FBI Releases Photos Of Two Suspects In Boston Bombing
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
And I'm Melissa Block.
We begin this hour with what we're told is an imminent news conference out of Boston. Authorities are expected to announce next steps in the Boston Marathon bombing case, and we'll bring that to you live when it begins. And while we wait, let's run through what we do know. Officials have said they've made significant progress in the case, thanks in part to still photographs and video footage of the area taken before the two bombs exploded.
SIEGEL: NPR has also learned that the FBI is specifically interested in speaking with two people, both seen in photos or videos of the scene near the finish line. For more, we're joined in the studio - or, actually, I think we're now getting a spokesman in Boston who might be...
BLOCK: He probably just - he left the podium. I think he told people that the news conference is about to begin in a couple of minutes.
SIEGEL: In a couple of minutes.
BLOCK: So we'll go to that in a couple of minutes. But first, why don't we talk to NPR's Tom Gjelten, who's here in the studio? And, Tom, you've been keeping tabs on the investigation. What have you learned?
TOM GJELTEN, BYLINE: The key thing, Melissa, is that there is a video clearly showing a man at one of the bombing sites. We believe it's the second site. We're told this man appears to be in his 20s. He has a bag, but then puts it down and walks away. A short time later, a bomb goes off at that spot. Now, the FBI would very much like to find this individual and talk to him.
But they're also interested in talking to a second man who appears in a photograph at the first bombing site. He also appears to be in his 20s. We've been told that the FBI is now prepared to release photos of these two men and ask the public's help in identifying them and tracking them down. So there will be a screenshot from the video showing this man at the second bombing site, plus a photograph of the man at the first site.
SIEGEL: And this has been a matter of some discussion, we gather, among investigators and within the FBI as to whether and when it would be appropriate to make these images public. There's been talk about this for hours, if not over a day.
GJELTEN: Well, there are pros and cons, Robert. I mean, the - there - the overriding concern is that by releasing photos of somebody who could be responsible for these attacks, that might spur them to leave. On the other hand, there are huge opportunities that are open by having the public see these pictures because somebody is going to - this is what the FBI agent told us a couple of days ago. Somebody knows those guys. Somebody saw them. And by releasing the photos, you really bring the public into the investigation. And it appears, after considering the pros and the cons here, the FBI has decided to come down on the side of releasing the photos.
SIEGEL: In addition, those individuals, if innocent, would see themselves and presumably could come forward and sort out the FBI.
GJELTEN: Well, that's another downside, actually, Robert, because we know from the case of Richard Jewell in the Olympic Park bombings that once somebody is identified even as a suspect, it really changes their life. And so that's another reason why it's important to sort of think carefully about whether you want to release these photos.
It's important also to understand that the FBI - Janet Napolitano, the secretary of Homeland Security, emphasized this in the Capitol Hill hearing today - the FBI does not call these men suspects. That would have legal meaning. They say they are interested in talking to them, but they stop well short of saying they are suspects.
BLOCK: Let's bring Dan Bobkoff into the conversation. He's standing by in Boston at the site of the news conference that we expect is happening - going to get started in just a few minutes, and we'll bring it to you live. Dan, anything you can add from your end in Boston?
DAN BOBKOFF, BYLINE: Well, what I can tell you is that just a few days after the bombings, the mood here is still very raw. You know, I was in a cafe at lunchtime today, and everyone sat around the TV, watching the interfaith service. And as they were watching, I could see the wait staff still tearing up and trying to compose themselves as they went to serve customers.
So it's still in everyone's mind. If you walk around, people are very curious to find out what is in the investigation. Obviously we thought we would have some details yesterday. That did not happen, so now everyone is eagerly awaiting this news conference any moment now.
BLOCK: And, Tom Gjelten, we're expecting to hear from the FBI special agent in charge, Richard DesLauriers, along with state and local officials. You've talked yesterday on the program about the photographs that have been released from the FBI which show specific components of these bombs. What do they show?
GJELTEN: Well, we - they do, as you say, show components. They show a crumpled lid of a pressure cooker, and that pressure cooker was evidently the case for the bomb. They also show some batteries attached to wires. They show what appears to be a circuit board.
All those items were then sent to an FBI laboratory in Quantico, Virginia, for in-depth forensics investigation. We understand that forensics investigation is nearing its completion, but we really haven't heard anything about what that investigation might have turned up.
SIEGEL: We should remind listeners who may just be tuning in that this is a little unusual what we're doing right now while waiting for the press conference to begin in Boston, at which time we expect the FBI and the other agencies involved in this investigation of the Boston Marathon bombing to release video, images of people whom the FBI would like to talk to.
Obviously, in radio, we're at some disadvantage. We do expect this to begin, by the way, within a minute or two. But we'll do our best to describe that video to you, and I'm sure it'll be on every website imaginable, including our own, within no time.
GJELTEN: Well, it won't be video, Robert. It will be...
SIEGEL: Still images?
GJELTEN: It'll be like a screen grab from the video, but it'll be a screen grab that clearly shows the face of the men they're looking for because this is the point. They want people to see who it is they're looking for and help them track that individual down.
And I'm sure that we're - you know, there's a lot of questions that we still have here that we can hope will be answered at this press briefing. For example, what else did they see in that video? We're not going to see the whole video. We're just going to see the screenshot. Is there - is the man making a phone call, for example? Where - how exactly did he put that bag down? What is it about the man at the first bombing site, in a still photograph, the second man, what is it about his behavior that caught their attention?
SIEGEL: Because one thing that you do by limiting what is exposed is if you later need a witness to describe something that they saw in a criminal proceeding, you can't say, well, everyone in the world saw that when it was released on the video by the FBI. Anybody could have said that they saw him do that.
GJELTEN: You're right. And by leaving some of these things unpublicized, then they're going to be guarding certain details of what they have for their own purposes.
SIEGEL: You will protect the - you - one of the tasks, as we've heard from experts over the past couple of days is - one of the challenges to investigators is to preserve the criminal investigation and the prosecution that they hope will result from that investigation.
BLOCK: And again, a reminder that we're awaiting the news conference from officials in Boston to release what we expect to be the still images from video. Tom, have you been talking to folks about facial recognition technology and how they might be trying to use these images to ultimately lead to a suspect if, in fact, it is these two or if it was someone else?
GJELTEN: You know, Melissa, this is one of the fascinating things about the story: How much technical - technological progress has been made in recent years and what authorities can do with the images, with the data that they have. They have gotten to be very sophisticated about what you correctly call facial recognition analysis. They take, for example, the width of their eye socket, the distance from the tip of the ear to the jawbone, the angle of their cheekbones, and they can be so precise about this that just the image of a person's face presents data that can help them then match that data, match that face to images that they already have in the database, whether it's from driver license photographs, mug shots, passport photos. You know, they have a huge database of photos. And if they have a really clear shot of somebody they're looking for, they might be able to make a match in that way.
BLOCK: Looking to link them up. Robert, we're still awaiting in Boston the news conference from officials there.
SIEGEL: We have no indication that they'll be any later than another minute or so, but I've said that already and that it proved me...
BLOCK: We've been proved before.
SIEGEL: ...and proved wrong once.
GJELTEN: Well, you can see the cameraman there with - all poised and pointing at the open doors so he's clearly expecting someone to walk in now.
SIEGEL: Yeah. We're expecting everyone to come out and take the podium in Boston at the room where the press has assembled. And we think it's important that we should stick with this so that we hear what the investigators have to say about the leads they've developed and the person whom they'd like to - or the person or persons whom they'd like us to try to identify.
BLOCK: You know, there was so much confusion yesterday, and it was some speculation that there, well, the courthouse in downtown Boston was evacuated because of a bomb threat. There was all sorts of chaos going on. But it is possible - I mean, this is a joint terrorism task force, is it not, Tom, which combines federal and local officials. And I'm hearing a little more movement in the room. I don't want to interrupt the news conference when it starts. But local and federal officials are not always on the same page, and there have been many cases in the past where one gets ahead of the other and it leads to a situation possibly like what we saw yesterday.
GJELTEN: And, you know, as you say, yesterday, we were here at this very hour expecting a briefing that never happened, and we were wondering what it was that explained the postponement of that briefing. And I think you're on to something by saying that when you got these many players, you've got all these agencies that want to make sure they're on the same page, that they're comfortable saying the same things, that they have basically the same analyses. So there's a lot of coordination that has to go into it.
There was also the concern yesterday that false information had gotten out there, and the FBI put out this extraordinary statement that said that when you report false stories, they can have unintended consequences. The FBI was clearly very angry about the false stories that came out, and they explained those misleading and, in some cases, totally incorrect stories as being derived from reporters talking to unofficial sources as opposed to official sources. They want to make it very clear.
SIEGEL: The big false story was that there was someone or there were people who - there was a suspect in custody. Somebody's been arrested. That came out yesterday and turned out to be untrue.
Apart from just being false, which is reason enough to denounce the report, what damage does it do to an investigation to have a story out there that there's a suspect when indeed there isn't?
GJELTEN: Well, if you're in the data gathering - evidence gathering phase of the investigation, you don't want to shut anything off.
GJELTEN: And if you already have announced that you have an arrest - somebody arrested, then that can shut off some of the data gathering.
SIEGEL: We've been given a one-minute warning a few seconds ago. Not that the team has been perfectly punctual, but we do assume now that the FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard DesLauriers will be taking the podium in Boston shortly and will be discussing progress in the investigation.
BLOCK: OK. And as we wait in a little minute of the time that we may have, let's bring Scott Horsley, our White House correspondent, to the conversation. Scott, we should mention that mourners had gathered earlier today in Boston at the city's Cathedral of the Holy Cross. President Obama was there at the interfaith memorial service that turned really into part eulogy, part pep rally in some sense for Boston.
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: It really was. The president, as he's done throughout this, praised the resilience of the Boston people, the first responders, and said he look very much forward to attending next year's - or to the crowds that will be cheering the runners in next year's marathon. He had said that as a Chicago sports fan, he looks forward to seeing a Boston sports team having a victory parade down Boylston Street where the bombing took place.
BLOCK: Mm-hmm. And talk also of the victims, the people who were killed in that bombing.
HORSLEY: That's right. It was a real mix, and it showed the range that this president has both to be the comforter and chief and also the cheerleader. And he said sort of defiantly that the resilience of the people of Boston is the strongest rebuke to the people that carried out this attack, and that the American people and the people of Boston would not be intimidated. If the goal of the people or person who planted those bombs was to intimidate the people of Boston, they chose the wrong city to pick on.
BLOCK: We've heard that a lot, actually, from Boston writers and columnists that - exactly that. They picked the wrong town. This is a resilient town and...
SIEGEL: Let's be fair. There's no - no city is going to say...
BLOCK: They picked the right town.
SIEGEL: ...they picked the right town when they attacked us.
SIEGEL: But I think the Bostonians have a good claim to a certain toughness and resilience and a willingness to fight as it's been said.
HORSLEY: Now, the president also met with the families of some of those who were killed and then went across the street from the Cathedral of the Holy Cross where the interfaith prayer service was held, and he met with many of the volunteers who had staffed the marathon to thank them for their service and then went to Massachusetts General Hospital where he met with some of the patients who were still recovering and their family members and some of the extraordinary medical personnel who've helped to minimize the loss from this event.
SIEGEL: Tom Gjelten, I'm curious what you make now that we're - I guess it's three days on from the bombings and still no one issuing any kind of claim of responsibility for this. No manifesto, no, you know, strange letters being sent taking credit or explaining what the rationale was. What do people make of this?
GJELTEN: Well, the obvious explanation is that whoever was responsible does not want to get caught and any claim of responsibility that you put out there - be social media side or something - becomes, in this age of analysis - data analysis, sophisticated data analysis - becomes a - produces a trail of evidence. So...
SIEGEL: Return address.
GJELTEN: We have much more in the area of return addresses now than we used to. So that's one thing. Another factor - another possible explanation might be that it is not a group. This would be consistent with one or two people doing something, who are doing it for their own sort of lone-wolf reasons and haven't come up with sort of a name for a front or, you know, haven't articulated a cause. This would seem to be consistent with that as well.
Well, the third thing is that the device that exploded was a very crude device, a very simple device to make, and that would also suggest that this was the work of one or two or very small number of individuals, not a big group.
BLOCK: And I believe, Tom, as you mentioned yesterday, the crudeness, as you described, of those devices in a way hinders the investigation in that it doesn't have a particular blueprint or fingerprint of a - might have a blueprint of a known group or a sophisticated operation.
GJELTEN: Well, there are some very sophisticated bomb-making operations around the world in terrorist circles. And a lot of these really developed and skilled bomb makers have their own techniques, their own signatures. And people that have a lot of experience analyzing explosives after a blast have been successful at identifying the signature on a particular bomb that might trace it back to a particular bomb maker or a particular bomb-making operation. The simpler the explosive device, the more difficult it is to sort of go down that road.
SIEGEL: And we should add here, Tom, that this event - an event of this magnitude in this country is sufficiently rare that each one so adds to the experience that it might change our expectations. Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, wrote volumes explaining what were fairly crude explosive devices that he made. So there are all sorts of combinations that can occur and permutations of taking credit and sophistication of device that may not be altogether obvious.
We are waiting for Special Agent in Charge Richard DesLauriers in Boston to take the podium and brief the press and speak to the nation about progress in the investigation of the bombings at the finish line of the Boston Marathon the other day. And we are expecting the FBI to release an image or, Tom Gjelten, as you've said, it's - there are still images grabbed from video.
GJELTEN: There is one still image that is a screen grab from a video, and then there is a still photograph. And those are the two shots that we are expecting to have at least today.
BLOCK: Tom, do you get a sense if the FBI will also be releasing more information about the components that they've found, how this bomb was constructed? We heard about pressure cookers. Anything else along those lines, the forensics?
GJELTEN: Well, I think the key question there is when this forensics investigation is concluded. They're not going to be announcing anything about the results of that investigation before the investigation itself is concluded. And I heard today that it was supposed to be concluded some time soon, perhaps today. But I think whether we hear anything on that front depends on whether that investigation has been concluded.
BLOCK: NPR's Dina Temple-Raston, who covers - we're getting a one-minute warning for the news conference. Dina, briefly, anything else that you can add to our discussion about what you expect to hear today.
DINA TEMPLE-RASTON, BYLINE: Well, we expect to hear detail about what the photographs actually show about these men, what their actions were in the run-up to these still photographs and why it is the FBI wants to have a word with them.
BLOCK: There is still no one at the podium in Boston. Robert.
SIEGEL: You're saying that we'll see the picture, but we'll also hear a narrative from the FBI about what these individuals were seen doing before and after.
TEMPLE-RASTON: Yes. What we expect is that one of these is a still photograph from a security video in which there's actually a whole narrative of watching this particular person. I don't know how long, but at least long enough to say why it is that he's someone they want to talk to. And then there's another still photograph.
Both these - just a photograph. It's not taken from a video. Both these photographs are taken from two different spots. They're taken from the first spot of the first explosion and the spot of the second explosion. And this is why they have so much interest in it.
BLOCK: And do we know yet, Dina, and we expect them to explain this. But do we know where that footage came from specifically?
TEMPLE-RASTON: We know that the video footage came from a security camera that was basically trained on that part of the finish line. And I'm not quite sure where the other still photograph came from.
SIEGEL: Now, the law enforcement officers are entering the room, the briefing room in Boston. I believe they are. And Agent DesLauriers should be addressing us pretty soon. And he will be telling us about these very images that we've been hearing about from Dina Temple-Raston and Tom Gjelten. And - yes, Tom?
GJELTEN: And we understand, Dina, that these two men who are going to be very anxious to see these pictures are both about the same age, in their 20s.
TEMPLE-RASTON: We understand that they're in their 20s. That's right.
GJELTEN: And these are going to be two very famous young men in a few...
(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)
SIEGEL: That was FBI - yes, Melissa.
BLOCK: Go ahead, Robert.
SIEGEL: That was FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard DesLauriers in Boston, releasing pictures of two, he said, suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing. Tom Gjelten, that's noteworthy right there.
GJELTEN: That's a headline to me because, yesterday, I was told, specifically, we need to know more before we call them suspects. Clearly, between yesterday and today, they have been able to construct enough of what happened that they now have no problem calling them suspects. That's really important.
BLOCK: And let's describe what we see here because along with the stills, they have released video images, and they show two young men walking down the sidewalks, a couple of angles of them actually, one from the front, one from behind, walking in close proximity down the sidewalk. There's - both appear to be young men.
One is wearing a black baseball cap, white t-shirt. He's carrying a black backpack, black jacket, looks like chinos. And the other suspect they identified as suspect number two has a white baseball cap turned backward. He's wearing a black jacket as well, dark pants and what looks to be a white backpack.
SIEGEL: Right. And suspect number two, the white baseball cap is turned around?
BLOCK: Yeah, it's turned around. Yeah.
SIEGEL: And, you know, there was a lot of talk about was it somebody of dark complexion or something. So far as I can tell from these images, I would say these are probably two Caucasian people or of nondescript appearance; certainly not - it doesn't seem that they're especially dark skinned.
BLOCK: Certainly for suspect two, he clearly appears to be white. I cannot tell from suspect one.
SIEGEL: suspect one, the bill of the cab is down a bit. And everyone will be able to see these images on the FBI website. But also, I should think, in a thousand other places.
BLOCK: Yeah, and let's mention that the FBI also put out this website for tips, BostonMarathonTips.FBI.gov.
TEMPLE-RASTON: What I found interesting is that initially they said they only had a single person of interest. And that just in the last 24 hours or so, they have developed the second subject. And this photo of this young man in the white baseball cap that they said of the two, he is the only one that they saw actually put something down and in the area where the blast went off.
GJELTEN: But I think something else that really significant here is that these two individuals ended up at the two separate bombing sites, but were first seen walking together.
SIEGEL: Walking together in rapid succession.
GJELTEN: That brings these two sites together and the two men associated with the site together at one point.
SIEGEL: The other big news we learned from this briefing was that at the point at which they placed - at least one of them was seen placing a package which they believe to be the bomb, was just within minutes of detonation. So it wasn't as though somebody had somehow managed to place this bomb well in advance of the bombing. But it all would have happened, according to the FBI scenario, rather quickly. Two people walk through, place bombs within a couple of minutes they're designated.
TEMPLE-RASTON: They also mention in here that were this footage came from, which was from the Forum Restaurant that's there and that's meaningful too. Because what they're telling people is that if you were at that restaurant during that time, it's possible you actually saw these young men and you can be helpful.
BLOCK: Dina, I can just imagine the floodgates that opened when they released images like this, how they start then sifting through the many, many tips that are going to come pouring in to try to make a match here.
TEMPLE-RASTON: And also, what they're trying to do is enhanced these photographs as well as they can. What they're doing is they're taking these photographs and putting them through facial recognition software and running through a database that they have of drivers' license, of passport, of mug shots to try and get a match.
Now, my understanding was that yesterday, you remember they called off the news conference. There had been a lot of conflict within the FBI as to whether or not they should go public with this. The idea being that if you go public, then if you were going to find these young men without you knowing they were onto you, this makes it more difficult. I mean they've seen - if they're watching TV, they've seen these pictures too. And this will change their actions.
SIEGEL: Well, wouldn't that also suggest that the past 24 hours have been futile in trying to find these two? I mean they've seen the images. They've known whom they're interested in. And we're back where we were as the debate began over whether to show the pictures are not.
TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, and yes. I wouldn't go so far as to say futile. But maybe they just didn't get enough matches. As you can see, the two - specifically the gentleman in the white, or the young man in the white cap is a very, very clear photograph.
SIEGEL: It's a clear profile of a young man who seems to have long hair, and possibly facial hair - that he has a beard.
TEMPLE-RASTON: It looks like a goatee...
SIEGEL: No mustache and...
BLOCK: And some markings on the caps that I can't make out. But let somebody presumably who knew them might identify there. It looks like possibly a number on the side of one of those caps.
SIEGEL: Yeah. Yeah. Again, the news out of Boston, just to recap, is that the FBI has identified - at least by image - two suspects, they call them. One of whom was captured on film or video, placing what the FBI believes was the bomb. And the other one was walking along with him.
TEMPLE-RASTON: I think the other thing that's interesting that they said is that they considered them both armed and extremely dangerous. And that if someone should see them or know they are, they shouldn't try to do anything on their own to try and apprehend them, but rather tell the FBI right away.
GJELTEN: One of the things, Melissa, you asked before whether we would hear anything about the other aspects of this investigation - the forensic investigation into the bomb parts. They clearly are now focused 100 percent squarely on identifying these two men. The FBI agent said this is our focus now. So we didn't hear anything about those bomb parts, that's clearly a secondary aspect of the investigation now.
BLOCK: Although I do wonder, Tom, part of what they released yesterday seemed to be an image of the backpack or duffel bag - whatever this bomb was in - and I wonder if they were able to do any kind of matching based on these photographs to say, this seems to be what we're looking for along with these two guys who we see these images.
SIEGEL: We would assume one challenge here, since it's been a couple of days, is all of the traffic through the train station and through the airport - or every other means of transportation - by which one or two of these people might have left Boston by now.
TEMPLE-RASTON: Right, and in addition to that, I think what's interesting is we thought for some time that this was to black backpacks. And we've now just found out there's one black backpack and one that seems lighter colored. So this is developing as we go along.
BLOCK: Again, you've been listening to coverage of the news conference out of Boston. FBI special agent in charge Richard DesLauriers. They've released photographs and video images of two young men, identified now as suspect number one and suspect number two, in the deadly marathon bombings in Boston on Monday.
You are listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.