hubert-williams.jpgThe remarkable swiftness with which the law enforcement agencies in Boston have dealt with the Marathon murderers is a reminder to us all across the world of not just the death of distance but also that privacy too has died, that wherever you are, whatever you do, you are likely to be on camera. Britain’s royals William and Kate know that only too well.

Today’s technology is dictating that you will never again be alone:  Either it is “Big Brother” peering in on you at different angles from outer space; or the strategically located mini drones which are becoming a feature of surveillance; or grandma fiddling with the fascinating little gift that she got for Christmas; or the little tot across the street testing on you the capabilities of a smartphone.

All are likely, even if only by chance, to be focusing on you. Distance is dead. Privacy is a fossil. Even when secreted behind closed doors, with powerful sensors they can tell what you’re up to from the vibrations emanating from your activity.

The technology gap is where the Marathon bombers made their fatal slip. They must certainly have gone to the Internet to obtain their bomb-making instructions (for anything you want to know – the best and the worst – lies there for the taking). But, in their derangement, they looked no further than the capacity to wreak death and destruction, pain, suffering, horror and fear on innocent Marathon runners and watchers and extending it to the wider community.

Had they searched the Internet more carefully, they might have been dissuaded from their foul deed, for it would have provided them a lot of information to show that, with today’s technology, the authorities can locate even the proverbial needle in a haystack. And so in time the killers were condignly dealt with.

 The authorities in Washington and Boston are to be complimented for the clinical efficiency with which they handled the Marathon drama. And, through technology, a mission seemingly impossible – unmasking/detaining the bombers – was accomplished in just four days. This strengthens Americans’ faith in their law enforcement agencies and warns would-be terrorists that “eyes” are all around and there will be no escape.

The one downside was President Barack Obama’s initial avoidance of calling the tragedy an act of terror in his first statement on Monday, when immediately to me it clearly was. In the second statement Tuesday afternoon, he came out boldly and declared, “Any time bombs are used to target civilians, it is an act of terrorism.” In the statement, he promised with confidence, “I can assure we will find out who did it and bring them to justice.” And that has been done.  A man of his word.

Imagine!  A huge metropolitan area locked down. All rail and road transit services stopped. The vast hub of Boston gone silent. Because the search for the bombers was a mission on which the authorities dared not fail. My home is in the locked-down area and residents were under the injunction to “shelter in place.”

Now, with both alleged bombers accounted for, the critical question is whether they acted independently (as brothers in crime) or have links to an international terrorist organization. Fortunately, terrorists are mostly always cowards or zealots and, in this case, one who sought to viciously snuff out other people’s lives was found cowering in a backyard boat seeking to safeguard his own.

He will be the source of much vital information about what prompted the act and what foreign links they might have had over the years  and, in my view, whatever international human rights groups might think, the authorities should get that information … by any means necessary.

As the Marathon drama unfolded in Boston and surrounding cities like Watertown and Newton, areas that I traverse almost daily, I have had to field numerous inquiries from friends and acquaintances everywhere as to how has the family been touched by all the goings-on. Emotionally, yes;  otherwise, no.

Usually, almost all members of the family would have been among the Marathon watchers. But this year is different. I happen to be “vacationing” in Barbados; three others are vacationing in Cancun, Mexico; one is vacationing in Havana, Cuba. The sole member among the Marathon spectators (who has kept his teenage figure by running) was back home when the bombs blew, having seen the front-runners in and deciding there was little point waiting to the end for all the stragglers.


Hubert Williams, a Guyanese journalist, travels frequently in the U.S. and the Caribbean.