Springtime in the United States has brought a new surge of insecurity and anxiety. The Patriot’s Day bombing at the Boston Marathon destroyed a joyous event, killing three people and wounding 176. It has been 12 years since the nation suffered the far greater losses of 9/11, yet this threw national protective efforts into question once more.
Coinciding with the Marathon attack, a fire was reported at the John F Kennedy library in Boston. Authorities are still working on establishing whether there was a connection.
President Obama, immediately informed by Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano, refrained from drawing any premature conclusions when he called a press conference at the White House.
Obama said: “We still do not know who did this or why. And people shouldn’t jump to conclusions before we have all the facts. But make no mistake, we will get to the bottom of this, and we will find out who did this. We’ll find out why they did this.”
No organisation or individual at that time had come out to say the attacks were their work. Investigators combed for clues, gathered evidence, recorded findings.
Photos were made public by the police. A kitchen pressure cooker was identified, with metal ball bearings: parts of the explosive devices. Similar material had been discovered before it could be used in New York’s Times Square on 1 May 2010.
On Tuesday, the president spoke out definitively about the Boston Marathon killings: “This was a heinous and cowardly act. And given what we now know about what took place, the FBI is investigating it as an act of terrorism. Any time bombs are used to target innocent civilians, it is an act of terror.”
Also on Tuesday in Washington there was alarming activity surrounding Republican Senator Roger Wicker. Following one to the president himself, a letter addressed to Wicker, postmarked in Memphis, had been intercepted and found to contain the powerful poison ricin. Letters containing anthrax followed the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. More detective work followed here.
US Capitol Police spokesman Shennel Antrobus said: “The only thing I can tell you right now is we are investigating the suspicious envelopes in both areas. That’s all I can tell you right now.”
More items sent by post were analysed but tested negative. The letters to Obama and the Senator were stopped at sorting facilities before they could arrive at the US Capitol building and the White House.