Sample Paper on Leadership Failure in Boston Bombing

Leadership Failure in Boston Bombing


We are living in turbulent times where nations and continents face an escalation in various forms of risks ranging from protracted and intense conflicts, manmade and natural disasters, corporate crises, terrorism and crucially, cyber threats to mega-events and infrastructures. Such rise in mega-crises presents a new type of challenge to the conventional working methods and assumptions of corporate leaders, public authorities, and the public at large (Helsloot et al., 2012).  The Boston Marathon bombing that took place on April 15 2013, shall go down in the history of the United States not just because of the great national anguish it caused and the heroic work of the police force, but also due to the intelligent failures. The latter was a clear demonstration of what has now become a common failure of intelligence among law enforcement agencies can jeopardise public safety due to leadership failure.

A key attribute of a leader when faced with a crisis is to demonstrate that he is in control of the situation (Helsloot, 2012). The manner in which a leader deals with unexpected situations could aid in the development of a strong bond between him and those under his leadership, the public, and the government. If a leader is unable to manage well when faced with challenges and difficult circumstances, his leadership ability is likely to be second-guessed or questioned every time he has to handle another crisis.

Law enforcement official investigating the Boston Marathon bombing that took place close to the finish line on April 15, 2013 identified two brothers; Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev were identified as the main suspects of this terrorist attack. They had mounted two pressure cooker bombs that went off almost instantaneously killing three people awhile over two hundred people were injured (Offices of Inspectors General, 2014). Law enforcement officials encountered the two bombing suspects in Waterloo, Massachusetts and in the ensuing encounter Tamerlan Tsarnaev was shot and later succumbed to the bullet injuries. However, his brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev managed to flee the scene was hotly pursued by law enforcement officers who approached him a day later. He is still in federal custody.

10 years before the Boston Marathon bombing, the two brothers had migrated from their birthplace, Kyrgyzstan to the United States alongside the rest of the family. Not only did they receive an immigration benefit, but all the six members of this family were granted Permanent Residency Status in the preceding years. In 2011, The FSB (Russian Federal Security Services) drew the attention of the FBI regarding Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Zubeidat Tsarnaeva’s allegiance to radical Islam (Offices of Inspectors General, 2014). The FSB further informed the FBI of Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s planned travel to Russia where he hoped to join underground and unspecified groups in Chechnya and Dagestan.  This information prompted the JTTF (Joint Task Force) under the tutelage of the FBI in Boston to commence a 3-month long assessment of Tamerlan Tsarnaev with a view to determining if he was a threat to national security.

However, the assessment failed to provide any “nexus” or link to terrorism.   In September 2011, the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) received information from the FSB almost identical to what had been provided to the FBI in March 2011 on Tamerlan Tsarnaev. A month later, the CIA passed on this information to the FBI, the NCTC (National Counterterrorism Centre (NCTC), DHS (Department of Homeland Security) and the Department of State for watchlisting purposes (Offices of Inspectors General, 2014).  Three months after the report from the FSB, Tamerlan Tsarnaev travelled to Russia. Sadly, there was no additional investigation done to ascertain whether his ravel was a source of threat to national security.

Despite these damning reports from Russian’s intelligence agency linking Tamerlan, alongside his mother, Zubeidat, as ardent followers of radical Islam the FBI failed to share this information with local law enforcement, and neither did they interview his friends or wife. Following the bombings, the FBI again got hold of information that indicated that Tsarnaev had been speaking of jihad before his planned trip to Russia (Offices of Inspectors General, 2014). The FBI also established that Tsarnaev had shared extremist videos and articles while still in Russia. Amid of this damning information, the FBI failed to give the case of Tsarnaev and his brother high priority from the word go and this is a demonstration of threat to public safety when there is leadership failure among government agencies.

While the Boston Marathon bombing has been highly lauded as one event in which various government agencies have demonstrated high level of collaboration in sharing information and coordinating activities, leading to a conclusion of the investigations in just 102 minutes, on the other hand, the event presented us with a glaring picture of the likely threat to public safety if and when there is leadership failure (ABC News, 2014). Sharing of intelligence information has been identified as a significance undertaking that could have likely prevented the occurrence of the Boston Marathon bombing in the first place. Edward Davis, the Commissioner of the Boston Police Department while testifying to the Homeland Security Committee days after the incident, said that he, alongside other state law enforcement officials were kept in the dark by the FBI, CIA, DHS and other federal authorities that the two Boston marathon bombers had been identified as possible radical threats until days after the incident (Kredo, 2013). This again points at failed leadership between the FBI and the DHS. It is indicative of poor leadership traits. It also calls to question the relevancy of the JTTF whose creation in 2002 was specifically aimed at facilitating sharing of information between various federal agencies like the FBI and DHS, and the different local law enforcement.

The DHS collaborates with law enforcement, first respondents, communities, and individuals across the United States to enhance preparedness, reduce vulnerabilities and improve emergency response capabilities at local, tribal, state, territorial and Federal levels. Even as the United States is more resilient and stringent following concerted efforts in the last 10 years to establish strong national capabilities, the events of the Boston Marathon bombings act as a constant reminder of the persistent and evolving nature of acts of terrorism (ABC News 2014).

The findings of a report released by Inspectors General of the Department of Justice, CIA, and DHS indicate that when an FTTF analyst went through information on Tsarnaev, the analyst established that an assessment on the suspect had already been carried out by the Boston JTTF based on related information that the Russian government had furnished the FBI with (Zalkind, 2014). In other words, one FBI-led agency did not follow up on the matter of Tsarnaev regarding his possible connection with jihadist activities and hence a threat to national security, because it opined that the issue had already been looked into by another FBI-led agency. Again, this speaks much about failed leadership in the FBI.  In spite of these revelations, the report, in its conclusion indicates that on the basis of information obtained during the committee’s coordinated assessment, it was convinced that the FBI, DHS, CIA, and NCTC had all followed appropriate procedure in handling the incident.


The 2013 Boston Marathon bombing will go down in history as one of the most coordinated response to a terrorist attack incident in the United States, given the rapid rate of response to the attack and apprehending of the suspects in record time. However, the incident also revealed massive failures in leadership among leading federal agencies such as the FBI and the DHS. A key area of this failure in leadership is the inability to acknowledge the powerful difference between hindsight and foresight in assessing how an intelligence or investigative agency ought to have behaved. Both the FBI and the DHS had received classified information from the Russian government regarding the potential risk that the two suspects posed to national security on account of their being linked to jihadist groups. Not only did the two agencies fail to work on such decisive information, but they also did not share it with local law enforcement until after the incident had occurred.  With the benefit of hindsight, the federal agencies know whom they should have been treating as primary suspects from the word go. Another key failure of the FBI is trying to not take blame even after it is evident that mistakes had been made. One FBI-led group failed to follow up on the investigation of Tsarnaev’s links to jihadist activities because it thought that another FBI-led group was following up on the matter. This is an indication of poor coordination and lack of proper leadership in handling a potential threat to national security.



ABC News. (2014). Boston One Year Later: DHS’s Lessons Learned. Retrieved from


Helsloot, I., Boin, A., Jacobs, B., & Comfort, L.K. (2012).  MEGA-CRISES: Understanding

the Prospects, Nature, Characteristics, and the … Charles C Thomas Publisher.

Kredo, A. (2013). Failure to Communicate: Intelligence sharing could have helped prevent

Boston Marathon bombing. Retrieved from

Failure to Communicate

Offices of Inspectors General (OIG) (2014). Unclassiϐied Summary of Information Handling

            and Sharing Prior to the April 15, 2013 BOSTON MARATHON BOMBINGS.

Retrieved from

Zalkind, S. (2014). FBI Admits It Missed Opportunities to Stop Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Retrieved