The story of “Little Red Riding Hood” originated as a European fairy tale written by the French author Charles Perrault, and was later modified by The Brothers Grimm, among others. In reality, the story is more than a little dark and disturbing, and was unabashedly created as a cautionary tale of the consequences awaiting those who would ignore obvious signs of danger. Riding Hood is named after the scarlet hooded cape she wore, and certainly ‘Red’ had many wonderful characteristics, which ironically were also the very faults that ultimately (at least in Perrault’s original version) led to her final undoing.

            Red Riding Hood’s faults?

          She loved and was loved unconditionally: Her mother and grandmother lavished her with love and gifts and apparently doted on her, even gifting the girl with her eponymous red cover. This doting might have had the unintended result of Red’s apparent inability to recognize that the world outside her home and village was not as safe as the place she left.

         She was Naïve: Even after being warned by her mother that the woods were dangerous, and instructed to stay ‘strictly on the path,’ Red skipped off with a basket of food for her ailing grandmother, blissfully unaware of the danger that lurked all around her. 

            She saw the best in everyone, and discounted the danger signs: As Red skipped toward Grandma’s house, she was stalked by the “Big, Bad Wolf,” who followed her from behind the camouflage of the trees. When he ultimately approached the little girl and asked where she was going, instead of recoiling at the sight of a wolf, Red innocently told him the truth, having no clue the evil acts the Wolf intended to perpetrate with that information.

            She refused to attribute evil motives to others, because she could not fathom the evil: The Wolf enticed the innocent child to pick flowers for her grandmother in what seemed to be a loving suggestion. In reality, it was to delay the child so that prior to her arrival at grandma’s, he would have eaten the woman and devised an ambush for Red. What could be wrong with picking flowers for grandma?

           As a result of the success of the Wolf’s deception, he got to grandma’s house ahead of Red and pretended to be her granddaughter. Then when grandma opened the door, the Wolf swallowed her whole, and set up the snare for the innocent girl. When the innocent Red arrived, she noticed that grandma looked somehow different.

            “What a deep voice you have! And what big eyes you have!” She observed. “Goodness,” she later exclaimed, “What big hands and teeth you have!” She accepted the ridiculous lies uttered to cover her observations, “The better to see you with…” And it was at that point that the Wolf leapt out of bed and swallowed Red, as he had her grandmother.

            In Perrault’s tale, the story ends there. The little girl is done in by her naïveté, optimism, goodness, and simple innocence. In the Grimm version, as well as French and traditional German versions, an alternate ending softens the blow for the reader, providing a lumberjack or a hunter to come to the rescue and cut open the wolf, releasing Riding Hood and her grandmother. Perrault’s story seems more authentic, however. It is ironic that after the original tale was written, others would want to soften the terrible consequences of evil people and dilute the very message of evil that the original writer aimed to warn against. Perrault must have turned in his grave.

            The uniquely European tale of Little Red Riding Hood, though originally penned in 1697 by Charles Perrault, is neither obsolete nor dated. In fact, it is as modern and relevant as tomorrow’s newspaper. It is currently being retold in the case of Amanda Knox, a modern day Red Riding Hood.

            On November 2, 2007, a naïve, idealistic and innocent American girl made a tragic mistake when she unexpectedly encountered a wolf on the trail, far from her own village. Instead of realizing the danger of her situation and how far she was from home, she remained where she was, even at the pleading of her mother to leave. This allowed the Wolves time to set a trap. Instead of recognizing that the prosecutor and police she dealt with were Wolves intent on devouring her, she remained in ‘the woods,’ confident that she was helping honorable people. 

          Amanda was pretty, well-raised, polite, courteous and compassionate. These qualities were exploited as vulnerabilities by the prosecutor, Giuliano Mignini, himself once sentenced to prison for malfeasance.

           The Wolves took the information she gave them and used it to hurt others and swallow her whole. The people she was trying to help turned on her, and in one of the greatest travesties of justice in the modern world, they took Amanda’s words, twisted them, then created or “found” flawed, formulated and false evidence to convict her and her boyfriend of the murder of her best friend in Italy. A murder that all evidence proves was committed by a burglar well-known to the prosecutor.

In the original tale by Perrault, there was no rescue for the innocent little girl. The story ended when the evil wolf devoured her. Later, Continental and British versions of the story ended with the rescue of the poor girl at the last second. We are soon to see which ending of Amanda’s European tragedy we will see from Italy.

        Why did Amanda not recognize the danger? For the same reason Red Riding Hood didn't recognize the Wolf. Evil often masquerades as good. Wolves don’t always show their ‘big teeth’ and ‘big eyes.’ Frequently, they present with soft words, warm smiles, and feigned concern. And who are most vulnerable to this ruse? Ironically, those among us that are the most innocent. How tragically ironic that innocence itself is used to force the mask of guilt on blameless people.

           Charles Perrault wrote his stories less as entertainment than as cautionary tales. To ensure that no doubt was left regarding a story’s meaning, he explained them in detail. Of “Le Petit Chaperon Rouge,” known to us today as “Little Red Riding Hood,” Perrault explained as if reading from our headlines today:

          “From this story one learns that children, especially young lasses; pretty, courteous and well-bred, do very wrong to listen to strangers, And it is not an unheard thing if the Wolf is thereby provided with his dinner. I say Wolf, for all wolves are not of the same sort; there is one kind with an amenable disposition – neither noisy, nor hateful, nor angry, but tame, obliging and gentle, following the young maids in the streets, even into their homes. Alas! Who does not know that these gentle wolves are of all such creatures the most dangerous!


            Can Penn State really handle the truth? If not, they’ve just made a terrible mistake. 

          They’ve engaged former FBI Director Louis J. Freeh to conduct an in depth investigation into the actions and the failures to act which resulted in the magnitude of the current Sandusky melt-down at Penn State.Here’s a suggestion from somebody who’s worked for Director Freeh, to anybody who has failed to report a crime, concealed or abetted Sandusky’s horrible acts, fallen short of complete candor, fallen short of the responsibilities of an honorable man or woman, or just turned a blind eye at an opportune moment: Run. Run like the wind. No, forget that; he’ll find you. Come clean now. Fall on your sword. Beg for mercy. Save what little you have left.

          I remember vividly in 1994 when Director Freeh sent a letter to every agent in the FBI, a letter which became famous as the “Bright Line” letter. In it, the director made reference to the fact that there seemed to be some “gray areas” in the FBI where unethical (but legal) behavior by agents was tolerated or even concealed. In his letter, Director Freeh advised the corps of agents that in order to ensure that there were no “gray areas,” he was by that document drawing a “bright line” over which we could not cross without termination and, if appropriate, prosecution.Specifically, many of the offenses for which agents would be summarily terminated were not necessarily against the law, but were ethically below the standards the public would expect from the FBI. As an example, a lie in any administrative investigation, (say you stopped at the store in your FBI car on the way home from the office and denied it), would result in immediate termination.

          "All of us in the F.B.I. must be held accountable for our actions,” he said, “and I have spent a great deal of time developing new policies standards, and guidelines for Bureau personnel….these policies apply to all F.B.I. employees equally -- including the Bureau's top officials.""Everyone should understand that there is no room in the F.B.I. for inattention to duty, lethargy, laziness or other derelictions," he wrote. "There are no snug harbors for those in the F.B.I. whose job it is to fight crime and protect the people. F.B.I. executives who fail to carry out their high levels of responsibility will by their conduct forfeit their positions."

          In case you think that this memo was just so much talk, consider that Louis Freeh reported himself to the Deputy Attorney General for losing his FBI-issued cell phone, and when the loss  was swept under the rug as a courtesy by DOJ, Freeh made an official recommendation that he be given a letter of censure (which he received), the standard punishment for street agents for this infraction. The message, “No one is above the law.”In short, this is a man of colossal personal integrity who expects it from others. From my few times interacting with him, I also believe him to be a man of immense empathy for victims of crime. Woe to the person who shrinks from responsibility or callously hurts others.

          This is the man who has been chosen by Penn State to get to the bottom of what has caused a moral China Syndrome in State College, Pennsylvania. Penn State administrators should also know that Louis (“Louie”) raised four boys of whom he was very protective. He is also on the Board of Directors of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, and a former federal judge.

          Initially Penn State had decided that the scandal would be investigated by a committee of PSU trustees headed by Kenneth Frazier, the CEO of Merck pharmaceuticals. The decision for a university to self-investigate and tell the truth about a 13 year period when they failed to self-investigate and tell the truth did not sit well with the public. I personally believe that Mr. Frazier would likely have conducted a fair and impartial investigation, based on what I have learned of him. However, establishment of an in-house investigative committee was just the latest in a series of bonehead moves by PSU. Regardless of Mr. Frazier’s integrity, the message sent by an in-house investigation undermined the rhetoric of vigilance voiced by the university. Such an investigation would never possess an air of legitimacy. The choice of Freeh, however, is a convincing step. Somebody at Penn State really wants to get to the bottom of this. Bad.

          Freeh’s team will consist of former FBI agents, former U.S. attorneys and prosecutors and investigators with experience in pedophilia and sexual predators. The team will interview all individuals involved in the scandal as well as go through university records and documents going back to 1975."I'm tasked with investigating the matter fully, fairly, and completely, without fear or favoritism, including the board of trustees," Freeh said."The special committee ensured us total independence."Freeh will also look into the Penn State University police, their role, practices, and investigative procedures. Obviously, where there is smoke, there is fire, and frankly, there’s a mushroom cloud over PSUPD right now. I ran the uniform and the investigative division of a major university’s public safety department for over two years. I know the pressures that can be put to bear on a department. If the police department fails the university, it fails it in ways that create immense damage.

          When the Freeh investigative team has completed their work, the public can be sure that every single detail will have been pulled out into the light of public scrutiny. Beginning, as he said he would in 1975, could signal the extent of the detail of this investigation.You know when you’re looking for your watch, you tend to find a few other things you’ve been looking for? Penn State should also know that it is likely that if anything was not completely right at Penn State from 1975 until the present (36 years), it will be found by this committee.

          When a cancer surgeon removes a malignancy, he must make sure he has good “margins,” meaning that even questionable tissue is removed so that there is no chance that any malignancy remains. If he or she is not diligent, the cancer returns just as vigorously as the first time, this time spreading to other organs, and the patient will usually not survive. Louis Freeh’s investigative report will ensure that the cancer is identified right out to safe margins. Whether or not Penn State decides to do a complete surgery will decide the university’s future.Only one question remains to be answered, “Can Penn State handle the truth?”