Boston Bombings Prompt Extra Vigilance in San Diego Area
April 16, 2013 12:50 p.m.
Dipak Gupta, Ph.D.
Special Agent Darrell Foxworth is the FBI spokesman in San Diego.
Related Story: Boston Bombings Prompt Extra Vigilance in San Diego Area
CAVANAUGH: Sadness, uneasiness, and anger are some of the reactions San Diegans are expressing today in wake of the Boston marathon bombings. The investigators in Boston say it may be simultaneous before we know who was behind the attacks that claimed three lives and injured 170 people. We look to our own preparedness here in San Diego and try to assess our response to the event. FBI spokesman, special agent Darrell Foxworth.
FOXWORTH: Thank you for having me.
CAVANAUGH: We know that more than 100 people from San Diego other than in Boston for the marathon. Have you heard of any injuries among San Diegans who took part?
FOXWORTH: No, I'm not aware of any of the runners that participated yesterday, whether they're still in Boston, I don't have that information right now.
CAVANAUGH: So far we don't have a list of the people who were injured. Would there be any security reason for that list to be delayed?
FOXWORTH: Well, I would defer a question like that to the investigators in Boston, but based on my experience, there could be a number of reasons. First if any of these people are victim, and if they're victim, they could also be witnesses, and there could be privacy issues concerning that and concern for their privacy being witnesses in this tragic event.
CAVANAUGH: I see. Now, when an attack happens across the country, what does the FBI in San Diego do? Do you move into action in some way?
FOXWORTH: Well, the first thing that we do is we make sure that all 56 FBI field offices receive a situational report, basically assessing us the event that's taken place, the time, location, what we know about injuries, and the methodology. That's information which is disseminated to all FBI field offices so we all have the same level of situational awareness at the same time. Secondly we mobilize our resources and assets and put them on standby to assist another field office, in this case the Boston field office. When you have a bombing like this, a police department, federal agency, their resources can be taxed to the limits and they can be overwhelmed. So we'll have resources from Philadelphia, New York, Washington DC, mobilize those resources and dispatch them on scene to support the efforts of our Boston field office.
CAVANAUGH: After you know whether or not you're going to need to send someone across the country to the city being affected, do you coordinate with local law enforcement agencies here in San Diego?
FOXWORTH: Not necessarily. If this is going to be something where they need our certain expertise from our evidence response teams here in San Diego or in a case like this, our special agent bomb techs who have training and experience, we don't necessarily need to draw upon that, but if it was needed certainly other law enforcement agencies from anywhere in the country would provide their resources and expertise. This is something that has affected the national consciousness here. Everyone will be on standby and provide whatever expert is needed to support the investigation in Boston.
CAVANAUGH: Now, we asked representatives of the sheriff's department, the San Diego City police department, the county office of emergency services to join us to talk about local preparedness today but they declined. But in statements from the sheriffs and the police department, they are working closely with federal and local agencies and that officers are on a heightened state of alert. What does that mean exactly? How do they work closely with, for instance, the FBI?
FOXWORTH: Well, the person that comes to mind is the FBI joint terrorism task force, and many of our federal state and federal partners here in San Diego County are represented on that task force. This is a multiagency task force which conducts investigations involving terrorism or suspicious activity. Part of the JTTF is we have a squad there that will follow up on tips and leads that come in from our law enforcement partners of suspicious activity. When you talk about heightened awareness, how do you define that? Well, first thing is making the public and everyone aware of what's happened in Boston. And then based on that, they will take whatever appropriate steps they believe within their jurisdiction, within their venue, to enhance their security posture. So that's the first thing. Now, as far as the public, when we talk to the public about heightening the public's awareness, what we're talking about is reminding the public to report suspicious activity. We like to say that if you see something, say something. We're talking about the abandoned vehicle parked in a location that maybe it shouldn't be, or it's parked there longer than it's expected to be. If we see suspicious activity of someone that's working in a secure area and you see someone loitering around in that area that has no business to be there, that's suspicious activity. If you have someone asking questions about a secure facility and they don't seem to have a need to know, that's suspicious information. See something, say something, and report it. The FBI, the police department, the sheriff's department, we can't do this by ourselves. We need the assistance and cooperation of members of the public. And the best way that we can do that is by educating them and making them aware of what they can do to help us, be the eyes and ears for first responders and law enforcement. We all have a partner to do to make our community safer.
CAVANAUGH: Now, just one last question before you go. We heard an awful lot of that. What you were just saying around the time after 911. There's been some people who have said that the attacks in Boston show that we have in a sense let our guard down. How would you respond to that?
FOXWORTH: I think you have to look at the circumstances of what happened in Boston. You're talking about a 26.2-mile marathon. There are some special events, depending upon their location that are easier to provide security for. Say a special event that occurs at a stadium where there are layers of security at the stadium. When you're talking about an environment where it's completely open over 26.2 miles, that presents more of a challenge. It's completely open, it lends itself to the opportunity for someone if they want to do something to do it. And that's what's happened here in Boston. That's where it's a good reminder for people, when you're talking about Boston or here in San Diego, to elevate that awareness. We have a number of special events that occur here in San Diego. And when we do have these events. There again be aware of your surroundings. The more you're aware of your surroundings, the safer we can all be. And we need the cooperation and assistness of the public. A tip line has been established. So if someone has any information, we ask them to call that tip line. 1-800-call-FBI. We're looking for videotapes, pictures of the affected area. Somebody may say, well, are the picture I have, it's not that great a quality. But if you get video from different angles, it can help piece together a better picture here and help us answer some questions that we have about what happened there in Boston.
CAVANAUGH: Special agent Darrell Foxworth, thank you very much.
FOXWORTH: Thank you.
CAVANAUGH: I'd like to welcome my second guest, Depak Gupta, professor of peace studies and program chair of the international security and conflict resolution at San Diego state. He's written about the life cycles of terrorist groups and the reason why they thrive. Welcome back.
GUPTA:: Thank you very much.
CAVANAUGH: Now, the president today has called this an act of terrorism, whether domestic violence or international. You've written extensively about terrorism. What was your initial reaction to the bombings yesterday?
GUPTA:: Well, I really do not know. It's too early to speculate. One of the things about this is that -- how do you define terrorism? I define terrorism and the U.S. government, the State Department would define terrorism as violence with a specific political agenda. We know that a violent act has taken place. But we don't know whether it has any political motive or not. For instance, carnage in aurora, Colorado was not an act of terrorism.
CAVANAUGH: The shootings in the movie theatre, yes.
GUPTA:: The shootings. And therefore, horrific as that is, we do not classify it as an act of terrorism. On the other hand, 911 attacks, the attacks by major Nadal Hassan, or the Oklahoma city bombing, they're all acts of terrorism.
CAVANAUGH: So I just want to pursue this for a minute with you. After all your studies of terrorism and terrorist groups, do you think that we are sort of jumping the gun when it comes to saying that this was an act of terrorism, even the White House is a little precipitant on that?
GUPTA:: I do not know if they have any specific information. I can only speculate that they got burned during the Benghazi attack when they didn't want to call it an act of terrorism. So it is entirely possible that they're playing it safe and calling it an act of terror. Based on the information that we have, nonclassified information, I have no way of saying it is definitely an act of terrorism or not.
CAVANAUGH: And so when people express, of course, they are sad about this, but these attacks have also made them a bit uneasy, even in some cases angry. If -- is that a proper response to an event, that we don't know who has done it or why they've done it?
GUPTA: Well, I think there are two parts to your question. One is getting angry and sad, and the other one is about the motivation. The first question, yes, we have to be sad, and yes, we have to be angry. But we have to know who to be angry at. We cannot jump to conclusions and say, well, this group has done it, because there are so many different groups that could have perpetrated that, or individuals with deranged minds. Even the guy who shot up the movie theatre, he had made improvised explosive devices in his room. It's not impossible for an individual to do that. In terms of motivation, that's a different question altogether. Once again, we have to hold our judgment until all the facts come out, they make an arrest, and then we can speculate on it.
CAVANAUGH: Let me ask you a larger question then. After the terror attacks of 911, the United States declared a war on terror. Have we seen the use of terror tactics decrease in parts of the world after that?
GUPTA: Think about it. Since 911, over the past decade, over more than ten years, almost going to be 12 years, we have only experienced a couple, major Nadal Hassan's killing in the army camp, and another one which didn't really create a whole lot of carnage or fatalities. If you really look at the data of international terrorism where a group from one country go over to another one and create fatalities, you will see that the average fatality is about 40 all over the world.
CAVANAUGH: For a year, you mean?
GUPTA: For a year. Compare that to the traffic accidents of 40,000, and gun violence. Thousands of gun violence. So this is a small part. The reason we get so excited about them is not just because it's senseless. Gun violence that killed that young lady in Chicago as she was talking to her friends was also senseless. But terrorism or of this kind of violence is a macabre combination of theatre and violence. They want to make a huge spectacle. The biggest of them was of course 911 when we saw the two planes hit the twin towers. Now, in this case, Boston marathon, the biggest event of the day, and the biggest event in the country, it was a very soft target. So anybody doing any harm would be magnified. And that's what's happening. What I'm telling you is that we have to keep it in perspective. We should be upset, we would be sad. I saw the face of the little boy standing with the sign of his father's name who got killed. I'm emotional talking about him. But we have to keep our perspective correct.
CAVANAUGH: And as you say, we must wait and see.
GUPTA: We must wait and see.
CAVANAUGH: Thank you so much for coming in and speaking with us.
GUPTA: You're welcome.