Obama’s FBI Shrugs off Mateen, But Red Flags Were Everywhere

The battle to control the Omar Mateen storyline rages on, as the Obama Administration seeks to portray him as a force of nature – an utterly undetectable, “self-radicalized,” “lone wolf” who was hermetically sealed from the world of Islamic radicalism.

We’re told he had no connections, and left no footprints leading up to the door of the Pulse nightclub in Orlando… even as stories continue popping up, several times each day, about warnings that were passed along to the FBI by concerned co-workers and citizens.

When FBI Director James Comey was asked if the FBI could have done anything differently in the Mateen case, he replied, “So far, the honest answer is, I don’t think so.” Critics look at the mounting pile of evidence to the contrary, and wonder if our counter-intelligence agencies are still blindfolded and straitjacketed by the political correctness embodied in Obama’s ‘Countering Violent Extremism‘ or ‘CVE’ rules. 

The absurdity of the Administration’s “self-radicalized” narrative should already be obvious to anyone paying the least attention to Mateen’s background. Knowing that Mateen’s mosque also produced a suicide bomber who drove a truck bomb into a Syrian restaurant in 2014 makes it even harder to swallow the Sudden Jihad Syndrome narrative.

On Thursday night, ABC News reported that a Florida gun store owner tried to alert the FBI after a “very suspicious” man, later identified as Mateen, attempted to purchase body armor and ammunition from his store. The owner overheard Mateen making a phone call in a “foreign language” right before he asked about the bulk purchase of ammo.

After submitting this report and some poor-quality surveillance footage to the FBI, the gun store had a “follow-up conversation” with agents, but according to ABC’s report, they “never visited the store or investigated further.”

As Lotus Gunworks owner Robert Abell said, Mateen “slipped through the cracks” – and so did the person he was talking to in a foreign language on his cell phone, right before he asked about buying bullets in bulk.

The Hill reported on Friday that the FBI was “investigating a group of Middle Eastern men buying police gear” from Lotus Gunworks at the time they filed their report about Mateen. These other individuals turned out to be “security guards.” Mateen worked for a security company too.

It’s true enough that a report without any positive identification, and only grainy security camera footage of the man who turned out to be an Islamic State jihadi, there might not have been much to make out of this one report, but that was hardly the only indication that Mateen was a suspicious individual.

As the Wall Street Journal chronicles, this is a man who claimed Osama bin Laden was his uncle after the 9/11 attacks; threatened to kill his classmates a few years later because his hamburger touched a piece of pork at a barbecue; was escorted from an academy for corrections officers because he talked about shooting fellow students who mocked him for being Muslim; told his co-workers at the St. Lucie County Courthouse that he had ties to al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and the Boston Marathon bombers; expressed a desire to die as a “martyr” fighting the police; went through two interviews with the FBI; ranted about jihad online; watched videos from al-Qaeda’s guru Anwar al-Awlaki; and was reported to the FBI by DisneyWorld in April because they (correctly, according to Mateen’s wife) believed he was scouting the park for a terrorist attack.

How can Comey possibly say the FBI played its cards right by ignoring all that – and more, if one digs into his scholastic disciplinary records? He isn’t doing much to allay suspicions that all those red flags were ignored deliberately, because pursuing them was considered insensitive by the government that just told its analysts to avoid using touchy words like sharia and jihad.

Politico’s article on the FBI controversy mentions two other disturbing reasons the red flags were overlooked.

First, there’s the problem of manpower, with the government lacking the resources to keep tabs on every suspicious individual. Comey has complained about that manpower shortage to Congress on several occasions, saying that careful surveillance of each serious terrorism suspect requires a sizable team of agents.

That sounds like a compelling argument against bringing in fresh shipments of migrants the FBI won’t be able to keep tabs on, but of course the Obama Administration is hell-bent on doing so, with the President sneering at anyone who expresses reservations.

It’s also cause to wonder if our counter-terrorist agents are over-relying on Internet tracking, which has proven successful at bagging quite a few jihadis before they could launch their attacks – you’ll hardly ever see a terror-bust announcement from the Justice Department that doesn’t mention the suspect’s online activity as a major reason he was caught. Mateen did have some suspicious online activity, but it wasn’t the sort of direct communication with terror groups, their sympathizers, or undercover federal agents that usually triggers thorough investigations.

As Politico puts it: “There does seem to be substantial evidence that the FBI has been slow to grasp the changing nature of terrorism – and to counter the Islamic State’s skill at recruiting or exploiting vulnerable individuals. These critics say the tally of missed clues from Boston to Orlando is evidence that to a disturbing extent the FBI and intelligence community are still fighting the last war, one in which ‘radicalization’ follows a predictable path (e.g., growing a beard, praying more frequently) and the telltale signs of a terrorist in the making are organized links to terrorist groups and plans to travel abroad.”

Secondly, the Politico article cites Comey saying “the FBI’s concerns about Mateen were eased after a witness told the bureau that Mateen got married, had a child and found steady work.” They also seemed inclined to write him off as a blowhard because he expressed sympathy for both ISIS and terrorist groups opposed to it, including al-Qaeda and Hezbollah. Those are both very flimsy rationales for concluding a potential terrorist is not a threat. As Politico notes, it’s the kind of thinking that also led the Administration to miss the Tsarnaev threat.

It also suggests our government is willfully ignoring, for political-correctness reasons, the central role Islam and sharia law play in terrorist ideology. Mateen clearly thought the points of doctrine ISIS and Hezbollah have in common were important. If our counter-terrorism analysts are unable to understand those points of doctrine – and expressly forbidden from discussing them – they’ll never be able to get inside the head of the next Omar Mateen before he launches his attack.

President Obama’s juvenile tantrum about saying the words “radical Islam” perfectly capture the institutional blindness of the government he has shaped. He still won’t actually say the words, after delivering a lengthy tirade about how saying them is no big deal. He didn’t have anything to say about radical Islam at the Orlando memorial service on Thursday, although, of course, he found time to attack his political opponents, and law-abiding American gun owners.

We are far past the point where Obama, or anyone who works for him, should be allowed to shut down legitimate, probing questions by shouting “How dare you!”


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