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Former counter-terrrorism head Richard Clarke, a Dorchester native, outlines likely path of investigation

Richard Clarke
Richard ClarkeFile Photo

Richard Clarke, the former National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter-terrorism for the United States and a Dorchester native, took to Facebook to outline the likely steps and outcomes of the Boston Marathon Bombing investigation.

“The key to solving the Boston Bombing is technical and forensic,” he wrote on his wall, going on to ouline the importance of citizen-submitted tips.

“First, the FBI will stitch together hundreds of hours of video camera recordings from private and public surveillance and traffic cameras, as well as recordings made by private citizens attending the race. They will look for when the bombs might have been left behind and then examine the faces of everyone who was in the area around that time. They will try to put names to those faces, using facial recognition matching software, drawing on drivers license, passport, and visa databases. In the case of the Mossad operation in Dubai, the police in the United Arab Emirates were able to recreate most of the the assassination operation by using snippets from dozens of surveillance cameras. For the FBI in Boston, a similar process has now begun.”

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After that, authorities will focus closely on communications channels, particularly pay-as-you-go cell phones, Clarke wrote.

“Second, FBI and NSA will look at phone records. If the bombs were command detonated using mobile phones to trigger the blast, it may be possible to find out what phone numbers were used by seeing what numbers were called on that block or in that neighborhood at exactly the time of the blasts. The FBI will look at calls that went through specific cell towers in the Copley Square-Prudential Center neighborhood of Back Bay. There will be many innocent calls made at that time, but if some of the calls went to unregistered mobile numbers (an unregistered phone is a mobile device bought at a convenience store without providing a telephone company a user name, relying instead on pre-paid calling cards), those “burner phones” may have been the detonators.”

Clarke than detailed how agents would use scraps of the bomb materials to recreate the explosive materials, hoping to track the bomb down to the guide or resource it was improvised off of, which often gives important clues as to the bombmaker.

Airline records will also be combed: After the 1993 World Trader Center bombings, these records were critical to quickly finding the perpetrator.

“Fifth, police and federal agents will contact all of their informants in Islamist cells and American Right Wing and Aryan Supremacist groups. They will offer rewards for leads, for suspicions,” Clarke wrote. “Unless the attack was done by a self-initiated loner (which is highly possible), the bomber or bombers will tell someone eventually of their involvement. Alternatively, as in the case of the Unabomber, a family member may call the police when they realize that their brother, husband, or son may have been involved.”

“For me, a Bostonian who grew up watching the end of so many Marathons, spent so many days hanging out in Copley Square, this attack feels personal,” Clarke wrote. “The eight year old boy who died was from the Dorchester neighborhood, ‘Dot’, where I lived when I was an eight year old boy. For that boy and the other victims, this case will be solved and the criminal terrorist will be apprehended.”

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