News you may have missed #830 (Boston bombings analysis)

Site of one of the Boston Marathon blastsBy IAN ALLEN | |
►►Despite WMD fears, terrorists still focused on conventional attacks. The United States has spent billions of dollars to prevent terrorists from obtaining a weapon of mass destruction even as the bombings in Boston further show that a nuclear weapon or lethal bioagent is not necessary for causing significant harm. However, experts warn that, even though there is a considerably lower probability of a WMD attack versus a conventional strike, the much higher consequences necessitate continued US investment in prevention and preparation.
►►Why isn’t terrorism in the US a whole lot more frequent? While the horrific bombing at the Boston Marathon has brought concerns about terrorism back to the forefront of national attention, it is worth remembering that terrorism inside the United States is exceedingly rare. Over the past 40 years, just over 3 people on average have been killed by acts of terrorism per year (remove 9/11, and the average is 1.4 deaths per year). After 9/11 or an event like the Boston attack, we often think “it would be so easy to [fill in the blank] and cause massive damage.” And it’s true. Then why doesn’t it happen more often?
►►Boston bomb investigators can’t decide: foreign or domestic? Even the most experienced investigators are still trying to decide whether the Boston marathon bombs were carried out at the hands of domestic or foreign attackers. The inability to settle that question is proving frustrating to investigators. Former FBI assistant director Tom Fuentes told CNN: “I’ve run bomb scenes in Iraq and also in the US”, adding that the attack in Boston “has the hallmarks of both domestic and international, and you can see either side of that”.
►►Smoke color is key clue to analyzing Boston Marathon bombs. As a team of investigators led by the FBI begins deciphering the bombs that killed three people and wounded 150 more in Boston this week, a key clue is already in plain sight on countless videos taken during the blasts: the color of the smoke. Analyzing the color of the smoke can provide information about the explosive that powered the bombs, which in turn provides clues about its sophistication —and, possibly, that of the people who made it.

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