In the wake of a terror attack, we always look to find who was responsible, and the answer is always the same: we all feel like we are partly responsible. In some way, everyone made mistakes and those mistakes all piled on to allow something so horrible to happen. The government, the people and law enforcement all bear some responsibility.
But in the Orlando case, the Department of Justice and the FBI bear a lot of responsibility, as there were several mistakes of the FBI that are clear already:
- The terrorist Mateen was interviewed by the FBI the first time. He was interviewed because of things he said to co-workers; he had suggested to his co-workers that he had terrorist ties, and they reported this to the FBI. The FBI began an investigation, but after interviews and background research, no ties to terrorists were found and the investigation was closed.
- The FBI then interviewed him AGAIN one year later, when it was found that he had some connection to Moner Mohammad Abusalha, an American who traveled to IS and carried out a suicide attack. Again, after an investigation the FBI claimed they had found nothing substantial, and closed the investigation, allowing Mateen to keep his security job, and his firearms license.
- It is clear that little background research was done, as they failed to thoroughly interview his ex-wife, who has come forward about abuse and violent tendencies. After the attack, the information of his violent behavior seems clear. Additionally, his social media has shown clear anti-gay tendencies and if they had checked that, his radicalization would have been more obvious and could have worked to prevent this tragedy.
- Still looking at his background, they failed to make a simple connection to Mateen’s father who holds extreme views in regards to the Taliban. His father praised the Taliban and this would also have helped to fill the picture of Mateen as a potential terrorist.
- The FBI did not warn his employer or do anything to revoke his firearms license. At this point, a thorough investigation would have put him on some sort of watch list, but the FBI did not do that, and there was no mechanism to limit his access to guns.
- Beyond this, there was no way for them to block him from buying an assault weapon.
- Finally, the last mistake made by the FBI was in regards to releasing the transcript of Mateen’s call to emergency services. The initial release censored all information to the Islamic State. This was a poor decision that was met with outrage, even from Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House. They later released the full transcript, but the damage was already done. The people want a complete transparent investigation, but now the actions of the FBI have put that into doubt.
This is not the first time that the US Law Enforcement has dropped the ball.
Looking back to 2009, the Christmas Day underwear bomber was something that we all will remember.
It turns out that the bomber’s father was aware of his son’s radicalization and had warned the Untied States about his son. He went to the US Embassy in Nigeria and told senior officials that he was concerned about his son. This was not enough to be put on a watch list or the no fly list, and if it weren’t for an incompetent bomber, that would have been another preventable tragedy.
Not everything here is the fault of the FBI. The investigation was poorly executed, but remember that hindsight is 20/20. At the time, maybe he did not seem to be a serious terrorist, but we all can agree that with the evidence they had, he should have been on some sort of watch list.
But for the gun-related issues, being on a watch list would not do anything.
On Monday, the Senate rejected FOUR different bills that would impose some form of gun control, including one that would ban suspected terrorists from buying weapons. So the FBI’s hands are tied on preventing access to weapons.
But the FBI needs to be very clear and straight forward in the remainder of their investigation to regain the public’s trust, and keep the focus of the investigation, and the results that they yield, objective.