Bob Owens

The saddest truth in politics is that people get the leaders they deserve

Ten years ago today, the most successful terrorists in history were captured

Written By: Bob - Oct• 24•12

When Americans think of terrorists, they typically get a mental image of men from the Middle East and Southwest Asia in ethic dress, often carrying AK-pattern rifles or suicide vests in front of the black flag of Islam.

If you asked Americans to think of domestic terrorists, they generally think of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

But the most successful terrorists in history were neither Arab nor white, and they operated with impunity around our nation’s capitol, terrorizing millions, over a period of three weeks in October, 2002.

They became known as the Beltway Snipers.

Their weapons and tactics were very basic, used in Northern Ireland beforehand and in Iraq and Chechnya and countless other places afterward. The fired from the trunk of a car that had been made over into a sniper’s hide,  firing from a hole cut out near the license plate. The weapon they used was a simple Bushmaster carbine stolen from a gun shop, with a close-range EOTech holographic sight. The shots themselves were relatively close, fired from between 50 and 100 yards.

Other terrorist have killed more people. Other terrorists have committed more individually memorable crimes. None terrorized an entire region for as long as John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo did, altering the daily activities of millions for 23 days with the expenditure of less than a magazine’s worth of ammunition.

It remains among the most disturbing of all terror attacks committed against the United States for it’s simplicity, and the seeming inability of authorities to correctly identify, isolate or capture those involved.

It was a low mark of journalistic sensationalism, with saturation coverage of the attacks driving public panic ever higher.

It was a bad time to drive a white panel work van, as hundreds of blue-collar guys found out as they were dragged out of their vehicles at gunpoint by police chasing false leads.

It was a bad time for FBI profilers, who completely missed the mark with their profile of a white male with military training.

It all came to an end ten years ago today with the arrest of the pair as they slept in a car at a rest station of I-70 near Myersville, Maryland. Muhammad was eventually executed. Malvo, a minor at the time, was sentenced to six life terms.

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One Comment

  1. styrgwillidar says:

    “It was a bad time for FBI profilers, who completely missed the mark with their profile of a white male with military training.”

    Yeah, the FBI profiling is based on interviews with and the analysis of the crimes of serial and spree killers. They’re applying statistical likelihood based on prior similar type crimes.

    The problem with the Beltway Snipers case was it’s uniqueness. There were no precedents in the past available to make predictions about the perpetrators. It didn’t match a serial killer who has sexual motives and whose crimes tend to be intimate- up close and personal even if they kill with a gun. And whose victims normally have similar attributes (either physical or cultural, Bundy’s victims looked the same, other serial killers victimized prostitutes) It didn’t match a spree killer like Virginia Tech, Colombine, etc. where the killer tries to take out as many folks as possible in one incident and go out in a blaze.