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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

MEMO TO CATHY YOUNG: These Are Facts About the OU "Suicide Bomber," Not Speculation

Cathy Young is a blogger and a contributing editor for Reason magazine, so it is especially disappointing to read such a bungled piece of analysis as her "When blog hysteria does real harm" in The Boston Globe.

Young's basic point is that there is no there there regarding Joel Hinrichs' Oct. 1 death just outside the University of Oklahoma's Memorial Stadium during the OU-Kansas State football game.

Young is responding to a number of bloggers, including several who like myself are also mainstream media journalists, who did some original reporting and concluded there are solid grounds upon which to question the official explanation that Hinrichs acted alone and intended only to kill himself.

But, like The Wall Street Journal, Young has to ignore some indisputable facts in order to arrive at her conclusion: "But was there any substance to the story? Apparently not. According to the authorities, there is no indication that Hinrichs was anything more than a depressed, troubled young man."

Jason Smith of Generation Why lays out the basic, undisputed facts Young and others must ignore:

1. Joe Hinrichs detonated a bomb on or near his body and killed himself.
2. The explosion occured in
close proximity to a stadium containing 84,000 people.
3. Investigators found a
huge cache of explosive material in Hinrichs' apartment.
4. Hinrichs inquired about purchasing
ammonium nitrate just before the event.
5. The
FBI and Joint Terrorism Task Force have been leading the investigation.
6. The
search warrant was sealed from public view.
7. OU officials have taken an unprecedented step and
distributed emergency evacuation procedures to fans now, which happen to include a focus on backpack searches.
8. The FBI initially told Hinrichs' father there was no
suicide note, then contradicting such 2 weeks later.

To Smith's list I add the ninth and tenth facts: First, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 30,000 people have killed themselves in America annually for the past decade and more. Not one of them did in the same manner as Hinrichs. That makes Hinrichs an extreme outlier, which, the statisticians will tell you, means his case cannot be explained by the conventional factors that apply to the others.

And second, it is official FBI policy to treat all explosions like the Hinrichs death as a terrorist act "until proven otherwise," according to former FBI Assistant Director Pat D'Amur during a recent interview on CNN which you can view here. In the Hinrichs case, however, officials announced that he was not connected to terrorist organizations or activities within hours of his death, yet the Joint Task Force on Terrorism remains to this very day the lead agency investigating the case.

It requires quite a leap of faith - especially for a contributing editor of Reason - to blindly accept an official explanation that is clearly inadequate to the task of explaining these eight facts without reference to some kind of intent that goes beyond a mere suicide.

It will be interesting to see how long it takes people like Young to admit they were wrong after the next bomb explodes or is found on or near an American campus.