In 2009, an Army psychiatrist, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, killed or wounded 46 persons at Fort Hood, Texas. Though Hasan’s motives were abundantly clear, the Obama administration was in a quandary. Admitting a large scale terror attack on a US military installation would work against the president’s personal agenda of kowtowing to Islamists and stamping out the plague of Islamophobia. As a result, the shooting was classified as “workplace violence.” Doing so deprived the families of the victims of both recognition and federal compensation but it forwarded the agenda. It took five years and an act of Congress to rectify that atrocity.
Another whitewash is underway.
On Wednesday, the FBI released its final report on the shooting of House GOP Whip Steve Scalise and four other people by a stereotypical Bernie Sanders supporter named James Hodgkinson. To call it bizarre is to engage in understatement.
Let’s start with the conclusion from the briefing:
“At this time, the FBI has assessed the shooter James Hodgkinson acted alone. We also assess that there was no connection to terrorism,” Andrew Veil, assistant director in charge of the FBI field office, told reporters at a press conference in Washington Wednesday morning. “It was an assault on a member of Congress, assault on a federal officer.”
The legal definition of “domestic terrorism” is:
(5) the term “domestic terrorism” means activities that—
(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;
(B) appear to be intended—
(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and
(C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.
Every part of that definition applies to Hodgkinson’s attack. Assault of a member of Congress, etc., would be lesser included charges in the indictment but the top count would have to be terrorism. While the FBI’s Veil may very well be correct that Hodgkinson acted alone (you’ll see why we probably shouldn’t take that assertion at face value later in the story), his acting alone has no bearing on whether or not he committed an act of terrorism.
When you dig into the report in more detail you find these particulars:
• vociferously raged against Republicans in online forums,
• had a piece of paper bearing the names of six members of Congress,
• was reported for doing target practice outside his home in recent months before moving to Alexandria,
• had mapped out a trip to the DC area,
• took multiple photos of the baseball field he would later shoot up, three days after the New York Times mentioned that Republicans practiced baseball at an Alexandria baseball field with little security,
• lived out of his van at the YMCA directly next door to the baseball field he shot up,
• legally purchased a rifle in March 2003 and 9 mm handgun “in November 2016,”
• modified the rifle at some point to accept a detachable magazine and replaced the original stock with a folding stock,
• rented a storage facility to hide hundreds of rounds of ammunition and additional rifle components,
• asked “Is this the Republican or Democrat baseball team?” before firing on the Republicans,
• ran a Google search for information on the “2017 Republican Convention” hours before the shooting,
• and took photos at high-profile Washington locations, including the east front plaza of the U.S. Capitol and the Dirksen Senate Office.
Yet the FBI says:
• believes the gunman “had no concrete plan to inflict violence” against Republicans,
• “had not yet clarified who, if anyone, he planned to target, or why,”
• believes he may have just “happened upon” the baseball game the morning of June 14, and that the attack appeared “spontaneous,”
• are unclear on the “context” of Hodgkinson’s note with six names of members of Congress,
• does not believe that photographs of the baseball field or other sites “represented surveillance of intended targets,” and
• “painted a picture of a down-on-his-luck man with few future prospects.”
Their conclusion? Just a down-on-his-luck guy. No planned target. Pix not surveillance. Names lacked context. Jobless. Nothing to see here. pic.twitter.com/8KGLvVoVyF
— Jason Beale (@jabeale) June 21, 2017
As Ben Domenech writes in The Transom:
There’s no reason to beat around the bush here: what the FBI is claiming is mind-boggling when they claim the shooter had no target in mind. Consider the number of accidents of circumstance you would have to believe were going on here to not have the shooter doing what seems obvious from every piece of evidence we have: researching and planning for an attack on Republicans of some kind, particularly looking for an opportunity when security will be low and vulnerability will be high. This was an attack, not an “anger management” problem.
Step back, though, and think on the institutional conclusions here. Considering how ludicrous the FBI’s conclusions are as it relates to an attack on the third ranking member of the House of Representatives, you might reconsider whether to trust the FBI’s conclusions in other areas, as well. And this is how our faith in institutions is degraded: steadily, gradually, with incident after incident where men in suits stand in front of microphones and make claims we know are not the whole truth.
More to the point, the FBI spent a good portion of the Obama administration trying to convince themselves and everyone else that “violent extremism” by “right wing” groups was more of a problem than Islamic terrorism. The contortions they went through to prove their point was epic. Significant players in the FBI are heavily invested in downplaying Islamic terrorism and creating a smokescreen of false equivalence with random acts of violence by people who can risibly be called “right wing.” Hodgkinson’s attempt to decapitate the House GOP leadership to the benefit of a political movement is being whitewashed so the FBI and its masters in the Southern Poverty Law Center never have to answer for what happened in Alexandria.