Still no ‘lessons learned’
The conference Monday on BU was billed as devoted to the “lessons learned” from the Marathon bombings, but from what I’ve seen, it was yet another exercise in civic cheer-leading. Apparently nobody responsible did a single thing that week that they wish they had done differently.
For almost a year, I (and others) have been urging an inter-agency review of what went right – and what could have been done better – that week. There are still lots of unanswered questions, especially concerning the firefights in Watertown: How had Dzhokhar Tsarnaev manage to escape the army of heavily-armed officers? Why did it take so long to find him despite an unprecedented manhunt? Why did officers fire into the boat where Tsarnaev was hiding – as it turned out, wounded and unarmed?
But Gov. Deval Patrick Monday had nothing but praise for that operation. “When the order was given to hold their fire, they held their fire,” he said. “The restraint of law enforcement under those circumstances was a thing to behold.” Apparently the “lesson learned” is if officers stop shooting before managing to execute an unarmed suspect before he can be questioned, it’s cause for commendation.
Then there’s the suspect who didn’t survive his interrogation. A Florida prosecutor this week at last released his report on the death of Ibragim Todashev, a friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, while being questioned last May by a Boston-based FBI agent and two Massachusetts State Police troopers.
Jeffrey Ashton’s report on the killing of Todashev exonerates the officers involved and provides details of the incident that should have been made public long ago. As in just about every case of an officer-involved shooting, Ashton confined his inquiry to whether the officers committed any crime for which they should be prosecuted, and concluded that they hadn’t. He offered no conclusions on why three armed, trained law enforcement professionals couldn’t restrain and question an unarmed suspect without anyone ending up dead. No “lessons learned” there, and Ashton’s report is unlikely to discount the conspiracy theories that have grown in the absence of independent, transparent and credible investigations.
Nearly a year after the Marathon bombings, Massachusetts is still suffering from an excess of self-congratulation and a shortage of self-examination.