By Hans Nichols
WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama said the full resources of the federal government are being mobilized to investigate the deadly explosions today in Boston and he vowed those responsible will be brought to justice.
“We still do not know who did this or why, and people shouldn’t jump to conclusions before we have all the facts,” Obama said at the White House. “Any responsible individuals, any responsible groups will feel the full weight of justice.”
He said security will be increased across the country “as necessary.”
While Obama didn’t use the word terrorism to describe the attack, an administration official, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly, said the bombings are being investigated as an act of terror.
The president was notified of the incident today at about 3 p.m., 10 minutes after the twin blasts that killed two people and injured scores of others near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
He was briefed on the investigation by FBI Director Robert Mueller and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, according to a White House statement.
Obama also called Boston Mayor Tom Menino and Mass. Gov. Deval L. Patrick, and he directed federal agencies to help local authorities in the investigation.
“We don’t yet have all the answers,” Obama said. “As we get more information, our team will provide more briefings.”
U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the head of the Intelligence Committee, said there were no warnings.
“There is no intelligence to the best of my knowledge that would point out there was an attack on the way,” Feinstein told reporters. There weren’t “any hallmarks” to the attack “other than the fact it could be homegrown,” she said.
She said her committee has been in touch with U.S. intelligence agencies since the bombing, and that while she considers it a terrorist strike, she couldn’t say whether it was foreign or domestic.
Terrorism is defined in the Code of Federal Regulations as “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.”
House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers declined to say what information intelligence agencies have given him about the Boston bombings, including whether the attacks were coordinated.
Rogers, a Michigan Republican, said the push for details in the first 12 hours following an attack, “especially like this one,” leads to inaccuracies being spread, “so we’re all keeping our powder dry until we know all the facts.”
Feinstein said the Boston Marathon was a “diabolical” place to strike.
“We’ve known for some time that a public event where there were a lot of people would be subject to this possibility,” she said.
Vice President Joe Biden was in the middle of a conference call on gun violence when he learned of the incident.
“As I’m speaking here they just turned on the TV in my office,” Biden said. “I don’t know any of the details of what caused it, who did it, but our prayers are with the people in Boston who have suffered injury.”
Outside the White House, police restricted pedestrian traffic on the sidewalk and street immediately along the fence surrounding the executive mansion. The street was closed to vehicles following the 1995 bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City. Tourists continued to stroll through Lafayette Park directly across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House.
“Out of an abundance of caution, we have expanded our security perimeter at the White House complex,” said Edwin Donovan, deputy assistant director at the Secret Service.
In the U.S. House and Senate, lawmakers observed a moment of silence for the victims. Obama said he has kept congressional leaders of both parties updated.
“We reaffirmed that on days like this there are no Republicans or Democrats - we are Americans, united in concern for our fellow citizens,” Obama said.
The FBI will brief members of Congress on the Boston bombing tomorrow, said U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, a Connecticut Democrat who sits on the House Intelligence Committee. The 11 a.m. meeting with the intelligence panel will be entirely devoted to the Boston attacks, Himes said.