Sen. Rand Paul Asks FBI Why Investigation into Omar Mateen Was Closed

Sean Rayford/Getty Images
Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is questioning why the FBI closed an investigation into radical Islamic Orlando terrorist Omar Mateen despite strong evidence that he was a threat to the United States of America.

Paul, during remarks to an intern lecture series in the U.S. Senate’s Russell Office Building that were closed to all but invited press, including Breitbart News, argued that Mateen was not on the terrorism watch list once the investigation concluded.

Paul’s remarks came in response to the Democratic-led filibuster from Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, where Murphy led a group of Democrats and some Republicans, including Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), to push for more gun control.

“I’m friends with Sen. Murphy, he and I have worked together on several resolutions with regards to war and with regards to foreign policy,” Paul said. “However, I’m not so sure he’s right on this issue.”

Specifically, Paul was referring to how Murphy was pushing for people on the government’s terrorism watch lists to be banned from buying weapons. After Paul surveyed the room by a show of hands asking if they felt that people on the terrorism watch list should or should not be able to buy guns, Paul then explained why the Democrats’ logic was off.

“So we have to ask why is it a good or bad idea? The first sort of impression from all of us is: Why the hell should a terrorist have a gun?” Paul said. “If you’re a terrorist, you shouldn’t have a gun. Then we have to ask: Well, how do they make the list and is everybody on the list a terrorist? This is a pretty important thing if you’re going to take away somebody’s rights.”

Paul then laid out how the terror watch list has “probably a million people on it” and “most live outside the country, or are foreigners” who don’t have constitutional rights. “But let’s say you’re here and you’re on the list: How did you get on the list?” Paul asked. He continued:

Well, let’s say you’re an Arab-American and you live in Dearborn and somebody living next to you says you’re praying five times a day and playing music in a language they don’t understand, and they think you’re a terrorist. The FBI gets this call, and the FBI investigates. While they’re investigating, you’re on the list. If you’re not a terrorist, they’ll figure that out and hopefully you’ll get off the list at some point. But for a while. you’re on the list. So if you’re on that list, should you have your freedom of speech taken away? You say, ‘Well we’re not talking about that, we’re talking about the Second Amendment.’ Well, is there a hierarchy—is one more important than the other? So you haven’t had any jurisprudence yet or due process. You’ve gotten off the ‘innocent until proven guilty.’ Well, you say we don’t want terrorists getting guns. We don’t. None of us want that.

So then Paul proceeded to lay out how despite the fact the Orlando killer was previously on the terror watch list, he was not on the list when he bought the guns—and therefore the Democrats’ gun control measures certainly would not have even helped in this matter.

“It wouldn’t have stopped the Orlando killer—no, he wasn’t on the list,” Paul said.

Paul is correct. “As the F.B.I. pieces together details of Mr. Mateen’s life, lawmakers and lobbyists are already questioning whether the authorities missed any leads,” the New York Times reported. “Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to Obama administration officials demanding information about Mr. Mateen, his family, and the dates he was on a terrorism watch list. James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director, has said Mr. Mateen was on a watch list during his investigation. Once it was closed, he was removed from the list, as is required.”

Mateen was under FBI investigation in 2013 and 2014. 

Paul, in his speech, continued by noting that there is a better way than the gun control measures put forward by Democrats to solve this problem.

So, really, if we hate the tragedy in Orlando where we see 50 people killed senselessly and another 50 people injured and we want to stop it, we should look at the facts,” Paul said. “The facts are he wasn’t on the list. Why wasn’t he on the list? Well, they closed the investigation. Well, then why did they close the investigation? At least once or twice he said he was going to kill people int he name of a version of his religion. He happened to know a suicide bomber—not many of us know a suicide bomber, or will get to know one—and traveled to Saudi Arabia. If you add all that up, and you do an investigation and you say ‘I can’t convict him,’ I understand that. The law is difficult. It’s hard to convict people. It doesn’t mean they’re innocent necessarily, it doesn’t mean they’re without suspicion. You say ‘why would I argue for leaving an investigation open’? That’s what I’m arguing for. Aren’t I the great defender of individual freedom and rights and everybody is innocent until proven guilty? Absolutely. But we’re talking about a conviction and we’re talking about an investigation. The level for an investigation is very low, is has to have  some reasonable suspicion.

So, Paul asks, “What happened here?”

“You’ve got all these things adding up and then they closed the investigation? So I asked the director of the FBI yesterday, I said, I’m not here to make accusations—I said ‘you are fallible, I am fallible,’” Paul said. “You make mistakes, we all make mistakes. It’s not really something  where I’m saying ‘the FBI did a rotten job when they closed this,’ but shouldn’t we at least ask: What would have happened had the investigation stayed open?”

If the investigation was still open, when Mateen went to purchase a weapon, the FBI would have been flagged as he made the purchase—which could have prompted them to investigate him again actively, even if previous leads went dormant or did not lead to a conviction.

Time Magazine wrote about the matter:

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. And if there’s an indication the suspect really is planning an attack, the probe can be converted to a full investigation. In Mateen’s case, the FBI got one extension of the preliminary investigation, then closed the case after a total of ten months. Two months later, however, Mateen’s name surfaced again, this time as an associate of an American who had gone to Syria and become a suicide bomber for an al Qaeda affiliate there. According to [FBI Director James] Comey, the two had known each other because they attended the same mosque, ‘but our investigation turned up no ties of any consequence between the two of them.’ In the midst of the massacre Sunday morning, Mateen expressed ‘solidarity’ with the suicide bomber on one of three calls with 911 dispatchers, Comey said.

As the revelation that several recent terrorist attackers—from the Boston bombers to the Orlando shooter, and many others—were previously under FBI investigation comes out to the forefront, Paul’s question as to why the FBI closed this investigation and others will likely play out more. Ultimately, it appears that Department of Homeland Security (DHS) whistleblower Philip Haney has the answer. It remains to be seen whether congressional Republicans will listen to Haney and move forward on this matter aggressively. 


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