Boston Marathon Explosions – Morning Updates and a Look at Social Media’s Role in the Response

FBI Assists Boston Police Department Regarding Explosions Along Marathon Route and Elsewhere – The FBI has set-up 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324), prompt #3, for anyone who has information, visual images, and/or details regarding the explosions along the Boston Marathon route and elsewhere. No piece of information or detail is too small.

Downtown Boston Remains a Crime Scene – Downtown streets that normally would be clogged at rush hour were largely deserted Tuesday except for a cold wind and a few runners out for a morning jog. “It’s very surreal,” said Mary Ollinger, 32, who works at Wentworth Institute of Technology. “The streets are empty and the Common is filled with media trucks.”

Boston Marathon Explosions: Revere Apartment Searched – Police and federal agents searched an apartment building on Ocean Avenue in nearby Revere late Monday night in connection with the bombings. Agents searched this complex for 9 hours after the marathon bombing. CBS News Senior Correspondent John Miller reported Tuesday morning the apartment search was related to a man who is reportedly under guard at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Miller reported the man is a Saudi national who is in the United States on a student visa. Police and federal officials exit an apartment complex in Revere with a possible connection to the earlier explosions during the Boston Marathon. Several bags were removed from the scene around 2 a.m. Tuesday, but authorities would not comment on the search.

Boston Marathon bombings: Security experts weigh in on potential culprits, motives – Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge says the absence of intelligence might suggest the attacker is not affiliated with a larger terrorist group: “It may lead to the fact that this was not connected to a major jihadist organization. This might very well may have been a domestic terrorist or lone wolf, as you might want to describe it.”

Twitter and news: The canary down the mine – Twitter has often been touted as the “first with news”. From the miniscule to the massive. From Stephen Fry being stuck in a lift, to the Arab Spring rippling across North Africa, it is the instant source of a story, the first gurgle from a tap. The only way to find out what’s really happening, according to some. But I’m beginning to think that so-called truth is losing some of its polish.

Social Media Shapes Boston Bombings Response – Terrorism experts said the proliferation of photos and video on the web through social media might also help authorities identify the perpetrators of the attack. “All the media provides a tremendous asset for the forensic evaluation of the explosion event,” said Roman. “Authorities can start examining the pictures and tapes looking for individuals near the receptacles where the bombs were found and individuals not fitting the profile of the general spectator can be identified.”

Social media to the forefront in Boston – ‘Authorities have recognized that one [of] the first places people go in events like this is to social media, to see what the crowd is saying about what to do next. And today authorities went to Twitter and directed them to traditional media environments where authorities can present a clear calm picture of what to do next.’

Boston’s tweeters offer aid to marathon runners – Gestures as small as offering a drink of orange juice and use of a home bathroom were recounted on Twitter on Monday in an ongoing online recollection of the fellowship that emerged in the wake of Monday’s devastation.

Public Shaming – Minutes after the explosions, internet tough guys and girls were already pointing the blame and ready to kill.

Follow me on @Blogsofwar for continuous live updates of this story.

Theodore W. Weaver: Remembering Khost, Three Years Later

Theodore W. Weaver is a former Intelligence Officer within the CIA’s National Clandestine Service and the Directorate of Science and Technology. He has close to a decade working as a Special Agent with several Federal agencies and has worked against counter proliferation, human trafficking/smuggling, child exploitation, Intellectual Property Rights violations and narcotics. You can follow him on Twitter or via the nascent Inglorious Amateurs website.

tww Theodore W. Weaver: Remembering  Khost,  Three Years Later
Just to start, no I wasn’t there. I wasn’t even in DC on 30 December 2009 when Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi blew himself up taking the reported 7 Americans and 1 Jordanian and 1 Afghan with him.

I was in San Diego for the holidays, visiting family. I remember getting up and coming downstairs to make coffee for myself. Then I must have checked my phone and saw the news.

My mind raced, as I’m sure anyone whose life has been directly tied to the last 10 plus years of war does anytime news like this comes out. Who do I know OCONUS? Who can I call or text? Where can I get the most recent info? Can I get back to Langley to help in any way?

I have known of fellow agents getting injured or killed on duty. The hard part for me was this was a different kind of experience at that time. I never served in the military, so I missed that terrible experience of being just that close to something you can’t directly help or affect change upon.

I felt, and quite literally was, useless at that time. I can’t begin to imagine what those on the ground, in country and back at Langley actually felt. A few hours after I first read the news I was able to get a cryptic SMS back from a colleague who let me know that no one close had been injured or killed in the attack.

A lot has been written, mostly by fellow former Intelligence Officers who likely have years of experience on me, and as equally should know better, about what led to Balawi’s successful suicide attack that day in Khost. You can search online to see the various run downs of who was or was not following tradecraft, or who should or should not have been Chief of Station. My goal is not to try and armchair quarterback anything. Swept up in the craziness that must have been a surging tide of “what if” the Officers on the ground and back at Headquarters pushed to make that meeting happen. Sometimes you push too hard, and chances are those are the times some crazy person will try to blow you up. The term “perfect storm” comes to mind.

This being the 3rd anniversary of this terrible event, I just wanted to share what I took away from everything.

I only knew one Officer killed at Khost, very peripherally. Elizabeth Hanson was a Targeting Officer (officially titled Specialized Skills Officer – Targeting). Very simply, her job was to look for leads to piece together detailed information related to HUMINT targets of interest. I always thought of it as looking for that one piece of thread to pull, that when pulled it unraveled the whole sweater. Balawi was that piece of thread; at least that was the idea.

I went through recruitment at the Agency at a time of flux for Headquarters based officers (HBOs). In fact, I was hired as a Targeting Officer (SSO-­T), but by the time I entered on duty and drove to the back reaches of the Purple lot, I was a Headquarters Based Trainee (HBT).

Like most things in a huge bureaucracy, titles matter. Networking is hugely important in an Agency career and although it seems counter intuitive, its even more important as a headquarters based officer. I found that conversations with new acquaintances usually began with a short bio. What did you do before coming to the Agency? Where are you from? Then always ended up with: What are you? Meaning, what sort of Officer are you. Imagine the fun that could be had by knuckle-­dragging Paramilitary Officers when they ask that last question and were given the response of, “I’m an HBT”…which was followed by a quick deafened response of “HVT!” (high value target). Laughter ensued.

By now quite a few former Agency Officers have detailed recruitment and training, and have even spoken of the rotations that new officers do within headquarters. For the HBT’s, soon to be HBO’s, we did similar rotations, with a certification course related to our final job selection coming right before being home-based in an office.

As part of networking and building a so called “Hall File”, or reputation, the National Clandestine Service’s HR department (HRS) advised us to attend sponsored “brown bag” lunches. These were usually informal (if your idea of informal is crowding into a conference room, in a bad suit eating your Subway sandwich purchased at the Agency Subway counter all the while sitting next to a Group Chief who is talking about how great their office is) events that were used to introduce prospective home-­basing officers to an office, as well as share general information about an office or operation that was being talked about at length.

HRS also pushed the idea of more seasoned HBO’s creating individual mentoring groups for the Staff Operations Officers, Targeting Officers and Collection Management Officers. These were a rotating peer mentoring group that had the goal of helping new HBO’s find their way through the bureaucracy. Sometimes they helped calm nerves, or make introductions to offices of interest, or just shared stories about their jobs. From my memory, I met Elizabeth Hanson at one of these peer meetings for Targeting Officers. I only put it together after meeting one of her former certification instructors during my SOO certification. For whatever reason the Targeting Officers had the more active peer-­?mentoring group at Langley.

Elizabeth Hanson kept a small plaque with a meaningful quote on it at her desk. I know this because I had the same head instructor as her during my certification phase as a SOO. At graduation this instructor related Elizabeth’s story to us, and then tearfully gave us all the same small desk plaque with quote. She asked us to think on the quote and what it meant to us, and to live our lives and careers the way Elizabeth did hers. Its funny, the quote itself is less meaningful than the gesture through someone’s grief at losing a friend.

When onboarding with the Agency, going through initial orientation, class instructors like to try and demystify the Agency for new employees. It would seem obvious that most of us, even when approaching the job with open eyes, have bought into at least some of the romanticism and mystique that surrounds life at the CIA, especially life working under some sort of cover. Maybe it’s for that reason, romanticism, that I’ve held onto my memory of that day at graduation. I find meaning in remembering our fallen colleagues, who right or wrong, gave of their lives in pursuit of something bigger than themselves.

I’ve taken to trying to honor those fallen in some meaningful way. At this point in my Federal career, there isn’t much I can do directly. Instead I choose to think about other fallen colleagues, even those I never worked with directly. I also try and get out and do something meaningful to me. Today I’ll be out honoring the fallen nine by pushing myself through the Crossfit Hero WOD “The Seven”. I do it every year, and the plaque still sits on my desk at work. Always there to remind me what I would attempt if I had no fear of failure. Egging me on to push through the fear.

  • Jennifer Lynne Matthews CIA officer, chief of base (Age 45)
  • Harold Brown Jr CIA officer (Age 37)
  • Elizabeth Hanson CIA officer (Age 30)
  • Darren LaBonte CIA officer (Age 35)
  • Scott Michael Roberson CIA officer (Age 39)
  • Dane Clark Paresi Blackwater Worldwide (Xe) (Age 46)
  • Jeremy Wise Blackwater Worldwide (Xe) (Age 35)
  • Al Shareef Ali bin Zeid Jordanian intelligence official (Age Undisclosed)
  • Arghawan Security director at the base (Age Undisclosed)

Michael Ross’ Top Ten Missed Targets for Assassination of 2012

michaelross31 Michael Ross Top Ten Missed Targets for Assassination of 2012

10. Ramadan Shallah: Leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad. His low ranking is because he’s a weak terrorist leader but still has plenty of blood on his petite doll-like hands.

9. Samir Kuntar: Druze member of the PLF in Lebanon who murdered an Israeli policeman, Eliyahu Shahar, 31 year-old Danny Haran, and Haran’s 4-year-old daughter, Einat Haran, whom he killed with blunt force against a rock and for indirectly causing the death of two-year-old Yael Haran by suffocation, as her mother tried to quiet her crying while hiding from Kuntar. In November 2008, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad presented Kuntar with Syria’s highest medal.

8. Mahmoud al-Zahar: Founding father of HAMAS and considered a hard line hawk, even by HAMAS’ standards

7. Mohammed Deif: Commander of HAMAS’ Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. That’s reason enough.

6. Ali Moussa al-Daduq: Senior Hezbollah advisor captured in Iraq while acting on Iran’s behalf and responsible for the killing of U.S. military personnel in southern Iraq.

5. Ahmed Abu Khattala: Leader of the Benghazi-based Ansar al-Sharia group closely involved in the September 11 assault that killed four Americans including ambassador Christopher Stevens.

4. Hassan Nasrallah: “Secretary-General” of Hezbollah.

3. Hamid Arabnejad: Managing-Director of Mahan Air, the Iranian regime’s airline tasked with ferrying weapons/explosives, IRGC-QF personnel, and mayhem all over the world.

2. Qassam Soleimani: Head of Iran’s IRGC-QF. That’s more than enough reason.

1. Bashar al-Assad: How many lives could have been saved by rubbing out this man Christopher Hitchens once famously dubbed, “The human toothbrush”. Sic Semper Tyrannus.

Michael Ross was born in Canada and served as a soldier in a combat unit of the Israel Defence Forces prior to being recruited as a “combatant,” (a term designating a deep-cover operative tasked with working in hostile milieus) in Israel’s legendary secret intelligence service, the Mossad. In his 13 year career with the Mossad, Ross was also a case officer in Africa and South East Asia for three years, and was the Mossad’s counterterrorism liaison officer to the CIA and FBI for two-and-a-half years. Ross is a published writer and commentator on Near Eastern affairs, intelligence and terrorism. He is the author of The Volunteer: The Incredible True Story of an Israeli Spy on the Trail of International Terrorists. You can follow him on Twitter.