The response of our fellow Americans and our Local, State and Federal law enforcement agencies was beyond heroic. We do not have enough superlatives in our language to adequately describe just how well they responded to this succesful Terror attack on American soil. The immediate response of our fellow citizens to transition from a spectator to trauma care provider in an ear shattering split second, The ability of EMS personnel to successfully triage and staunch the massive blood loss of amputated limbs lead directly to saving the lives of many who were so grievously injured, The response of the Boston Police Department to successfully evacuate and contain the blast site and the massive multi-jurisdictional response that lead to the killing of one of the terrorists and the capture of the second was an amazing example of how our nations first line of Emergency Services respond to critical incidents like a Terror attack on American soil. And therein lies the problem. We now RESPOND to acts of terrorism. I do not want to take away from the heroism that each one of the Law enforcement and EMS elements who so selflessly gave in the service of their fellow-man and the steadfast support and determination of the people of Boston, Watertown and all of the suburbs where this all played out. The manner in which they got up off the ground and dusted themselves off after being knocked down is a shining example of American resilience. The American policy toward terrorism has fundamentally changed. Granted we see on the nightly news how some group of terrorist in Northwestern Waziristan, or Yemen or the Horn of Africa were eliminated by a drone strike. This makes for good news coverage and fosters a false sense of security that we are actively prosecuting a “war’ on terrorism. The problem with killing terrorist with drone strikes is that any intelligence value that the terrorist may have had at the time of his death is also lost. What knowledge the terrorist had of forthcoming terror plots or sleeper cells, what financial and logistical support chains that he or she knew about are forever lost. I am by no means the first person to point out the shortcomings of this policy and by no means will I be the last. We as a society want immediate gratification and the nightly news stories about suspected Militants or Terrorists believed to be killed in another drone strike fulfills this need and is also politically expedient. The narrative is “bad guys dead and no Americans were placed in harms way” The inevitable long-term result of this policy is that we lose invaluable information forever that the terrorist had. You can no longer data mine them for everything that they knew and in the process prevent successful terror plots. Effective Interrogation processes take months to provide actionable intelligence. I am not advocating that we torture anyone, I also do not believe that environment modification and sleep deprivation and similar coercive techniques rise to the level of torture. Which of course puts me at odds with many in the media and the administration. America has seen a string of successful attacks on our soil, the most notable of course is the most recent, the Boston Marathon Terror attack, but it had several predecessors such as the succesful delivery of a bomb in time square by Faizal Shazad, The Fort Hood attack by Major Nidal Hassan and several others. I first became aware of a the consequences of not aggressively prosecuting the war to our fullest capabilities in 2009. I was serving on behalf of the federal government in eastern Afghanistan. I had spent a year previously in this region and knew it and it’s people very well. I had an assignment that brought me back to the area and I looked forward to going back because I knew that I would get the opportunity to talk to my good friend who was our teams interpreter. Once we were done catching up on personal stories, I asked him how things were in the province. He said, things had gone from bad to worse. I asked him what was the problem. Without hesitation, he said that “You guys don’t fight anymore” I was a little puzzled because I knew that the area was still one of the most kinetic theaters in the country and what he said did not make a lot of sense. He then clarified for me. He said that before, if American troops were ambushed, or attacked, they stood their ground and returned fire. “Now, you guys have to wait to get permission before you shoot back”. The idea behind this policy was to make a concerted effort to lower civilian casualties and was to show that American and ISAF troops would use restraint with our military might and capabilities when the enemy was in close proximity to civilians and therefore, win the population over. Unfortunately, the subtlety and nuance of our policy was lost by the Afghan people of the region. Our “restraint” was viewed as weakness by the local population and emboldened our enemies who exploited it for their advantage. This was part of the counter insurgency doctrine policies that required a measured approach. I am in no way saying that the Counter Insurgency program was a bad idea, The problem was clearly communicating the command intent from the generals down to the troops who were attempting to interpret and subsequently execute the policy caused problems. Sadly, about a year later, my good friend was killed when a terrorist attached a bomb on the side of a bus that he was on that was carrying Afghan police officers.
We were doing something right, The fact is is that we have transitioned from fighting a “War” on terrorism to now, attempting to arrest, prosecute and ultimately convict a terrorist. In every instance where we have been attacked over the last few year, there has been a debate over a military tribunal or prosecution in federal court. I can tell you that as a police officer, we were reactive and had to “respond” to criminal acts, in other words, We showed up after the fact. As I watched the Boston bombing event unfold, I was keenly interested in who would be taking the podium. When I saw the United States Attorney Carmen Ortiz at the news conference, I knew the path that we were taking. We as a nation are “war weary” and our current elected officials did not agree with the policies of the previous administration. In any “Change” election, this is always the case where one side actively seeks to overturn or countermand many of the policies of the previous office holders. As the press conference began I knew that we were taking a Law enforcement approach rather than recognizing this was in fact a part of the overall strategy of the war that the terrorists are waging. We may never know if in fact the Tsarnaev brothers were controlled, financed and given operational support from the myriad of tentacles that is now Al Qaeda and its offshoots. In our haste to extend “American style of justice” we closed off a source of valuable information. I do not know if the totality of the media stories are true because our media got so many things unequivocally wrong, however the theme is that someone in the justice department made sure that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was mirandized during the interrogation and promptly shut up. He did however disclose that Times Square in New York was the next target while we were operating under the “Public Safety exemption” to Miranda. What the realities are of this initial interrogation are known only by those who were there. What I do know is that if we continue the policy of viewing acts of terrorism as violent acts by bad men who need to face the judicial system rather than enemies of the United States who are waging war against us and our way of life, we will continue to have to “respond” to more attacks.