October 12, 2005
Media Might Be Missing a Story and Ignoring a Terrorist

By Mark Davis

Imagine a man with a bomb strapped to his body making his way into a packed football stadium, reaching his seat and blowing himself up.

There would be a heavy death toll in what would be the first successful terrorist act on U.S. soil since 9-11.

Jolting us back to memories of the Oklahoma City bombing, this would obviously be a massive headline in our ongoing war on terror. One would think attention would be heightened even further if such a story were to occur again in Oklahoma.

Well, there's reason to believe it nearly happened, and it was indeed in Oklahoma, making the paltry coverage of the story unfathomable.

On Oct. 1, as the Oklahoma Sooners hosted Kansas State in front of 84,000 fans, University of Oklahoma student Joel Hinrichs III blew himself up outside the stadium.

There is evidence that he sought to enter the game and was turned away by security after refusing to allow his backpack to be searched. Some minutes later, that backpack, containing the chosen explosive of shoe bomber Richard Reid and the London subway bombers, exploded, killing Mr. Hinrichs as he sat on a bench.

There have been some dutiful print and broadcast accounts of this event, all leaning heavily on the favored establishment take – that this was a troubled young man who sought only to kill himself, simply doing so in an offbeat way.

Oh, really?

Well, what if the young man had a Pakistani roommate? What if he had been spending time at the Islamic Center of Norman, Okla., once frequented by "20th hijacker" Zacarias Moussaoui? What if the warrant used in the search of the bomber's apartment had been sealed by federal authorities?

What if explosives had been found in that apartment? What if the young man had tried to purchase ammonium nitrate, the chosen explosive of Tim McVeigh, at a Norman feed store days earlier?

That's a lot of what ifs, and they range from the confirmed to the unconfirmed. But the parts we do know – the Pakistani roommate, the attempted fertilizer purchase, the veil of secrecy around the investigation – should be enough to cast doubt on the simplistic "troubled young man" theory favored by, among others, OU's nervous president, David Boren.

Mr. Hinrichs' father told me his son was not the type to join radical causes and would not want to hurt anyone. But his son's chosen method – blowing himself up in a public place – would seem to cast doubt on his concern for his fellow man.

As for the terrorist angle, Mr. Hinrichs is now the subject of understandably intense scrutiny, virtually none of it from the mainstream media. You might think the story fizzled because there was, in fact, no death beyond the bomber. True enough, but I'd suggest that if a raid revealed some radical plan to bomb an abortion clinic anywhere in America, the suspects would be household names by nightfall without a single fuse lit.

Something about the nature of this event has swallowed almost whole the normal curiosity one would expect from the usual sources.

Is it political, because acknowledging a terror threat on our soil might bolster President Bush's war logic? Is it economic, out of fear of scaring people away from football games? Is it geographic snobbery because it didn't happen on either coast? Or is it a PC fear of seeming to lunge toward a jihadist angle?

Whatever the reason, hunting for details of this shocking story puts you in some offbeat company.

Jayna Davis is a writer who has spent years documenting what she asserts is an Islamic connection to the Oklahoma City bombing. She has a fan in Douglas Hagmann, director of an outfit called the Northeastern Intelligence Network, whose Web site (homelandsecurityus.com) has a conspiracy geek vibe that might spark scoffing.

But the fact of the matter is that these people are breaking fresh news on this story that only later winds up in more conventional news outlets.

I'm not calling for a leap to the conclusion that Mr. Hinrichs was another in a series of Caucasians pressed into service by terror cells for their undercover value. But it seems equally unwise to shrug dismissively at the possibility.

Mark Davis is a columnist for the Dallas Morning News. The Mark Davis Show is heard weekdays nationwide on the ABC Radio Network. His e-mail address is mdavis@wbap.com.

Mark Davis

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