FBI UNDER FIRE OVER ORLANDO
The FBI is facing new scrutiny after it failed to prevent the weekend terrorist attack in Orlando despite conducting a fairly extensive investigation into the shooter.
FBI Director James B. Comey this week defended the bureau’s handling of security guard Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people and wounded 53 others in an Islamic State-inspired shooting spree, telling reporters that the agency would conduct a review of its handling of the Mateen case.
A Republican aide said the House Judiciary Committee is reviewing the FBI’s handling the Mateen investigation, and the panel’s chairman, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, Virginia Republican, has been briefed on the matter. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, is also conducting a review and wrote to the Department of Homeland Security and State Department this week requesting information on the shooter.
According to the FBI chief, Mateen became the target of an FBI terrorism investigation for 10 months after a co-worker reported in May 2013 that Mateen, who was working as a security guard at a local courthouse at the time, had made statements “about terrorism.” Mateen, the son of Afghan immigrants, claimed he was a member of al Qaeda and Iran-backed Hezbollah. Mateen also stated that he hoped law enforcement officers would raid his apartment and assault his wife and child so he could “martyr himself” in response, Mr. Comey said.
The probe was dropped after Mateen admitted making the statements, but claimed he made the remarks in anger after discrimination by co-workers for being a Muslim.
Two months after dropping the investigation that used confidential informants and electronic surveillance, the FBI in July 2014 again probed terrorist links between Mateen and an American suicide bomber who attacked in Syria. Mateen and the Nusra Front bomber went to the same Florida mosque. Mr. Comey said the FBI found “no ties of any consequence” between the two.
Further, an informant told the FBI during the 2014 probe that Mateen had mentioned watching videos by Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born terrorist and al Qaeda recruiter who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2011.
The shooting was the worst terrorist attack since Sept. 11, 2001, and struck at the heart of the FBI’s stated No. 1 priority: protecting the United States from terrorist attacks.
The FBI director promised to review the handling of the case and to “look hard at our own work to see whether there is something we should have done differently. … I don’t see anything in reviewing our work that our agents should have done differently,” he said.
However, the two investigations of Mateen should have found clues to his plot, critics say.
“The FBI has a documented track record of mishandling reports of credible derogatory information and failing to rigorously follow referrals from