October 14, 2005

Debunking the WSJ/CBS Debunking of the Oklahoma Bombing

Was Joel Henry Hinrichs III a terrorist? Until the investigation is complete, we cannot know that for a fact. So, how can The Wall Street Journal know that he was not?

Yesterday the WSJ did an incredibly pathetic job of debunking the Joel Henry Hinrichs suicide-bombing story yesterday. Ryan Chittum and Joe Hagan's argument that Hinrichs was not a failed terrorist--whether acting alone or as part of a larger conspiracy--is a pathetic resort to authority. No new facts are cited to dispute reasonable questions that Hinrichs was a terrorist--and they are just that, questions.

They simply cite the University of Oklahoma President David Boren's assurances that it was not terrorism--statements he began to make before the investigation had even begun--the protests of Hinrichs' father that his son was not a Muslim, and a single FBI statement in an ongoing investigation.

When an act of war is committed--which a suicide bombing is--in a time of war--which we are in now--on a field of battle--which the terrorists have made the American homeland--then it seems reasonable to assume that the act was part of the larger war. The act may eventually turn out to be unrelated, but that says nothing of the larger point of whether or not Hinrichs' suicide-bombing should have been a major news story and whether it was reasonable to ask questions about his death?

Since the WSJ, and the later CBS coverage of the debunking, fails to mention The Jawa Report as a chief culprate in spreading unsubstantiated rumors and innuendo, our editorial board feels duty bound to respond to the non-allegation that we have done shoddy reporting.

The original WSJ article is bad enough, but the CBS News coverage of the WSJ article is worse. Here is how they quote the WSJ:

“Adding to community concern was the revelation that two days before he blew himself up, Mr. Hinrichs visited a feed store and inquired about buying ammonium nitrate -- the same chemical Timothy McVeigh put in the bomb he used in 1995 to blow up the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City, 20 miles to the north.…
All of the above are undisputed facts. Notice, however, the .... after the end of the paragraph? CBS connects the known facts with uncorroborated reports. It goes on.
To that unsettling set of facts, blogs and local Oklahoma TV stations added several apparent inaccuracies, including: that Mr. Hinrichs was a Muslim and visited the mosque frequently; that he tried to enter the stadium twice but was rebuffed; that he had a one-way airplane ticket to Algeria; that there were nails in the bomb and that Islamic extremist literature was found in his apartment.

None of these claims are true: Mr. Hinrichs's family, university officials and the Federal Bureau of Investigation say Mr. Hinrichs suffered from depression, and the explosion was an isolated event.”

The way these paragraphs are put together, the reader is under the impression that things such as Hinrichs buying ammonium nitrate were also untrue. But that Hinrichs was under investigation by local police is not in dispute. CBS misleads its readers by stringing these paragraphs together.

But the original WSJ reports is equally shoddy. They unequivically state that "none of these claims are true." So, which claims are untrue and how do they know that.

1) Claim: "Mr. Hinrichs was a Muslim and visited the mosque frequently."
Source of refutation: Hinrichs' father-- "Joel wasn't a Muslim and wasn't under anyone's sway, Mr. Hinrichs says"

2) Claim: "Hinrichs tried to enter the stadium twice but was rebuffed"
Source of refutation: not cited. However, we reported here that security tapes did not show Hinrichs trying to enter the statium.

3) Claim: "he had a one-way airplane ticket to Algeria"
Source of refutation: not cited. However, notice this from the same article "investigators did find an airplane ticket to Algeria, it wasn't in Mr. Hinrichs's apartment, but rather in one belonging to an international student, Mr. Boren said.

4) Claim: "there were nails in the bomb
Source of refutation: not cited.

So, what we have are a series of unsubstantiated allegation. Are any of these allegations true? I've no idea. But how do we know that "none of these allegations are true" as the WSJ claims? Because David Boren and Hinrichs' father claim they are not true.

As we said in our first report on this story on October 4th that since the Northeast Intelligence Network was the source of some of the information (such as the report that a ticket to Algeria was found in his room) much of this needs to be taken with a fair amount of skepticism. But to claim that what we and other blogs have been asking "is just smoke...It's bilge" as the WSJ quotes Hinrichs' father as saying is beyond the pale.

It is true that some bloggers have jumped to the conclusion that this definitely was part of a larger plot, but for the most part this site and sites like Little Green Footballs, Michelle Malkin, Powerline, Generation Why, Mark Tapscott, and others have simply wondered why this was not getting coverage and how David Boren and others were so sure this was not terrorism when the investigation was incomplete?

If it is irresponsible to ask whether a suicide-bomber might have been a terrorist, then count us guilty. If it is irresponsible to ask why the mainstream media has not given coverage to what is normally considered an act of war in a time of in America's heartland, then count us guilty. If we are to err, let us err on the side of caution--and that side is quite different after 9/11 than before it.

While many of the alleged 'facts' about Hinrichs will certainly be disproven in the coming days, refutations by David Boren are not enough to convince us that there is nothing more to see here.

This and all other posts related to Joel Henry Hinrichs III are archived here.

UPDATE: By Vinnie, Hannity and Colmes will have an Oklahoma congressman on "who is determined to get to the bottom" of this case.

Should be interesting...I'm sure more updates will follow.

By Rusty Shackleford, Ph.D. at 04:01 PM | Comments |