The Center for an Informed America NEWSLETTER #20
Special Bulletin: The DC Snipers
October 31, 2002 (updated and re-posted on November 10, 2003)
We interrupt our regularly scheduled newsletter for this special bulletin ...
Two unlikely suspects have been selected to play the roles of the feared 'DC Snipers': John Allen Muhammad, usually described as a 41-year-old 'drifter,' although until fairly recently he had spent his entire adult life in the military; and a 17-year-old Jamaican immigrant named Lee Boyd Malvo (also identified as Lee Byron Malvo and John Lee Malvo), who entered the country illegally several years ago.
The pair allegedly conducted their killing spree by utilizing what police have described as a car specially modified to create a mobile sniper's nest. There are, alas, numerous problems with the official scenario. And there is certainly no shortage of weirdness surrounding the alleged exploits of the pair.
Consider the following:
This bulletin includes only the bits and pieces of incongruous information that have emerged thus far through various avenues of the media. While there is far more that has yet to be discovered, it is already clear that there is much more to this story than what has been presented to the American people.
- Muhammad's ex-wife, with whom he has had a stormy relationship marked by bitter custody battles, recently relocated to the DC area to take a job at, of all places, John Ashcroft's Justice Department. This peculiar fact, reported by the British press, has been curiously absent in the blanket coverage of the case by the American media. (http://www.observer.co.uk/focus/story/0,6903,820087,00.html)
- Two years ago, Muhammad reportedly kidnapped his own children, in direct violation of a court order, and took them out of the country for an extended period of time. There is no indication that he was charged with any crime in connection with those actions, nor for repeatedly threatening his former wife.
- That same former wife charged Muhammad, in court documents, with tapping her phone line. No explanation has been given as to how Muhammad acquired the necessary skills and equipment. (http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/la-na-sniper25oct25004444.story)
- The rifle allegedly used in the shootings was purchased in June from a Tacoma, Washington-based dealer operating under the name "Bull's Eye Shooter Supply." The shop, located near the Army's Ft. Lewis base, is owned by a former U.S. Army sniper instructor. Muhammad completed his lengthy tour of duty at Ft. Lewis, which has, curiously enough, a sniper training program. (http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-profile26oct26.story)
- ... but wait. According to investigator/writer Jon Rappoport's newsletters, the Bushmaster rifle that authorities first tried to connect to Muhammad was actually purchased, by Muhammad, from a different Tacoma gun dealer operating as "Welcher's Gun Shop." The problem, apparently, is that Muhammad subsequently sold that gun back to Welcher's, which then sold it to another customer, who still has the gun in Tacoma. Rappoport claims that those transactions were confirmed by Welcher's employees. In order then to put another Bushmaster rifle in Muhammad's hands, it was claimed that he had, after selling back the first rifle, purchased an identical one from Bull's Eye. If Rappoport's information is correct, then it is conceivable that the alleged purchase of a second rifle was fabricated after the fact. [Update: It doesn't require much reading between the lines of a June 2003 L.A. Times report to reach the conclusion that Bull's Eye has a history of supplying weapons for covert operations. It would hardly be surprising if that entity also pretended to supply a weapon to a patsy: "One of the rifles confiscated from Buford O. Furrow Jr. on the day he killed a postal worker and wounded five people at a Los Angeles Jewish community center was sold at the same Tacoma, Wash, gun store linked to the rifle used by the Washington, D.C. snipers ... In 1997, the Tacoma retailer, Bull's Eye Shooter Supply, sold Furrow one of two .308 caliber Imbel rifles found in his van ... Authorities have also traced the Bushmaster .223-caliber semiautomatic assault rifle allegedly used by John Allen Muhammad and Lee Malvo ... to the same Tacoma gun store. After the manufacturer shipped the gun there, there are no records reflecting how it left the store, according to court records ... Authorities have traced guns involved in 52 crimes to Bull's Eye from 1997 to 2001 ... At least 238 guns - including the one allegedly used by the snipers - have 'disappeared' from the store in the last three years ..." (http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-jcc7jun07,1,3241028.story) (emphasis added)]
- Although Muhammad is generally portrayed by the media as a chronically unemployed drifter who made a habit of staying at homeless shelters, he doesn't appear to have had money problems. Consider all of the following facts which have emerged in various press accounts:
- Before kidnapping his children, Muhammad was ordered to pay nearly $900 per month in child support ($869, by one account), indicating that the court had reason to believe that he had a fairly substantial income at the time.
- He has reportedly owned, or co-owned, a number of businesses, including a karate school, an auto repair shop, and something that he called, strangely enough, "Reality Enterprises." (http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/la-na-profile25oct25004444.story)
- A number of witnesses have commented on the incongruity of an allegedly homeless man who always had money to spend. The L.A. Times reported that a former girlfriend told her family that Muhammad's "story didn't make any sense ... He was a hard-luck drifter with money, a man who could pick up and fly to the Caribbean whenever he got the inclination." The same Times report added that "She wasn't the only one asking questions ... The director of the shelter has said [of Muhammad] ... 'He was rather secretive about his past and present ... He was closed-mouthed. He didn't have a visible source of income, but he was able to travel at a moment's notice.'" (http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-na-killers27oct27.story) The Independent Online noted that with "no apparent means of support, Muhammad and companion John Lee Malvo traveled from the Caribbean to the north-western United States, and points in between, over the past year and a half. How they financed their activities remains a mystery." The man who runs the homeless mission where Muhammad last stayed in Washington state, Reverend Alan Archer, was reportedly "amazed to see Muhammad getting phone calls from a travel agent." Archer recalled that Muhammad flew off on ski trips to both Denver and Salt Lake City. (http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=79&art_id=qw1035806221674B225&set_id=1)
- While living in Antigua, with no visible means of support, Muhammad nevertheless was able to send all three of his children to an exclusive, private school. (http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=79&art_id=qw1035806221674B225&set_id=1)
- Two years ago, Muhammad, an American citizen born and raised in Louisiana, obtained an Antiguan passport -- allegedly by lying about who his mother was. Why he would be taken at his word and not required to show proof of Antiguan citizenship has not been explained. (http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-profile26oct26.story) Also unexplained is why he was issued the passport in July 2000, although the Antiguan government claims that its records don't show Muhammad entering the country until May 2001. (http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=79&art_id=qw1035806221674B225&set_id=1) Was Muhammad traveling on that passport between July 2000 and May 2001? And if so, to where?
- Initial reports speculated that Muhammad had received sniper training. The Army has subsequently denied this. Most reports now hold that Muhammad, throughout what the Times described as a "checkered, 16-year military career," never distinguished himself as a skilled shooter. (http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/la-na-profile25oct25004444.story) As the Times explained: "All soldiers entering the Army undergo basic training with M-16 rifles. Once every year, they have to requalify, earning 'marksman,' 'sharpshooter' or 'expert' marks. Muhammad ultimately earned only a sharpshooter mark, so to compare him to a military sniper would be inaccurate." (http://www.calendarlive.com/printedition/calendar/cl-et-roug26oct26.story) Indeed it would. To even be considered for admission to the Army's sniper schools reportedly requires three consecutive 'expert' rankings. Muhammad could not even manage one such score over the course of a sixteen year career. He could though, rather amazingly, score head shots on live targets from up to 500 yards away, even while firing from inside a cramped car trunk with limited visibility. Imagine that.
- ... but wait. Did Muhammad have more training than what is officially acknowledged? He frequently claimed that he had. Was this just baseless boasting?
- The WSWS reported that "various sources indicate that Muhammad liked to boast about his service in the army and claimed to be working for the CIA and FBI." While applying at a government office on Antigua, he "claimed to have attended 'Special Forces/ Sniper School' in the US military and to have 'taught urban warfare.'" In the summer of 2002, Muhammad told a nephew in Baton Rouge "a dubious story about working for the Central Intelligence Agency." (http://www.wsws.org/articles/2002/oct2002/snip-o28.shtml)
- Muhammad further claimed that Malvo was also a highly trained operative, recruited for his ability to infiltrate the youth culture. (http://www.msnbc.com/news/825625.asp?pne=msn&cp1=1#BODY)
- The Guardian reported that Muhammad "appears to have told friends" that he had received training as a sniper and had served in Special Forces. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,819054,00.html)
- Muhammad's former business partner in the karate school also recalled being told that his partner had served in Special Forces. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,819695,00.html)
- Muhammad's alleged accomplice, just seventeen years old and with no formal firearms training, is claimed to have been the gunman in some of the sniper shootings. Reports claim that Muhammad trained Malvo in the use of firearms by taking target practice on a tree stump in the backyard of a Tacoma home -- as though hitting a large tree stump from across a backyard is equivalent to hitting a human target from hundreds of yards away, from an awkward position within a car trunk.
- According to published reports, neither of the two had ever lived in the Washington, DC area. The pair arrived there just prior to the time that the shootings started. Strangely though, they had a thorough enough knowledge of the area to locate strategic sites from which to shoot, and to map out escape routes that enabled them to evade capture.
- The car, a 1990 blue Chevrolet Caprice acquired just before the shooting spree began, is a former police cruiser that was purchased from a New Jersey auto dealership named (and this, I have to say, is a nice touch) "Sure Shot Autos." (http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/la-na-sniper25oct25004444.story)
- The nation bore witness to some of the most brilliant police work in recent memory when someone saw fit to release a "composite sketch" of a featureless, white, box truck, and then have that image plastered all over the nation's television screens. Could anything have possibly been more counterproductive? You can imagine the calls flooding into the hotline: "Yeah, I think I counted 27 of them sniper trucks today."
- Just hours before the suspects were arrested, Chief Charles Moose - who has become a fixture on cable and network newscasts - issued via national television what appeared for all the world to be a post-hypnotic, 'triggering' cue. As the Guardian described it: "Hours before the arrest yesterday morning of the two men now believed to be responsible for the string of murders around Washington, the Montgomery county police chief, Charles Moose, made his strangest communication with the then-unknown suspects. Swallowing hard, he began to read from a prepared statement. 'You indicated that you want us to do and say certain things,' he said, as mystified reporters looked on. 'You asked us to say, quote: 'We have caught the sniper like a duck in a noose.' We understand that hearing us say that is important to you.' Investigators offered no illumination of the reference, even after John Allen Muhammad and Lee Malvo were taken into custody yesterday." Just hours later, the suddenly known suspects were found sleeping soundly and were taken into custody without offering any resistance. They were only a few miles from both the first and last shooting scenes. That final surreal announcement followed a series of increasingly bizarre, cryptic communications by Moose to the purported snipers. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,818958,00.html)
- At one point, Moose pleaded with the suspects to call police on the phone number that had supposedly been left behind in a message from the sniper. No one in the media bothered to ask why, if the number was in fact left by the sniper, the police were now imploring the suspect to call them on that number. Did the sniper leave the police their own phone number, just in case they might have forgotten it?
- Until last year, John Allen Muhammad was known as John Allen Williams. He changed his name just in time, it appears, for the media to be able to portray him as some sort of Islamic fundamentalist. But just eleven years ago, Williams served in the Gulf War, demonstrating that he apparently had no reservations about participating in a brutal assault upon a predominantly Islamic nation. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,819054,00.html)
- Muhammad has been described by various witnesses as an extremely controlling man who exerted an extraordinary amount of influence over his young accomplice. Their relationship has been described as "drill sergeant/recruit." Some reports claim that the pair first met in Antigua, while others suggest that they first teamed up in Tacoma. No reports have offered much insight into how or why this odd couple became partners. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,819695,00.html)
- Muhammad was not at first booked on murder charges, but rather on charges of harassing his ex-wife two years ago.
- As previously noted, Malvo entered the United States illegally. Not long before the sniper killings began, he was detained by the INS, who were aware of his status as an illegal immigrant. Strangely though, he was subsequently released. Under normal circumstances, Malvo would have been deported.
- It is asserted by the police that someone claiming to be the sniper told them in a telephone conversation that they should "take him seriously," and that if they had any doubts about that, they should "check with the people in Montgomery." If this conversation did in fact take place, the most logical conclusion to draw would be that the sniper was referring to Montgomery County, Maryland, where six of the sniper's victims were shot. But for some inexplicable reason, police immediately focused their attention on Montgomery, Alabama, where they claimed to have connected the sniper killings to a seemingly unrelated robbery/murder that was committed with a handgun of a caliber not known to have been in the possession of either Muhammad or Malvo. Among the unanswered questions raised by that unexpected turn of events: why did investigators turn their attention to Alabama? why did they zero in on that particular unsolved crime? and how were they able to suddenly identify a previously unidentified fingerprint?
- The L.A. Times reported that there were a number of items in the suspects' car at the time of their arrest that seem a little out of place in a homeless drifter's vehicle. In addition to the (planted?) Bushmaster rifle, scope and bipod, there was a Sony laptop computer, a pair of two-way radios, and - as one might expect to find - a global positioning system. (http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-sniper30oct30.story)
- That same Times report implicates Muhammad in the February 16 murder of a 21-year-old Tacoma, Washington woman. The link to Muhammad was made as follows: "Tacoma Police Chief David A. Brame said at a news conference late Monday that a Tacoma gun hobbyist he declined to identify had befriended and housed Muhammad and Malvo for several months this year. The gun owner came forward after the two men were charged in the sniper rampage. Brame said the man voluntarily turned over to police a .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol and a .44 magnum revolver that he said he had loaned to Muhammad on occasion during the first six months of this year." Ballistic tests purportedly revealed that the .45 was used to murder the woman and the .44 was used to vandalize a synagogue. Obvious questions arise: Who is this mysterious "gun hobbyist"? Is he a member of the law enforcement community? Why did he "on occasion" loan his guns to a man he had known for only a few months? For what purpose did he think the guns were being used? Why isn't the "gun hobbyist" himself a suspect, and why is his identity being concealed?
- On October 30, the New York Times reported that "State and federal investigators said today that John Muhammad had been talking to them for more than an hour on the day of his arrest in the sniper shootings, explaining the roots of his anger, when the United States attorney for Maryland told them to deliver him to Baltimore to face federal weapons charges and forcing them to end their interrogation." The investigators claimed that Muhammad had waived his right to an attorney and was talking freely when federal prosecutor Thomas Di Biagio shut their interrogation down. Di Biagio claimed that he was acting on orders from the White House and the U.S. Justice Department, though both seem to have distanced themselves from Di Biagio's actions. Investigators claim that they felt confident that they could have gotten a confession out of Muhammad. Federal officials claimed, rather remarkably, that they weren't really interested in a confession. An unnamed "senior federal law enforcement official" was quoted as saying: "Tell me what more we need from them? We have the ballistics. We don't need the confession." But was it really a confession that federal officials were worried that the investigators might hear? Or was it something else? Whatever it was, they won't be hearing it now: "since then Muhammad has not talked to investigators." (http://www.nytimes.com/2002/10/30/national/nationalspecial/30XCOUN.html?todaysheadlines)
- The Independent Online noted in passing, without elaboration, that Muhammad's ready supply of cash may have been due to a "combination of odd jobs and crimes that included human smuggling." Is that what Muhammad's rather mysterious travels were really all about? And if so, on whose behalf was he working? (http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=79&art_id=qw1035806221674B225&set_id=1)
- Clearly there was someone, or some entity, bankrolling Muhammad's activities. Who were his hidden benefactors? The media will likely either avoid the issue entirely or attempt to link Muhammad to some sort of 'terrorist' organization, although it isn't likely that many fingers will be pointed at his most likely benefactor: that world-wide terrorist organization that we all know and love as the CIA. [Update: former investigative reporter Jim Rarey has looked into Muhammad's criminal history and discovered that none of the alleged sniper's past arrests appear in the FBI's national database. Rarey has also raised questions about the ease with which Muhammad has avoided prosecution for his crimes. The obvious inference is that "the government for some reason was protecting Muhammad." (http://www.worldnewsstand.net/MediumRare/33.htm)]
Meanwhile, U.S. authorities are busily maneuvering to stage a trial with a predetermined outcome -- one that will include the execution of 17-year-old Malvo. The media is clamoring for that execution to take place, even though there has been no compelling evidence presented thus far to indicate the young man's guilt.
It is important to remember that we are talking here about a kid who has been victimized throughout the entirety of his brief stay here on planet Earth. Born onto the mean streets of Jamaica, in a land ruled by violent druglords, and apparently abandoned by his father, Malvo survived a childhood that no kid should have to endure. Smuggled into the States in the hold of a cargo ship, in the hopes of finding a better life, Malvo found nothing but further victimization and despair -- at the hands of a man named John Allen Muhammad.
But through it all, Malvo remained - as friends and acquaintances have told reporters - an intelligent, thoughtful, unerringly polite and friendly kid. But he was also, if police spokesmen and the bloodthirsty media are to be believed, a serial sniper.
So let's execute the bastard. We don't even need to bother with a trial. The sooner the better. Maybe we can make it part of the half-time show at this year's Super Bowl.