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Jewish World Review Oct. 25, 2002 / 19 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763

Tom Purcell

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Consumer Reports

On edge in Washington, D.C | It would appear we got our man, or men, in the sniper case, but nobody is sighing a sense of relief in the Washington, D.C. region.

The fact remains that for three weeks, one or two fellows and one rifle have disrupted the capitol city of the greatest nation on earth. With the greatest of ease, the killers picked their victims, shot, escaped, and kept millions in this region on edge.

On the morning of the last shooting, the police had the roads shut down just minutes after the shooting occurred. Police cruisers were visible all over the city, sitting along Beltway exits, waiting. When the snipers struck, police mobilized quickly and searched every car. Yet the murderer or murderers slipped away yet again.

If it wasn't for their stupidity they might be killing still. According to early reports, one of the two suspects phoned police and told them to take him seriously - he said they should check out Montgomery. Police learned of a September 21 double shooting in Montgomery, Ala. using the same type of weapon used in the Washington shootings. A fingerprint at the Montgomery crime scene led to one of the sniper suspects, which led to their vehicle, which led to their arrest.

To be sure, these fellows were not rocket scientists, but they had our "experts" here completely fooled. Our experts portrayed the murderers as sophisticated, smart and clever. The murderers avoided revealing any patterns, after all, which was unusual in serial killings. They demonstrated media savvy (they threatened our children) using the media to keep us scared. They were highly skilled in weaponry and in preventing detection.

But at this early stage - I'm completing this column on Thursday morning - these guys weren't very sophisticated at all. They were bold and a touch reckless. In spite of the best law enforcement minds and surveillance tools in federal, state and local governments, these fellows were able to keep on slipping away until they slipped up by giving police the details that led to their capture.

The point for concern is this: if these two fellows could so easily wreak such havoc on the capitol city of the most powerful nation on earth, then what would trained terrorists be able to do? You've got to believe that our Al Qaeda buddies have been watching this situation unfold with glee. You've got to figure the incident has served to encourage them to visit their murderous intentions back to the streets of our capitol.

That is what makes me angry most of all about what the sniper, or snipers, set loose. Aside from the pure evil they unleashed - aside from the killing of innocent people and the devastation to the families of the victims - they hit a nerve with a 10-pound sledgehammer. They tapped into the ugly energy of 911 and wrapped it around themselves like it were a cloak.

If you live in this town, 911 is something you don't talk about. This is a busy town. People work long and hard here and we've all tried to get back to normal. To do so we have had to block out the vulnerability that became obvious in September of last year.

But deep in our bones we know our carefree days are gone forever. We know that this city is a perpetual target of those who wish us harm. Those radical religious fanatics who brought us 911 and who, just a few weeks ago, killed hundreds of innocent tourists in Bali Bali, continue to support a host of terrorist killings around the world.

Deep in our bones we know they will strike here soon enough. Maybe it will be a sniper - early reports suggest the suspects are Muslim sympathizers who hold anti-American views. Maybe it will be madman with a machine gun, which was the case in 1993 when Mir Aimal Kasi, a fanatical Muslim, killed innocent people just outside the CIA complex here. Or maybe it will be much worse: Anthrax, an SUV packed with plastic explosives outside a nightclub, or some kind of nuclear detonation.

It is not clear yet what motive the sniper, or snipers, had to kill so many innocent people. But what is clear is that these two fellows touched a deep nerve down here, and for that alone they should be punished severely.

I think we should start by turning them over to the media.

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04/26/02: Zacarias Moussaoui gets expert legal advice

© 2002, Tom Purcell