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Morning Joe
updated 4/16/2013 4:22:15 PM ET 2013-04-16T20:22:15

Tom Ridge, former head of Homeland Security, said that sifting through the masses of evidence in the case will have to be methodical and measured.

Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge peeled back the curtain on the investigation underway in Boston on Tuesday’s Morning Joe.

Ridge, who was appointed by President George W. Bush after the attacks on 9/11, developed the country’s first national counter-terrorism strategy.

“They will identify the perpetrators, they will find out who is responsible for this horrific act, but it’s going to take some time,” he said.

He explained the process of sifting through the masses of media for evidence in a terror case.

“It’s drudge work. It is painstakingly focused on the slightest detail,” Ridge said. “The shrapnel that was used, there may be some evidence there. You’ve had surveillance cameras, I’m quite confident; you’ve had literally hundreds, if not thousands of people with their iPhones taking photographs. And as you go through all the video evidence and the forensic evidence that they are able to accumulate based on the scene itself, it is a painstaking, bit by bit, very slow, methodical, incremental process.”

Law enforcement has already appealed to witnesses to send them videos and photographs taken at the site for potential evidence. Richard DesLauriers, the FBI agent in charge in Boston, said Tuesday they had received “voluminous tips” and were analyzing the crime scene.

“We will go to the ends of the Earth to identify the subject or subjects who are responsible for this despicable crime, and we will do everything we can to bring them to justice,” DesLauriers said.
Ridge pointed to the bombing at the Atlanta Olympics, where the perpetrator’s identity wasn’t known for more than a year.

“Remember that ’96 bombing in Atlanta, the pipe bomb, it took some time to determine who the responsible party was, but I’m confident in the ability of the law enforcement community to identify the actor in this matter. Absolutely confident,” Ridge said.

Video: Tom Ridge: Will take time to identify marathon perpetrators

  1. Closed captioning of: Tom Ridge: Will take time to identify marathon perpetrators

    >>> all right. joining us now in washington, the country's first homeland security secretary tom ridge . very good to have you on the show. thank you very much. i see i'm reading some of your assessments of what's happened here. and at one point, i think late last night, you might have said the more you hear about this bombing, the more you think it might have been a coordinated attack. does that still stand? and if so, why?

    >> well, i think it's an interesting observation that i made and you challenging that this morning. i think it's fair to say with various reports, i think the interpretation based on my experience has changed. at one point in time, there were two exploded devices. two that had not been detonated. and another report that there were five other explosive devices found. the concern -- not the concern, but the ideas i had evolve and continue to evolve. they're not the five exploded devices. and things have changed dramatically. it speaks to a broader point. we won't not know who is responsible. we will not have all the details until the investigation is finished. leads me to believe that perhaps i shouldn't jump to conclusions based on what has been reported because it's not as factual as i thought it had been.

    >> fair enough. fair enough. and we'll be careful too, obviously it's better to wait for all the information to come out. given the story that we're covering now. yeah, go ahead.

    >> well, i think it's understandable of people looking for answers and journalists are doing everything they possibly can to provide as much information as they can. but i think the cautionary remark that the president made about not jumping to conclusions, it clearly seems to me and i still believe it was a terrorist attack . we don't know whether it was a domestic terrorist , connected to an international organization , multiple devices designed with an anti-personnel, designed to maim, designed to bring the kind of destruction as somebody referred to earlier in your program that you often see in battlefields, with improvised explosive devices in afghanistan and iraq. in my judgment it's a terrorist attack . the source of it remains to be determined.

    >> you know, governor, one of the frightening things about holding the type of position that you held over the past, you know, after 9/11, over the past decade and you hear it from other high-ranking law enforcement officers and members of the cia, it's all the intelligence that comes streaming in and trying to sort through it and parse through it. what seems to frightening to me at least from a layman's point of view is the fact that there was no chatter. there was no warning. doesn't appear to be any piece of evidence out there that anybody could've acted on.

    >> no, that's exactly right. and i think as we deal with the global scourge of terrorism and we're going to be dealing with it, i'm afraid, for the foreseeable future, the epicenter is trying to identify the perpetrator before he or they act. in this instance, there were no leads, there was no communicati communication. nothing substantive to act upon. and make no mistake about it, i'm quite sure there were security measures put in place. i'm quite sure that over the 26 plus miles, there were cameras and there were police, they were marked in unmarked cars. did everything you possibly can. as we remind ourself every single day, multiple events, cultural, social, political, attracting hundreds of thousands if not hundreds of thousands, we have been will always be a target rich environment. i don't like to use that expression. people convene in large crowds, and this historic day in boston was marred from the cheers to the chaos in the tragedy that evolved.

    >> isn't it safe to say it possibly could be why the boston marathon was a target. an international event on tax day , opens the question for domestic as well as a foreign attack.

    >> i don't think you're jumping to a conclusion there. when i said earlier in our conversation, you know, you think differently when there are multiple undetonated devices. you go from one or two people to maybe three or four. the report was five or seven devices, you think it's a much more coordinated attack. but i don't think it's a -- you're jumping to conclusions to say this is a big day in boston. it is an international event. runners from all over the world participate. and the terrorists or the actors knew they would get this attention. they also knew with the devices they used, they would cause a massive number of casualties.

    >> we live in an open society as you just spoke to, the impossibility, the near impossibility of securing an open area like a marathon route. it's a lot different than securing airports or things like that. super bowls , things like that. now this event has occurred, we have a society also where hundreds of thousands of people have cell phone cameras taking pictures that could potentially be part of this investigation. could you speak to the methodology, the drudge work ongoing right now as we speak. how does this go? how do they go through all the evidence they've gathered and still out there.

    >> well, i think you characterized it very appropriately. it's drudge work. it is pain stakingly focused on the slightest detail. the shrapnel that was used. there may be some evidence there. you've had surveillance cameras , i'm quite confident. you've had literally hundreds if not thousands of people with their iphones taking photographs. and as you go through all the video evidence, the forensic evidence that they are able to accumulate based on the scene itself, it is a pain staking bit by bit very slow, methodical, incremental process. they will identify the perpetrators. they will find out who is responsible for this horrific act. but it's going to take some time. remember that '96's bombing in atlanta was a pipe bomb, it took quite some time to determine who the responsible party was. but i'm confident in the ability of the law enforcement community to identify the actor in this matter. absolutely confident.

    >> well, the work you did in part will help with that. here's part of what president obama said yesterday. take a look.

    >> we still do not know who did this or why. and people shouldn't jump to conclusions before we have all the facts. but make no mistake, we will get to the bottom of this. and we will find out who did this. we'll find out why they did this. any response -- any responsible individuals, any responsible groups. will feel the full weight of justice.

    >> and then secretary ridge, a white house official later said, quote, this, in the event with multiple explosive devices as this appears to be is clearly an act of terror and will be approached as an act of terror, however, we don't yet know who carried out this attack and a thorough investigation will have to determine whether it was planned and carried out by a terrorist group foreign or domestic.

    >> and governor ridge, when you hear the president of the united states talking about we will find the perpetrators, we will bring them to justice. even though he's not from your party. and he was critical of your administration, you've got to really feel a bond with that president because you've been there when you're responsible for keeping americans safe and an event like this happens and people want answers, they want it quickly. sometimes it's frustrating for people inside the white house .

    >> well, i think it's frustrating for people inside the white house and may be frustrating for 300 plus million americans . we want the answer as quickly as possible and justice and some may say retribution, but we want to find out who is responsible and make sure that the -- our response as a nation, as a country is appropriate. and frankly, we have to wait and see what the investigation reveals. is it a domestic lone wolf ? some grudge against the government? is it tied to an international organization of some kind? a jihadist movement? so we need to find out who the actor was, determine the motive and figure out the form of justice and action this government takes.

    >> secretary ridge, it's willie geist in new york. i think a lot of us thought after the attacks of september 11th , this was the new normal to use a term we were going to see a lot more domestic terrorism . and we haven't seen a whole lot of it. there was ft. hood, the anthrax attacks , thwarted attacks, a combination of good police work and in some cases bumbling terrorists. should the american people be surprised based on all you know, all the intelligence you saw as director of homeland security that we have not been attacked more often than we have been since september of 2001 ?

    >> no, i don't think we should be surprised. i think the 9/11 world what most americans don't see is the additional security that both in the public and the private sector that we've now embedded into everything we do. i think clearly america is safer today than it was at 9/11. and i think, again, we just have to remind ourselves that in this extraordinary country in which we all live, and the freedoms and the accessibility and the liberties that are so profound and so much a part of our existence. we cannot let the terrorists alter how we live and enjoy these freedoms and how we enjoy our country. we are certainly safer. but every single day when we gather at these kinds of events, there is always that potential. and i say that not to frighten or alarm, it is a global scourge. it is something we're going to have to be dealing with. and to date, i think the country has done a remarkable job in securing itself. and every day we get smarter, every day we get more secure. and there are only two ways this event could've not occurred. one is somebody mentioned earlier in the broadcast, we're going to identify the actors beforehand, seize them, go the the perpetrator or cancel the event. i was gratified to listen to the previous -- the woman in the reporter who ran the event said she's probably going to run in the marathon. i was hopeful that all of these other events would continue. maybe ramped up security, more inconvenience, we don't want to fundamentally change how we enjoy this country, how we live in this country.

    >> no doubt about it.

    >> no question there. former homeland security secretary tom ridge , always good to have you on.

    >> thank you, tom.

    >> coming up, the latest on the investigation and the administration's response. pete williams and chuck todd join us next. you're watching " morning joe " live from

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