Ten years ago, at the April 15, 2013 running of the Boston Marathon, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev planted pressure-cooker bombs that wounded more than 250 and killed Lingzi Lu, 23, Krystle Campbell, 29, and Martin Richard, only eight years old. The 2016 film “Patriots Day” dramatizes the story but doesn’t start at the beginning.
A year and a half before the bombing, the FBI ignored warnings from Russia about the Tsarnaevs’ terrorist connections. In the film, Kevin Bacon plays special agent Richard DesLauriers, in charge of the “counterterrorism investigation,” after the fact.
Local police, not the FBI, go after the bombers and manage to take down Tamerlan. Dzhokhar hid in a boat and suffered several wounds, including one to the mouth that may have been self-inflicted.
The brothers had murdered MIT police officer Sean Collier, as U.S. Attorney William Weinreb explained, “shooting him in the head at point-blank range twice in the side of the head and once right between the eyes.”
That brought the death toll to four. As they buried their dead, Bostonians had cause to wonder why the FBI failed to learn from previous bombings.
In 1993, the FBI failed to prevent Islamic terrorists from detonating approximately 1,200 pounds of explosives at the World Trade Center. The blast claimed the lives of John DiGiovanni, Robert Kirkpatrick, Stephen Knapp, William Macko, Wilfredo Mercado, and Monica Rodriguez Smith. The blast wounded more than 1,000, including 88 firefighters, 35 police officers, and a medical worker.
Three years later, at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, the FBI failed to stop Eric Robert Rudolph from planting a bomb, packed with nails, that killed Alice Hawthorne of Albany, Georgia. Turkish cameraman Melih Unzonyol suffered a fatal heart attack and the bomb wounded more than 100 others.
The FBI then tried to frame security guard Richard Jewell, subject of the eponymous Clint Eastwood film, who tried to evacuate the area before the blast. For his part, Rudolph had an example to follow.
Back in 1978 Ted Kaczynski mailed a bomb that wounded Northwestern University professor Buckley Crist. Kaczynski’s bombs also wounded United Airlines president Percy Wood, Vanderbilt University secretary Janet Smith, UC Berkeley electrical engineering professor Diogenes Angelakos, engineering student John Hauser, University of Michigan professor James McConnell, his assistant Nicklaus Suino, and computer store owner Gary Wright.
Kaczinski’s explosive devices maimed renowned computer scientist David Gelernter in 1993 and killed computer store owner Hugh Scrutton, advertising executive Thomas Mosser and lobbyist Gilbert Murray, in 1994. The so-called Unabomber had been active for 17 years, during the administrations of Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and Bill Clinton—all without detection by the FBI.
Only with the aid of Kaczynski’s brother, who identified the bomber through his public manifesto, was the FBI able to track down Ted. He pleaded guilty in 1998 and was sentenced to life without parole.
Three years later, the FBI failed to prevent the attack of September 11, 2001, with 3,000 casualties, billions in damages, and suffering that endures to this day. It remains unclear whether any FBI bosses were disciplined, demoted, or discharged over that deadly failure. It was hardly the bureau’s only lapse.
The FBI had been tracking Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan, a self-described “soldier of Allah” who was communicating with al Qaeda terrorist Anwar al Awlaki about killing Americans. Someone in the FBI’s Washington office dropped the surveillance.
On November 5, 2009 at Fort Hood, Hasan murdered 13 unarmed American soldiers, including Pvt. Francheska Velez. She was pregnant and pleaded “My baby! My baby,” before Hasan shot her through the chest, bringing the death toll to 14 with the death of her unborn child.
Hasan was only stopped when civilian police officers Kim Munley and Mark Todd returned fire and wounded the mass murderer. Munley was wounded in both legs and a wrist but “she stayed upright and kept firing at the charging gunman.” Had Munley not done so, Hasan would have claimed many more lives.
The FBI played no role in the takedown.
There is still no word if any FBI bosses were ever disciplined, demoted, or dismissed for the lapses that enabled this massacre, the worst ever on a U.S. military base. The broader public also stood at risk.
On December 2, 2015, in San Bernardino, California, Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik murdered 14 people at a holiday office party. The FBI did nothing to prevent the attack and played no role in the takedown. The fleeing terrorists fired at least 81 rounds at police officers, who shot the terrorists dead with no loss of civilian life.
In 2013, the FBI twice interviewed Omar Mateen about his connections to the Islamic State, and questioned him again the following year. Knowing his terrorist connections, the FBI did nothing to prevent Omar Mateen from murdering 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, on June 12, 2016. Orlando police, not the FBI, took down the mass murderer.
The composite character president David Garrow described in Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama, downplayed Islamic terrorism and cast his domestic opposition as the true threat. That is also true of Joe Biden, as the Delaware Democrat made perfectly clear in an angry speech last September 1.
For the FBI, just about everybody less-than-worshipful of Joe Biden is a domestic terrorist or violent extremist. The bureau has even deployed informers in Catholic churches. FBI boss Christopher Wray is “aghast” and wants to “figure out how we can make sure something like this doesn’t happen again.”
If Catholics, Baptists, or Presbyterians thought that meant the FBI would do it more it would be hard to blame them. The FBI has never been held to account and, indeed, is about to be rewarded with a new headquarters bigger than the Pentagon.
With actual terrorism, the FBI prefers to look the other way and leave the front-line combat to the police, as in Boston in 2013. Ten years later in 2023, actual domestic terrorists are again on the march.
Audrey Hale, a woman who thought she was a man, planned an attack on the Covenant School for months, without detection by the FBI. Hale murdered Evelyn Dieckhaus, 9, Mike Hill, 61, William Kinney, 9, Katherine Koonce, 60, Cynthia Peak, 61, and nine-year-old Hallie Scruggs, daughter of Chad Scruggs, senior pastor at the Covenant Presbyterian Church.
Nashville police officers Michael Collazo and Rex Engelbert took down Hale before she could take more innocent lives. The FBI is now controlling Hale’s manifesto, which at this writing is still unreleased.