Hate crime, terror and murder

Posted: Jul 10, 2002 12:00 AM
The FBI is in deep trouble. Even as it is desperate to assure Americans that its crack investigators can prevent terrorist attacks, it can't figure out if the July 4 Los Angeles airport shootings were terrorist acts. "We're not ruling out hate crimes. We're not ruling out terrorism completely," Special Agent Rich Garcia told reporters on July 5. I understand that the U.S. government hasn't been able to find Osama bin Laden -- or what's left of him. But can't it find a dictionary? When Hesham Mohamed Hadayet shot and killed Yaakov Aminov, 46, and Victoria Hen, 25, at the El Al airlines ticket counter, he committed a "hate crime." It also was an act of terrorism. The real question -- and the one the feds ought to concentrate on -- is: Did Hadayet have any help? (Maybe he acted alone. Maybe not. Al Hayat, a London Arabic-language newspaper, has reported that Hadayet met with Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's right-hand man, in 1995 and 1998.) To be fair, I should point out that the FBI isn't the only government entity that prefers not to speak ill of the Glock-toting dead. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer announced, "There is no evidence, no indication at this time, that this is terrorists." Sure, there's no evidence -- other than the fact that an Egyptian immigrant showed up armed with two guns and a knife at the ticket counter of the Israeli national airlines at an airport previously targeted for a terrorist attack during a major U.S. holiday, and proceeded to shoot people. Hadayet didn't need to write a manifesto to make his hatred of Israel clear. Agent Garcia has said Hadayet may have had "an abnormal reaction to being despondent." Here's what's wrong with the FBI talking about a murderer's personal problems. First, since Hadayet is dead, the FBI doesn't have to mince words lest they sabotage Hadayet's right to a fair trial. Second, defense attorneys are supposed to present likely motives and mitigating factors that evoke sympathy for the criminal. The FBI shouldn't be taking on the defense attorney's role. Law enforcement is supposed to be more interested in what happened -- the murder of innocent people -- than the vile excuses for it. Garcia would have done better to tell the press that the FBI wasn't sure if the attacks were sponsored by a terrorist organization, but that the bureau does know that two people were M-U-R-D-E-R-E-D. And it doesn't matter to the corpses if Hadayet was "despondent" or if business or personal problems contributed to Hadayet's desire to kill people while striking a blow against Israel. Of course, the FBI doesn't want to seem anti-Arab or anti-Muslim. But when law enforcement has to appear, well, blind, why bother trying to hide the obvious? I also understand that the U.S. government doesn't want Americans to panic, stop flying and derail any economic recovery. So, let the White House and Gov. Gray Davis try to downplay the attack. But not the FBI. Not an FBI that is trying to appear more credible and less bureaucratic. The FBI should stick to fighting crime, and leave public relations to the Chamber of Commerce and political correctness to the ACLU.