As online chatter about a Muhammad cartoon contest began to escalate last week, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a Joint Intelligence Bulletin last Thursday. The bulletin acknowledged the potential threat, but downplayed the possibility of any violence targeting the event.
The bulletin concluded that while the event could inspire violence abroad by contributing to terrorist messaging, it was “unlikely” that such violence would happen in the United States.
A copy of the FBI/DHS bulletin is provided exclusively by PJ Media below.
On Sunday night, two men — Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, roommates from Phoenix — did in fact show up at the event location in Garland, Texas, armed with semi-automatic weapons and body armor. Both were quickly killed in an exchange of gunfire before there was any direct threat to anyone inside the facility. One police officer was shot in the ankle — he was treated at the hospital and later released.
According to sources involved in the investigation into the terror attack and law enforcement preparations leading up to last Sunday’s event, there was virtually no online chatter about the cartoon contest until early last week.
The chatter began when news broke that two Muslim congressmen, Keith Ellison and Andre Carson, had appealed to Secretary of State John Kerry to deny entry into the U.S. for Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders.
Wilders was scheduled to be the featured speaker at Sunday’s cartoon contest.
One law enforcement source who was monitoring potential threats to the event told PJ Media the following:
[Ellison and Carson] clearly set things off. Nothing was being said until that news story came out, and then the usual suspects began to talk about it. By the time the weekend rolled around, there were clear and identifiable incitements calling for an attack on the event.
During this crescendo of online chatter, an FBI/DHS bulletin titled “‘Muhammad Art Exhibit & Contest’ in Texas on 3 May Likely to Prompt Violent Extremist Reaction Abroad; Violence Less Likely at Home” was sent out to law enforcement agencies four days before the event was held.
The bulletin initially acknowledges a potential threat existed following the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris in January and the attack on an event where a Muhammad cartoonist appeared in Copenhagen in February:
On 3 May 2015 the “American Freedom Defense InitiativeUSPER” (AFDI) is sponsoring in Garland, Texas a “Muhammad Art Exhibit & Contest,” for the stated purpose of “defend[ing] free speech and not give[ing] in to violent intimidation.” The FBI and DHS assess this motivation refers to deadly violent extremist attacks over recent months on institutions or events perceived as defaming the Islamic prophet, Muhammad. Although there is no specific, credible intelligence concerning threats to the event thus far, we assess that this event carries the risk of being targeted by violent extremists because past events involving the alleged defamation of Islam and the prophet, Muhammad, have resulted in threats or overt acts of violence overseas, to include threats against both artists and publishers.
But by the end of the FBI/DHS analysis, they conclude that since such attacks had not happened here yet, they were unlikely to now:
Although past events involving the alleged defamation of Islam and the prophet, Muhammad, have resulted in threats or overt acts of violence overseas, we have not yet seen such violence in the United States. The most frequent reaction among US-based homegrown violent extremists (HVEs) is discussion and verbal disapproval via online communication platforms, including websites with violent extremist content and social media sites.† We assess it is unlikely that any one event perceived to defame Islam would alone mobilize HVEs to violence; however, such events are incorporated into violent extremist messaging and narratives involving Western persecution of Muslims, which we do assess overall to contribute to radicalization to violence.‡ US-based HVEs remain largely unconnected to each other, and their behaviors are often highly individualized, impeding our ability to predict their reactions with a great deal of confidence. We also judge US-based HVEs and violent extremists in other Western nations who are skilled in information technology have the capability to carry out a cyber-intrusion attack against organizations or individuals perceived to be defaming Islam.
On Sunday night, that analysis proved to be wrong.
The bulletin concluded with a list of suspicious activities, which they warn could still be “constitutionally protected.”
A source I spoke to last night suggested that the conventional wisdom of federal law enforcement and homeland security agencies on the nature of the domestic terror threat is reminiscent of a pre-9/11 mentality:
These agencies are stuck in a belief that domestic terrorism is something that happens “over there” and that will never come here. They get reinforced by our media and academics who tell them that jihadist terror in Europe is something that only happens because of alienation and poverty — not realizing how dramatically things have changed over the past few years. Where we used to see individuals and small groups traveling overseas to fight with terrorists, virtually every Western country, including the U.S., now have hundreds who have joined the jihad in Syria and Iraq.
This bulletin they put out last week is an example of how analysis and threat assessment gets done. Rather than looking at what happened in Paris and Copenhagen and determining that the threat was escalating, they rely on preformed biases to spin the facts to fit their narrative to conclude there was no threat. My concern is that they are now going to look at what happened [Sunday night] and determine that it was a random one-off event rather than a warning sign of what’s quickly headed our way.
According to those close to the investigation, the real heroes who quickly eliminated the threat on Sunday were the Texas Department of Public Safety, who took the online threats seriously. The threats included inciting tweets from known foreign Islamic State operatives overseas (namely, IS cybercaliphate chief Junaid Hussain), leading them to deploy a “massive” presence at the cartoon contest event.
The response from the FBI and DHS following yet another intelligence failure remains to be seen.