Just minutes after the two bombs detonated, images and video of the carnage and rescuers bravely rushing to help grievously injured victims appeared on media outlets and the Internet. Local, state and federal politicians rushed to microphones to pontificate about the event and ensuing investigation. Since then, there has been a virtual tsunami of information, imagery, speculation and opinion about the bombing.
Within hours of the catastrophe, journalists and bloggers were claiming that additional bombs had been found and disarmed and that a Saudi national -- supposedly a person of interest in the investigation -- was being interviewed. By 2 p.m. on Wednesday, April 17, amid reports that suspicious packages laced with poisonous ricin had been intercepted in Washington, a host of news agencies were claiming that a suspect in the marathon bombings had been arrested.
Later that afternoon, a deadly fire at a fertilizer plant in the small community of West, Texas, drew firemen, first responders and onlookers with smartphones and hand-held cameras to the scene. When the blaze erupted in a massive explosion, it killed at least 15 and injured more than 100.
Initial media reports on radio, television and the Internet speculated that the ricin-tainted mail and the conflagration in Texas might be connected to the Boston Marathon bombings. But we now know that much of what we have been told and shown since the bombs went off in Boston -- especially that attributed to "informed" anonymous sources and unnamed "officials close to the investigation" -- was simply wrong.
On Thursday evening, April 18, at an extraordinary news conference in Boston, the FBI posted a "new-normal" wanted poster: video and still photos of two men, identified only as suspect No. 1 and suspect No. 2 in the Boston bombings. The images instantly flashed around the world, along with a request for anyone with information about the suspects to contact the FBI. The plea went out with a warning: The suspects should be presumed to be armed and extremely dangerous.
Despite all the erroneous information, hearsay, theories and conjecture about what actually transpired in Boston, there is both good news and bad news in what we do know for certain. First, the bad news:
Seeing as we cannot ban all cooking pots, cellphones and batteries used to detonate improvised explosive devices, we never will be completely safe, because we must be right every time and terrorists need be right only once.
Our government will continue to do really stupid things, such as changing the rules to allow airline passengers to carry knives with blades less than 2.36 inches aboard commercial flights. Bring a micrometer calibrated to tenths of an inch to the TSA bag check.
The Obama administration will continue its effort to strip constitutionally protected rights from law-abiding citizens who own firearms. The president took to the cameras and microphones in the White House Rose Garden to describe opponents of the measure as "liars" and tell us all it was "a pretty shameful day for Washington."
And now the good news:
There have been fewer than 20 Americans killed in the United States by terrorists since the al-Qaida attacks on 9/11 -- including those who died in the November 2009 outburst of "workplace violence" at Fort Hood, Texas.
The FBI plea for public help in identifying the Boston suspects reduces the likelihood that there will be a repeat of what happened in July 1996, when Richard Jewell, a security guard at the Atlanta Olympics, was first lauded and then deemed a person of interest when anonymous sources told reporters that he fit the profile of a lone bomber.
Newsweek magazine is gone and no longer can create completely phony stories such as the one they concocted in May 2005 about a Quran's being flushed down a toilet at the Guantanamo Bay terrorist detention facility -- an article that cost more than a dozen lives during anti-American riots throughout the Middle East.
Finally, the appeal for public help solving the marathon bombing pushes self-serving government leakers and anonymous sources out of the picture. That's a good thing.
Oliver North is the host of "War Stories" on Fox News Channel and the author of the New York Times best-seller "Heroes Proved." To find out more about Oliver North and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.