June 16th, 2016

Failure to connect the dots on Mateen

We already know that the FBI had investigated Orlando shooter Omar Mateen twice, and that although he had made very suspicious remarks to his colleagues at work, nothing raised enough red flags to cause the authorities to take him off the job or even to continue to monitor him.

This is why:

Mateen first came to the FBI’s attention in 2013, when he was a security guard and co-workers heard him say he had connections to al Qaeda and Hezbollah, and that he hoped to martyr himself in a confrontation with the law, according to Comey. The FBI opened a preliminary investigation, which allows agents to conduct limited surveillance and searches, but not to use its most aggressive tools (like FISA or Title III warrants)…

Let’s just think about that for a moment. My first reaction is that this should have been more than a “preliminary investigation,” especially because this man was not employed at Burger King, he was a security guard in sensitive situations. But I suppose it might have mattered whether it was one person making the report (which could have been just a grudge thing, as far as the FBI was concerned) or many. In Mateen’s case it was obviously “many,” so the FBI doesn’t have that excuse.

This is what happened then:

Preliminary investigations of terrorist suspects can run for six months in search of evidence the person is a member of a terrorist group or is planning a specific terrorist attack. The agent on the case can get a six-month extension if he or she thinks there might be more to find…In Mateen’s case, the FBI got one extension of the preliminary investigation, then closed the case after a total of ten months.

Are they merely looking for official membership and/or a specific attack? Apparently there must be acts or plans for acts—sympathies are not enough, even for someone in a security position such as Mateen’s. It sounds rather similar to what happened with Nidal Hassan, the Ft. Hood shooter.

Now, I’m all for protecting citizens’ liberties and for innocent till proven guilty, and I don’t think thought-crime should be a charge. But somewhere along the line there must be more that can be done with people in positions of trust who have engaged in such obviously suspicious behavior. Should they lose their security clearances? Not be allowed to buy firearms? Is this a compromise of liberty that we should tolerate in the name of protection, or does it go too far and can be too easily abused?

At the very least, should they not be followed, rather than closing the investigations? Here are the current guidelines, which I think are obviously inadequate:

Murphy, the FBI’s former number two who worked with then-FBI general counsel Valerie Caproni in revising the bureau’s investigative guidelines, says they discourage agents from monitoring potential terrorists over the long-term. Those guidelines retained the requirement that any preliminary investigation that did not produce evidence of a crime must be closed after six months. “Someone should have been monitoring [Mateen’s] social media 24/7,” Murphy says. “but under the guidelines that is not allowed,” he says.

We are very sensitive to government intrusion, and I think we should be. But when someone has indeed expressed sympathies with violent terrorist groups and has demonstrated communication with members of such groups, I think ongoing monitoring (particularly of social media, which is not a private but a public thing) is absolutely warranted. If the problem is money, more funds need to be allocated. But the problem seems to not be money, but will.

I doubt that will change after Orlando.

Here’s another dot that was not connected:

The owner of a Florida gun store said Orlando nightclub shooter Omar Mateen tried to buy body armor and bulk ammunition from his store just a few weeks before the shooting but his staff turned him away.

“We knew by the questions he was asking he was suspicious,” Robert Abell, a co-owner of Lotus Gunworks in Jensen Beach, Florida, told ABC News…

An an alert salesperson refused to sell to Mateen, and Abell said he contacted authorities about Mateen before the massacre. The local sheriff’s office said it was unaware of the incident at the gun store, and other local authorities, including the local FBI office, have not responded to ABC News’ requests for comment.

Mateen got weapons (not body armor) from another store, as we know. But here’s a huge red flag that should have been connected to the previous red flags of the FBI investigations. Why not? Is it mere disorganization? Or is there another prohibition on putting two and two together and acting on it? Either way, this is a systemic problem that needs correction but probably won’t get it.

I feel a sense of outrage and frustration. It’s one thing to say that hindsight is always 20/20 and you can’t predict in advance. It’s true. And I want to protect our liberties. But this was the proverbial smoking gun, several times over. And it ended up with actual smoking guns and a lot of dead bodies of innocent people.

[ADDENDUM: See also this.]

39 Responses to “Failure to connect the dots on Mateen”

  1. Lizzy Says:

    Similar to the Boston Marathon bombers, huh?
    Even when these potential terrorists are reported to the authorities…nothing happens.

  2. j e Says:

    What is perhaps equally disturbing is the unhinged reaction on the left. Since, for true believers in the cult of diversity and multiculturalism, it is unthinkable that the attack be linked in any way with Islam, the cognitive dissonance thus engendered must find other targets to blame, whether it be the NRA, the Donald, or, most insanely of all, either Christianity or the Republicans (the last in what must be the most idiotic editorial ever published by the New York Times).

  3. DirtyJobsGuy Says:

    The problem is as always of proof of actually committing a crime. The San Bernadino couple actually did commit both violations of immigration (fake marriage) and gun laws (straw buyer and attempting to make the rifles full auto) but they were unknown or mild enough to avoid attention. Mafia types are generally violating laws all the time so constant surveillance can quickly scoop them up. But Terrorists are usually law abiding up to the moment as far as possible. Only an actual spoken threat against a specific target might be criminal by itself. As a citizen he could not be deported but no actual crimes were available to charge him with.

  4. neo-neocon Says:

    DirtyJobsGuy:

    Yes, but some sort of continued surveillance of Mateen would have picked up the weapons requests (armor, etc.) and the weapons purchase and perhaps that could have triggered some sort of further investigation and/or detention.

    It’s a difficult problem, I’ll grant you that, because you can’t just slam people in prison, or deport them because Mateen was a citizen (natural-born!)

  5. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    What evidence is there, other than their verbal assurances, that the administration wants a more effective evaluation of the Islamic threat?

    On the other hand there is a plethora of circumstantial evidence that they have done all they can to hinder effective evaluation and preventive measures of the Islamic threat.

  6. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    “Terrorists are usually law abiding up to the moment as far as possible. Only an actual spoken threat against a specific target might be criminal by itself. As a citizen he could not be deported but no actual crimes were available to charge him with.” DirtyJobsGuy

    True. Which is however, irrelevant to consequence once the crime is committed. It is the Imams and Mullahs who are fomenting the jihadist attacks on Western civilization. But there is no consequence for their acts and hate.

    Send them and their minions to hell “unclean” and by their own beliefs they are denied paradise and their virgins. Eliminate the incentive and you eliminate recruitment.

    Until Islam itself is identified as the source of ‘radical’ (ie devout) Islamic terrorism, the ‘Medusa’ will continue to assault us. Eliminate al Qaeda, eliminate ISIS and another terrorist group will emerge. And, for another 1400 years.

  7. vanderleun Says:

    “At the very least, should they not be followed, rather than closing the investigations?”

    Not enough people.

    Not
    nearly
    enough
    people….

    Think about the actual logistics of following one person, 24/7…. You need at the least 3 teams of 2 for each day of the week plus whatever staff is required for electronic (Phone and Net) surveillance. Those teams will all require at least one day off per week.

    All agents must be trained and maintained.

    How many are under “an FBI look see” at any given time.

    And all this in an atmosphere where looking even cross-eyed at a Muslim by law enforcement is, to say the least, frowned on by the administration…

  8. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    vanderleun,

    Yes, the FBI has close to a thousand investigations underway and since the feds consider “right wing extremists” and “domestic” terrorists to be as dangerous as Islamic terrorists, a considerable amount of the FBI’s resources have to be diverted to that area.

  9. neo-neocon Says:

    vanderleun:

    By “followed” I don’t mean “tailed.” For example, in the post I also wrote:

    I think ongoing monitoring (particularly of social media, which is not a private but a public thing) is absolutely warranted. If the problem is money, more funds need to be allocated. But the problem seems to not be money, but will.

    It doesn’t take much to follow a lot of people on social media. What to do about escalations of social media rhetoric and threats is the question. But it’s really rather simple to check out social media.

  10. Yancey Ward Says:

    I am going to go out on a limb and make a prediction- within the next month, a call will go up from all the media on the Left calling for the resignation of James Comey over the Orlando shooting. I leave it to the readers to guess the real motivation.

  11. Physicsguy Says:

    As others have indicated, the fish rots from the head down. As soon as Obama took office the priorities of the alphabet agencies changed to match the emperors wishes.

    This is just getting so routine why is anyone surprised or outraged anymore? It just adds to our malaise. Me…I’m sitting on the back deck with a dry martini and enjoying some summer weather. My give a damn is busted.

  12. Big Maq Says:

    “can be too easily abused?”

    This ^^^

    vanderleun hits on the most probable key determinant for how this comes to be.

    Having worked w LE, they are very budget oriented in how their resources get deployed. We always think their reach and access to information is greater than it is, probably because of what we see from TV and movies.

    Also, blaming them for not knowing what now looks obvious is analogous to blaming a sales team for not capturing a sale for one client when somewhere along the way a series of knowledgeable (and incentivized) people had to make a judgement between prospects on a list of possible sales leads, and deployment of their (limited number of) sales people.

    It may be true that it is a miss, but it is very difficult to identify a specific problem to fix. Given the lack of transparency (and need for some level of secrecy), we will probably never know, and that only adds to our frustration.
    .

    Challenge: Can anyone here outline a law that would have prevented this from happening that couldn’t be used by the left to target people on the right (e.g. gun ownership, religion)?

    I cannot think of one, atm… even investigating / monitoring Imams / Mullahs for their “acts and hate”, while appealing on some level, could be used, just like the Houston HERO laws, to request sermon transcripts from Christian pastors.

  13. Sharon W Says:

    Andy Mc Carthy’s book, Willful Blindness, exposed the existing incompetence and lack of follow-through that constituted our federal oversight of individuals and matters related to terror, prior to the first World Trade Center bombing. Unfortunately, not much has changed, as has been exposed in every attack since then. Our federal government STINKS at what should be its primary concern, the very reason it was created in the first place by our founders…border protection. The “willful” part of this can only be denied by the naive, in my humble opinion. Reading that book, years ago, only further supported my belief in God, because if I thought this government alone was responsible for our existence and well-being, I would be deeply troubled.

  14. J.J. Says:

    LE especially the FBI, is forced to be too politically correct. Ft. Hood, Chattanooga, Boston Marathon, San Bernardino, and Orlando all had a common thread – Muslims who showed signs of being radicals. But they are not allowed to give special attention to Muslims because…………Islamophobia.

    Money? Yes, it’s a problem. Too many suspects, not enough money to surveil them all. I ask, “What is the primary job of the Federal Government?” Yes, it is to protect us from all enemies, foreign and domestic. The money should be found – cut from education, energy, HHS, EPA, or any of the other many wasteful programs in government.

    It’s time to quit making this a law enforcement issue and treat it exactly like we did in WWII or the Cold War.

  15. Sharon W Says:

    JJ–All those alphabet agencies you cite, employ thousands of people, all made possible by the hardworking American taxpayer (and since Obama’s presidency, the printing press). Those “employees” have a huge motivation in painting any citizen whose primary concern is our national safety, as provided by our military, as __________, (fill in the blank), so many charges have been made against those with that concern. Aren’t we constantly chided that our fears are nonsense?

  16. neo-neocon Says:

    Big Maq:

    All laws can be misused, so you’ll never be able to draft one that can’t be used against innocent people, in this matter or any other matter. That’s why a lot of people believe it’s best to restrain the power of the government.

    However, this is a matter of the survival of our country against forces that are determined to destroy it. It is somewhat akin to Communism during the bulk of the 20th Century. I believe (and I’d have to look this up) that there were special laws that mentioned Communism—for example, if someone admitted to being a Communist, I don’t think they could come to this country, and there were even loyalty oaths at times (see the history of loyalty oaths in this country here). Loyalty oaths have mostly been struck down by courts, but nevertheless I wonder whether some version of it involving support for terrorism or statements such as the ones that Mateen made to his co-workers could at least have gotten him out of the security business and under greater surveillance.

    It’s a very knotty problem, though.

    I wrote this post a couple of months ago, which deals with some related issues, and this one that deals with immigration in connection with these questions (i.e. screening of immigrants).

  17. miguel cervantes Says:

    any further questions,

    http://www.breitbart.com/radio/2016/06/12/philip-haney-orlando-shooting-remarkably-similar-san-bernardino-theres-lot-overlap-two-networks/

    investigators are proscribed from following up leads,

  18. miguel cervantes Says:

    and five years earlier,

    http://dailycaller.com/2011/10/21/obama-administration-pulls-references-to-islam-from-terror-training-materials-official-says/

  19. miguel cervantes Says:

    it’s really bordering on enemy action,

    http://tammybruce.com/2016/06/dhs-muslim-advisor-accused-israel-of-involvement-in-september-11-attacks.html

  20. Roy Lofquist Says:

    Connecting the dots will not work.

    It’s quite simple, you know. It’s explained right here.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computational_complexity_theory

    In case you’re not into following links, here’ a brief excerpt:

    “To see why exponential-time algorithms might be unusable in practice, consider a program that makes 2^n operations before halting. For small n, say 100, and assuming for the sake of example that the computer does 10^12 operations each second, the program would run for about 4 × 10^10 years, which is the same order of magnitude as the age of the universe.”

    That 100 is the number of dots they’r talking about.

    Am I suggesting that someone if lying to us? Moi?

  21. Big Maq Says:

    “I wrote this post a couple of months ago, which deals with some related issues, and this one that deals with immigration in connection with these questions (i.e. screening of immigrants).” – Neo

    Thanks!

    Read your links – part1 talking about Andrew McCarthy’s writeup – as it happens, makes very similar points to what I heard from a former FBI Agent on a radio talk show on last night’s drive home (I forget his name).

    He likened the immigration screening that is needed to “criminal profiling” rather than on the “ideological” (that McCarthy uses – perhaps too much of a left vs right connotation), but he was clear that immigrants have to be screened for their acceptance of the fundamentals that make our society what it is (he also pointedly criticized racial and religious profiling as being ineffective, lest anyone think this is just about Muslims).

    Using such criteria for immigration is fair game.

    As for those who are citizens (vs those here legally – which are subject to immigration rules), it looks like the suggestions in the part II post amount to using existing laws, but adjusting policy, priority, and focus across local LE through to federal LE (e.g. Bloomberg’s policing policy).

    If I have the correct, then it is really back to vanderleun’s point which is that resources are lacking as is a sense of priority/focus (be it for PC reasons or not).

    I plead ignorance on what we already have on the books to judge if that is inadequate or not to find and deal with these people.

    Going beyond that, can there be a speech code that flags someone as “un-American”, “traitor”, “seditious”, or however we want to describe it, or does it need to be coupled with something more (i.e. some action beyond speech)?

    It seems “something more” is needed to keep the left from turning it around on us. If the fears expressed in these comments sections about Clinton are anywhere close to true, without some limiting principles in place, this should give pause.

  22. miguel cervantes Says:

    how has this detail not gotten sufficient notice,

    http://www.wsj.com/articles/orlando-shooter-traveled-to-saudi-arabia-on-trip-organized-by-nyu-center-1466122172

  23. Kae Arby Says:

    The problem here is that the system worked they way it was intended to. This isn’t a failure to connect the dots but is instead the administration, and all of the agencies that it oversees, are programmed to operate on The Narrative™; and The Narrative™ says that muslims cannot be terrorists. This is why Obama got so worked up about people calling him out for refusing to call Mateen a radical islamist.

    KRB

  24. Ymarsakar Says:

    Anybody connecting the dots against Islamic jihad, was fired or sanctioned/punished. Ft hood 1. Connect those dots to this one.

  25. miguel cervantes Says:

    honestly how many times do we have to see this rodeo, to get the drift from ft. hood to underwear bomber to boston to chattanooga to san bernardino to orlando,

  26. J.J. Says:

    Sharon W, your point is true. One more reason why the country is screwed. So many federal employees think a lot like Obama.

    My retired cop friend tells me that the essence of good police work is profiling. Where he worked 100% of the drug dealers were Hispanic. He didn’t waste his time looking at Anglos, Asians, or even blacks. Profiling isn’t bigotry, it’s common sense.

    How many non-Muslims have been involved in terror attacks since 2001? Only one that I know of – Dylan Roof in Charleston. (Some don’t consider him a terrorist, but the lefties do, so I’ll give ’em that one.) Including 9/11 there have been 3011 people killed in Islamic terror attacks here.

    Here’s a site that lists the Islamist terror attacks worldwide since 1983:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Islamist_terrorist_attacks
    Two things stand out. There were no fatalities here in the U.S after 9/11/2001 up to 1/7/2009. Since Obama took over there have been five successful Islamic terror attacks here.

    The other thing is the worldwide increase in terror attacks after 9/11. Especially in the last seven years. Obama’s assurances about getting the upper hand over the Muslim terrorists ring quite false based on that wiki compilation.

  27. AesopFan Says:

    Yancey Ward Says:
    June 16th, 2016 at 4:48 pm
    I am going to go out on a limb and make a prediction- within the next month, a call will go up from all the media on the Left calling for the resignation of James Comey over the Orlando shooting. I leave it to the readers to guess the real motivation.
    ***
    Something to watch for. How long shall we leave the investigation open?
    ***
    J.J. Says:
    June 16th, 2016 at 5:49 pm Too many suspects, not enough money to surveil them all. I ask, “What is the primary job of the Federal Government?” Yes, it is to protect us from all enemies, foreign and domestic. The money should be found – cut from education, energy, HHS, EPA, or any of the other many wasteful programs in government.

    It’s time to quit making this a law enforcement issue and treat it exactly like we did in WWII or the Cold War.
    ***
    You are right on the PC issue, but even more right on the priority challenge.
    As for “too many suspects not enough money” — when an active investigation “closes” for lack of hard evidence, how hard would it be to keep the suspects’ names on a list to be re-activated if anything new comes through (although the attempted weapons buy didn’t ping anybody, it seems).
    ***
    Kae Arby Says:
    June 16th, 2016 at 9:44 pm
    The problem here is that the system worked they way it was intended to. This isn’t a failure to connect the dots but is instead the administration, and all of the agencies that it oversees, are programmed to operate on The Narrative™; and The Narrative™ says that muslims cannot be terrorists. This is why Obama got so worked up about people calling him out for refusing to call Mateen a radical islamist.

    Ymarsakar Says:
    June 16th, 2016 at 10:11 pm
    Anybody connecting the dots against Islamic jihad, was fired or sanctioned/punished. Ft hood 1. Connect those dots to this one.
    **
    And it’s really hard to connect dots when the administration is busy erasing them.
    ***
    miguel cervantes Says:
    June 16th, 2016 at 7:08 pm
    any further questions,

    http://www.breitbart.com/radio/2016/06/12/philip-haney-orlando-shooting-remarkably-similar-san-bernardino-theres-lot-overlap-two-networks/

    investigators are proscribed from following up leads,

  28. miguel cervantes Says:

    so, nothing to see here,

    http://downstreampolitics.com/2016/06/15/orlando-killers-father-held-meetings-white-house/

  29. Barry Meislin Says:

    A decision has been made that it is better to have American citizens mowed down than to do anything that might be considered “racist”.

    A decision has been made to utterly overload the American police and security establishment with over-regulation and to prevent them from effective policing.

    The overloaded system will continue to be overloaded as thousands more immigrants are streamlined in (the “surge”, heh…)—for humanitarian reasons, of course—without anything near adequate vetting.

    A decision has been to overload the American economy and hamstring American business (e.g., “Affordable” medical care) so as to cripple the American economy.

    A decision has been made to cut the US military off at the knees, support and finance international terror sponsors and abandon former American allies.

    The MSM has embraced these decisions—and the lies (Obama/Gruber/Rhodes) used by the administration to justify them—to to the hilt.

    And people wonder why Trump is so popular….

    On the other hand, it would seem that the American people like being lied to. How else explain Obama’s puported levels of support (unless those are fictitious, too….)?

  30. Dave Stone Says:

    Since man walked upright, he has been searching for the ultimate weapon. From the rock, to the gun, to nuclear weapons, we all thought we had finally obtained the weapon for which there was no defense. It appears the followers of Islam have found it, some kind of pixie dust that it sprinkled on the rest of the world to blind it from danger, dulling the senses and the cognitive abilities so that regardless of the evidence, the human mind refuses to acknowledge it.

  31. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Couple of points:
    Okay, let’s presume the admin has decided to not protect us against Islamic terror. Or let’s presume the admin has not decided to protect us against Islamic terror. Or let’s presume that, with the best will in the world, the admin cannot protect us from Islamic terror.
    You’ll note that, in the wake of one of the preceding three, the admin’s push is to disarm us.
    They’ve proven over and over that one of the three is the case and now, having shown it again, they want to disarm us, too.

    Hilarilously, the left, the moderates, the libs, the progs, desperately wanted the perp to be Billy Joe Bob, a Southern Baptist, veteran, member of the NRA and Tea Party, and a supporter of Donald Trump.
    But he wasn’t.
    So what do we see? They’re pretending. It’s “us”. Not them, of course, the rest of “us”. It’s about toxic masculinity, and gun culture, and homophobia. Somewhere under that pile must be Billy Joe Bob.
    Lynch has overruled Comey and made the no-fly list the no-buy list. It’s mysterious, unaccountable, and nearly impossible to find out why one’s on it, much less get off. Anybody who comes to the attention of the Emperor could be on the list.

  32. amr Says:

    Two problems: Too many potential terrorists for the FBI to handle. The administration forces the FBI to be PC about Muslim’s civil rights. Solution: Declare war per the Constitution on Radical Islamic terrorism which would make those in the US who declare themselves allies/sympathizers of the terrorist organizations enemies of America and subject to arrest and imprisonment until the end of the war (what GITMO was supposed to do). Camps could be set up in the SW desert. Unlike what we did to the Japanese in WWII where all were put in camps, innocent Muslims would retain their civil rights, but not acknowledged potential terrorists. but this will never happen in our PC world. Instead the Left will continue to attempt to deprive all Americans of their Constitutional rights under the 2nd and 5th Amendments with such legislation as the unconstitutional no fly law

  33. DSmith2 Says:

    Face it, America, you’re going to have to do this yourself. Your gov’t will not help you, and will in fact try to hinder you.

    Arm up. Urge your friends and family to do the same. Eschew “gun-free” zones. Yes, I know that is inconvenient. But it’s the only answer that is actually possible. The rest is fariy-dust.

  34. Joe mama Says:

    Just think, if he started a conservative non-profit he would have been investigated more thouroghly.

  35. neo-neocon Says:

    joe mama:

    Thread winner.

  36. J.J. Says:

    The Federal Government: If you see something, say something.

    Joe Sixpak: I see something Muslim.

    Federal Government: Bigot!

  37. Big Maq Says:

    One thought:

    Even though he was not on a no-fly list, could the purchase of a firearm have at least flagged him for yet another review by the FBI?

    The no fly list becoming a no buy list is a thorny issue, but having some feedback into the FBI to flag a need to follow up could be done without law change.

  38. Ymarsakar Says:

    but having some feedback into the FBI to flag a need to follow up could be done without law change.

    The FBI is under the control of CAIR advisors and political commissars. They aren’t allowed to “follow up” on anything legit. And those that do, are eliminated in various creative ways.

  39. Ymarsakar Says:

    The time and capability to declare war on Islam and Leftist traitors to humanity and America, was during Bush II.

    Even under a Trump, his hands will be tied due to DC. People just missed the boat and train. Maybe it’ll come back later, but a lot of the work will have to be done at the grassroots individual level. You can’t outsource it to DC or police to do it for you, not that you ever should have, of course.

    So others are right, if you want security done, do it yourself. Relying on the military and the police to protect you, is what sheep want and deserve, and it is sheep that deserves to be culled as livestock under the Hussein Regime.

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