Boston Marathon Bombings Raises New Concerns of "Dirty Bombs"

In the hours and days that followed the Boston Marathon bombings, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies asked members of the public to contact them with any photos or videos taken during the event that could have held clues to the identities of the people who had placed the bombs. Several photographs taken by an anonymous photographer showed men dressed in dark blue jackets and tan pants, moving throughout the bombing site. Some of these men were in the photographs were carrying large black backpacks. The photographs went viral throughout the internet and many people thought these were the suspects. It turns out, however, that these men were actually members of a National Guard Civil Support Team (CST), pre-scheduled to be at the event.  

CST officers at Boston Marathon Photos of what many people thought were pictures of the suspects of the Boston Marathon bombing.


CSTs are the National Guard’s full-time response force for emergencies or terrorist events involving weapons of mass destruction, toxic chemicals, or natural disasters. CSTs are routinely pre-staged at large public events, like the Boston Marathon, to help reduce the risks and assist civilian authorities. There is a very real threat of terrorists adding chemical, biological or nuclear materials in their improvised explosive devices (IED) – referred to as a “dirty bomb”.

One photograph shows a CST holding a radiation monitoring device in the immediate aftermath of the bombing. During a hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee's Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence which took place a week after the bombing, Subcommittee chairman Rep. Peter King (R-NY) asked Richard Daddario, the NYPD's Deputy Commissioner for Counterterrorism to explain a possible scenario had the Boston bombing suspects used dirty bombs in their terrorist acts.  Daddario replied, “If a dirty bomb were to go off in Boston, there would be a large area that would be contaminated for a substantial period of would shut down all economic activity in that area, chase residents out of the area for substantial periods of time until there could be a cleanup, [and] there would be mass panic.”

CST officer measuring radiation A CST holding a radiation monitoring device at bombing site.

Heightened concerns over the possibility of more acts of domestic terrorism only re-enforce how critical it is that emergency responders and public safety officials are fully trained on how to effectively handle an attack. Emergency Film Group’s Terrorism: Explosive & Incendiary Weapons and Terrorism: Biological Weapons DVD training films both provide the essential training in the event a terrorism crisis occurs.

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