Is Menino's anger misdirected?

Tom Menino is right to say that Turner Broadcasting bears some culpability for the cost and stress of yesterday’s Mooninite-induced bomb scare. But is that corporation really deserving of the fury that he’s unleashing at them?

            Consider that when the city has screwed up in the past, Menino has frequently reacted with misdirected vitriol. He publicly condemned college hooligans and Fenway bar owners after his police shot Victoria Snellgrove to death. When the city’s murder-arrest rate plummeted, he crusaded against makers of “Stop Snitchin’” shirts.

            Judging by Menino’s tirades against Turner Broadcasting yesterday afternoon, I’d have to say that somebody really botched yesterday’s investigation something awful.

            The first call about a suspicious device came in at 8 a.m. By 10, the bomb squad blew the first one up. Surely sometime in between -- and earlier rather than later -- a large criminal investigation was launched to find out who was responsible.

            And yet, it was not until between 2 and 3 p.m. that a Boston police analyst recognized the image, according to a Globe source (the Boston Police Department and other local law enforcement are not officially answering these sorts of questions yet). And that was after “they happened to move one of the signs into a darker area” and it lit up.

            I know it’s easy to play Monday-morning quarterback, but what the hell were the criminal investigators doing for the five or six hours to that point -- while they thought that thousands of lives might be depend on how fast they discovered the source of the device?

            To put it another way: Jack Bauer would not be six episodes into a season of 24 before figuring out what the image on the front of the bomb meant.

            That’s going to be the subject of considerable inquiry now, and it should be. It seems -- again with the benefit of hindsight -- that photos must have been taken of the thing before they blew it up; that circulating that image would have triggered a recognition very quickly; and that a police phone call to the Cartoon Network would have revealed the truth almost immediately.

            Not to mention that had they shared what they knew with the public -- rather than leave the media craning for their first sneak peaks at the device sometime around 4:00 -- they almost certainly would have solved it within an hour.

            Perhaps Menino -- and Attorney General Martha Coakley, US Attorney Michael Sullivan, and Governor Deval Patrick -- are asking questions internally about the investigation. But publicly, Menino immediately waxed indignant, blaming everybody else -- long before having any facts at his disposal to do so.

            Indeed, not long after the “hoax” was revealed, Menino was willing to claim, on Greater Boston, that phone calls alerting the police to the devices that morning were part of the marketing campaign. As far as we know, there is nothing to support that.

            Menino always prefers a vague or faceless object of blame. Before the culprits had a name, he was publicly talking about penalties of up to five years per device. By this morning, they were actual individuals, and Menino was saying that they should not be punished harshly, because the fault really lay with the companies that hired the men.

            Certainly the city had to react as it did initially: as though the unknown items with wires and circuitry attached to overpasses and other public surfaces might be dangerous. That happens, just like sometimes you’ve got to blow up backpacks left on subway platforms. Even if they had recognized the character, that would make no difference -- bombs can come in pretty packages. And because that’s true, anybody who attaches that sort of thing to a public surface without permission or notification is an idiot who should pay for the consequences.

            But that’s not the issue we need to address. The issue is this: if next time they really are bombs, we need to solve the case faster.

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