The Characteristics of a Terrorist
The University of Oklahoma stadium holds 84,000 people and when the Sooners play there it is full. It was full on 1 October when a student detonated an explosive device outside the stadium, killing himself. The game was not interrupted. (Stadium police did find and detonate a suspicious backpack, but said it was harmless.) News reports called bomber Joel Hinrichs “troubled.” His father said, “He… somehow lost the confidence that his life would be a good one.” A joint statement from the FBI, the U.S.
The University of Oklahoma stadium holds 84,000 people and when the Sooners play there it is full. It was full on 1 October when a student detonated an explosive device outside the stadium, killing himself. The game was not interrupted. (Stadium police did find and detonate a suspicious backpack, but said it was harmless.) News reports called bomber Joel Hinrichs “troubled.” His father said, “He… somehow lost the confidence that his life would be a good one.” A joint statement from the FBI, the U.S. Attorney and OU Police Chief said, “At this point, we have no information that suggests that there is any additional threat posed by others related to this incident.” Just a sad story?
Reminder: On 4 July 2002, a man opened fire on the El Al check-in counter at LAX. Within 30 minutes, the FBI and the mayor of LA announced that it was not a terrorist incident. After a few days, however, it became clear that the shooter, if not a terrorist, certainly had the characteristics of one. (JINSA Report 267)
Odd information: OU President David Boren wrote in a statement, “Prior to the game, the entire stadium was swept by the expert bomb teams with the help of dogs,” leaving us to ask if this is normal procedure or whether there had been a specific threat. Even if it is routine, students at the game said security was tighter than in previous weeks with more people frisked. There are reports that Hinrichs was prevented from entering the stadium when he refused to have his bag checked, but an OU VP said officials have “been assured that there is no validity to the… rumor,” leaving us to ask how they know. Hinrichs’s roommate was Pakistani and local television reports Hinrichs spent time in the Norman mosque – the one to which a 2002 AP story links Zacarias Moussawi. Having first acknowledged that Hinrichs had visited, mosque authorities now say he never did. Local news also reported that Hinrichs tried to buy ammonium nitrate (the primary ingredient in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, now requiring federal paperwork for purchase) from a local store. Authorities have confirmed that the substance TATP, used by “shoe bomber” Richard Reid, was in the bomb. Authorities removed what they called a “huge cache” of explosives from Hinrichs’s apartment after his death.
Law enforcement authorities are loath to call it terrorism – as they were for LAX – and require evidence of organizational backing to use the word. We don’t know more than the FBI about the specifics, but we are concerned by what appears to be an institutional bias in favor of starting with the “lone bomber” premise for people who exhibit the characteristics of a terrorist. If authorities begin at the beginning each time terrorists will have more time to plan and carry out their parts in this war. And this IS a war, albeit a nebulous one. There are no armies in uniform and no battles on battlefields. Their soldiers may be anyone and the battlefield anywhere, including Norman, OK.
Note: Three explosive devices were found in a courtyard between two Georgia Tech dormitories last Monday. One exploded, injuring the custodian who found them; two others were detonated by a bomb squad. “It is a terrorist act at this point and depending on the outcome of the investigation it potentially could become a federal violation as well,” said Major C.W. Moss of the Atlanta Police Department. Good thinking.