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Terrorism’s Proxies By: Nancy Kobrin
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, March 10, 2006

The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers. Second Edition. Michael Newton. (2006) New York: Checkmark Books.
According to the opening salvo by the prosecution in the Zacarias Moussaoui trial: "He [Moussaoui] lied so the plot could proceed unimpeded. He lied, and 3,000 people died." (1)

Is Moussaoui a “proxy”? Webster’s Dictionary defines “proxy” as “1. the agency, function or power of a person authorized to act as the deputy or substitute for another.”


Mrs. Regenhard, who lost her son in the September 11th attacks thinks so: “He’s a proxy.  . .If this man [Moussaoui] would have been called up that day, he would have accepted the assignment in a heartbeat.” (2)  The newest buzz word for homicide could very well be “proxy.” The word derives from Medieval English prokesye, procusie,, contr. Of  procuracy, procuration. (3) Proxy’s etymology also links back to prokto: anus (4), which seems to be an apt descriptor of anyone involved in Al Qaeda.
But what might proxy and Moussaoui have to do with a book review of an encyclopedia of serial killers? Could it be helpful to consult the phenomena of such heinous crimes committed by serial killers to deal with homicide terrorism? This is the question I would like to pose in considering Michael Newton’s second edition of
The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers.

The word “proxy” does not appear in the Encyclopedia, nor for that matter does Moussaoui, but the Assassins do. This is the medieval Shiite Nizari-Ismaeli sect who is always cited as the precursor for Hezbollah, the homicide inventors of the modern suicide attack. The Assassins are not only listed as serial killers; they are found in an appendix which deals with “team killers.” The September 11th hijackers worked in a series of teams in order to carry out mass murder. Who would dispute that? Is Mr. Newton on to something that other profilers have missed?
Out of curiosity I sought out Mr. Newton by e-mail to ask if he thought “proxies” ever played a part in serial killing. He wrote back saying that the “creepy crawlers” of the Charles Manson family who murdered the pregnant Sharon Tate and her house guests and who continued their rampage the following night by slaughtering another couple would certainly qualify as proxies. Interestingly enough Charles Manson’s name also surfaced recently in regard to Osama bin Laden and mass murder. (5)
I have long suspected that the suicide-homicide attack is akin to serial killing because of the media’s constant reporting of “body parts.” To this end, Phyllis Chesler and I co-authored an op-ed piece entitled “The Rise of the Suicide Bomber
." We called the master minds "serial political murderers." However, it was an Israeli colleague, Dr. Anat Berko, author of B’derekh Gan Eden [The Path to the Garden of Eden: Understanding the World of the Male and Female Suicide Bomber and their Senders, forthcoming in English] who suggested that the suicide bomber be considered a proxy. 

Strikingly, to date there is no classification in criminology for the suicide attack. Law enforcement has no guide to turn to for help when a suicide-homicide attack happens. There has been little attempt to classify it. I have asked experts in
Spain, Sri Lanka, the United States and India if they have a guide. The answer has been a resounding – no. After 9/11, how to classify and deal with a suicide-homicide attack scene would seem to be a matter of grave importance for law enforcement as well as for public policy makers.

Steven Lawhead, a leading military law enforcement expert at Fort Leonard Wood, MI, wrote “[there are manuals with] guidance on property destruction by various means, such as bombs, and fires; however, the manuals do not have crime scene guidance specifically for suicide bombers, and I would guess that U.S. law enforcement has not developed any guidance for these types of scenes yet. A manual is needed for this.” This oversight seems not to be the case in
Israel where, I have been told that a specially designed manual exists for such an incident.

Granted, while the Israelis have had to deal with a far greater number of attacks, especially those of the walking suicide-homicide bomber, it is not as if there have not been attacks here in the United States which fortunately have been foiled. And let's not forget 9/11.
’s newest edition helps to connect the dots between serial killing and jihadi attacks. For example, John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, the Sniper Killers are included as serial killers. Initially, there was reluctance to view these two converts to radical Islam as “free lance” jihadis.
Perhaps it is time to think about Islamic suicide-homicide terrorists as team serial killers who send suicide bombers as their homicidal proxies. Lawhead said, “the FBI has plenty of guidance for serial killers; they have a behavioral sciences unit.” Having attended classes on serial rapists and killers, Lawhead notes, “Suicide bombers were not on the agenda.” Perhaps it is time that they be placed there as a category within serial killing. Why re-invent the wheel, especially when Michael Newton’s second edition of The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers, points in that direction? Normally I am not in the habit of reading encyclopedias cover to cover; however, I found myself doing just that. Newton has written a page turner and anyone concerned with rethinking lethal violence, aka political violence, aka serial killing by proxy does not want to miss this valuable text.

 1. “He lied and 3,000 people died”, 6 March 06, http://www.cnn.com/2006/LAW/03/06/moussaoui.trial/index.html

 2. N. A. Lewis, “At Satellite Courthouses, 9/11 Relatives will watch Moussaoui’s Sentencing,” The New York Times,
5 March 2006, http://topics.nytimes.com

 3. “Proxy,” Random House Webster’s College Dictionary.
New York: Random House, p. p. 1064.

 4. “Prokto,” in J. T. Shipley, The Origins of English Words: A Discursive Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.
Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University
Press, p. 329.

5. N. Feldman,  “Becoming Bin Laden,” The New York Times Book Review, 12 February 2006,


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Nancy Kobrin is an affiliated professor to the University of Haifa, Arabist, psychoanalyst and author of the upcoming book, The Sheikh's New Clothes: Islamic Suicide Terror and What It's Really All About.

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