doesn't happen a lot more often, and it would be hard to trace.
BARRETTThat's a very good point, and that's essentially accurate. I think the first reason why it doesn't happen very often is there aren't that many, you know, homicidal lunatics in the world, thankfully. It's a rare pool of people who even have the notion to do it. I also think the other reason is that, you know, they know what they have there, and people do try to keep tabs on it. It's also not as, I don't think -- it's been described to me -- as simple as just throwing it in a coffee can.
BARRETTI've covered cases where they've made some pretty lousy bombs. I think one of the things that's interesting to me about this case is they seem to be fairly effective, obviously. And I am very curious to see what they piece together out of the really small fragments that they're probably left with, because you need to compress that force, like there is a force that comes from igniting black powder. But unless you contain it in some sort of device that can maximize that explosion, you know, all you're really going to get is a big fireball. So...
REHMAll right. To Indianapolis. Good morning, Ryan.
RYANGood -- how are you?
REHMI'm fine. Thanks, sir. Go right ahead.
RYANGood. I just had a comment and a question. One, I wanted to reiterate -- I know it was said, as I was calling -- that there is a strong correlation between the term terrorism and the mindset of the American people and Islamic extremism, so that's perhaps the reason why people are cautious to make comments regarding whether to call it a terrorist act or not. And, two, I've seen this kind of double-edged sword go to the media when it comes to using the term right-wing extremism or right-wing terrorism per se.
RYANYou -- I mean, when something happens domestically, especially when we're talking about the gun votes from a liberal city in America, et cetera, et cetera, we'll call it domestic terrorism as opposed to regular terrorism. There are political and reputation points to be lost in doing so. And I'm just wondering if you'd like to comment on why that's the case, why...
GREENBERGERYeah. I don't think that's actually correct. I could see, because we're talking about Patriot Day, where you'd drift off in that direction. But there's been environmental terrorism from the left. And I think law enforcement and first responders, police look at what the result is and are going to go where the evidence leads them.
GREENBERGERI think the kind of bias that we're concerned about is really we have to give credit to law enforcement -- city, state and federal -- that they're going to follow the evidence, and wherever the evidence goes, they will proceed, so I have no concerns. They may think something happened and they ought to look down this trail. But there's no doubt in my mind, as many people have said in this conversation, that the FBI, the ATF, Massachusetts Police, city -- Boston City Police will follow the evidence and take it where it leads.
COLEI think that's right. I think terrorism is terrorism. It doesn't really matter what political valance is behind it. If you're killing innocent civilians to perpetrate fear and terror through the community, that's -- it's just -- it's unacceptable. I think the key to me is have we learned from 9/11? You know, after 9/11, we rounded up 750 people in the first two weeks, 5,000 in the first two years, none of whom had anything to do with terrorism. Have we learned from that to be more resilient and cautious this time around? I certainly hope so.
REHMDavid Cole, professor of law at Georgetown University. Short break here. More of your calls, your comments, when we come back.
REHMAnd welcome back. Here's an email, which says, "While we consider this terrible act, let us think of the countries that deal with this every single day." Jane Harman.
HARMANYeah. I agree. The -- let's remember that part of the visual here was flags flying right next to these explosions. And those were flags flying to represent the countries of the runners who came from other places, estimated to be between 50 and 95 countries. That's almost half the world if it's 95. This -- whoever perpetrated this, killed indiscriminately, and I'm sure we will find that numbers of those wounded or possibly killed were foreigners.
HARMANAnd I think it -- and I am sure their law enforcements in addition to their politicians -- I read the Anwar Sadat email -- will rise to help us as they did on 9/11. So yes, to this caller, this was an international event. Something we haven't said yet, Diane, is there is no such thing as 100 percent security. No matter how good we are, there will be -- I hate to predict this, but there will be more of these or other terror and violent events.
HARMANWhat we can do is try to manage the risk, and we are doing that pretty effectively in this country. Most people don't know how many attacks we have prevented in this country. Some are public, but a lot of them are still classified. So I just, again, want to salute what we do, and I want to give a shout out, by the way, to Nina Pillard, who was David Cole's wife, who is a scholar at the Wilson Center, right now working on reinventing codes of conduct in the workplace.
REHMI'm glad to hear that. Thank you, Jane. Let's go to Tulsa, Okla. Josh, you're on the air.
JOSHYes, ma'am. I have a question for the caller. It's two parts. One of them is there was a cross-country coach for Alabama University, I believe, who said he saw a bunch of bomb-sniffing dogs before the race had started, and do you guys think it's coincidental that they did a controlled detonation at the library the same day near the same time?
REHMAll right. Devlin.
BARRETTYeah. There were bomb-sniffing dogs there on hand beforehand. They treat marathons as major terrorist targets normally.
REHMOf course. Yeah.
BARRETTIt's sort of a logistical nightmare. You have a 26-plus mile stretch that is designed solely to draw in people with packages. That is a problem. And there's no way to create total security at a marathon other than have a really terrible marathon. And to the other issue he was asking about, what was it again? The issue of...
REHMHe talked about the...
BARRETTThe library. One of the things they ended up doing, at least ones that we know of, is a controlled detonation of a suspicious package. What they were left with when -- after the main event happened, was they were left with a street full of bags. And while they can partially inspect some of the bags -- every time they come across, for example, a bag that happens to have wires in it -- my backpack has a bunch of wires in it.
BARRETTIf anyone happened to come across it, it would presumably in that circumstance look suspicious. So at some point, it's not unusual for a bomb tech to decide, you know what, the simplest thing to do is to put it in a box, do a controlled det and take away the threat and then look at it later.
REHMRather than sniffing trash cans.
GREENBERGERWell, the trash can issue is a big issue to people who worry about protection of this thing -- and I want to make it clear, I -- to talk about this might put you in the posture of second guessing. And, God knows, trying to prevent these things from happening, we don't want to look at with 20-20 hindsight. The Boston police and the Massachusetts State Police are terrific, but there has been a lot of academic writing, and, in fact, the New York City Police Department has paid special attention to garbage cans in big areas.
GREENBERGERThe London underground and the Japanese underground do not allow garbage cans there. I think Metro may be the same way. The New York City is removing garbage cans from the Metro, but it is a classic, going all the way back to the IRA. There were some major underground bombing, 1991, in the London Tube. If you put the bomb in a garbage can, the garbage can itself becomes shrapnel.
GREENBERGERAnd I think we will see, and as I said, God knows, you can't stop every one of these things. You got to worry about so many. There will be a focus on the fact -- if the fact's pair out that these were in garbage cans, they probably were placed in on a contemporaneous way before they were exploded. The sniffing dogs didn't sniff them. That's part of the devilish nature of all this. But if there is a conventional counterterrorism flaw that garbage cans and mailboxes should either be sealed or taken away.
REHMYou mean, we've seen this in movies, for heaven's sake. We saw in the movie "Speed." I really do remember that, and it does seem to me that you've got so many opportunities to place lethal weapons or explosives in areas where people gather.
COLEI think that's right, and I think that's why Jane Harman's comment that we have to learn to manage, the risk is so critical. I mean, the reality is that there are -- it is impossible to keep us entirely secure. All you need to do is go down to Union Station in D.C. or go to Penn Station in New York or think of all the parades that happen every year in every city. Think of all the sporting events that happen every year in every city, it's just impossible to stop this.
COLEAnd one of the amazing things is that we haven't -- we've had so few, and I think there are many other countries that -- in which this is a much more regular event. And it's not because they're worst at preventing. It's, I think it's much more likely because there are serious grievances in those countries that lead people to engage in really extreme acts. And I think that sort of connects up our commitment to rule of law values and to democracy which reduces the threat long term that people will take these kinds of violent means.
REHMAll right. To Stephen City, Va. Good morning, Stephen. You're on the air.
STEPHENGood morning, Diane. Thank you for taking my call.
STEPHENI have two comments. The first comment is about the bomb itself. There's an old-fashion term for this type of bomb, and it's called a scatter bomb. And it's a bomb you make from black powder. You could use a two-liter bottle as long as you have it pressurized. And you can actually use it and add ball bearings to actually scatter a crowd. And it inflicts tons of damage. This has actually been used way back in history.
STEPHENMy second comment -- and it's also a question for your panel -- is, when we look at the international stage and what's going on around the world, why is no one looking at trends of increasing violence, whether it's North Korea, whether it's Iran, all of these things that are changing on the international stage? But when we look at it domestically, we're so surprised that we have violence in our own country.
BARRETTI think, frankly, there's just still a lot we don't know about the actual composition of the bomb. I mean, you know, the black powder reference I made early is solely based on the video we've seen, the burn marks on the site and what people reported smelling immediately after the bomb went off. That's not something you build in a criminal case around necessarily.
BARRETTAnd you do have to like, due to painstaking work of putting together little, little, little bits and try and create at least a mental picture of how this bomb was put together. And I think that's going to take some time. And as far as violence in general, I mean, look, there's a huge debate in this country as to what's -- how serious the threat of terrorism is, how much time and energy should we spend dealing with it. I think this attack is one of those instances where everyone probably recalibrates.
HARMANYeah. And I would just add -- this is Jane Harman -- that after Newtown, everyone is talking about this. And it is certainly true that much of the -- many of the new movies and new series on television are full of violence, as our video games. We have a First Amendment. It's very difficult to figure out what to do other than to allow parents to supervise what their children watch. I think most people are in favor of that.
HARMANBut going beyond that is, as the lawyers say -- and I am one of those -- a slippery slope. We have to protect our values in this country. We have to enforce the rule of law. A part of combating all of this, these grievances, whether they're domestic or international, is to project an America that is fair to everyone and offers opportunity and tolerance. A lot of countries in the world don't offer any of those things at the moment, and we have to stand out.
REHMSo, Michael Greenberger, how frightened should the American people be with this increase in violence all over the world?
GREENBERGERWell, in terms of improvised explosive devices going up, first of all, it's a miracle. I mean, look at Baghdad. We've had our soldiers. It's been the number one problem for American soldiers. And many of us have said, it's a miracle, this doesn't happen in the United States. Now, it's not completely a miracle because the one thing we have to give credit to here is city, state and federal law enforcement who have been supported with appropriate funding. We do exercises with them. We do training.
GREENBERGERThey've been very good at heading these things off. You only have to look at New York City to see the things they've stopped. So here, one got through, but we've had this distance. The other thing we've got to look at, when I heard on the radio yesterday, it said people were running away from the bomb, but the people running toward it were the fire police and emergency medical tech...
REHMBut even some of those who were running away came back to help.
GREENBERGERTrue, true, but instinctively. And I think that's an important point because in our time of budget austerity, there is too quick an effort made to cut the funding, whether it's city, state or federal, of these first responders. I saw Peter King, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said this morning, we've cut back too far on our police and our counterterrorist mechanism.
GREENBERGERAnd I think that, you know, if we don't want to be -- have improvised explosive devices and we want to prevent it and we want fast response, we as citizens have an obligation to make sure, one way or the other, we support the people who protect us.
COLEActually, first, I wouldn't assume that we live in an era of increased violence. I mean, think back to the crusades, think back to World War I, think back to World War II, think back to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I mean, we're talking massive acts of violence with millions of people killed. So I think we're too quick to say increased acts of violence in the world today.
COLEWhat there is is an increased ability of small groups of people or individuals to do grievous harm, which makes it very difficult to police, and that's right. But I want to push back a little bit on Michael on this notion that we should keep up our national security funding. I think, you know, after 9/11, we put massive amounts of money into counterterrorism and national security.
COLEAnd some of it undoubtedly was well spent, but it's also the kind of thing where no congressman could say no. And so there've been story after story in the newspapers about wasteful spending on counterterrorism and national security because politically it's impossible to say no. So I think actually we need to think very critically about the spending we're doing in the (word?).
GREENBERGERWell, I would just say I live in the city of Baltimore. And, David, I would like you to go with me to the Baltimore City Police chief and say you think he has enough funding. He will make a very convincing case that he doesn't...
COLEWell, and probably he doesn't have enough funding because of all the money that's being, you know, dedicated to the Beltway, you know, consultants on these kinds of issues.
REHMDavid Cole of Georgetown University, and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Jane Harman, I know you want to jump in on that.
HARMANYes, I would like to. I was in Congress all those years, nine terms, including on 9/11 and in fairly senior roles, first on the intelligence committee and then on the homeland committee. Some of our money was misspent, I agree with that. And certainly we -- in some of the essentially block grant formulas we used, police chiefs in small communities that had a lower threat possibility bought things that were unnecessary.
HARMANBut I think the bigger problem to point out is not the spending, which we have to correct because of sequestration, but at the lack of strategy. Our tactics were often necessary as short-term tactics. But what narrative are we telling about the United States of America, both inside America and to the rest of the world, and that's a place to focus.
REHMAnd carrying on with that talk, we have an email from Katie, who says, "She is curious regarding the Boston police's repeated statements that they have no suspects, either individuals or groups. It seems an odd piece of information to advertise. Is this a strategy to draw the perpetrators into the open? And if not, what's purpose does it serve?" Devlin.
BARRETTWell, I think the most basic purpose it serves is they want to know who did it, and they don't know right now. I mean, I they're looking at a lot of people. You've heard -- you seen various reports about this person or that person coming under scrutiny. What I keep hearing from the folks I talked to is that no suspect leaps off the page. They are genuinely scanning the horizon for this person.
BARRETTI think actually what's been lost -- I hate to say it, but I think what's already been lost in the conversation is, as far as we know, we're at the beginning of this. There is a person somewhere who just killed a bunch of people and was very successful. And as far as we know -- I mean, I don't want to alarm people, but, look, as far as we know, that person is still out there.
REHMStill out there.
BARRETTAnd it's -- I don't think we shouldn't talk about those issues, but I think the most pressing issue right now is what do you do to make it safer on the street. And you ask for the public's help, and you do all these things. If you think about the Times Square bombing attempt, that guy was essentially in the wind for about 36, 48 hours, I think, just going by memory. They got him pretty quickly off the streets. Right now, we don't know when this guy gets off the streets, and we don't know if this person or persons tries to do another thing as bad or worse than what just happened.
REHMWhat was the difference in the Times Square bombing?
BARRETTWell, the great thing about the Times Square bombing from an investigator's point of view was they had the car. The bomb didn't really blow up, not in any meaningful sense of the word. And so they were able to trace back the car, they were able to trace back items in the car. There are all sorts of things that they could work with to get leads to put them on to Faisal Shahzad.
BARRETTAnd they ended up pulling him off a plane as he was trying to get out of the country. I think in this case, they'd love to have a piece of evidence as big as a car, but what they're dealing with are little microscopic dots that they're trying to piece together.
GREENBERGERAnd the most natural comparison is the Atlantic's -- Atlanta Olympic bombing, which took many days. They had a false lead. Some -- Richard Jewell was accused -- turned out he was innocent. That's why they're hesitant to jump to conclusions because they got burned very badly and ruined somebody's life.
GREENBERGERAnd that episode shows that, you know, we all want instinct gratification, but this may be a slow process. I have a high degree of confidence that in the end, law enforcement will piece this together.
REHMDavid, do you agree?
COLEI hope so.
REHMAnd that's it. And you, Jane Harman?
HARMANWe'll figure this out. We are that good.
HARMANAnd we'll hopefully present -- prevent a lot more of this, not all, but a lot more, and America will be resilient.
REHMI hope you're right. Jane Harman, director, president, CEO of the Woodrow Wilson Center, Michael Greenberger of the University of Maryland, Devlin Barrett of The Wall Street Journal, David Cole, professor of law at Georgetown University, thank you all.
REHMAnd thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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