As security experts have gotten smarter and better at protecting government, corporate and military facilities from being attacked, Islamic radicals and others have turned their attention on the rest of us–the so-called “soft targets” like the patrons of the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, site of the latest unspeakable tragedy. No use mentioning the shooter’s name. You know who he is but, as of this writing, I don’t know a single name of any victim. That’s life in the 21st century. As horrible as this mass murder was, we’ve sadly seen it all before.
It’s only the latest example–terrorists, foreign and domestic, have attacked coffee shops and theaters in Paris, day care clinics in Colorado, and an airport terminal in Belgium. It’s easy to spot and pick out “soft targets” because they are everywhere crowds of people congregate.
So what are we to do? The easy answer is don’t go out, avoid anywhere crowds of people congregate, from concerts to nightclubs to subways. But that’s unreasonable, right? It is getting harder and harder and the lines are getting longer and longer at concerts, sporting events but it’s the price we pay for safety. Probably the longest line I’ve ever stood in for a concert was for Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam who wrote the song “Peacetrain.” How’s that for irony? But because he’s a Muslim, he’d gotten threats. I’ve never had a more expansive pat down than at the Cat’s Philadelphia concert in 2014.
It seems to me that no amount of security will stop a determined radical with an automatic weapon. I don’t know what the security was in Orlando but, even if it is was the best in the world, you cannot stop a crazy man with an AK-47.
I guess that leaves it to the rest of us and, for an example, we can look to the brother of singer Christina Grimmie, coincidentally gunned down and murdered Friday night in Orlando. Christina’s brother charged the gunman and is being hailed as a hero for preventing further carnage. He’s an example to the rest of us. Our lives are now in our hands and, if you happen to be unfortunate enough to be present when someone attacks, the best course of action may be to charge the gunman. I’m no security expert but, unless you’re standing next to the exit door, what other choice do we have?
People across the country have expressed shock and/or outrage that Omar Mateen was able to murder 49 patrons of a gay nightclub even though the FBI conducted a 10-month investigation of him in 2013 after he reportedly told co-workers he was connected to terrorists. To quote the New York Times story:
“First he claimed family connections to Al Qaeda,” which, like the Islamic State, is a Sunni Muslim terrorist group, James Comey, the F.B.I. director, said Monday. “He also said he was a member of Hezbollah,” a Shiite group in conflict with Al Qaeda and the Islamic State.
“He said he hoped that law enforcement would raid his apartment and assault his wife and child so that he could martyr himself,” Mr. Comey said.
“Our investigation involved introducing confidential sources to him, recording conversations with him, following him, reviewing transactional records from his communications,” and searching government records for mentions of him, the director said. “We then interviewed him twice. He admitted making the statements his co-workers reported, but explained that he did it in anger because he thought his co-workers were discriminating against him and teasing him because he was Muslim.”
If you’re tempted to say “Wow, how can the FBI be so inept?” a history lesson is in order. Consider that this is the same agency (along with the CIA) that allowed Lee Harvey Oswald to assassinate President John F. Kennedy after interviewing Oswald and keeping tabs on him for years.
First off, the FBI did not have nearly as many home-grown terrorists to keep track of back in the early 1960’s when most Americans sought stability after the horrors of WW II. Secondly, how could the agency not be aware of Oswald? The guy practically walked around with a neon sign around his neck that said, “Kick me, I’m a Communist.”
In the Cold War era, Oswald traveled to the Soviet Union, tried to defect and, when refused, married a Soviet citizen. Oswald also traveled to Mexico and visited the Soviet and Cuban Embassies. When he was refused a Visa, Oswald reportedly stormed out saying, “I’m going to kill Kennedy for this.” Know who wrote the memo relating this story? Um, J. Edgar Hoover, the uber boss of the FBI. All this information, by the way, comes from the book “A Cruel and Shocking History: The Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination” by former New York Times reporter Philip Shenon. The book came out in 2013 and largely relates all that the FBI and CIA hid from the Warren Commission, the body that looked into the Kennedy Assassination.
The book also recounts the story of how Oswald reacted to the FBI trying to interview his wife Marina. Oswald reportedly wrote a note to the FBI agent involved telling him he would blow up the FBI headquarters in Dallas. The agent later told reputable sources that he was ordered to destroy that note after JFK’s assassination.
It’s no comfort to know that the FBI has been screwing up as long as it’s been interviewing potential terrorists but it is instructive.