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Understanding The Terrorist Threat

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We’re on the scene with the very latest developments on the Boston bombing aftermath and hunt. Top experts and reporters join us.

Police in tactical gear arrive on an armored police vehicle as they surround an apartment building while looking for a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings in Watertown, Mass., Friday, April 19, 2013. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Police in tactical gear arrive on an armored police vehicle as they surround an apartment building while looking for a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings in Watertown, Mass., Friday, April 19, 2013. (Charles Krupa/AP)

Dramatic developments in Boston today as a huge manhunt comes down on the suspects in Monday’s Boston Marathon bombing.

In a matter of hours, we went from images being shared with the public of two young suspects on the street before the attacks, to heavy gunfire, chase, security sweeps and lockdown in the streets around Boston.

One suspect, dead.  Dead and wounded police.  Carjacking and explosives reported.  A Chechen connection.  And a very fluid, dangerous situation.

Up next On Point:  Manhunt, and what we have learned.

–Tom Ashbrook


Carey Goldberg, WBUR reporter and former Moscow correspondent for the Los Angeles Times

Martha Bebinger, WBUR reporter (@mbebinger)

David Boeri, WBUR senior reporter (@davidboeri)

Jessica Stern, one of the country’s foremost experts on terrorism, lecturer in public policy at Harvard and author of “Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill” and “The Ultimate Terrorists.” She lives in Cambridge, Mass. and is under lockdown during the manhunt. (@JessicaEStern)

Sarah Chayes, senior associate of the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

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  • brettearle

    If this Tragedy had occurred in NYC, would there have been a comparative shutdown?

    Would NYC have cast, proportionally, as wide of a net–throughout one or more of its burroughs?

    Are we dealing with overkill (no pun intended), here? 

    Or would NYC be just as conscientious?

    Or, if NYC were not, would they be derelict in their duties?

    What are the cultural differences that might alter strategy?

  • alsordi

    When tenuous US allies like Chechnyans come back to attack the US, one must think of the old saying:

    “Oh! what a tangled web we weave. When first we practice to deceive!”

    Terrorism is the reciprocal of US foreign policy which relies more on deception and manipulation rather than straightforward goodwill and transparency.

    • Jennifer Jia

      This event has nearly nothing to do with the ethnicity of the brothers.  They grew up in the US.  Their radicalization happened right here in the US.  What we need to find out is the cause and effect of these radicalization by propaganda on the internet.

      Remember Fort Hood?

      Oh, and it’s Chechnya (the country) and Chechen (the people/language).

      • alsordi

        Why do Americans love to gloss over the real problem?
        I just explained that the cause of much of this terrorism is US foreign policy. 
        The effect is what you are seeing today.

        FYI in italian we say “ceceno”  In english I have seen Chechen, Chechnian,  Chechnyan.  Whatever.

        • Jennifer Jia

          *Rolls eyes*

          Yes, Belgian teens who were radicalized and flew to Syria and fight for the Islamists there are obviously caused by US foreign policy.

          I’m not justifying US foreign policy here, but merely pointing out that your focus is not the right one, and that the radicalization of young people is a problem we mustn’t ignore.

          Finally, just FYI, I don’t care what your primary language is.  In addition to English, I speak Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese and Min dialect of Chinese, but the language in those has nothing to do with using the words wrong in English.

          • alsordi

            Doyemjeur Siugieh, Ngoh doh sihkgong gwangdungwah.  

            You are not focused at all.  Certainly not at the root of the problem.


  • Davesix6

    Courtney the young woman who called in the last hour, mentioned the United States involvement in Chechnya and how that may have played into the psyche of the young men who apparently commited these murderous acts.
    The US has never been envolved in the Chechnyan conflict!
    The only reason Courtney would possibly make such a statement is because the left, politicians and media, have been so successful at spreading the propaganda that the US is so flawed and has behaved with such evil intent towards all other nations in the world, that they all want revenge and it’s the US fault.
    This of course is not only untrue it is extremely dangerous, Courteny’s misguided belief is an example.
    This is what the earlier caller was commenting on earlier in regards to the media and it’s constant asault on anyone who would dare to oppose the left wing story line that this nation is damaged.
    The left wing, politicians and media, in this nation are disgraceful, and are responsible for misinformed citizens who have been taught to hate their own country.

    • Jennifer Jia

      That’s rich.  Show me one “left wing media” that misinformed citizens about our “involvement” in Chechnya.

      • Davesix6

        I’m talking about the mind set that is being propogated by the left wing media. A mind set that states if someone commits an act of terror on citizens of this nation then we must somehow deserve it because of past sins.
        This is the mindset that Courtney obviously was speaking from, and it is straight out of the left wing hatred that is being spread daily.

        • Jennifer Jia

          Not really.  It actually comes straight from the libertarian mindset.

          You should really read what Ron Paul and libertarian websites said of US foreign policies and involvement oversea.

        • jefe68

          Oh please, what a load of cow poop.

        • nj_v2

          Ha ha! “Left wing media”

    • nj_v2

      Disliked. Too much bullcrap to actually respond to.

    • StilllHere

      It’s trickle down from the apologist in chief.

  • nj_v2

    Geez, Tom. You can’t keep using your breathless, hyper simplistic, skip-over-the-surface style you use in the lead-in/set-up to try to describe the factual events of the last 18 hours in twelve seconds. Poor way to open this segment.

  • http://www.facebook.com/francesca.dow Francesca Dow

    I’m listening live and I want to ask/posit this question to experts. Are we dealing with a generation gap situation here when it comes to technology and social media and how they play into understanding these people and how they operate? Our society/culture is changing so rapidly and the way these kids think is foreign (in every sense) at least to me.( I’m the mother of a 14 year old boy, and I can barely keep up.)

    I just heard  a list of who is in the situation room right now, and it’s all boomers and genxers. How can Robert Muller, etc. possibly understand how these kids think? How can law enforcement keep up, and employ and develop the appropriate strategies to prevent and apprehend these people?

    Think of gender too, as something to contemplate. We’ve taken sports and the arts out of public schools, girls are outperforming boys in the classroom. There are a lot issues here — boys/ young men are taking a huge hit everywhere, on every level. 

    The internet is the wild west, we’re still figuring out how to make the most of our little plots of land — there are a lot of outlaws out there, wild animals, etc, and yet the landscape is changing constantly —  we try and sow crops and the land changes underneath us — what we learned yesterday is no longer relevant today. It’s a huge challenge that has created and will continue to create huge problems — things we can’t possibly understand or anticipate in the years to come.

    Do these kids think they need “followers?” Are they tweeting or posting every experience they have? How does media/technology and create and contribute to these problems and what human needs are not being addressed in this rapidly changing culture? How does all of this contribute to what has happened in Boston this week?

  • http://www.facebook.com/amy.majorslindelof Amy Majors Lindelof

    I disagree with the idea that we can “understand” a terrorist threat beyond the desire to cause destruction and chaos. Social media is already exploding with “Muslim extremist” conversations. For me, this is an unintended victory for their cause, IF that is in fact their reason. It perpetuates an antagonistic divide and forces the millions of peaceful American Muslims to live in fear.

    • Jennifer Jia

      We need to understand “HOW” they were radicalized, and “WHAT” we can do to prevent such a thing, via education or whatever.

      The brothers grew up in the US, so did the Fort Hood shooter.  The fact that they were radicalized this way clearly shows us the urgency to find out the underlying cause of such a phenomenon.

      • http://www.facebook.com/amy.majorslindelof Amy Majors Lindelof

        But you prove my point. “We” have already decided they are radicalized Muslim terrorists. And “we” will not ask the hard questions of ourselves and our nation, only blame the other billion Muslims for their non- Christian beliefs.  

        • Jennifer Jia

          Radicalization of young people is NOT a religious thing isolated to non-Christians.  I believe I made my point perfectly by ignoring the religious label in my post.  

          You’re the one that’s bringing up religion.

          • http://www.facebook.com/amy.majorslindelof Amy Majors Lindelof

            Radicalization is almost entirely religiously exclusive.

          • Jennifer Jia

            Clearly, you’ve never heard of some of the militia movement or names like 
            Ted Kaczynski or Timothy McVeigh.

          • http://www.facebook.com/amy.majorslindelof Amy Majors Lindelof

            That’s why I said ALMOST. These two are the exception that proves the rule. Even abortion bombers are motivated by their religious beliefs.

      • nj_v2

        I would caution against using the words “radical” and “radicalize” is a way that assumes or implies an automatic negative or violent connotation.

        The root (ha) of the word, radis, is of or pertaining to the root. So a radical can just as well be peaceful, incisive, and positive, as violent, indiscriminate, and negative. 

        One of the dictionary definitions is, in fact, “characterized by departure from tradition; innovative or progressive.”

        And even in the definition of representing and “extreme” view, there is no inherent implication of negativity or violence, merely something outside of the conventional realm.

        • Jennifer Jia

          I apologize for misusing such a word.  However, I’m not sure what other words to use in such instance.

          My background in Biology/Chemistry has made me associate the word with the definition of being volatile and out of balance, and I didn’t mean to skew this word in a completely negative way.

          • nj_v2

            I appreciate the difficulty in finding a shorthand that’s concise, yet accurate, not only in this instance, but in other cases, especially involving political attitudes or philosophies.

            Left, right, liberal, conservative, red, blue, etc., etc., are all at best simplistic, and at worst become a kind of expletive, hurled as an insult by those of an opposite persuasion.

            For the context above, it would seem to me that substituting turned to violent means for radicalized would still allow you to make your point and not sully the meaning of the word.

  • kaltighanna

    It’s been reported that the MIT police officer shot dead last night it’s a 2009 graduate from Salem State University. I also graduated from SSU in 2009, and although I didn’t know him, I’m heartbroken. I’m now living in Brazil, my home country, but I left many dear friends and former colleagues in the Boston and North Shore areas and this tragic story feels very personal. Although I’m not American, I have always felt accepted in the community while I was a student there and I have to say I left the country but a piece of my heart stayed behind in Massachusetts. My thoughts are with you, and I hope nobody else is shot or wounded in the hunt for the last suspect. Stay safe, everyone. Please remember that there’s plenty of people around the world who love America and the American people.

  • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

    This morning when I visited CNN’s website for an update on the manhunt and just happened to read a comment, then another and another… all sharing the same sentiment towards Muslims – ‘Kill them, kill them all’. There was a lot of hatred being expressed for Islam. A mob-like mentality gripped many of the posters. They wanted to lash out at anyone they saw as responsible in the most tenuous ways. They were blind with rage.

    I was left wondering, other than not actually acting out on such impulses, how were they different from these terrorists? They were vigorously fanning the flames of ethnic and religious hatred.

    • http://www.facebook.com/suzanne.sheldon.50 Suzanne Sheldon

      That is a huge difference, but I agree. It’s unattractive and doesn’t make for much pride in the human race. Haters really are going to hate. I don’t understand instant judgement. What’s the hurry to belong to that pack? Humans predisposed to that mentality don’t seem to learn from history, even in their lifetime.

  • Jennifer Jia

    You tell him, Debra!

  • http://www.facebook.com/suzanne.sheldon.50 Suzanne Sheldon

    It seems that with nonstop coverage on talk radio or TV, that guests and call in listeners are eventually going to express opinions that are simply that. They may also wonder aloud, which can often be based on little information and may be steeped in prejudice. I think the problem is, too much coverage with too little knowledge. It no longer resembles a news program, but a talk show of endless opinions and baseless speculation. Perhaps the additional coverage should take place when there’s actually enough new information out there to make it informative and not a format for accusations.

  • William

    Our society is turning into an armed camp because of Muslims. They refuse to “police their own” and all suffer.

    • nj_v2

      Just when you thought the right-wingers couldn’t act any dumber.

      • William

         You limp wrist wimp. Man up or get out of the way.

        • nj_v2


          • William


        • jefe68

          Really? This is how you answer people?

          • William

            You want more armored cars, police with machine guns, one group, one religion is causing this..

          • jefe68

            So what’s your plan?

    • jefe68

      So how do you deal with the fact that most if not all of the terrorist acts before 9/11 were done by right wing extremist that are white non Muslims?

      • William

         Who? The radicals in the 1960′s?

        • jefe68

          Well yes we could include them.
          But I was thinking more of the likes of  Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. I would also add the KKK, and every lame neo-nazi group out there.

          • Gregg Smith

            That’s sick.

          • jefe68

            What’s sick, that the KKK, neo-nazis are extremist?

            You know what’s sick, your reaction to my comment.
            How is that you can sit there, in the South no doubt, and not agree that the KKK terrorized African American citizens of this country?

  • alsordi

    Why is it, all these “terrorists” in the US since 9-11  are typically well educated middle class muslims (some with Phds) whose neighbors and friends all say they were the best students, quite friendly and thoughtful…etc.  ???

    In contrast,  I constantly hear uneducated loud mouth low class deficenti in America freely saying in public, that their country, the USA, should nuke the entire middle east into glass.  Who are the real violent people here ??

    The west should really start listening to the complaints of these educated  young muslims,  BEFORE they resort to extremism.  

    And lets face it folks, two amateur young men, managed to stop a marathon and shut down a city.    Imagine if they were professionals.

  • Trond33

    Being a foreigner who has lived in the US for a number of years, I can attest that the US can be a very alienating society. It is often a shallow culture that embraces superficiality.  The land of the individual… where societal pressure dictates that you as an individual wear Levis jeans and join the masses in the latest fad.  Those who do not conform are relegated to second class status – shunned and made fun of.  

    It is the same phenomenon that phycologists say have been evident with mass shooters.  Individuals who struggle to fit into the norms prescribed by society.  

    Religious, ideological or political labels are irrelevant.  I said the same thing after 9/11 – Americans have to reflect upon the society and culture that the US represents today.  A system that excludes a significant segment of the population.  Until the American people move beyond a victim mentality and start a process of self reflection, this society will continue to live in fear of terrorists, mass shooters, inner city gangs and criminal cartels.  

    Until there is a movement to change, the US will continue to live under the thumb of the military industrial complex – which is all to happy to supply all sorts of gadgets to a fearful, hunkered down and militarized society. 

  • Gregg Smith

    Just a reminder, this doesn’t appear to be the work of right wing Tea Party types. Timothy McVeigh was anti-government, the Tea Party is not they are for limited government. Eric Rudolf was a whose party is unknown. He’s an anti-abortion psychopath, that’s not what right wingers are about. Adam Lanza was a deranged kid, it wasn’t political. Gabby’s shooter was apolitical but they tried to say he was a right winger. The Aurora shooter was not a Tea Partier as Brian Ross accused. The VA Tech shooter was not a Tea Party type. The Atlanta sniper wasn’t a right winger, he was a member of Farrakhan’s group. The unabomber wasn’t a right winger he was a eco-terrorist. The Ft Hood Shooter wasn’t a right winger he is a Muslim we ignored out of political correctness. The underwear bomber was not a right winger but was stopped by dumb luck. Ditto the shoe bomber. 

    I think people have had it beaten into their heads that right wing tea party types are at heart ruthless murderers they actually believe that most attacks are committed by them. To make that accusation some real sick generalizations are made. BTW, Tea PArtiers are not NAZIs either. 

    So it should be reiterated, Tea Party types are America-loving, compassionate, harmless fuzz balls. 

    • jefe68

      And your point is what? That the extreme right wing in this country are not capable of murder?

      • Gregg Smith

        My point it the extreme right wing it a loaded phrase to equate mayhem with conservatives. But if you insists on using that label then call the Unabomber extreme left wing. Call a terrorist a terrorist. Don’t associate the Tea Party with racist, bigoted, government-hating murderers. The main point is there is far more of a threat from radical Muslim’s. It’s pretty basic.

        • jefe68

          I don’t associate all the tea party with the extreme right wing, but there are some involved that are pretty far out there.

          There are a lot of shades of gray in political ideologies, it’s not all black and white.

  • Gregg Smith

    Why is there such reluctance to scrutinize Muslims? It’s crazy, I understand being culturally sensitive (not applied to Tea Partiers) but the people around here were going nuts just at the mention of Muslim, “even Saudi” or “enemy combatant” sets them off. It is somehow equated with anti-Muslim intolerance. 

    We need to get over it. For one thing it’s insulting as hell to Muslims. The majority of faithful, peaceful Muslim’s are horrified. Aren’t they? They cannot speak out. Goons will be sent to rip out their tongues. And we pussyfoot around the issue to not offend their sensibilities. How insulting is it to assume a video instigated Benghazi? Any Muslim who goes on murderous rampages over a silly video should be condemned and brought to justice. And we make excuses and apologize for the video. Do we show such little respect to Muslims that we assume they are all nut cases driven to insanity by a video no one even saw just to avoid labeling it for what it is?

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