April 19, 2013

Thoughts on the Boston Marathon Bombing Suspect Photos

Boston marathon bomb suspect 2 profile First of all, I can’t believe the NY Post was taken in by all the amateur visual forensics, actually running one of Wednesday’s viral images on their front page. But hey, the kid was Moroccan and had a backpack. What else do you need?

Here, Gawker dissects amateur hour. For my part, that viral Imgur post most people forwarded to me was such a kitchen sink full of jumble, shots of obvious undercover cops juxtaposed with ominous Anonymous screed, bad grammar and misspellings throughout, I never gave it a second thought. FBI pix Boston bombing suspects

I am interested in the suspect stills and video the FBI released yesterday afternoon, however. The video is in three segments, the clips taken in front of the Forum Restaurant on Boylston at the intersection of Gloucester between 2:37:34 and 2:37:48 showing the suspects rounding the corner, then coming toward and going past the restaurant. (Keep in mind that we’re only seeing what the FBI chose to publicly release. Missing, for example, is imagery they say they have of Suspect #2 placing his pack.)

The  timestamps certainly provide food for thought. Because the bombings occurred at 2:50 pm and these images were taken at 2:37, one thing we know from this video — both suspects walking toward the finish line carrying full backpacks still a long block-and-a-half away from the first bomb location and 2 1/2 from the second — is that the suspects had to have placed their respective devices some time within the next 13 minutes.

There’s another thing, too, which I discussed in my post the day after. It’s the timing in general. On his site, Jeff Jarvis asserted that the motive of the bombers was to make a big media statement. If it was that clear cut though, I imagine they would have timed the explosions as close as possible to when the winners crossed the finish line. Can you imagine the greater havoc wreaked on the sports world and live race coverage, not to mention the potential for killing or injuring both world class runners and civic dignitaries?  Given that marathon times are fairly predictable — the winner of the men’s marathon and the women’s winner crossing the finish line at 12:10pm and 11:56 am respectively, why is it the bombers didn’t attack until almost three hours later?

Considering how America has been geared to think about terror attacks in terms of “Seal 6-worthy” opposition, the simplicity of the devices and the late afternoon timing suggest less sophisticated adversaries. (My sense is that this is the reason they have yet to be caught. You don’t leave as big a footprint or a tracking trail going the Walgreens route.) More reasons for thinking these two — if they’re the right suspects — are probably neophytes? How about doing your deed — these urban spaces in major Western cities a hot house of video and surveillance cameras — without any disguise, not even sunglasses?

One takeaway from these pictures and this data so far  has to do with how simple it is to cause this much trauma. As soon as these guys are caught and aggrandized, I seriously doubt anyone is going to stop and reflect on how literally pedestrian this attack really was. Beyond the media fever, it seems the government and the politicians (did anyone say: CYA?), not to mention the security-industrial complex, needs to keep the threat and paranoia level high enough to justify all the armored vehicles and paramilitary troops in place, even if what we’re up against is primarily kids in baseball caps, nails and kitchen utensils.

Boston Marathon bomb suspects video

By the way, if you were minutes away from committing a double bombing with the challenge of where to deposit your device, who would you be talking to on your mobile? Does it suggest another accomplice or even a coordinator on the other end? Or maybe it was just another disaffected homey – these guys being that dead inside.

David Green boston marathon bombing suspect

Update 12:50 pm: Now I’m looking at the clearer photo by David Green released in the past few hours alleging to show suspect number two. (Here it is full size.)


And then, here is one of the enhanced photos the FBI just posted on their website. What they speak to most is that critical question the overheated media and social media has been dancing on the head of a pin to discover. That is: skin color.

(photos: FBI; David Green via The New York Times)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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