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Saturday, October 15, 2005

Here's the Transcript of the CNN Segment on OU "Suicide" Bomber Joel Henry Hinrichs

For the full transcript of "Newsnight with Aaron Brown," go here to the CNN web site, from which the following is copied. I haven't found a posting of the video of the segment. If you know where one is that can be linked, please let me know.

BROWN: Was it a suicidal act of a depressed college student or was it an attempt at terrorism? This story is so rich with questions.Two very different versions of events are emerging in the wake of an explosion outside of a packed football stadium at the University of Oklahoma in Norma. Authorities quickly ruled the death of Joel Henry Hinrichs a suicide. And then the bloggers started weighing in. We begin our coverage with CNN's Joe Johns.


JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Friday prayers at the Islamic Center in Norman, Oklahoma. Anxiety is running high.A stone's throw from here, a young student at the University of Oklahoma sat down on a bench two weeks ago and blew himself up in the shadow of a football stadium where thousands of people were attending a game.Was it terrorism? No, authorities say, but that hasn't stopped the blogosphere from running wild with conspiracy theories.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One or two mere coincidences, I would be comfortable accepting but when you have three or four or more, it becomes very difficult for me to accept the lone suicide scenario.

JOHNS: Here's what we know. A sophomore of Joel Hinrichs with a history of depression died when his backpack containing explosives blew up. The rest is pure speculation. But that speculation has many people here alarmed and confused.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's scary because I do think his intentions were different. Than just him going for himself. But I mean, I don't know for sure.

JOHNS: Here's how the conspiracy theory goes. Hinrichs lives three blocks from the Islamic Center. He once had a beard, he had a Pakistani roommate, leading some to speculate he was part of an Islamic terror ring. Nonsense, says the university president and former U.S. Senator David Boren.What goes through your mind when you see what you know versus what's being reported on this story?

PRESIDENT DAVID BOREN, UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA: Tremendous frustration. I happened to watch one news report on television the other night and I think there were nine things said and I knew for a fact that eight of them were wrong.

JOHNS: We checked it out. First stop, Hinrichs' fraternity house. So you can't talk to us?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.JOHNS: We stopped by the apartment. Empty. Scrubbed clean by the FBI. At the Islamic Center, no one had ever heard of Hinrichs until they saw the picture in the newspaper.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's jumping to conclusions. If they don't know something about a certain aspect of Islam, you just have to come and ask about it. You shouldn't like listen to the media. The media isn't a good source for anything honestly.

JOHNS: What about allegation to kill others? After the son's death, Hinrichs' father spoke out on that.

JOE HINRICHS, FATHER: I really I regret everything about what he did. I think he went to the largest open space he could conveniently reach. There's nothing around. And happened to be outside of a football stadium. But he chose it for the reason that it was open.

JOHNS: In the newsroom of the "Oklahoma Daily," reporters are dumbfounded at what's been put out there on the Internet, in print and on TV.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're taught here to get the facts. You know? Named sources. Anonymous sources.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three sources rule. What about the one source rule? I mean, you need to have somebody. It showed me that the Internet is making it so anybody's opinion is as valid as the next persons and without sounding elitist, that's just not true.

JOHNS: Talk of terrorism strikes a raw nerve here. The Oklahoma City bombing happened just 20 miles away. But in this case, all signs suggest the fear doesn't match the facts. Joe Johns, CNN, Norman, Oklahoma.


BROWN: But that doesn't end the story. You heard a bit from Mark Tapscott, the blogger, the Heritage Foundation in Joe Johns report. We talked to him earlier tonight as well as Pat D'Amuro, a CNN security analyst and former assistant director of the FBI.


BROWN: Mark, let's start with you. Can you give us a fact that says to you, a fact, that says to you that this -- a reasonable person would conclude this was an attempted act of terrorism?

MARK TAPSCOTT, THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION: On the first would be simply the proximity to 84,000 people. In a football stadium on Saturday. The second thing that I would note as a fact would be the fact that a substantial amount of bomb making material and other material was found in his apartment.


TAPSCOTT: A sufficient amount to indicate a will to kill many people. Not simply one. The third fact I would cite is the fact that very early on the joint task force on terrorism became the lead agency in the investigation of the incident and if it was simply a lone suicide by a disturbed young man I don't understand the necessity for the joint task force to remain on the investigation.

BROWN: Let me ask Pat but my immediate reaction is to find out what it is. Because you have a kid blowing himself up proximate to 84,000 people with a lot of bomb making stuff in the apartment. But you would say what?

PAT D'AMURO, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: Exactly, Aaron. When I was down in Washington with the bureau, there was a whole restructuring and an agreement with the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms that any bombing that took place would be presumed a terrorist attack until proven differently.So it is not unusual that the joint terrorism task force would go in at a very early stage to take a look at an event like that.

Once it's determined that it is a terrorist event, the joint terrorism task force would take primary jurisdiction. If it was not, and it was a lone bomber, it will be turned over to Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

BROWN: Mark, the things you outlined would you agree they're all circumstantial? None of them is -- none of them says this is a terrorist attack? All of them say, well, add it all up and sounds like it could be?

TAPSCOTT: Joel Henrichs did not leave a suicide note. My contention from the beginning is that as the facts have been uncovered, the most reasonable explanation is some kind of a terrorist connection.

I would say with regard to Pat's explanation, just a minute ago that, again, if it was simply a lone terror -- excuse me, a lone suicide, that would not take two weeks to establish. And I wouldn't think that we would almost two weeks later have the joint task force involved in the investigation.

D'AMURO: That I disagree with. It takes a while to determine. What they are going to look at is a vast array of information regarding this individual. They're going to look at contacts, they're going to look at phone calls. They're going to look at Internet connectivity that he may have had. Conversations with some people. They are going to look at a lot of information before they come to a final decision whether or not it's a terrorist attack.

TAPSCOTT: But evidently before they look at that evidence in this case, Pat, the FBI and President David Boren of the University of Oklahoma both said there was no evidence of any kind of a terrorist activity or terrorist link. And in fact, that was the thing that got me interested in it as a newspaper journalist first was the literally within hours of the incident they were pronouncing it a lone suicide.

BROWN: Do you know as a matter of fact that he had any ties to Islamic groups at all?

TAPSCOTT: No. That has not been established.

BROWN: OK. Is it -- Pat, let me ask you, is it possible we tend to think of terrorism as an almost single entity sort of thing. Islamic terrorism. Columbine was a kind of terrorism in my view. Is it possible that this young man, in fact, strapped a bomb to his body intending to walk into that stadium, kill a lot of people for no political reason other -- at all, for reasons that we do not know or may never know?

D'AMURO: You are right. I'm not here to say that this is not potential terrorist attack. The points that were made, there's reasons why the bureau would go into a certain time and there's reason why an investigation would take that route but you're right. This could be a situation where this individual was distraught and going to kill himself and other individuals. We don't know that yet. We have to see what the investigation comes up with.


BROWN: Sometimes we're better at raising questions than we are providing answers and that may have been one of those cases here. There's lots of questions and we'll keep asking