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Issue Guide: Boston Bombings and Terrorism

Author: Jonathan Masters, Deputy Editor
Updated: April 19, 2013


The deadly April 15 bombings at the Boston Marathon have once again raised the specter of terrorism on U.S. soil, highlighting the vulnerabilities of a free and open society. Law enforcement agencies at all levels have made advances in surveillance and policing since the September 11, 2001 attacks, but security risks persist. Many counterterrorism experts call for a renewed focus on the ability of the United States to weather and recover from such incidents. The following materials provide background and analysis on the domestic terrorism discussion and implications for U.S. policy.

Bystanders comfort one another after the explosions at the Boston Maraton. (Photo: Jessica Rinaldi/Courtesy Reuters)
Resilience and U.S. Society

CFR Op-Ed: Getting On With Life After Terror Hits
Ensuring that the Boston terrorists don't achieve their aims requires Americans "to find the valor amid the annihilation and to force resilience to rise up against grief," writes Gayle Lemmon.

Foreign Policy: Never Say Never Again
U.S. authorities should abandon the "foolish obsession" with preventing the next attack and, instead, push the conversation over public security toward a focus on resiliency and preparing for the inevitable, writes Juliette Kayyem.

Foreign Affairs: America the Resilient
A climate of fear and powerlessness caused by the threats of terrorism and natural disasters are undermining U.S. ideals and fueling political demagoguery. Rebuilding the resilience of U.S. society is the way to reverse this, argues Stephen E. Flynn.

CFR First Take: The Legacy of the 9/11 Terrorists
After a successful terrorist attack, it is essential that the United States exhibit an ability to rebound and carry on, says CFR President Richard Haass.

Bloomberg: The Best Response is Resiliency
We can only mitigate, but never eliminate the threat from mass anonymous violence. As a result, resilience is the best response after tragedies like that at the Boston Marathon, writes Jeffrey Goldberg.

Understanding the Threat

Washington Post: A Reminder of the Difficulty in Foiling Terrorist Plots
The tragedy in Boston underscores the enduring challenges authorities face in preventing determined attackers, despite counterterrorism reforms over the last dozen years, explain Scott Wilson and Peter Finn.

Foreign Policy: Beware the Few
The deadly bombings in Boston prove yet again that war, more than ever, is not the province of armies, but destructive and determined groups and individuals, says John Arquilla.

CFR Blog: What Boston Bombers' Chechen Ties May Mean for U.S.-Relations
The Boston bombing suspects' links to Chechnya, while still unclear, may prompt greater U.S. support for Russian efforts to root out Islamic extremism, and could spur closer counterterrorism cooperation between the two powers, explains CFR's Anya Schmemann.

Wall Street Journal: The Boston Bombing Suspects and The Caucasus
The Tsarnaev brothers have thus far been tenously linked to Russia's troubled Caucusus region, but, in the coming days, it may be more instructive to view them in the context of homegrown American terrorism, writes Charles King.

Prevention and Response

Atlantic Cities: Boston Was Well Prepared for Crisis
Few U.S. cities are as well practiced in crisis management than Boston, where, over the past few years, emergency planners and responders have undertaken major interagency training exercises for mass casualty incidents, notes Henry Grabar.

Wall Street Journal: 'Tripwires' Can Spot Would-Be Bombers
The attacks in Boston will likely offer new insights for the FBI, as the counterterrorism agency continually refines its "tripwire" system for catching bomb makers before they act, explains Devlin Barrett.

CFR Expert Brief: NYPD's Powers of Threat Perception
The NYPD's new "Domain Awareness System" raises familiar questions about privacy and transparency that are likely to spark a renewed debate at various levels of government, writes CFR's Matthew Waxman.

CRS: The FBI and Terrorism Investigations
This report from the non-partisan Congressional Research Service offers background information on the FBI's terrorism investigative process, including the significant reforms implemented since 9/11 and attendant privacy and civil liberties issues.

Stateline: Homeland Security Grants to States Gutted
Federal funding to help states and localities equip and plan for terrorist attacks and other calamities is at an all-time low, writes Maggie Clark.

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Experts discuss developments in counterterrorism and intelligence gathering in the past fifteen years, including lessons learned since the...