US security apparatus put to the test | Americas| North and South American news impacting on Europe | DW | 16.04.2013
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US security apparatus put to the test

The images recall painful memories of 9/11. Although Monday's attacks at the Boston Marathon were of a different scale, they quickly unleashed a seemingly well-functioning American security system.

At around 2:50 p.m. on Monday (15.04.2013) two explosions rocked central Boston. Just minutes later, US TV broadcasters were live on site, with stations from CNN to Fox News initially showing the same footage. Frightened marathon participants in colorful clothing clutched each other in fear, others fled, and still others lay injured on the ground.

A few minutes later, reports came in that President Barack Obama has been notified of the explosions. Later comes an image of Obama's discussion with FBI Director Robert Mueller and US Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano - three troubled faces meeting around Obama's desk in the Oval Office.

Meanwhile, Washington D.C. police block off a generous area around the White House and station police cars nearby. In New York and other American cities, security measures are increased. Even in London, where a marathon is planned for this weekend, officials have announced sharpened measures intended to protect participants and viewers.

Gradually the coverage shifted from referencing "explosions" to an "attack." It remains an open question whether the attack stems from al Qaeda or other international terrorist groups, or whether it represents an act of domestic terrorism.

Wider flow of information

What almost gets forgotten amidst the extreme emotions and media coverage is that the US security system seems to be working. It is a system that has seen drastic change since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. However, the initial response following the attacks on the Boston Marathon suggests those changes have proven effective.

What's different now? There is a more expansive flow of information between the security offices of the individual states. A decisive change has been that federal and state authorities also work together as a network. Security experts say that the cooperation has dramatically improved since September 11, 2001. Local authorities do still carry out investigations, but the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the Department of Justice and other offices immediately get involved and offer support.

Runners continue to run towards the finish line of the Boston Marathon as an explosion erupts near the finish line of the race in this photo exclusively licensed to Reuters by photographer Dan Lampariello after he took the photo in Boston, Massachusetts, April 15, 2013. Two simultaneous explosions ripped through the crowd at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday, killing at least two people and injuring dozens on a day when tens of thousands of people pack the streets to watch the world famous race. REUTERS EXCLUSIVE REUTERS/Dan Lampariello (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW SPORT ATHLETICS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY ) MANDATORY CREDIT

The two explosions took place within seconds of each other

New approach

A new philosophy now informs cooperation between American security agencies, and that philosophy finds its expression in the newly created Director of National Intelligence office. That post was established thanks to recommendations by a government commission in 2004, informed by the disastrous consequences of the September 11 attacks.

The Director of National Intelligence's homepage makes its mission clear with the words "Leading Intelligence Integration" at the top - the integration of investigators and security officials. Just as the media continues to react faster and in a more tightly-woven network, American agencies also communicate with one another in an as yet unseen speed.

It's perhaps without exaggeration, then, that President Obama was able to say just three hours after the attack that local investigators were enjoying full support from all the US security agencies.

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