Boston Marathon manhunt: Looking back through the "fog of war"

(CBS News) During the hunt for the Boston bomb suspects, authorities struggled to maintain control over pace of developing information and media reporting. The Boston search was both helped and hindered by the involvement of mainstream media and the public by way of social media but CBS News' John Miller reports that Boston police and FBI investigators could not sort fact from fiction among themselves in some cases.

For example, an initial report issued police incorrectly claimed that the suspects robbed a 7-Eleven.

Another false report put out over the police radio said that the suspects had stolen a state police SUV.

The police radio dispatcher advised, "Lots of shots being fired, stolen SUV from state police, copy, stolen SUV from state police." The false report led to officers firing on a Massachusetts State Police SUV that was occupied by another police officer and an FBI agent. No one was hurt but the origin of the false report remains a mystery.

In Watertown, Mass., where authorities ultimately apprehended the surviving suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, there was confusion at the scene and misreporting of the facts by police and more widely by media outlets scrambling to offer a play-by-play of the dramatic manhunt. Police believed that the suspect had a self-inflicted gunshot wound and was shooting at them from the boat where he was hiding.

When they searched the boat, they found no gun.

"The first version of the facts is never right," Miller said Wednesday on "CBS This Morning."

Former Boston Police Commissioner Bill Bratton emphasized the importance of information sourcing while sifting through reports in what he calls "the fog of war."

"The most useful question is where did this come from, what is the source?" Bratton said, emphasizing that in fast-moving situations, "you're making life and death decisions based on that information."

"It's hard to try to slow it down but you must slow it down," Bratton explained, "And that's the responsibility of the leadership in these things. Get your arms around it and slow it down rather than accelerate it."

New York Times media columnist Brian Stelter told "CBS This Morning" that misreporting in the wake of the Boston bomb attack was "heightened by the web, heightened by social media" and involved "a lot of social media users retweeting the police scanner, which is some cases was misinformation to begin with."

"[It's] amateur sleuthing," Stelter said of so-called social media manhunt. "It came from a good place. People wanted to help but they didn't know how to help."

Miller added that authorities are often forced to publicize details they know will change down the line.

"They don't have a choice anymore ... the media isn't going to wait. ... The officials have to be the source... if they don't become the source, then everyone else does and they know even less."

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