FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The Futility of Background Checks

“There are two theories on hitting a knuckleball. Unfortunately, neither one of them works.”

—Charlie Lau, former major league batting coach

Immediately following the 2009 shootings at Fort Hood army base (located outside Killeen, Texas, the third largest military base in the United States), where 13 people were killed, and more than 30 others injured, I heard a self-appointed pundit on television weigh in on the tragedy by saying that what our government needs to do is “conduct more thorough background checks.” No shit.

And as horrific and mind-numbing as the June 12, 2016, shooting at the Orlando nightclub was, it has provoked some of the same comments in regard to background checks as the Fort Hood incident did, particularly after it was reported that the Orlando shooter, 22-year old Omar Mateen, had already “appeared on the FBI’s radar.” What??! You knew about this guy??! Why wasn’t he in custody?! If the FBI had done its job, 50 people would still be alive. No shit.

But as disturbing as the Fort Hood shootings were, they revealed something that was potentially even more unsettling. The killings demonstrated how unlikely it will be to prevent future bloodbaths from occurring, if we place our faith in background checks. Or interviews. Or counseling sessions. Or information supplied by well-meaning snitches in the workplace. (“I thought something bad might happen, because he’d been acting weird all week.”)

And this isn’t the result of our intelligence agencies not having enough “person of interest” data in their data banks. Indeed, the exact opposite is the case. We have too many “possible perps” in our files. Literally, millions of them. The guy in Yemen who bought a car from the brother-in-law of the guy who lived next door to a suspected Al Qaeda operative has his own file. By trying to be “extra thorough,” our intel people have buried themselves in minutia.

Let us consider what happened at Fort Hood, in ‘09. As convenient as it is to toss all mass murderers or terrorists into the same hopper, that methodology doesn’t always work. Unlike the 27-year old Timothy McVeigh, who was responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing, in 1995, the Fort Hood assassin, 38-year old Nidal Hasan, didn’t fit the mold. Not only was Hasan infinitely more complicated and accomplished than Timothy McVeigh, he was a whole different breed of cat.

For one thing, unlike McVeigh, Nidal Hasan, wasn’t a lowly enlisted man. He was an officer, having attained the rank of Major. For another, unlike McVeigh, who was a disgruntled ex-soldier, bouncing from job to job, including security guard, Hasan was still on active duty. And for another, not only was he a major on active duty, he was a licensed medical doctor.

But here is the real stunner—the irony of ironies. Not only was the murderous Nidal Hasan a major on active duty in the U.S. Army, as well as a licensed M.D., he was also a psychiatrist. An expert on mental illness. Despite having gotten some poor performance reviews along the way, Dr. Hasan was the guy whom military people sought out when they were having psychological problems.

So what’s the takeaway? What is the lesson to be learned? That we not only need to fear those, spooky, ideologically warped “lone wolves” that walk among us, but must also fear our military officers, physicians, and shrinks? If that’s the case, then we are more screwed than we thought possible.

More articles by:

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
September 17, 2019
Mario Barrera
The Southern Strategy and Donald Trump
Robert Jensen
The Danger of Inspiration in a Time of Ecological Crisis
Dean Baker
Health Care: Premiums and Taxes
Dave Lindorff
Recalling the Hundreds of Thousands of Civilian Victims of America’s Endless ‘War on Terror’
Binoy Kampmark
Oiling for War: The Houthi Attack on Abqaiq
Susie Day
You Say You Want a Revolution: a Prison Letter to Yoko Ono
Rich Gibson
Seize Solidarity House
Laura Flanders
From Voice of America to NPR: New CEO Lansing’s Glass House
Don Fitz
What is Energy Denial?
Dan Bacher
Governor Newsom Says He Will Veto Bill Blocking Trump Rollback of Endangered Fish Species Protections
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: Time to Stop Pretending and Start Over
W. Alejandro Sanchez
Inside the Syrian Peace Talks
Elliot Sperber
Mickey Mouse Networks
September 16, 2019
Sam Husseini
Biden Taking Iraq Lies to the Max
Paul Street
Joe Biden’s Answer to Slavery’s Legacy: Phonographs for the Poor
Paul Atwood
Why Mattis is No Hero
Jonathan Cook
Brexit Reveals Jeremy Corbyn to be the True Moderate
Jeff Mackler
Trump, Trade and China
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima’s Radioactive Water Crisis
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Democrats and the Climate Crisis
Michael Doliner
Hot Stuff on the Afghan Peace Deal Snafu
Nyla Ali Khan
Spectacles of the Demolition of the Babri Masjid in Uttar Pradesh and the Revocation of the Autonomous Status of Kashmir
Stansfield Smith
Celebrating 50 Years of Venceremos Brigade solidarity with the Cuban Revolution
Tim Butterworth
Socialism Made America Great
Nick Licata
Profiles in Courage: the Tories Have It, the Republicans Don’t
Abel Prieto
Cubanness and Cuban Identity: the Importance of Fernando Ortiz
Robert Koehler
Altruists of the World Unite!
Mel Gurtov
Farewell, John Bolton
Weekend Edition
September 13, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
The Age of Constitutional Coups
Rob Urie
Bernie Sanders and the Realignment of the American Left
Anthony DiMaggio
Teaching the “War on Terror”: Lessons for Contemporary Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: They Are the Walrus
T.J. Coles
Jeremy Corbyn: Electoral “Chicken” or Political Mastermind?
Joseph Natoli
The Vox Populi
Sasan Fayazmanesh
The Pirates of Gibraltar
John Feffer
Hong Kong and the Future of China
David Rosen
The Likely End to Roe v. Wade?
Ishmael Reed
When You Mess With Creation Myths, the Knives Come Out
Michael Hudson
Break Up the Democratic Party?
Paul Tritschler
What If This is as Good as It Gets?
Jonah Raskin
Uncensored Tony Serra: Consummate Criminal Defense Lawyer
Ryan Gunderson
Here’s to the Last Philosophes, the Frankfurt School
Michael T. Klare
The Pompeo Doctrine: How to Seize the Arctic’s Resources, Now Accessible Due to Climate Change (Just Don’t Mention Those Words!)
Luke O'Neil
I Would Want To Drink Their Blood: God Will Punish Them
Louis Proyect
The Intellectual Development of Karl Marx
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail