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US needs more security at big events says Boston police chief

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People react as an explosion goes off near the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon

People react as an explosion goes off near the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon

AP

People react as an explosion goes off near the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon

MAJOR public events in the United States like the Boston marathon need greater security but officials must steer clear of moving toward a "police state," Boston's top cop said at a congressional hearing into last month's bombing.

The city's police commissioner, Edward Davis, called for more use of surveillance cameras and other technology as well as special police units and more undercover officers as ways to provide tighter security. But the public's privacy must also be protected, he added.

"We do not, and cannot, live in a protective enclosure because of the actions of extremists who seek to disrupt our way of life," Davis said in testimony prepared to be delivered before U.S. lawmakers probing the April 15 bombing in which three people were killed and 264 injured.

The hearing by the U.S. House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee is the first in a series examining events leading up to the bombing amid crowds cheering the finish of the marquee race.

Surveillance video aided U.S. officials in naming two ethnic Chechen brothers as responsible for the attack. One, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was captured and charged in the deadly bombing. His older brother, Tamerlan, died after a shootout with police.

Federal authorities have also charged three others with interfering with the investigation. The probe is continuing, with the focus now on computer evidence as well as a trickle of information coming from Russian authorities.

Davis told lawmakers that surveillance images can be helpful to law enforcement as evidence and are aimed at protecting the public, not stifling freedom or chilling free speech.

Still, he added: "I do not endorse actions that move Boston and our nation into a police state mentality, with surveillance cameras attached to every light pole in the city."

Massachusetts homeland security director Kurt Schwartz and Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman are also scheduled to testify before Thursday's panel.

Committee chairman Michael McCaul has said his panel will focus on how U.S. efforts have evolved to address threats such as the bombing that are rarely seen in the United States but are more common in other countries.

Lawmakers will "examine the interaction of state and local authorities with federal law enforcement prior to and after the attack, and what, if anything, they were told about intelligence regarding the suspects," he said in a statement late Wednesday.

"Ultimately, we hope to find out whether intelligence was shared, and what we need to improve to prevent another terrorist attack on our homeland," McCaul added.

Reuters