Federal investigators trying to identify the culprit of the Boston Marathon bombings are being flooded with with photographs and videos sent in by the public.
A spokesperson for the FBI’s Boston Field Office, which is leading the case, said they’ve been “inundated with material,” including images captured on cell phones that have been sent to the office by e-mail. The FBI isn’t commenting on how many items it has received or on how it’s dividing up the laborious process of looking at the images for clues. “It’s being worked on, everything is coming in here,” the spokesperson said.
The Boston Regional Intelligence Center, a federally supported “fusion center,” is also receiving tips from the public. However it’s passing all that information along to the FBI. Asked how many images the center has received, an employee there said, “I don’t have a number. I don’t think anybody does, but it’s a lot.”
An employee at the Commonwealth Fusion Center, which is part of the Massachusetts state government, referred all inquiries to the Boston Field Office.
This afternoon, CNN and Reuters reported that authorities in Boston may have identified a suspect in the bombings from surveillance video at a Lord & Taylor department store. A press conference is expected at 5 PM. UPDATE: Those initial reports turn out to be incorrect, with multiple news organizations now reporting no arrests have been made.
You can get a sense of what FBI investigators are going through from this Reddit thread, where members are taking on a crowd-sourced version of the painstaking imagery analysis.
The intelligence community has the capability to process and analyze large volumes of imagery data. But so far, sources tell me that the FBI has the lead on this investigation and has not asked for assistance from other agencies. One intelligence official says that if the FBI were to ask for outside assistance, they might bring in help from a fusion center, but at least in Massachusetts, that’s not happening.
For the past two days, investigators have been coming up short on leads. Sources close to the investigation said that the likely break would come from some of the images now being collected.
There’s a fairly standard playbook that intelligence and security agencies follow in the wake of a terrorist attack. A kind of “all-hands” message will be sent to the several intelligence agencies, with the request that they re-examine any information they’ve collected recently that might have bearing on the current case, one former official explained. The paucity of leads suggests these agencies didn’t find much. One official said that there had been no chatter or indications of an attack by a foreign group leading up to the bombing or after it.
The FBI requests that anyone with images of the bombing site or the surrounding areas send the material to the Boston Field Office at Boston@ic.fbi.gov.