The mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub that claimed 50 lives has once again revived the question of how the authorities could have missed warning signs from a perpetrator.
The FBI first became aware of Omar Mateen in 2013 when he made comments to coworkers “alleging possible terrorist ties.” The feds interviewed Mateen three times in connection with his remarks — which may have assumed more than casual importance in light of his employment by a security company that guards government buildings, and Mateen’s ambitions to become a police officer.
Mateen was later removed from a terror watchlist after it was determined that he had broken no laws. The rest is history.
It joins abundant precedent. The father of the so-called underwear bomber warned by U.S. authorities of his son’s intentions to attack America, but they fell through the cracks.
The Russian government warned U.S. authorities the Boston Marathon bombers were radical Islamists more than a year and a half before they killed many and maimed more. As with Mateen, the feds found that no laws were violated. The brothers were sent on their way until they reappeared with a blast.
The Pentagon failed to recognize numerous signs that Fort Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan was up to no good and communicating with terrorists.
The extensive arsenal, recent Middle East travel, and correspondence with Islamist extremists of Syed Rizwan Farook did nothing to alarm the FBI before he and his wife massacred 14 people at a Christmas party in San Bernardino.
The famous complaint of Admiral David Beatty at Jutland — “something is wrong with our bloody ships today” — surely must apply to the State Department after 600 requests for security upgrades from the Benghazi consulate failed to rouse Secretary Clinton to action. When asked how she could fail to see a telegraphed punch, Clinton could only say: “What difference, at this point, does it make?”
The most disturbing aspect of recent terror attacks is that the authorities were taken by surprise each time despite advance warning. This serial failure undercuts the administration’s claim to competence.
This is something the non-expert public understands. Suppose someone came to you claiming he was a brain surgeon. Even if you were not a doctor but had questions only a brain surgeon could answer correctly, you could evaluate the “brain surgeon” by giving him one exam and another to the cleaning person in the hallway. If they scored the same, you would begin to suspect the brain surgeon might be fake.
If the cleaning person continually outscored the “brain surgeon,” a rational employer would consider hiring that person as head of surgery, which possibly explains the rise of Donald Trump.
The administration’s demand for more gun control crucially rests on the claim of competence.
The argument that it is better to rely on state protection than on individual self-defense is only worth having if things work as advertised. But if the administration fails to push back against hostile ideologies and screen refugees, opens the borders, and refuses to heed obvious warnings, the administration has effectively disabled the regulars and you are left with the militia.
A political elite whose national security philosophy is “bring the boys home” has unfortunately imported the enemy ideology home as well.
The failure to anticipate consequences has allowed an outside threat to become an insider attack, and that has weakened the Obama administration’s claim to public trust. “Jump, I’ll catch you” is credible only when the fireman’s net is not surrounded by mashed bodies.
If the Second Amendment didn’t exist, it might have to be invented to meet the current situation.
The more incompetent the Obama administration becomes, the less convincing its demand for public disarmament will be. Conversely, the more competence the administration demonstrates, the more likely the public is to entrust its safety to it.
Historically, state failure drives civilian armament, not the other way around. Perhaps the clearest example of this trend is Lebanon, where the inability of the central government to protect the sectarian communities has led each to protect itself. While America is not Lebanon, the same principles hold true: competence inspires confidence, and there is precious little competence in the administration.
The president has addressed the nation in the aftermath of terror attacks far too often. His assurances that America can absorb such attacks because he’s smarter and tougher than the terrorists fall flat, as they come in the wake of announcements that the government, again, had the suspects in their grasp before letting them go.
The administration has a security model that is not working. The FBI is looking for ordinary criminals and “hatemongers.” Armed with these descriptions, they keep letting the usual suspects go because they don’t fit the bill. Yet time and again they come back as a surprise.
Maybe the greatest trick Islamic terrorism ever pulled was convincing Obama it didn’t exist.
Follow Wretchard on Twitter
Recently purchased by readers:
Crisis of Character: A White House Secret Service Officer Discloses His Firsthand Experience with Hillary, Bill, and How They Operate, Former Secret Service officer Gary Byrne exposes the truth behind Hillary, Bill, and their public facade. Book to be released on June 28, 2016, pre-order now.
Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It, Author Chris Voss, a former FBI international hostage negotiator, takes you inside the world of high-stakes negotiations and reveals the skills that helped him and his colleagues succeed where it mattered most: saving lives. This practical guide shares the tactics and strategies you too can use to become more persuasive in both your professional and personal life.
The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own, Author Joshua Becker shows you why minimizing possessions is the best way to maximize life.
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, Business reporter Charles Duhigg explains the science of habit formation and change and shows that by harnessing this new science, you can transform businesses, communities and lives.
America in Retreat: The New Isolationism and the Coming Global Disorder, Pulitzer Prize–winning columnist Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal makes a powerful case for American re-engagement abroad.
Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with your friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.
The War of the Words, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres
Rebranding Christianity, or why the truth shall make you free
The Three Conjectures, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age
Storming the Castle, why government should get small
No Way In at Amazon Kindle. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.
Storm Over the South China Sea, how China is restarting history in the Pacific
Tip Jar or Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the Belmont Club