I’m going to exercise my blog-owner prerogative to make a major deviation from the aerospace focus to talk about the Boston Marathon events.
The government response to what happened was superb. There can be no other word for it. There have already been a number of stories about the disaster response planning by Boston and how it provided instantaneous response to the injured. Lives were saved because of the rapid-response.
The ability to identify the suspects—not only in the videos but within hours their names—and then track them down is astounding. Certainly citizen cooperation made this possible. NBC News reported the FBI had about 25,000 hours of video to review provided by security cameras and citizens. How this could have been done in such a short period of time is bewildering. I haven’t seen anything to detail how many hours of video actually was reviewed before the suspects stood out, but according to news reports the key video came from a security camera mounted on the roof of a store.
Here is Seattle, there is a debate currently going on about the police erecting video cameras along an area called Alki Beach. Civil libertarians are concerned about invasion of privacy and police misconduct. Given the history of Seattle Police in recent years abusing civil rights, the concerns are particularly on-point here. But the video presence in Boston, contributing to the swift identification of the Marathon Bombers, certainly raises a solid argument for installing these.
There is a national debate over whether law enforcement should be allowed to use drones, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. The critics cite the same civil libertarian concerns as they do with the street cameras. While there has been no indication I’ve seen that UAVs were used in Boston, it was clear that helicopters were.
I have a hard time understanding the difference between “plain view” observation by helicopters, cameras or UAVs. UAVs, which are cheaper to buy and cheaper to operate than helicopters, could easily have aided law enforcement as they searched for the Marathon Bombers, vastly increasing their reach. Whether it would have made a difference in faster apprehension (which was pretty fast as it was) will forever be speculative. But “plain view” is “plain view.” UAVs don’t change that.
Government in General
Survivalists and many politicians like to bash government as being Big and Bad. There is plenty to criticize about government, and I’ve been known to do so on more than one occasion. But I served on appointed city boards for eight years and with this experience came both the good and the bad. The good is understanding that, for whatever differences in philosophy that often lead to sometimes bitter debate, those serving in government want to make things better—however “better” is defined by competing interests. The bad comes from the inefficiencies, bureaucracies and sometimes plain incompetence.
Local, State and Federal governments came together in Boston to respond to the initial tragedies. Then they came together to identify the bombers. Then they came together in one of the largest manhunts in American history. Government at its best.
But the very government agencies involved face huge budget cuts because of Sequester and a view by Republicans that all taxes are bad. If nothing demonstrates that taxes are needed to fund government, Boston certainly does.
I’m not a blind-eyed defender of taxes or of irresponsible spending. But will there ever be any event to wake up Washington (DC) that common sense must prevail? Citizens of all stripes and ideologies worked together in Boston. Common sense and common purpose prevailed there. Wouldn’t it be nice if the politicians in Washington acted as well as Boston?