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A former CIA officer tells KIRO Radio the site of the Boston Marathon bombing and advanced technology gave investigators a significant head start in their probe. (AP Photo)

Ex-CIA investigator expects Boston Marathon bomber to be found quickly

Amidst conflicting reports that a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing had been identified, a former CIA officer tells KIRO Radio he's not surprised if investigators have found a suspect.

Bryan Cunningham, a former CIA officer and federal prosecutor, told The Luke Burbank Show the bombing site's proximity to the finish line gave investigators a huge volume of potential evidence.

"At the time when this attack took place and in the hours before, it was one of the most photographed and videoed sites on the Earth," he said.

Cunningham said local and federal officials would have already had security outposts staffed and running, and highly advanced technology allowed them to move much faster than in previous years.

Still, he admitted even though powerful software exists to sift through all the pictures and videos, the circumstance was extremely unique.

"Remember, there were 26,000 plus bags of various sorts that were dropped at that finish line," he said.

Numerous reports on Wednesday said investigators were able to identify the suspect in photographs and video talking on a cell phone and then track him via cell phone records.

Cunningham said he's not surprised, given the power of software and investigative techniques developed since 9/11.

"What they would have been looking for even before they saw the video of the man on the cell phone were cell phone calling records within the vicinity of the attacks that were of very short duration and that the receiving number was no longer on the air," he said.

Cunningham said a bomber would actually need two phones to detonate a bomb; one to call the bomb and another to receive the call and trigger the explosion.

Cunningham said despite the numerous reports of leads about both a suspect and the bombs used, he said it's important to remain skeptical - especially since law enforcement needs to walk a "tight rope" about the information it releases.

"On the one hand, you can't come out and lie to the public and the media. On the other hand, you don't want to say anything that's going to tip off the bad guys as to how close you are," he said.

As for the bomber, Cunningham said it's too soon to speculate on a motive. But he said what is clear is the bomber did not intend to execute a suicide attack like many other terrorists.

"I do not think this was a martyr. I think this was somebody who wanted to do damage and escape and either live to attack another day or at least go free," he said.

Cunningham also said the biggest fear of authorities since 9/11 is people living in the United States who've never committed crimes who become "radicalized on the Internet", making it much more difficult to identify them.

"If this had been a carefully planned and orchestrated, large funded overseas terrorist attack, you would have expected to hear some increased chatter."

Although the new technology and techniques make it much more difficult to commit an attack without getting caught, he said the ultimate goal is to prevent them from happening in the first place. And even though we are still far from that point, he said people should be comforted knowing a number of attacks have been prevented since 9/11.

Josh Kerns, MyNorthwest.com Reporter
Josh Kerns is an award winning reporter/anchor and host of KIRO Radio's Seattle Sounds (Sunday afternoons 5-6p) and a digital content producer for MyNorthwest.com.
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