The New York Times resolutely refused to see a pattern of jihad on the part of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in its sympathetic front-page Tuesday profile of his prison conditions. Yet on Wednesday the Times ran an op-ed that used an anti-Semitic killer in Kansas to represent the hidden domestic terror threat of military veterans.
First, try not to shed a tear for Tsarnaev as you read the opening strains of Michael Wines and Serge Kovaleski's Tuesday story, "Marathon Bombing Suspect Waits in Isolation."
He cannot mingle, speak or pray with other prisoners. His only visitors are his legal team, a mental health consultant and his immediate family, who apparently have seen him only rarely.
He may write only one letter -- three pages, double-sided -- and place one telephone call each week, and only to his family. If he reads newspapers and magazines, they have been stripped of classified ads and letters to the editor, which the government deems potential vehicles for coded messages. He watches no television, listens to no radio. He ventures outside infrequently, and only to a single small open space.
It has been nearly a year since police officers found Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in a suburban Boston backyard, hiding in a boat there, wounded by gunfire. Today he passes time in a secure federal medical facility, awaiting a November trial on charges that he helped plan and execute the Boston Marathon bombing a year ago on Tuesday, which killed three people and wounded at least 260, and a killing and kidnapping spree that forced an entire city into lockdown.
The Times suggested Tsarnaev is being treated too harshly:
Now it is his turn to be effectively walled off from the outside world, imprisoned under so-called special administrative measures approved by the United States attorney general. The restrictions are reserved for inmates considered to pose the greatest threat to others -- even though, privately, federal officials say there is little of substance to suggest that Mr. Tsarnaev, 20, and his brother Tamerlan were anything but isolated, homegrown terrorists. A court order bars his legal advisers and family from disclosing anything he has told or written them.
For some reason, the Times noted that Tsarnaev gets cards "from admirers and backers who believe he is innocent," and even interviewed one with an evident obsession.
The reporters rode to Tsarnaev's defense in the matter of his commitment to jihad.
Shortly after his capture, “Tsarnaev reaffirmed his commitment to jihad and expressed hope that his actions would inspire others to engage in violent jihad,” the Justice Department stated in a court filing in August.
Defense lawyers assert in court filings, however, that prosecutors have offered no evidence that Mr. Tsarnaev is part of a foreign jihad network. Rather, the defense’s hiring of a mental health consultant may hint at an argument that he was mentally ill -- and perhaps that he fell under the sway of his aggressive older brother, Tamerlan, a prospect they raised in court last month....
Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr found the paper's sympathy ploy "sickening."
Yet sometimes the Times is all too ready to find deeper meanings in domestic terror incidents, like linking military veterans to white supremacy. Kathleen Belew's op-ed on anti-Semitic killer Frazier Glenn Miller appeared Wednesday under an offensive headline and illustration, "Veterans and White Supremacy."
When Frazier Glenn Miller shot and killed three people in Overland Park, Kan., on Sunday, he did so as a soldier of the white power movement: a groundswell that united Klansmen, neo-Nazis and other fringe elements after the Vietnam War, crested with the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995, and remains a diminished but potent threat today.
Mr. Miller, the 73-year-old man charged in the killings, had been outspoken about his hatred of Jews, blacks, Communists and immigrants, but it would be a mistake to dismiss him as a crazed outlier. The shootings were consistent with his three decades of participation in organized hate groups. His violence was framed by a clear worldview.
And what helped form that worldview? The U.S. military.
The number of Vietnam veterans in that movement was small -- a tiny proportion of those who served -- but Vietnam veterans forged the first links between Klansmen and Nazis since World War II. They were central in leading Klan and neo-Nazi groups past the anti-civil rights backlash of the 1960s and toward paramilitary violence. The white power movement they forged had strongholds not only in the South, but also in the Pacific Northwest, Colorado, California and Pennsylvania. Its members carried weapons like those they had used in Vietnam, and used boot-camp rhetoric to frame their pursuit of domestic enemies. They condoned violence against innocent people and, eventually, the state itself.
Before his 1979 discharge for distributing racist literature, Mr. Miller served for 20 years in the Army, including two tours in Vietnam and service as a Green Beret. Later that year he took part (but was not charged) in a deadly shooting of Communist protesters in Greensboro, N.C.
In Belew's view, the shooting vindicated the 2009 report from the Department of Homeland Security that smeared "anti-government" conservatives as dangerous extremists.
The report raised intense blowback from the American Legion, Fox News and conservative members of Congress. They demanded an apology and denounced the idea that any veteran could commit an act of domestic terrorism. The department shelved the report, removing it from its website. The threat, however, proved real.
Belew backtracked two decades to bring up Tim McVeigh – make that "Army veteran" Tim McVeigh, before concluding that veterans don't get sufficient scrutiny as domestic terror threats.
During Mr. Miller’s long membership in the white power movement, its leaders have robbed armored cars, engaged in counterfeiting and the large-scale theft of military weapons, and carried out or planned killings. The bombing by Timothy J. McVeigh, an Army veteran, of the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, which killed 168 people, was only the most dramatic of these crimes. When we interpret shootings like the one on Sunday as acts of mad, lone-wolf gunmen, we fail to see white power as an organized -- and deadly -- social movement.
That Mr. Miller was able to carry out an act of domestic terror at two locations despite his history of violent behavior should alarm anyone concerned about public safety. Would he have received greater scrutiny had he been a Muslim, a foreigner, not white, not a veteran? The answer is clear, and alarming.