This much is certain: passions run hot about the D.C.-area sniper attacks one year ago. People were fearful, and looking for someone to blame. Who better than the seemingly-bungling publicity-hungry chief of police who led the entire nation on a wild goose chase for a white man in a white van — explicitly disavowing any link between the killings and Islamic terrorism — when the real killers were Moslem and driving a Caprice? When the killers were caught not because of the best efforts of the police, but despite them, or so many seem to believe.
Much of the criticism is true. Chief Charles Moose sat on information that, when leaked, had the killers caught within hours. Then again, the feds themselves bungled a few things, too. Chief Moose did bend over backward to avoid any suggestions that Islamic extremists might be responsible, seemingly in defiance of reason and, it turns out, reality. But did he do so based on standard FBI suspect profiling?
It’s been a year, and former-chief Charles Moose has co-written a book describing not just those Three Weeks In October, but his whole life before that event. In fact, the book gives the investigation short shrift, focusing instead on what a critic of Mr. Moose might term a very long excuse for his poor handling of the case. I prefer to see it charitably as a man cashing in on the only chance he’ll likely get to tell his life story to the world, which is one more chance than most of us get. In fact, it is a pretty good story about his life, though given how much apparent dissembling he does in the part of the book devoted to the sniper case, one does start to wonder about the veracity of the rest of it. In any case, it’s an interesting read, but don’t pick up the book expecting to learn much new about the sniper case.
For that, you might turn instead to Sniper, written by two reporters from the Washington Post. Much more focused on the case itself, with some background on the suspects, this story paints the picture most people close to the investigation say is more accurate. It isn’t as richly detailed as some nonfiction treatments of crime drama, but it does follow the basic flow of the investigation fairly well. And it doesn’t paint a rosy picture of Chief Moose.
The books are at odds, no question about it. Moose claims that frequent outbursts of temper and certain public statements that now seem to reflect incompetence were all actually part of a master plan to mislead the snipers. The Post authors reject that notion, clearly believing that they reflected truly poor decisions by Chief Moose. I’m generally inclined to believe the story told in Sniper more than Moose’s version of events, but there is no question that he did in fact do many things right, and others made plenty of mistakes as well.
Easterbrook at The New Republic takes a look at both books, and suggests that each of them leave some things out. The Moose book obviously defends Moose, while the Post book seems to take the sides of the feds. As I mentioned earlier, they were probably not without some fault themselves.
You can read snippets of the Sniper book for yourself:
- Truck Took Probe Down Wrong Road
- Struggling for a Direct Connection
- Frustrations — and Finally a Breakthrough
- In the End, Caprice Lost Its Invisibility
- Jurisdictions Vied To Prosecute Pair
There is also a third book on the subject, 23 Days Of Terror, about which I know no more than what the Booklist review on Amazon says.Powered by Sidelines