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After the recent mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, FBI special agent Robert Lasky, head of the bureau’s Miami division, said he “truly regrets” the pain caused by the FBI’s failure to act on a tip about the shooter. The FBI supposedly had no way to trace the tip, then FBI boss Christopher Wray said the message had not been passed on to the Miami field office as official protocol required. This was all couched in passive verbs, and the FBI boss did not name the person who failed to pass on the message, nor did he explain why that person might have failed to do so.
The FBI also had ample warning about Omar Mateen but did nothing. On June 12, 2016, Mateen killed 49 people in an Orlando nightclub. Russian intelligence warned the FBI that Tamerlan and Dzokhar Tsarnaev were dangerous. The FBI failed to follow up and on April 15, 2013, the Tsarnaevs planted bombs at the Boston Marathon that killed three people and wounded at least 264. In 2008 the FBI knew that U.S. Army psychiatrist Nidal Hasan had been communicating with terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki about killing Americans. The FBI failed to interview Hasan or even consult his superiors. On November 5, 2009, at Fort Hood Texas, Hasan gunned down 13 unarmed American soldiers, including private Francheska Velez, 21, who was pregnant, and wounded more than 30 others.
When senator Joseph Lieberman sought to make the Hasan-Awlaki emails public, the FBI blocked their release. During Hasan’s trial, reporters asked Robert Mueller, FBI boss from 2001-2013, if the bureau had dropped the ball by failing to act. Mueller responded that the agents “took appropriate steps,” and expressed no regrets.
Relatives of the Florida victims can be forgiven for thinking that Lasky and Wray’s regrets were more about the publicity of FBI failures than the violent deaths those failures had abetted. The default response of bureaucrats is always to defend the bureau. In the case of the FBI, bureaucratic indifference leads to deadly consequences.