Although it is never a happy event when someone is gunned down, at first I was almost pleased when I heard the news about the Boston Police ‘taking out’ what appeared to be a dangerous terrorist about to commit some heinous violent crime. But then I did some research. And, as usual, once I had a chance to investigate and actually think about the available evidence, I was confused, which makes me curious about what other people think.
There it was all over CNN. Dangerous ISIS terrorist pulls giant knife on Boston Police, who were innocently just trying to talk to him, before they are forced to gun him down in self defense! Wow. Finally. A righteous example of police protecting the public.
Or not, as the case may be.
The ISIS story begins.
According to initial reports, Usaama Rahim was shot while waving a large military style knife at them in a threatening manner. Apparently he had been under FBI surveillance for some time on suspicion of terrorist activity, although at first it was not clear exactly what all that entailed. There were some strange details in the initial report; such as the fact that an arrest warrant detailing the terrorist threat evidence had been filed Wednesday afternoon. Rahim was shot Tuesday morning and died shortly thereafter. It appears he was dead before the arrest warrant was filed. Odd.
I believe this affidavit must have been prepared in relation to a second suspect, and not for the dead Rahim, in which case the focus would not have been primarily on Rahim. The fact that the media did not clarify that adds to the confusion, since an important point here is that apparently the police had neither a warrant nor probable cause to arrest Rahim when they approached him. It is very unclear at this point and needs to be investigated further, like many of the conclusions being issued so quickly about this matter. At least that is the approach any decent criminal lawyer, whether prosecution or defense, would take.
There was a video of the shooting, which authorities have been showing to Muslim community leaders in Boston to refute Rahim’s family’s claim that he was shot in the back while talking on his cell phone. It apparently shows that he was not shot in the back. However, the jury is still out on that. The reviews from those Muslim leaders were mixed. According to the New York Times:
“A group of Muslim leaders who also saw the video later issued a statement that said the video was taken far from the site of the episode and did not clearly show everything that occurred. “It does not appear he was shot in the back,” the statement said, countering the family’s assertion. “No weapons could be identified in the video; neither a knife nor a gun.””
This video needs to be made public as soon as that is appropriate given the ongoing investigation.
Still. Here we had what seemed to be a “lone wolf” ISIS terrorist, intent on beheading police officers, according to the media.
Who could blame them for acting in self defense?
The reports also said that he was planning to behead Pamela Geller, the person who organized the “Draw Mohammed” event in Texas that resulted in a definite terrorist attack, during which the two gunmen were killed after a security officer was shot.
People may disagree about what they think of Ms. Geller. Some see her as a First Amendment Hero, protecting the right of free speech. Others see her as a dangerous antagonist or worse, an anti-Muslim bigot. My main thought about her is that she was either aware that she was creating a strong possibility of innocent people being violently attacked in Texas, in which case I sure hope she warned the poor local police officers who were risking their lives to protect her, or that she did not realize she was exposing the guys who were almost killed to violence, in which case she would be totally irresponsible (I’m just glad I wasn’t working security that day.)
However, any reasonable person would have to agree that beheading her is a completely immoral and unjustifiable illegal violent act. It’s called First Degree Murder in most jurisdictions.
Greenwald’s Take on the Situation
Then, while doing my research about this case, I came across a piece written by Glenn Greenwald, that perennial thorn in the side of his more mainstream counterparts. Greenwald, you may recall, is the reporter who helped Edward Snowden “out” the NSA. Again, think what you will about him, he is a very thorough reporter. Like me, he thinks things before jumping on every bandwagon that passes by.
Greenwald was taking a different approach to the story, as usual. First, instead of branding Rahim as a dangerous ISIS Terrorist he was calling him a “Black Muslim”. That gave me pause. One of my very best friends is a Muslim. And he is a very Conservative Republican who hates terrorists as much as anyone. Some of the most significant icons in modern American culture, such as Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Muhammad Ali are Black Muslims. So when I read that term, it made me feel automatically less biased than when I read “ISIS Terrorist!”, which makes me afraid. Very afraid. Especially where knives and beheadings are mentioned in the same paragraph.
Greenwald claimed that the original Boston Globe report had erroneously reported that Rahim had a machete (rather than a military knife), which may sound more menacing to some. However, being me, I researched Greenwald’s research in order to try to be fair and balanced, and discovered that the Globe article apparently said “military knife” not machete. They may have edited that piece online, but I only have time for a certain amount of research. I have another job, after all.
Greenwald went on to say other things that stood out from the mainstream reporting. He said that they were reporting completely unsubstantiated information provided by the same police agency who had shot Rahim. He criticized one of the original reporters on this story, Cheryl Fiandaca, who he said was biased because she had previously been the “official spokesman for the Boston Police Department.”
If nothing else, he makes an interesting point. He also pointed out that she is the ex-wife of former Boston Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, although my own wife would quickly take him to task for that one. She hates it when people pigeonhole the wife because of who she is (or was) married to. And she is a world-class divorce lawyer, so he wouldn’t want to mess with her. (I should know. We’ve been married almost thirty years.)
More fairly, perhaps, he pointed out that Fiandaca was failing to identify her sources. Given their public positions with the Boston Police Department perhaps that is a valid observation. He goes on to point out that many sensationalist conclusions from Big Media followed Fiandaca’s lead, with NBC News reporting that in essence Rahim’s shooting had thwarted a dangerous sleeper cell about to attack America, with basically zero evidence to back that up. He concludes that all we really know is that another black man is gunned down moments after police first approach him, under circumstances that originated with neither probable cause to arrest nor an imminent threat of harm prior to that contact. The whole thing is uncertain.
Which is my entire point. The fact is that there are precious little facts currently available. Even the video which is purported to clearly justify the shooting is said to be “grainy” and that in the video it is very hard to see any details.
What I would like to see is the video, to begin with.
Then perhaps, eventually once it is safe to do so, the evidence supporting the claims of the terrorist threat. I have no idea what happened. I have not seen a thing. Which is why I am saying we need to be careful before drawing conclusions in these difficult and disturbing situations, something I try to do every day while protecting people’s rights and making sure that they are not tried and convicted without evidence that is both credible and reliable and that has been tested in the crucible of an American courtroom. Something that, apparently, the media does not appreciate. At least that is how it sometimes appears.
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