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Former Terror Expert: 'Very Confident' Case Will Be Solved


This is TELL ME MORE, from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin. We're going to start the program today by talking about the bombings that shook Boston yesterday afternoon. Today, civic leaders are trying to find out what happened, but also to help their citizens heal. Here's Boston's mayor, Thomas Menino, at a press conference this morning.


MAYOR THOMAS MENINO: Let's continue to work together. Let's keep offering a helping hand to individuals who might need it during this very difficult time in our city's history.

MARTIN: Later in the program, we will speak with a faith leader in Boston who's trying to do just that. But first, we want to talk a little bit about what's next from a law enforcement perspective. With us now is Don Borelli. He's a 25-year veteran of the FBI. During those years, he was involved in cases like the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, the 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, and the 2000 attack on the USS Cole.

He's now COO of the Soufan Group. That's a security consultancy. And he's with us now. Thank you so much for speaking with us.

DON BORELLI: Yeah. Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: So at a time like this, what sort of wheels would be turning right now at the top levels of law enforcement?

BORELLI: Well, right now, it's basically a kind of triage mode. We heard that term used a lot yesterday within the context of the medical people on scene, and that same type of triage is taking place by the investigators. They are, no doubt, getting in hundreds, if not thousands of calls and tips. All the investigators are out querying all of their informants for information.

Certainly, they've collected tons of video and photographs from bystanders, from security cameras, that type of information. There's information to be obtained from the phone company, for example, for cell phone traffic around the time of the incident. And so what they'll try to do is take all of this information and kind of put it together and synthesize it and figure out if there are some leads that kind of jump off the paper.

MARTIN: Is this an unusually complex crime scene, just because of the space involved? I mean, it just seems like this would be a particularly challenging environment to try to piece together clues.

BORELLI: It's a complex crime scene, but not anything that the FBI has not seen before. The FBI has investigated, you know, hundreds of bombings, and they're used to, you know, going out and setting up a large perimeter and looking for just small, little pieces of wire or components that could be tied to a device, collecting explosive residues, things of that nature.

So, yeah, it's a big task, but it's a task that the FBI is well-suited to do. They've done it many times before in bombings of a lot larger magnitude than we saw in Boston.

MARTIN: To this point, I mean, all authorities are urging everyone, including themselves, not to rush to judgment until we have all of the facts. Is it unusual not to have a claim of responsibility at this stage?

BORELLI: No. Not necessarily. I mean, we have to learn what the motives are behind the person or persons responsible for this. You know, if it were an al-Qaida-sponsored attack, you might see a video released or a claim of responsibility, something like that. But on the surface - and again, I don't want to walk too far out on that limb, but, you know, this does have more of a signature of a homegrown-type group - and I'm not saying necessarily a right-wing group, but just, you know, it could be somebody inspired for religious reasons. It could be a political statement. It would be whatever - way too early to tell.

But the reason I say that is just kind of looking at the makeup of the devices themselves, these weren't anything that you might see from the people trained in Pakistan or Afghanistan, where they used different types of explosive materials that are, you know, high explosives and things like that.

These explosives were a bit more rudimentary things that, you know, you can obtain on the open market, like black powder and reports of shrapnel, like BBs, and things like that. And a lot of these - the plans are on the Internet, and the materials are fairly easy to obtain. So this has more of a homegrown or domestic look to it. But don't want to just walk too far out on that limb right now.

MARTIN: Sure. Sure. How - I wanted to ask this - this is something, particularly given that you were at the agency before 9/11 and after 9/11. And I wanted to ask if these investigations have changed since 9/11.

BORELLI: You know, there's - certainly, we have better technology now that gives us the advantage to do things that we didn't use to have. For example, a lot of the telephone analysis, the ability to collect a lot of information, say, from cell towers and build timelines and track movements of people that might've been suspicious - I mean, our analytical capabilities are better.

You know, the old say connecting the dots, I think we're certainly better at doing that, a much better coordination between our local, state and federal partners. But in terms of the investigation, it's just, you know, it's a lot of the same legwork going through step-by-step, methodically, you know, starting with the crime scene, interviewing witnesses, collecting physical evidence.

A lot of this is just going to be time-consuming work, and there's no magic pill to get around that.

MARTIN: How confident are you that this case will be solved?

BORELLI: Very confident. I'm not going to give you a date that it's going to be solved and wrapped up in a pretty package at the end of the week, but I look back at the FBI and the JTTF, and this model of everybody working together has proven very successful. And I'm extremely confident that there will be people ultimately identified and charged with this investigation.

MARTIN: Don Borelli spent more than 25 years with the FBI. He's now COO of the Soufan Group. That's a security consultancy. He was kind enough to join us from his office in New York. Mr. Borelli, thank you for speaking with us.

BORELLI: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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