By: Roger Aronoff
Accuracy in Media
Was the decapitation last month of Colleen Hufford in Moore, Oklahoma, workplace violence or an act of terrorism? It was both, but if a category is necessary, it was clearly an act of terrorism, inspired by ISIS—the radical Islamist organization that is terrorizing much of the Middle East, and which, just days before, encouraged “lone wolf” terrorists to engage in decapitations.
Yet on CBS’ “60 Minutes” Sunday night, Scott Pelley had the first major television interview with FBI Director James Comey, and failed to ask him that very question that has been the topic of so much discussion. While Pelley talked around the subject, Comey, perhaps inadvertently, provided a revealing answer.
Pelley set up his question with this narration: “The FBI is investigating whether the murder [in Moore, Oklahoma] was an imitation of ISIL’s beheadings.”
Then he asked, “Some people call individuals who are radicalized, ‘lone wolves.’ Is that the biggest threat we face?”
Comey replied: “If people use that term, it’s not one I like because it conveys a sense of dignity I don’t think they deserve. These homegrown violent extremists are troubled souls who are seeking meaning in some misguided way and so they come across the propaganda and they become radicalized on their own. Sort of independent study and they’re also able to equip themselves with training, again through the Internet and then engage in jihad after emerging from their basement.”
While Comey was, in effect, acknowledging this heinous act by Alton Nolen, also known as Jah’Keem Yisrael, as an act of jihad, reports and interviews with members of his family suggest it is more likely that Nolen was radicalized in prison than through the Internet. Nolen was released early after serving just two years of a six-year sentence for crimes that included assaulting a police officer and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute,
MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough made waves on September 29th when he accused the FBI of dismissing the suspected attacks by Alton Nolen as just “workplace violence.” This decision, he argued, is motivated by “political correctness.” “How stupid does the FBI really think we are, and who exactly are they afraid of offending?” he asked. “Trust me, Muslims are offended by this creep’s actions.”
Scarborough was reacting to a Washington Post report that the FBI had concluded Nolen had no links to terrorism. The Post reported, “Yet these [federal] officials also said that the FBI had found no link to terrorism. They also said there was no indication that Nolen was copying the beheadings of journalists in Syria carried out by the Islamic State. Instead, the officials said, they are treating this as an incident of workplace violence.”
Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA) has written the Department of Justice, and the “resigning” Attorney General Eric Holder, in particular, urging them to investigate Nolen’s actions as terrorism. “It has been reported that over the past two years Nolen was becoming radicalized,” he writes. “…it is more important than ever for you to make clear to the department’s agents and attorneys that this is, in fact, terrorism and to determine whether this or other plots are part of an effort by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or al Qaeda to radicalize Americans and direct attacks in the U.S. Whether the Nolen investigation ultimately shows that he communicated directly with terrorists abroad or was independently inspired by the recent ISIS beheading videos, there is no question that this attack represents a direct threat from radicalized Islamist extremists to the American people.”
MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry claimed soon after the Oklahoma attacks that she read the situation as “workplace violence,” and downplayed Nolen’s religion as being no more important than the fact that he had eaten breakfast that morning.
The media are asking questions about how to approach this case, but Harris-Perry’s approach reflects the liberal, leftist bent of the Obama administration, and the ultimate conclusion of the mainstream media. Harris-Perry, in turn, connected the association of Islam with the beheading—which Nolen has now freely admitted he perpetrated—as right-wing agitation, not a simple observation of facts.
Alton Nolen’s Facebook page had pictures of Osama bin Laden, the Taliban, beheadings by the Islamic State, and celebrations of the Twin Towers falling.
A police affidavit shows that Nolen traveled home “for the sole reason to retrieve a large-bladed knife” and returned with it in his shoe. And according to a KWTV-9 news anchor, “Murder suspect Alton Nolen was shouting Islamic phrases” during his attacks, as reported by an eyewitness. (That second part didn’t make it into the affidavit, which reads, without that data, simply as a description of intense workplace-inspired violence.) Nolen has requested a Muslim attorney to represent him.
But the FBI’s conclusion that this constitutes workplace violence, plain and simple, strains credulity.
So did the federal government’s treatment of Nidal Hisan. Hasan’s attack on Fort Hood was declared “workplace violence” rather than a terrorist attack. CNN reported last year that Hasan’s correspondence between the now-deceased Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) leader Anwar al-Awlaki was excluded from the trial by the judge.
It is therefore logical for leaders such as Rep. Wolf, as well as interested citizens, to question whether Nolen has contacts within the radical Islamist community—or whether he was simply inspired by their propaganda.
Nolen posted a picture of himself on Facebook in front of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, and apparently posed with his fingers in a way that is associated today with the Islamic State.
Breitbart News draws an association between Nolen and Suhaib Webb, a radical Imam who was previously the Imam at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City mosque and now is the Imam at the “the sister organization of the mosque attended by Boston Marathon bombers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev.” Webb apparently was a “known confidant of Al Qaeda mastermind Anwar al-Awlaki,” according to FBI documentation, reports Breitbart.
But those who attend the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City tried to distance themselves from Nolen and wouldn’t let their names be used, although they were free to comment on his behavior to BBC News. In “Alton Nolen: A jihadist beheading in Oklahoma?” the BBC’s Joanna Jolly casts him as a crazy copycat, at most.
“One fact is clear. Nolen did visit the main mosque in Oklahoma City,” Jolly reports. “A picture on his Facebook page shows him standing inside the front entrance flanked by two men and holding up his index finger in a gesture that has become associated with Islamic State militants.”
The worshippers were “quick to distance themselves from the photographs,” writes Jolly. They say things like “I remember him being here and I remember him asking for the photo to be taken” and “I know the men standing on either side of him. But they didn’t know Nolen. They thought it was strange he asked for a photo.”
Jolly also quotes Oklahoma University Middle East scholar Joshua Landis as profiling Nolen as a “psychotic copycat.”
The Washington Post, in discussing the “debate” over what to call the beheading in Oklahoma, has also concluded that the Oklahoma attacks don’t necessarily fit the definition of terrorism—or that, at least, terrorism is a relative term. “The debate regarding how we define such situations recurs from time to time,” casually comments Post reporter Mark Berman. “The FBI, it should be noted, defines terrorism as something that seems meant to intimidate a civilian population or affect the actions of a government,” he writes. “Of course, the FBI also says that ‘there is no single, universally accepted definition of terrorism,’” he continues.
“Another way some experts define terrorism is anything that targets innocent civilians,” writes Berman. He quotes terrorism analyst J.M. Berger as saying, “One of the problems with an inconsistent definition of terrorism is basically, if a Muslim does it, it’s terrorism and if a white guy does it, it’s not… If the guy in Santa Barbara said Jews instead of women and said ‘Allahu Akbar’ in his video, it would be called terrorism.”
Steve Emerson, who heads the Investigative Project on Terrorism, said on Fox News recently that the Department of Justice “has been handcuffed in terms of investigating religious extremists in mosques, as a result of guidelines put out by the attorney general earlier this year,” and that it “put out guidelines that restricted the FBI and other law enforcement agencies from using religious factors in identifying threats, national security threats to the United States in the homeland.”
The Washington Examiner reports that a new policy from the Department of Justice, expected within weeks, will ban counter-terror investigators from “undercover operations in mosques or other religious institutions unless there is reason to believe criminal activity is going on there.”
Let’s get this straight: Alton Nolen’s confrontation started with an argument over his support for stoning women if they somehow violated Islamic law. He then went home, picked up a knife, returned, and beheaded one fellow employee and stabbed another before he was stopped by gunshots fired by Mark Vaughan, a reserve sheriff’s deputy and the chief operating officer of the company. In other words, a good guy with a gun. This, they want us to believe, was simply an act of “workplace violence.” Does it at least rise to the level of a “hate crime?”
And, if that black Muslim man beheads a non-Muslim white woman while shouting Islamic phrases, and is known to admire a terrorist like Osama bin Laden, is federal law enforcement just supposed to assume his motivations were mainly due to the fact that he was having a bad day at work, and investigate him accordingly? Let’s call it what it is. This is political correctness run amok.