As director of the FBI, you would think that national security and preventing terrorist attacks would be pretty high on your priority list. After all, you swore an oath to protect this nation and its people at all costs. And yet, it seems that former director James Comey had other ideas about what his job was, such as the number of cases closed.
But does that number still count when the investigations were poorly processed and not adequately vetted? I think not.
And apparently so does the Department of Justice’s Inspector General Michael Horowitz. Last week he released his latest report on his investigation in the FBI and its former director. In it, he details that no less than six, and possibly more, domestic terrorism attacks happened on US soil that the FBI had information to prevent.
After the September 11 terrorist attacks on our nation, the FBI implemented a policy to find, investigate, and stop homegrown violent extremists or HVE. However, under the supervision of Comey, it seems many of these cases fell through the cracks in his rush to simply get cases closed.
Horowitz has determined that the HVE assessment processes have some rather severe “weaknesses.” Furthermore, it was noted that the FBI knew about these weaknesses and failed to do anything about them.
The report states:
“Following these attacks, the FB conducted reviews and determined there were weaknesses in its HVE assessment processes. However, we found that the FBI has not taken sufficient action to address these weaknesses. Additionally, in 2017 the FBI conducted an enterprise-wide review and identified potential terrorist threats that may not have been adequately assessed during calendar years (CY) 2014 through 2016, which amounted to 6 percent of the total assessments reviewed. We found that the FBI did not take adequate action on nearly 40 percent of these assessments for 18 months.”
It was determined that the FBI under Comey’s command had opened investigations into a number of possible domestic terrorists but closed them quickly, concluding them to be no threat. Only later, these individuals proved the FBI wrong and did, in fact, carry out their threats, injuring and often killing many US citizens.
Do you remember the attack at Ft. Hood on November 5, 2009, by Nidal Hasan? The FBI had information on Hasan that warranted an investigation be opened on January 1, 2009. But by June 17, 2009, the case was closed, saying he was no threat. And yet he went on to kill 13 people that year and injure more than 30 others.
And how could we forget the bombing at the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013? In 2011, the FBI opened a Guardian assessment into Tamerian and Dzhokhar Tsarvaev. These, too, were labeled as not being a danger and so the case was closed in June of that year. The bombing two years later killed three people and injured over 260 more.
The FBI also had intel about Elton Simpson, who was responsible for a shooting in Garland, Texas. Numerous investigations were opened and then closed shortly afterward. Luckily, this attack only injured one person while killing both Simpson and his partner.
Omar Marteen opened fire in the crowded Pulse Nightclub in June of 2016, killing 49 people and wounding over 50 more. And yet, once again, the FBI had already opened and closed on the investigation on Marteen.
And Ahmad Rahami carried out not one but two terrorist attacks in the US, one in 2015 and another a whole year later. The FBI had a case open on him in August of 2014, and a mere month later, it was closed. The FBI said, “No Nexus to Terrorism could be determined.”
In the Ft. Lauderdale Airport five people were killed and over 40 more injured when Esteban Santiago opened fire there in 2017. The FBI had a case opened on Santiago on November 8, 2016, and by the 30th of that same month, it was closed, saying he posed no national security threat.
IG Horowitz has since made recommendations to the agency, highlighting how future instances should be handled. These recommendations include the need for new and improved policies as well as “increased training for counterterrorism.”
Might I also suggest that James Comey be forced to issue in-person apologies to the individuals and family members of all those affected by these attacks? Maybe then he will realize, contrary to his previous statements, that he made mistakes that nothing can fix.