Coloring the sniper news

Posted: Oct 11, 2002 12:00 AM
MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. -- Some profiling experts are convinced that the roving sniper who has terrorized my neighborhood and surrounding communities is a white male. -- Dr. Michael Welner, a forensic psychiatrist at New York University Medical Center, described the shooter as "white, male, single, 20s-30s . . . (with a) longtime fascination with hunting and shooting." -- Chris Whitcomb, former FBI hostage rescue team member, told NBC's Katie Couric that "statistically, it's going to be a white male, and it's going to be a young person, young 20s emotionally, but also because that's the age most likely statistically somebody's going to commit a crime like this." -- Brian Levin, the director of something called the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism in San Bernardino, Calif., stated confidently that the killer "is kind of a wallpaper white male, a disenfranchised, disrespected man who's getting back at society. That's one of the reasons he's kept his distance from inner D.C., where he might lose his cover." The media immediately embraced the Angry White Male theory by sensationalizing the cops' questioning over the weekend of one Robert Gene Baker. Newspaper reports described him as "heavily tattooed" and "linked" to "militia and white supremacist" groups. The headlines screamed: "Supremacist Sought in Sniping Spree" and "Neo Nazi Named as Sniper Murders Suspect." But in fact, Baker was never a suspect and had no weapons on him at the time he was taken into custody for an outstanding auto-theft warrant. The AWM theory remains a plausible one, of course. But it isn't the only one. You won't hear Katie Couric or Peter Jennings talking about it with their conventional-thinking experts, but there is a significant possibility that the sniper and the sniper's support system could be non-white Muslim extremists with ties to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network. Consider: Al Qaeda training videos analyzed by the Army show Middle Eastern terrorists, armed with assault rifles, rehearsing combat scenarios involving ambushes, raids and sniper attacks. Consider: James Ujaama, a black American Muslim convert, was indicted in August on charges of conspiring to help al Qaeda establish a terrorist training camp on a ranch in southern Oregon. According to one camp attendee, 10 to 15 members of Ujaama's Seattle mosque brought a large arsenal of weapons to the ranch for target practice. "I thought they would only use rifles, but they were pulling out AK-47s, pistols and other assault rifles, enough for everybody and then some," the camp attendee told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Drills included both close-range and long-range shooting. And consider: Just before the killings in the Washington, D.C., area began, federal authorities arrested members of a suspected terrorist cell in Portland. Their cache of weapons included semi-automatic pistols, a Chinese SKS 7.62 assault rifle, a 12-gauge Remington 870 shotgun, and a 30.06 rifle with scope, which they shot off at a private quarry in Washougal, Wash. According to Skamania County Deputy Sheriff Mark Mercer, the alleged cell members held target practice shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. An unindicted co-conspirator of the terrorist cell, Lebanese-born Ali Khaled Steitiye, was arrested in Portland last October after attempting to buy an assault rifle illegally. Federal agents found several weapons and 1,000 rounds of .22-caliber ammunition in his home (the same caliber used by the D.C.-area sniper), a calendar with Sept. 11 circled in red, and evidence suggesting a link to the terrorist organization Hamas. One of Steitiye's alleged shooting buddies, accused Portland terrorist cell member and black Muslim convert Jeffrey Leon Battle, joined the U.S. Army Reserve in 2000 and was assigned to a military engineering unit in Oregon. He was discharged for desertion, but had already received basic Army training -- including instruction in firearms and ordnance use. The federal terrorism indictment against him charges that Battle joined the Army "in order to receive training in U.S. military tactics and weapons which he intended to use against the U.S. and in support of al Qaeda and the Taliban." Many in the mainstream media are convinced that a "wallpaper white male" is responsible for the D.C. area sniper killings. But the faces of evil come in every color. We must be prepared for all possibilities, not just the ones that play into reporters' preconceived notions about hunters, soldiers, tattoos and guns.