Boston Blasts Bring a Chill to Washington

Police tape is used to block off Pennsylvania Ave Monday as the street was closed for security reasons. Police tape is used to block off Pennsylvania Ave Monday as the street was closed for security reasons. Alex Brandon/AP

Tax day in Washington turned into a tension-filled reminder that there are far worse problems to deal with than the federal budget, immigration reform, or even gun control, as bombings at the Boston Marathon brought the horrors of terrorism front and center into the national consciousness.

Almost immediately after the blasts hit the heart of the Massachusetts capital Monday afternoon, security was stepped up on Capitol Hill, in the area around the White House, and at other government buildings in Washington.

“We are monitoring intelligence at the national level,” Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance Gainer said in a statement. He added that although there was “no present indication of threats to this campus,” Capitol Police were taking additional “practiced steps.”

Later on Monday evening, Capitol Police spokesman Shennell Antrobus said there was no information linking the explosions in Boston, which killed at least three people and injured more than 100, to any threats on Capitol Hill. But he said the department wants everyone in the community “to continue to be vigilant and communicate any concerns or suspicious activity to Capitol Police.”

A separate statement issued by the Capitol Police also encouraged reports of anything suspicious. “The department expects an increase in calls for service concerning unattended packages and suspicious activity,” the statement said. “We encourage members and staff to report anything of concern.” The statement also warned staff and visitors to expect an increased police presence on the Hill, “including visitor lines at doors and more-frequent canine inspections.”

Late Monday evening, authorities reported that no known threats to local targets had emerged. And Washington Mayor Vincent Gray was encouraging people to turn out on Tuesday for the annual Emancipation Day celebration marking the day in 1862 that President Lincoln freed slaves in the District of Columbia.

As events unfolded in the immediate wake of the Boston explosions, the Secret Service moved to shut down portions of Pennsylvania Avenue outside the White House. Law-enforcement agencies throughout the region were closely monitoring developments.

Inside the White House, President Obama received afternoon briefings from FBI Director Robert Mueller and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on the investigation and the federal response in Boston.

In a short public appearance Monday—about three hours after the explosions—Obama told the press that authorities still did not know who was responsible for the bombings or why they had been carried out. But the president said, “Make no mistake. We will get to the bottom of this. We will find out who did this. We will find out how they did this.”

Obama also declared, “Responsible groups will feel the full weight of justice.”

The president said he had reached out to congressional leaders in the wake of the blasts. “On days like this there are no Republicans or Democrats,” Obama said. “We are Americans united in concern for our fellow citizens.”

How long such unity might hold is anyone’s guess. As more details emerge, members of Congress and key committees are likely to have some tough questions for the Obama administration, and perhaps even some criticism about how the intelligence community did not see this coming—regardless of whether the bombings were a product of foreign or domestic terror.

For a day at least, partisanship was being set aside for declarations of sorrow and resolve in standing up to terrorism. At the request of Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, the House observed a moment of silence Monday evening.

Meanwhile, Democratic Reps. Edward Markey and Stephen Lynch, both of whom are running in a primary for a Senate seat from Massachusetts, both suspended campaign activities on Monday, including phone banking, fundraising, and TV ads. Meanwhile, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel, D-N.Y., postponed a scheduled dinner on Monday night with reporters.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.