Shooting Up on Insanity in Washington, DC

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Attorneys for 18 year-old Lee Malvo, the accomplice in last year’s Washington, D.C. area sniper shootings, have indicated that they will use an insanity defense at his forthcoming trial. Malvo is charged on three counts: premeditated murder in the commission of an act of terrorism, premeditated murder of more than one person within a three-year period and use of a firearm during a murder.

Lawyers are better placed than I am to comment, but these charges seem novel to me. "In the commission of an act of terrorism" has an air of PATRIOT act about it, while "use of a firearm during a murder" seems curious, implying that he was a very naughty boy to be even carrying a gun: I wonder idly how this charge would have been different had he used, let’s say, a box-cutter or a knife.

As I recall (it happens I was in the United States at the time), the sniper episode lasted about three weeks: unless there’s a mistake in the reporting, the phrase "within a three-year period" presumably has to do with earlier unexplained shootings in other locations that the prosecutors seek to attribute to the sniper pair.

Insane? Premeditated? Take your pick. Or maybe it’s both. Investigative follow-up on sniper affair has been swept under the rug by numerous mass media diversions, not least the pious concerns about the nature, timing and proceeds of the literary endeavours of the policeman in charge of the manhunt, Charles Moose — endeavours for which he has apparently given up his job. These developments, naturally, had nothing whatsoever to do with any alleged ineptitude on his part.

John Allen Muhammad (prior to 1985, John Allen Williams), the older accused sniper, is a Gulf War veteran who claims, with a strong semblance of plausibility, that he worked for one or more federal government intelligence agencies. It is reported that he will plead not guilty to the charges made against him.

It is common to attribute episodes such as these to the phenomenon of blowback, when government — in this case the military and u2018intelligence’ arms of government — have their own covert operations machinations blow up in their faces. But, as William Norman Grigg points out in an excellent 1997 article on the 1993 WTC bombings entitled "Enemies and Assets," in which he quotes Frdric Bastiat: government "concocts the antidote and the poison in the same laboratory, and then devotes half of its resources to destroying the evil it has done with the other half."

As so often when government is involved, there is a raft of coincidences, contradictions, and unanswered questions surrounding this man and his many journeys. They are too numerous for me to go into here, and are well documented on the Internet. Numerous postings in the Liberty Forum cover this topic, and California radio presenter Dave Emory has speculated at length on the possible connections between John Allen Muhammad, the intelligence agencies, and the Muslim organizations targeted in the US Customs’ Operation Green Quest, based largely in the same Virginia and Maryland beltway area where the snipers killed.

However, in my opinion the best summary of the strange connections and unanswered sniper-related questions is to be found at a website called "Center for an Informed America" (geddit?) where webmaster Dave McGowan issued a special bulletin dated October 31, 2002 entitled "The DC Snipers." Recommended reading for everyone who wishes to pierce the media fog surrounding this story, not just for u2018conspiracy theorists.’

The insanity defense is controversial. The most celebrated instance in recent times is the case of John W. Hinckley, Jr., the man who shot President Reagan on March 30, 1981 and who continues to this day to be detained in a mental hospital, St. Elizabeth’s in Washington, D.C. After his acquittal, many states reviewed the scope of the insanity defense: some abolished it altogether while others defined it much more restrictively.

Hinckley’s case won’t go away. It gets regular periodic airings in the press whenever judicial hearings take place at which he tries to obtain greater freedom on the basis that he is no longer insane (the next hearing is scheduled for November 3, 2003).

The official story, which is as implausible as any other, centres on a supposed delusional obsession of this u2018lone nut’ with the actress Jodie Foster. The assassination was to be performed as final proof of his love for her, leading to triumphant conquest, marriage and life in the White House for ever after. Prior to this, she had signally failed to respond to his charms, let alone show any sign of interest. When asked in court what her relationship with John Hinckley was, her reply was "I have no relationship with John Hinckley."

A forum thread at FreeRepublic (yes, I know) contains many of the newspaper articles from the time, and one post there describes this story as an u2018interesting set of symptoms from a Freudian standpoint, as it more or less recreates the basis of the Oedipus complex (kill Dad and marry Mom),’ going on to note u2018one other tidbit for the skeptics — Joanne Hinckley’s nickname was Jody.’

Much of the material relating to the background of his case has been ruled inadmissible (effectively suppressed), including some of Hinckley’s u2018letters to Jodie’ (which Jodie?, one might well ask). There is little doubt that Hinckley did fire six shots, but there are doubts in relation to events immediately after the shooting, such as the possible evidence of the presence of a second gunman located above street level, first noticed by reporter-on-the-scene Judy Woodruff, then of NBC. (If you’re going to assassinate, u2018triangulation’ — shooting from three different angles — is always a better bet than relying on the u2018one shot, one kill’ technique, in which John Allen Muhammad was supposedly trained by the US Army at Ft. Lewis).

There is more: for example, the fact that Reagan was most likely saved from death by an ordinary policeman (not one of his secret service agents) who jumped in front of Hinckley’s gun just as he opened fire; and the remarkable dilatoriness of the secret service agents in getting the president to hospital — they later said they u2018got lost’ (in Washington, their very own patch??, on what should have been a 5-minute journey by ambulance?).

This too is a story where coincidences, contradictions and unanswered questions have been swept under the rug, but here there has been a much greater willingness of the part of the media to tar any doubters with the u2018conspiracy theorist’ brush and dismiss this story as u2018old news’ — also a favourite tactic of u2018lap-dog Republicans,’ as some of the abusive posts at the above-mentioned forum at FreeRepublic demonstrate. Given the zeal with which all this debunking is done, one is naturally led to ask the key questions: why, and to whose benefit?

I have argued in earlier articles that we should not rush to dismiss conspiracy theories. u2018A “conspiracy theory” can unsettle the system by causing the public to doubt the State’s ideological propaganda,’ wrote Murray Rothbard. As with the snipers, there is a great deal of information circulating on the Internet to back up every kind of theory in relation to the 1981 Reagan assassination attempt, but it is harder to find. Here is a useful summary, thanks to the information on Dave Emory’s u2018For The Record’ website (FTR#244):

  • The San Francisco Chronicle reported on March 31, 1981 that John Hinckley was a former member of the National Socialist Party of America. He was expelled for being so violent that his fellow-Nazis suspected him of being a government agent. In October of 1980, arrested at Nashville (Tennessee) airport as then President Jimmy Carter was due to arrive, Hinckley had a .38 caliber pistol and two .22 caliber handguns in his possession, along with 50 rounds of ammunition. Interestingly, this former resident of Dallas, Texas, had purchased the weapons at Rocky’s Pawn Shop, on the very street on which President Kennedy had been assassinated.
  • The Nazi party to which Hinckley belonged had been founded by the American neo-Nazi leader George Lincoln Rockwell, whose Arlington (Virginia) name and address were in Lee Harvey Oswald’s address book at the time of his (Oswald’s) arrest. Hinckley had attended a memorial march to commemorate Rockwell (San Francisco Chronicle, April 1, 1981.) One wonders to what extent some of these u2018coincidences’ were intended to send a message (conspirators love symbolism).
  • John Hinckley Sr., had apparently been a significant contributor to George Bush’s primary campaign, when Bush Sr. was challenging Ronald Reagan for the Republican Party nomination.
  • The night after the Reagan shooting, John Jr.’s brother, Scott Hinckley, was scheduled to have dinner with Neil Bush (George W.’s brother and, like "Dubya" and George Sr., a petroleum industry professional.) (San Francisco Chronicle, April 1, 1981.) Scott was, at the time, an executive with the Hinckley family’s independent oil company, Vanderbilt Energy, under investigation by federal authorities at the time for alleged overpricing and facing heavy fines (San Jose Mercury, April 1, 1981, p. 24A, and San Francisco Chronicle, April 1, 1981.)
  • Hinckley Sr. participated in a Christian Evangelical organization that had served as a front for US intelligence in Central America, employing former members of Nicaraguan dictator Anastazio Somoza’s National Guard to inform on El Salvadorian refugees in Costa Rica. A number of the refugees were liquidated after being identified as guerrilla sympathizers by the group’s operatives (National Catholic Reporter, April 23, 1982). The group had also functioned as a front for US intelligence in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War (Christian Century Magazine, July 4-11, 1979.) Today, the group is in Iraq.
  • Hinckley Sr.’s participation in this group, the latter’s connections to U.S. intelligence, and the closeness of the Bush and Hinckley families (add the absolute coincidence that they have colonial-era ancestors in common) should be evaluated in light of the fact that George Sr. had been head of the CIA. Hinckley Jr. was eventually represented by Greg Craig, of the law firm of Edward Bennett Williams, one of the most powerful law firms in Washington D.C. (San Francisco Examiner, April 1, 1981, p. A12.) The Williams firm’s previous clients included former CIA director Richard Helms, Robert Vesco (also connected to U.S. intelligence), Jimmy Hoffa and John Connally. Incidentally, Craig also represented President Bill Clinton at his impeachment trial, and the father of the Cuban boy Elian Gonzalez. With the assistance of the law firm (and a pliant media establishment) Hinckley’s documented Nazi connections were magically transformed into the u2018obsessional delusions’ of this u2018lone nut’ (San Francisco Chronicle, March 18, 1982).

Consider the pattern of events and explanations surrounding March 30, 1981: a fanatic with a lot of guns, the planting in the public mind of an idea of obsession (fascist connections transformed into love/hate), magic bullets, and the unaccountable stand-off on the part of those who are supposed to protect.

Consider the pattern of events and explanations surrounding September 11, 2001: fanatics with a lot of box-cutters, the planting in the public mind of the idea of an obsession (u2018they hate our freedoms’), magic pilots, and the unaccountable stand-off on the part of those who are supposed to protect.

Consider finally that much of the relevant information on the JFK assassination has been hidden away and cannot be released until 75 years after the event — in the year 2038, when it is fairly certain that most of the participants in that drama will be dead, and that we shall probably never get answers to the many irregularities and inconsistencies in the official version of events on September 11, 2001.

Is it any surprise that so many reach the conclusion that somebody, somewhere has plenty to hide?

Welcome to the world of Washington, DC, where shooters have insanity in their veins. Asked to comment, one temporary resident on a 4-year assignment there said, "I’m keeping quiet. There are too many leaks in this town. I’ve tried to get plumbers in to fix them, but ever since a previous occupant of my house gave those guys a bad name, all you can find here are fixers and pushers. It’s insane! I can’t wait to get back to the ranch."

Links and Further Reading

1) D.C. SNIPERS

2) HINCKLEY

3) THE INSANITY DEFENSE

4) MISCELLANEOUS

Richard Wall (send him mail) has a Master’s degree in International Relations from the London School of Economics & Political Science, and lives in Estoril, Portugal, where he currently works as a freelance writer and translator.

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