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A LOOK INSIDE THE MIND OF A TERRORIST.

Byline: - David Kronke

Mohamed Atta, Osama bin Laden's point man for the tragic attacks of Sept. 11 - in the notorious tape released last month, Atta is the only terrorist bin Laden praises by name - was not your standard-issue madman. Or at least that's the premise of tonight's absorbing, chilling ``Investigative Reports'' on A&E, ``Portrait of a Terrorist: Mohamed Atta.''

Employing reporting spearheaded by The New York Times, ``Portrait of a Terrorist'' examines Atta's comfortable, middle-class upbringing in Egypt, as well as his ``quiet, methodical and serious'' efforts in college (where he wrote a thesis on Western development and Arab cities) and his work life in Germany. It attempts a psychiatric profile - Atta was enraged when he returned to Egypt and saw there evidence of ``the decadent ways of the West'' (as this is declared, an image of an Arby's fast-food joint flashes on screen). (Gratuitous shots of women in thong bikinis are likewise employed to symbolize the great American naughtiness that to his mind needed extinguishing.) His anger and sense of self-righteousness was transformed into a volatile combination when he hooked up with bin Laden.

``Portrait of a Terrorist'' takes us to the Hamburg apartment in which Atta resided and to the Florida flight schools he attended, where one instructor recalls he almost crashed a plane and was incensed when his teacher corrected his error. Days before the attacks, he went to a pharmacist for a rash on his hands but would not say what had caused it, suggesting the possibility of an experiment in biological warfare that went awry.

``Dedicate the slaughter to your fathers,'' Atta wrote in an instructional note to the other terrorists. The film argues that Atta moved through society too easily and was too systematic in his actions to have been insane; I guess it depends on one's definition of insane. And lest we need further reminding, it also reminds us that there are more Attas out there.

``INVESTIGATIVE REPORTS: PORTRAIT OF A TERRORIST: MOHAMED ATTA''

What: Documentary examining the leader behind the Sept. 11 attacks on America.

Where: A&E.

When: 10 tonight.

Our rating: Three stars
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Title Annotation:L.A. Life
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Television Program Review
Date:Jan 14, 2002
Words:354
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