The Surveillance Video of the Boston Bombing Suspects That Almost Never Was


boston-marathon_ribbon-210x210Propped up on a set of easels at the front of the conference room, a pair of garish posterboards buckled. Someone cut out a not so ominous looking paper banner which read, “Armed and Dangerous” in red ink, and pasted it at the display’s bottom. Above that, chunked into two groups of four images each, were eight screen grabs rescued from a surveillance video captured just moments before the bombs in Boston exploded. The images had a matte finish, and absorbed none of the flash from the photographers’ cameras, and and yet for all of their apparent dullness, the images yielded the most brilliant results.

Gesturing to the primitive exhibits, a dour looking FBI agent named Richard DesLauriers, after giving the world its very first glimpse of the Boston bombing suspects during last Thursday’s earth shattering press conference said, “As you can see, the quality of the photos is quite good,” and then, rocking back on his heels, issued both the public and the media the following warning, “For clarity, ” said DesLauriers, his face a mask of grim determination, “these images should be the only ones, and I emphasize, THE ONLY ONES, that the public should view to assist us.”

After the New York Post’s, “Bag Men,” headline grossly misidentified one of the victims as a suspect, the FBI was more apt to play favorites and was pressing that point home; as far as it was concerned, it had the definitive video of the Boston bombing suspects in its possession. “Other photos should not be deemed credible,” said agent DesLauriers squinting over the top of his glasses, “other photos unnecessarily divert the public’s attention in the wrong direction and create undue work for vital law enforcement resources.”

Tom Maggio, Owner of CCTV Services Inc. wheeled around in his chair, and pointed to a monitor, “You see that red trim around the border,” said Maggio tracing his finger along the edges of the surveillance video of the Boston bombers on the FBI’s website, “that red mark is a signature unique to our software.” The video itself originated from, “Whiskey’s Steakhouse,” a restaurant located on 885 Boylston Street, just 60 meters from the blast zone. The Whiskey is a faithful CCTV Services Inc. client. “The video shown on T.V. Is from Whiskey’s….from your system,” wrote Whiskey’s General Manager Becky Caloggero in an email sent after Thursday’s FBI press conference. “Homeland Security, ATF, the Feds, all say the system is exceptional; one of the best in the city!! Nice job!!” wrote Caloggero.

Maggio yanked a sheet of paper from the printer and waved it briefly in the air. He called it a, “Notifications Report.” On it, were 10 notifications, or “Alerts.” It looked dire. “This report here was generated a little over a week before the Boston Marathon,” said Maggio rapping the back of his finger tips on it. “These are error messages from the DVR at Whiskey’s, and had any one of these issues gone unresolved for any uncertain length of time, in all likelihood, instead of the headline being, ‘Surveillance Video Leads Authorities to Bombing Suspects,’ it could just as easily have been, ‘FBI Comes Up Empty in Surveillance Video Search’

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Asked if it’s possible that a client’s system might appear to be up and running, and recording, when in fact it’s not, Maggio tilted back in his chair and loudly exhaled, “It happens all of the time with less forward operating systems,” he said. Explaining the sophisticated nature of the type of exclusive software Maggio uses to track, monitor, and troubleshoot issues on the fly, Maggio scoffs at lesser brands, “Just ask the FBI, or NYPD detectives how many times they’ve rolled up on some unsuspecting shop owner with a CCTV system and asked permission to see the footage, only to walk away with zilch because the unit stopped recording a month ago, and no one knew about it.”

Maggio calls this self monitoring software a “DVR Health Monitoring Program.” Any hitch, glitch, hiccup, or burp that may or may not compromise the integrity of the recording mechanism, Maggio explains, is monitored much the same way a patient in critical care would be treated. “It’s a proactive formula, where we get to see inside of the patient, and resolve the issues as they occur.” One blip, one beep, one “signal loss to camera” error message, explained Maggio steering himself out from behind his desk, gets triaged in the observation room by a group of highly skilled technicians on stand-by.

Maggio multi-tasks during the interview. Phones are ringing, papers get shoved into his hands, he motions to an associate, “follow us,” he says, as he serpentines swiftly through the office to the back until he enters the observation room. Arms folded, he lords over an 80 inch screen; a flurry of alerts register on it and are blinking.

A team of technicians, including the one Maggio hooked on his way in, are jockeying lap tops, their fingers flutter across the keyboards; they are communicating with machines. “Since the onset of the digital age,”‘said Maggio, “it’s been a boon for companies like mine in the security industry. Now, assuming you own some type of tablet, or smart phone, you can appreciate how sensitive, and temperamental all of this digital technology can be.”

Referring again to the notification report, Maggio ticked off a bone chilling menu of bizarre tech mishaps that sounded eerily similar to the one’s someone’s tablet, or home PC program might issue right before the screen decides to freeze up and lock. Situations like that, for the average person, typically resolve themselves days later, right after the kid with the big hair from the “Geek Squad,” ends up collecting his $300 to fix it. “With that in mind,” said Maggio, “do we really want to risk losing video evidence of something this significant over something as simple as an unmonitored system error?” The question hung in the air as Maggio spun on his heels exiting the room.

A CCTV Services Inc. spokesman was adamant that the evidentiary value of what will, over time, come to be considered one of the most notorious surveillance videos ever created, is owed to the DVR Health Monitoring Program.”No one disputes that this is the video that not only identified the Boston bombers for the first time, it coaxed them out into the open, out of hiding, and into the crosshairs of law enforcement,” said the spokesman.

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Congratulations and many thanks to all of the dedicated law enforcement officials who, through their tireless efforts, saw this case swiftly to its end.

To the city of Boston, bear your grief, and in it will you discover a sympathetic nation eager to shoulder it.

To the families of the bombing victims, we extend our deepest sympathies. May you find peace at the end of your grief.

To the victims of the heinous bombings at the 2013 Boston Marathon, we are eternally vigilant in your memory.

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