It is Time for Common Sense, Not Political Correctness

It is Time for Common Sense, Not Political Correctness

In the devastating wake of yet another bloody terrorist attack in Orlando, it is time for Americans to pause and clinically assess our present laws and policies governing terrorist watch lists, gun purchases, background checks, terrorist investigations and sustained surveillances. The value of these protocols and laws, both as a specific deterrent and as effective investigative tools, must be examined against the confirmed facts of Omar Mateen’s life and the confluence of circumstances that led up to June 12th and his cold-bloode d slaughter of 49 Americans. Mateen’s trajectory from cheering victoriously on 9/11 to opening fire at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando at 2am last Sunday, is rife with warnings, red flags, clues and validated third party statements attesting to his penchant for violence, radicalized Islamic beliefs and affiliations with confirmed Jihadi. He became the unwitting beneficiary of three gaping holes in America’s strategy to deter and prevent acts of terror: surveillance that is unsustainable; background checks that are subpar and a lack of common sense from our decision makers.

Omar Mateen’s life and his subsequent ability to murder forty-nine Americans embodied all three flaws. He is a textbook case of an individual who was highly dangerous, mentally unbalanced, and clearly pro JIhadi; yet, despite these factors, despite having checked virtually all of the warning boxes for a full-blown terrorist, he was cleared by the FBI on three separate investigations; hired and retained by the world’s largest security company; and allowed to qualify and maintain a G classification full-carry gun license in the state of Florida.  The FBI also checked all of their boxes: interviews of the subject and his associates; analysis of overseas travel; review of finances for unexplained monies; covert surveillance to establish lifestyle, colleagues and behavior.  Despite their best efforts, during three separate investigations, the FBI could not stop Mateen. Their conclusions did not rise to probable cause thus an arrest was not an option- he had committed no crime, after all. The logical option- sustained surveillance until he decided to go operational on June 12th was, and is, unsustainable.

Despite what Hollywood may convey, surveillances are extremely difficult to conduct without alerting the target and very costly to fund, due to the uncertainty of their length, as the target may not engage in any suspicious or criminal behavior for very long periods of time. The ultimate irony is that the initial identification of a potential terrorist is fairly simple- corroborated third party statements coupled with travel to Yemen or other Al Qaeda hotspots, for instance, and the posting of social media praising ISIS paints the picture quickly but the follow-up, law enforcement shadowing their every movement until they strike, is incredibly difficult. The first problem is economics: It is very costly. In order to surveil one person 24/7 it requires multiple agents to diminish the probability of the target becoming aware of the surveillance; and the chances of losing the target, in traffic or in a dizzying array of everyday scenarios, is very high. Multiply those numbers by several hundred terrorists and the logistical and economic nightmare becomes readily apparent. To boot, the agents and their vehicles must be constantly rotated. Add to the mix the extraordinary difficulty of effectively and discreetly surveilling individuals who are, by nature and design, very suspicious and the enormity of the challenge becomes evident. Finally, and perhaps most daunting, from a budgetary perspective; it is impossible to predict when a potential jihadist will actually shift to operational mode and mount an attack.  Armies of discreet and virtually invisible undercover intelligence agents could surveil one target for years before they ever commit a terroristic act. In fact, they may never go operational. All the while the meter is running and draining law enforcement resources to the point where the surveillance is either cut back, due to the lack of activity, or discontinued altogether, for other perceived priorities, as we saw with the Kouachi brothers in Paris and, again in Orlando, with Omar Mateen. This must stop.  We must find the money to fund the surveillances, to keep these cases active.  To close them prematurely is a roll of the dice we cannot afford.

Comprehensive and accurate background screening also failed.  Pundits will point to the fact that Mateen had no criminal record, no history of illegal behavior, and that fact should allow him to be hired by the world’s largest security company (one that protects many of America’s most sensitive locations, by the way).  Unfortunately, in real-life, a criminal history check is only a piece of the puzzle and many other factors are both relevant and vital when vetting an individual for employment and for a gun permit. Identifying red flags and connecting the dots are critical. Mateen’s life was riddled with red flags and an alarming lack of dot connection by decision makers ranging from his former-employer (G4S CEO Taylor Smith recently acknowledged their vetting process is seriously flawed, with 304 out of 527 recent background checks failing to met basic standards) to the Florida pistol license division where his problematic and disqualifying behavior were ignored: his almost  pro-Jihadi rants;  his distributes against blacks and gays and other minorities; and his penchant for out-of -control violence were all well-documented ( his first wife fled in fear after a few months). Unfortunately, the present screening practice is inverted and conducts the deep investigation AFTER an incident not before. In recent days, investigators are tripping over each other validating and confirming behavior that should have been investigated long ago- when first reported to employers and authorities- not while his victims lay cold in the morgue.

Common sense all too frequently does not apply when laws are drafted, when policies are written. All too often these laws and policies are directly influenced by political correctness, by a paralyzing fear, on the part of our decision makers, of being branded “Islamaphobic.” Where is the logic, the rationale, that allows a suspected Jihadi to have a full carry gun license?  An individual who cheered on 9/11, violently assaulted his wife, threatened co-workers and swore allegiance to America’s enemy?  What possible explanation can be offered for allowing a person on the Terror Watch List to purchase a machine gun?  What rationale can be given for allowing an individual- suspected of serious terrorist ties and investigated three separate times by the FBI- to purchase an automatic weapon?  There is no explanation, no intelligent response.  If America’s lawmakers do not wake up and recognize the folly of their ways, the killing will continue and likely at an accelerated rate.

Patrick J. Brosnan is a retired NYPD Robbery/ Gun Squad Detective and CEO of Brosnan Risk Consultants - an investigative, protective and intelligence firm headquartered in Midtown Manhattan.

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