Saturday, February 08, 2003

When employees of a bank located near Dulles International Airport saw the picture of John Lee Malvo in the media, they recognized him as the person who had inquired at the bank if it was possible to receive a large wire transfer there without giving his name or opening an account. They reported this to the authorities, who examined the surveillance videotapes from the bank. The authorities have now announced that it was not John Lee Malvo who made the inquiry. This incident raises a number of questions:

  1. The authorities haven't stated unequivocally that the videotapes prove that it was not Malvo at the bank - they have just said that it was impossible to tell from the videotapes. The oddity is that from this difficulty with interpreting the video, and in the face of the testimony of the employees, who, after all, recognized Malvo from the picture in the media, the authorities have stated with certainty that it was not Malvo. How can they be so sure? If they had poor videotape evidence but good eyewitness evidence, why would they say with certainty that it was not Malvo? Just a few days prior to the announcement that it definitely wasn't Malvo at the bank, the bank's director of security, two other high-ranking bank officials and two senior law enforcement sources all said they believed that it was Malvo who appeared on the video.

  2. Note the extremely convoluted quote of the general counsel for the bank, R. Timothy Hanlon, which I've exerpted from the Washington Post article:

    "We do not have a basis for saying it is or it isn't. Mr. Smith [the bank's director of security] believes that he did not confirm that it was [Malvo]. He said 'a subject' came to the bank. . . . We don't really know who that person was."

    What does "believes that he did not confirm that it was [Malvo]" mean? Do they speak English in Maryland?

  3. We know that the extensive network of video cameras over the highways of suburban Washington, not to mention satellite photos, should have allowed the police to identify all the movements of Muhammad and Malvo once they had identified the car. Is the problem with the Malvo identification at the bank the fact that other video evidence proves that the car was elsewhere at the time?

  4. John Muhammad is not an idiot, and has a very sophisticated understanding of how to manipulate the authorities. He supposedly made his living by producing immigration documents good enough to successfully smuggle people into the United States. He allegedly made phony passports, driver's licenses, and even credit cards. One of the very weakest points of the whole official sniper story is the idea that Muhammad thought he could use a stolen credit card, charged with the ransom money, to safely obtain the money from the government (this was the plan set out in the famous 'Call Me God' letter). He was simply too sophisticated to fail to know that this was a ridiculous plan, and that he could be caught when he used the card. Why would he send Malvo into a bank with security cameras to ask a dumb question about wire transfers? How could he have thought it might be possible to obtain a wire transfer without leaving his name? It almost seems that this was part of an operation to frame Malvo. Is it possible that Muhammad was attempting to leave a trail leading to Malvo so that Malvo could be blamed for the whole operation and Muhammad could escape?

  5. The Muhammad/Malvo spree has been officially depicted as a folie à deux, technically a conspiracy only because it involved two people, but certainly not part of a larger operation which would raise larger questions. The authorities already have a problem with the Montgomery shooting, as the bullet that killed the victim allegedly came from the Bushmaster rifle but neither Muhammad nor Malvo was seen with the rifle at the shooting scene, thus raising the question that at least one other person was involved in the spree. To add to the confusion, a handgun was found over a month later (wouldn't they check the ground for such evidence at the time?) at the Montgomery shooting scene, a gun which turned out to have been stolen in Texas and was linked ballistically to a fatal shooting in Atlanta (the late discovery of the gun leads one to wonder whether it had been planted later). Is it possible that the authorities are uncomfortable with the bank sighting as it may raise the issue that a Malvo look-alike was involved, perhaps in an attempt to frame Muhammad and Malvo? If Muhammad and Malvo were completely innocent of the shootings, one way to tie them into the spree would be to use a double who could leave video evidence of a suspicious question at a bank which is certain to be monitored by video. If subsequent surveillance camera evidence proved that this person could not be Malvo as the car was elsewhere at the time, this attempt to frame Malvo and Muhammad may have backfired (I am reminded of the problems of bilocation that plague the story of Mohamed Atta). The essential problem with using doubles is that they tend to leave evidence of one person being in different places at the same time, a problem which becomes increasingly difficult as we approach 100% surveillance in the fascist security state.


If the person in the bank was Malvo, it may be evidence that Muhammad was attempting to leave an evidence trail, either to put the blame entirely on Malvo or for some other purpose. If it was not Malvo, but a Malvo look-alike, at the very least the conspiracy was wider than we have been led to believe as there was at least one other person involved, a person who looked very much like Malvo. At the very worst, an attempt was made by some unknown person to frame Malvo and Muhammad.

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