Omar Mateen, the man who killed 49 Americans at a gay nightclub, emerged from a network of radical mosques that are shielded from federal investigators, a retired Homeland Security investigator said Tuesday.
The June 14 warning came the day after FBI Director James Comey admitted that FBI investigators studied the killer twice, but “our investigation turned up no ties of any consequence” between the killer and other jihadis.
FBI agents were helpless to stop Mateen because of the professional guardrails imposed by Obama’s deputies, said Philip B. Haney, who was one of the first investigators at the office that would grow into the Department of Homeland Security.
The guardrails were officially established in the 2012 “The FBI Guiding Principles: Touchstone Document on Training.” The guidelines say;
Extremist speech rarely is [consequential enough for an investigation] unless it incites imminent lawless activity or constitutes a true threat…
FBI training must emphasize the protection of civil rights and civil liberties … [a suspects’s] mere association with organizations that demonstrate both legitimate (advocacy) and illicit (violent extremism) objectives should not automatically result in a determination that the associated individual is acting in furtherance of the organization’s illicit objective(s)…
[FBI] Training must focus on behavioral indicators that have a potential nexus to terrorist or criminal activity, while making clear that religious expression, protest activity, and the espousing of political or ideological beliefs are constitutionally protected activities that must not be equated with terrorism or criminality absent other indicia of such offenses…
Relevant training material and feedback must be solicited from other agencies or FBI audiences who have received training, and when feasible, feedback should be solicited from knowledgeable community partners [including Islamic political groups].
Based on these restrictive standards, it would have been virtually impossible to justify an FBI investigation or extensive surveillance of Mateen, even though a simple Internet search shows Mateen’s close ties to radical mosques, Haney said.
Mateen belonged to a mosque called the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce, alongside the first American suicide bomber in Syria, Moner Muhammed Abu-Salha. The mosque’s parent organization is Rahmat-e-Alam, which is a network of mosques that includes the mosque used by the shooters in San Bernardino, Haney said, adding that he made these connections by following the links on the Internet. In turn, Mateen’s father was the executive director of the mosque, which is also directly affiliated with the Sharia Board of America, now called just “Islamic Social Services,” he said.
“The word ‘sharia’ should be an immediate warning,” Haney said. “Sharia law is illegal in the United States because it is in complete conflict with the Constitution.”
Since the massacre, Obama has tried to redirect the media towards peripheral aspects of the disaster — gun-control, disputes over rights for gays, and GOP opposition to Obama’s spending programs. So far, there’s been little media attention paid to the curbs imposed by Obama on federal investigators.
Haney’s own career showed how Obama’s deputies have shut down investigations and research into the various Islamic groups in the United States.
Trained in entomology, the study of insects, Haney said he approached every national security investigation the same way he was trained: “I follow the trail until I find the nest.”
Early in the Obama administration, Haney’s bosses became concerned with the data that he was collecting about domestic terrorism threats that could be tagged with the search word: Muslim. Despite the pressure from his supervisors, Haney continued and was the subject of at least three professional investigations himself. “That is how I ended up in such an overtly adversarial relationship with my own agency,” he said. “I had the audacity to have targeted those individuals and those organizations and put that information into the law enforcement system.”
At one point during these investigations, Haney was asked to turn in his weapon and badge in front of his co-workers and then moved from his own office to a small storage room.
A subsequent investigation by the Inspector General was initiated by himself, Haney said. He had set up a meeting with the House Republican leadership pointing out his anxiety about how threats were handled. Instead of pursuing his leads or supporting Haney, the GOP House leaders told him to take it to the department’s Inspector General, he said. Unfortunately, once the IG got his request, the investigation became about him.
Haney’s access to documents inside the system, such as photos and correspondence, created a crisis for Homeland Security’s leadership, he said. Officials could either seek prosecutions or just ignore the alarming information, he said.
“But, ignoring it was a passive response,” he said. So Haney was ordered to delink his documentation from the profiles of individuals and organizations. It was a total of 850 files. “They ordered me to ‘modify,’ that was the euphemism,” he said.
In 2011, Haney’s bosses ordered a second purge of documentation, he said.
After 2012, DHS officials routinely shut down investigations over concerns for the civil rights of the individuals or organizations, Haney said.
The damage caused by Obama’s policies was exposed by the December 2015 massacre in San Bernardino, which came after Haney was forced out of the department.
Once Haney and his co-author of “See Something Say Nothing,” Art Moore, heard the news of the Dec. 2 massacre in San Bernardino, Calif., Haney immediately recognized that the terrorists, Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik, were part of a previous investigation that Obama administration officials has disrupted.
During that investigation, the officials deleted 67 critical documents related to what Haney believed was a Muslim-centric terror network that was connected through a system of affiliated mosques in the United States to a headquarters in India. “This time there was no euphemism, they just deleted the whole case,” he said.
If he had been allowed to stay in the DHS, finish his investigation and then take action, Farook would have been put on the no-fly list, said Haney. That would have prevented him from traveling to the Middle East and his jihad wife would have never been granted a visa.
Haney is a tall, lean man with a reedy voice that fluctuates when he asks rhetorical questions or starts setting up a point.
He lays out his case like a professor reciting the steps he used to solve a mathematical equation. His is not a passionate demand for action, rather a somber plea that men and women of reason understand the threats from both terrorists and the federal government’s willful neglect of our security.
The security analyst said he was not alone. He was just one of the many top subject matter experts on terrorist threats at various agencies, who were all neutralized by Obama’s deputies. Once the top experts were boxed up, the Obama administration went after the junior researchers and analysts until everyone was brought to heel, he said. Then, officials rolled out the new program called: “Countering Violent Extremism: Engaging and Dialogue.”
National security and law enforcement agencies were ordered to reach out to Muslim political activists and include them in the process. Officials ensured that the “terrorism” term was forbidden, as were other vital ideas, such as “jihad, all of which were replaced by a vocabulary that hid the unique nature of Islamic jihad under terms that are vague enough to include domestic political opponents of the Obama administration.