Michael Chertoff and Dallas Lawrence in The Wall Street Journal on social media helping a manhunt Social media and user generated sites — most centrally, Reddit, 4chan, and Twitter — not only documented the Boston bombings and subsequent search for the suspects; they organized, and even helped, much of the investigation itself, write former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Dallas Lawrence. "Moments after photos and video of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects were posted to FBI.gov, the government's website nearly crashed from the crush of visitors. [The Boston Police Department] posted all of the official photos and video to social media to compensate for the lagging website and to encourage their online distribution," the pair observes. "Many people shared these posts online—with some posts re-tweeted 16,000 to 17,000 times. Each one of these 'shares' on social media increased the visibility of the pictures and video that were key to identifying and locating the suspects—and to letting the suspects know that their images were everywhere. That knowledge is likely what prompted the Tsarnaev brothers to bolt from hiding." An account this weekend in The Washington Post, suggested otherwise — that the FBI released the photos last Thursday "in part to limit the damage being done to people who were wrongly being targeted as suspects in the news media and on the Internet." Jack Shafer at Reuters offered his forgiveness, given the adrenaline of today's media. "No longer passive recipients of the news, [readers and viewers] talk back to the press as never before, putting additional pressure on the press corps to get it right and to untangle the news pretzel they've baked. And that’s wonderful."
Erwin Chemerinsky at the Los Angeles Times on the constitutional rights of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Calls to label alleged Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as an "enemy combatant" would have subjected Tsarnaev to a military tribunal, before the White House announced Monday he would be tried as the American citizen he is — all of which has led constitutional scholar Erwin Chemerinsky to remind us that "[t]he Constitution does not — and should not — permit trying American civilians in military tribunals. A verdict from a military tribunal, no matter how fair the proceedings, never would have the credibility of a conviction from a federal court. More important, there is no stopping point to the erosion of the Constitution; why couldn't any crime that caused significant loss of life be deemed an act of terror and the suspect denied constitutional protection?" These calls have risen before, Chemerinsky notes. "Throughout American history, whenever there has been a serious threat, people have proposed abridging civil liberties. When that has happened, it has never been shown to have made the country safer." Michael M. Rosen, writing at Reuters, vehemently disagreed, writing that classifying Tsarnaev as an enemy combatant might somehow help deter future terrorist attacks. "As we sift through the challenging implications of last week's events, we must aim to deter future acts of terror on our soil by U.S. citizens and legal residents. Treating and trying domestic terrorists as enemy combatants can provide such a deterrent. The strongest reason to do this is to send a signal to other would-be terrorists that we, as a society, consider these acts so repellant that we treat them as acts of war."