For the police — and for the public — last Friday was a day of fear, rage and confusion. So it takes nothing away from the work done by law-enforcement officials to point out that things didn’t go down exactly the way they were described in real time.
Three big stories today underscore that confusion. The most significant is in the Washington Post, which reports that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was probably unarmed when police fired on the boat in Watertown where he was hiding. They quote an anonymous official as saying that an officer may have accidentally fired his gun, setting off a fusillade.
Such a “fog of war” situation, as the Post describes it, is totally understandable. And yet, if authorities lost a chance to bring in a high-value terrorism suspect alive for questioning, it would have been a serious loss.
In the Boston Globe, a team of reporters quotes law enforcement as saying that it is now believed Tsarnaev’s neck wound came from flying shrapnel rather than a self-inflicted bullet wound, which fits in with the emerging theory that he was unarmed.
And from the New York Times we learn that the boat was actually inside the search perimeter, contradicting earlier reports. Again, not to second-guess the police, but it makes you wonder what sort of search they conducted during all those hours on Friday.
Journalists should approach the official account with skepticism, not cynicism. We need to know exactly what happened last week — including, of course, whether the Boston Marathon bombings can be attributed to a breakdown in intelligence-sharing among the CIA, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies, which is the main focus of the Globe article.
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