Classroom Disruptions Spur Questions About Terror 'Dry Runs'
Could classroom disruptions on the University of Oklahoma campus last week have been "dry runs" conducted by a terrorist group? That question has been nagging at me ever since I read newspaper reports in the student-run campus newspaper, OU Daily, and in the Tulsa World.
On Wednesday afternoon, according to the news reports published Friday, two groups of men entered classrooms in Dale Hall on OU's main campus in Norman and refused to leave when requested to do so by instructors.
According to the Tulsa World account, witnesses told OU police that seven to eight men walked into two large classrooms in Dale Hall. Most sat in unison while two stood by the door. After initially refusing to leave, the group left the rooms as they entered.
Though campus officials were quoted in both publications as saying, "there is nothing to indicate that this was anything other than a prank by a student group," I noticed that both news stories lacked details about the men involved and began to wonder if there was more to this story than OU President David Boren, the former U.S. senator who served as chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, might want you to know.
OU was, after all, the school where Zacharias Moussaoui, the French national convicted of conspiring to kill U.S. citizens as part of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, attended flight school.
Furthermore, terrorist groups have been known to conduct the so-called "dry runs" in advance of launching an attack. I had to ask questions.
On Friday at 10:24 p.m. Central, I forwarded the questions below to Nijim Dabbour, managing editor of the OU Daily, hoping he would be able to put my concerns to rest:
Did you ask Catherine Bishop and/or campus police officials for a general description of the men — or particulars about any of the men in the group?
Did you interview any students in the classrooms where disruptions took place?
As of this posting, more than 48 hours passed without a reply.
I also contacted Catherine Bishop, OU’s vice president of communication services. At 8:05 a.m. Central today, I forwarded to her the list of questions below:
Do you have a general description of the men or particulars about any of the individuals in the group? Were they students?
How did you determine “There is nothing to indicate that this was anything other than a prank by a student group”?
Two and one-half hours have passed without a reply.
Based on my dozen-plus years of experience in dealing with sensitive issues during stints as a public affairs professional, political campaign manager and corporate communications vice president, I sense there might be more to this story than meets the eye. Regardless of what I learn, I will provide an update in this space as soon as possible.