Boston Bombing Anniversary Message


Murder victims from left to right, Martin Richard, 8, Krystal Campbell, 29, Lingzi Lu, 23, Sean Collier, 26

by Derek S. Maltz

On the 7th anniversary of the horrific Boston Bombing on April 15, 2013, I wanted to provide some important insight into America’s flawed inter-agency sharing practices related to terrorism investigations.

For almost 10 years, I was the Director of the Special Operations Division, a Northern Virginia based multi-agency law enforcement operational coordination center with representatives from 30 agencies. In that capacity, I witnessed firsthand the intelligence gaps between terror and crime investigations.

Unfortunately, the Boston case was an example of the information sharing failure that I’m reminded of today.

As state sponsorship of terrorism declines, terrorism fueled by drug trafficking and criminal activity is on the rise. This evolving crisis needs the immediate attention of government leaders to close the intelligence gaps created by the walls that remain high between agencies working traditional criminal cases and terrorism.

There are many businesses around America engaging in massive criminal activity like illegal cigarette trafficking, counterfeiting, EBT Welfare fraud, Drugs, and other crimes and sending millions of dollars back to support radical terrorists. The agencies must adjust their strategies and shut these terror funding schemes down.

Since “terrorists are increasingly turning to crime and criminal networks for funding” and the networks have formed stronger alliances, it’s imperative the hard-working dedicated investigators align their efforts.

We need to use the best and brightest in all the agencies to combat the evolving and complex threats. It’s not good enough to just have a task force and talk about cooperation, but rather implement sound processes utilizing all tools of national power and cooperate across the agencies. Sadly, this isn’t happening as the citizens would expect so many years after September 11, 2001.

We have seen substantial progress in criminal law enforcement information sharing since 911. The U.S. criminal investigators have also made tremendous strides in sharing information with the Joint  Terrorism Task Forces (JTTF’s) around the country on potential terrorism. The JTTF’s have improved substantially on providing threat information and trends to the state and local police and other partners.

However, when the JTTF’s are investigating terrorism leads like the one from Russia on Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the main subject of the Boston Bombing, they should have used all the federal resources like the Special Operations Division, the OrganizedCrime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Fusion Center, the CBP’s National Targeting Center as well as state and local fusion centers to develop possible criminal links to the terror suspects.

In the Tsarnaev case, we, unfortunately, learned there was critical drug-related information that could have been used to investigate Tsarnaev and his crew long before he had a chance to detonate the bombs.

The JTTF’s need to investigate all potential criminal offenses associated with their terror suspects. This failed during the Boston case causing death to innocent Americans. This continues to be a substantial problem impacting America’s national security and leadership must act.

By getting the criminal related intelligence in advance on the Boston matter, the JTTF leadership could have tasked the DEA, Homeland Security Investigations and state and local partners to investigate all the criminal intelligence available related to Tsarnaev. By doing the investigation in a proactive way using all the tools available to the JTTFs, the agents may have been able to identify the criminal activities of Tsarnaev long before he had a chance to radicalize and conduct terror in America.

We need to use the “Al Capone” model when investigating terrorism. Capone was a mass murderer who was taking off the streets and put in prison on tax charges, which prevented additional murders.

The agencies must unite and try to build prosecutable evidence on these terror networks. By unitying, focusing eliminated the threats and using the skills of the talented federal, state and local resources, the JTTF’s will be way more effective in preventing terrorism.

To keep America safe, we need proactive investigative law enforcement prior to the events not after people die. As the radical threats grow and the crime and terror walls remain high, the U.S. is very vulnerable.


Derek S. Maltz Sr. is the former Agent in Charge of DEA’s Special Operations Division. He served in law enforcement for twenty-eight years and is currently a national security and public safety executive. 

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