Only after the curfew in Watertown, Massachusetts was lifted and alert resident David Hanberry went outside his home to get a smoke, according to news reports, did the case of the Boston Marathon bombing manhunt for suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev crack open. That was when Hanberry saw blood on the tarp of his dry-docked boat and called the police.
Up until that time, a wide assortment of local, state, and federal officials were engaged in a dragnet that essentially shut down the City of Boston, and included house-to-house searches in the neighborhoods of Watertown, Mass. and New Bedford, Mass., the latter being near where 19-year-old Russian immigrant Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had enrolled in college. Tsarnaev, a Muslim from the Dagestan area of Russia that abuts Chechnya, became a U.S. citizen on September 11 of last year.
In essence, the lessons from the Boston Marathon mean that the following procedures employed in the week-long manhunt proved to be completely ineffective in apprehending Tsarnaev:
• House-to-house searches in a dragnet-style search;
• Use of military-style helicopters across the state;
• Use of tanks and armored vehicles on the streets of Boston, Cambridge, Watertown, and New Bedford;
• Shutting down the city, except for limited coffee shops;
• Stopping all public transportation;
• Banning taxi service across the City of Boston; and
• Abandoning the federal Posse Comitatus law banning the use of soldiers in law enforcement.
Moreover, the use of curfews in a number of towns actually likely delayed apprehension of the suspect, as the curfew essentially took more than a million pairs of eyes off possible getaway scenes.
Veteran police investigators have traditionally rejected the dragnet because they see it as a waste of police resources, but in the post-bombing panic, politicians demanded that police on the beat appear to be doing everything they can to solve the crisis. In this case, that appearance included a curfew that amounted to searching and hassling people who were clearly not in cahoots with the bombing suspects. Police detained and searched anyone on the streets of Boston and Watertown, even searching famous local news reporters multiple times during the course of the manhunt. In some instances, news reporters received death threats from over-zealous police officers.
In the end, if the goal of the terrorists was to terrorize, the terrorists won in Boston. Rather than returning to its ordinary business, the two suspects identified by authorities — Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his older (deceased) brother Tamerlan — were able to terrorize — and even shut down — one of the world’s greatest cities for days. The two presumably hated America for its freedom, and were able to get the government to take away much of those freedoms from its citizens for a period of time.
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