Possible Attackers at Boston Marathon

By David McIntyre, Ph.D., Homeland Security course developer

Dr. McIntyre provided these thoughts on the bombings in Boston, just hours after the attack. Check back, as Dave and CTU faculty add context to this latest act of terrorism on U.S. soil.

Remember tonight -- because right now we do not know who did this.

The FBI has several unexploded devices in hand, and my bet is they will have a pretty good line on the origin of the attack very soon. Bomb makers have unique styles, almost like fingerprints. In fact, the FBI may find finger prints inside. But we don’t have that evidence right now.

The materials from the bombs will eventually give us clues as well. For example, many amateurs favor improvised explosives like PETN, as opposed to military or even commercial grades of high explosives. The pictures of the event (lack of blown out windows, etc.) seem to indicate a low order explosive. But right now, we do not know for certain. One early medical report indicated a lack of nails, ball bearings, marbles, etc., which is surprising. A different report claimed that such materials, intended to create shrapnel and casualties, were in the bombs. More contradictory information will come out before the truth emerges.

And so far, no one has claimed credit. If history repeats itself, before long, several fakers will claim they did it.

So there is a lot of evidence to go on, and authorities will soon have some hard leads. But not right now. All we know right now is that the attacker (attackers?) falls into one of several categories:

  1. International Terrorist – An attack mounted from overseas by a foreigner concerning an overseas political issue. (Example: Al Qaeda, Hamas, etc.)
  2. Domestic Terrorist – An American who mounted the attack from inside the United States over an internal / domestic political issue. (Example: radical right, radical left, radical environmentalist, etc.)
  3. Homegrown Terrorist – U.S. citizen inspired by overseas political issues, perhaps supported by overseas resources. (Example: Times Square bomber)
  4. Domestic Criminal – U.S. citizen with a financial motive for the attack (unlikely in this case, but it could happen).
  5. Transnational Criminal – International origin with a financial motive for the attack (drug cartel, Russian mafia -- probably not in this case, but a growing concern).
  6. Domestic Attacker – U.S. citizen with a personal agenda (Example: Unabomber)

Not only do we not know the origin of the Boston attacks at this moment, but the situation is so uncertain that no experienced analyst is willing to stake his (or her) reputation on a guess. That is the part…continue reading.

David McIntyre, Ph.D., is a Homeland Security course developer for Colorado Technical University. He is currently a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Homeland Security Institute and a published thought leader on Homeland Security topics. Read more on his blog or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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