Privacy SOS

Boston Police “counterterror” fusion center warns about “middle eastern” seeming men and journalists at 2015 marathon


The Boston Police Department’s “fusion center,” the Boston Regional Intelligence Center, identified as suspicious “2 middle eastern [sic] males” for “activing [sic] suspiciously, asking about crowd size” at the 2015 Boston Marathon, according to a department powerpoint presentation discovered by journalist Kenneth Lipp. The information is listed on the lefthand side of the “2015 BRIC Marathon Dashboard” as a “Suspicious Person” notification, under “Open BRIC incidents.”

The 2015 marathon went off without a hitch, suggesting that the identification of these two men as “suspicious” is almost certainly an example of racial profiling in suspicious activity reporting, a totally unsurprising outcome documented extensively elsewhere. The document suggests the suspicious activity report was called in by Sergeant Tom Brooks from his position at Commonwealth Avenue. 

Suspicious activity reporting, a Stasi-like “report on your neighbors and community members” program pushed by the Department of Homeland Security and adopted by agencies ranging from transit departments to the National Football League under the moniker “See Something, Say Something,” has never once produced an actionable piece of information leading to the arrest of a terrorism plot. Despite its failure to produce any public safety results, the snitch program has netted lots of reports of Middle Eastern or Muslim appearing people going about their lives, and even people who put political stickers in bathrooms

The Boston Police Department’s identification of two “middle eastern males” as suspicious comes as federal officials within DOJ warn that the biggest terrorism threat comes from right-wing domestic extremists, not Muslims or people from the Middle East.

According to experts writing for the New York Times, you are much more likely to be killed by a right-wing extremist in the United States than by a Muslim terrorist:

Despite public anxiety about extremists inspired by Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, the number of violent plots by such individuals has remained very low. Since 9/11, an average of nine American Muslims per year have been involved in an average of six terrorism-related plots against targets in the United States. Most were disrupted, but the 20 plots that were carried out accounted for 50 fatalities over the past 13 and a half years.

In contrast, right-wing extremists averaged 337 attacks per year in the decade after 9/11, causing a total of 254 fatalities, according to a study by Arie Perliger, a professor at the United States Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center. The toll has increased since the study was released in 2012.

Perhaps someone should tell the Boston Police.

The Boston Police Department slide containing the reference to the “2 middle eastern males” also warns about the presence of three journalists at the marathon. “3 individuals from the Baystate Examiner going from checkpoint to checkpoint testing security measures and filming interactions,” the warning reads. “They appear to be posting to Twitter as they go along.”

The Boston region has received hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal government for “counterterrorism” purposes, including funds used to build and sustain the BPD “fusion center” at BRIC. While the BRIC did not stop the terrorist attack at the marathon in 2013, or help to catch the perpetrators until they had gone on a joyride throughout the region shooting police and taking a hostage in a carjacking, the officials appear to have a good sense of the curiosities of “middle eastern” seeming men, and what journalists are saying about them on Twitter.

Your tax dollars at work.

© 2018 ACLU of Massachusetts.