A Florida sheriff has admitted the FBI tried to lure the Orlando Shooter into participating in a terror plot years ago, amid claims the FBI has hundreds or even thousands of unstable individuals running around, often on the government payroll, playing ‘terrorist games.’
While terror experts and former counter-terror officials have criticized the FBI for failing to stop Omar Mateen before he committed a massacre, the new revelation raises the question of whether the FBI played a role in pushing Mateen towards an act of lethal violence.
Sheriff Ken Mascara of Florida’s St. Lucie County told the Vero Beach Press Journal that after Mateen threatened a courthouse deputy in 2013 by claiming he could order Al Qaeda operatives to kill his family, the FBI dispatched an informant to “lure Omar into some kind of act… and Omar did not bite.”
The significance of this cannot be understated. “Informants” in this context, according to FBI affidavits regarding similar counterterrorism investigations, refers to individuals posing as members of terrorist organizations who approach suspects, coerce them into planning and preparing for terrorist attacks, before finally aiding the FBI in the suspect’s arrest before the attack is finally carried out.
Among the activities these informants carry out includes providing and training suspects in the use of real explosives, providing suspects with arsenals of weapons precisely like those used in the recent shooting in Orlando Florida, and encouraging suspects to adopt “radical ideology” over the course of the investigation. Suspects are given the false impression that they are working on behalf of terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda or the self-proclaimed “Islamic State,” often cultivating delusions of grandeur among otherwise mentally ill suspects.
Considering the disturbing activities conducted by FBI informants during these “investigations,” the FBI appears obligated to tell the American public just what their “informants” were doing with Florida shooting suspect Omar Mateen in the 10 months they were “investigating” him beginning in 2013.
Did they also walk Mateen through planned attacks he ultimately backed out of? Did he eventually change his mind again after the FBI’s investigation was allegedly closed?
Since 9/11, the FBI has relied heavily on informants to entrap scores of young, often mentally troubled Muslim men and send them to prison for as long as 25 years. As Aviva Stahl reported for AlterNet’s Grayzone Project, the FBI recently encouraged an apparently mentally disturbed recent convert to Islam named James Medina to bomb a South Florida synagogue and pledge allegiance to ISIS, a militant group with which he had no prior affiliation. On trial for planning to commit an act of terror with a weapon of mass destruction, Medina has insisted through his lawyer that he is mentally ill.
Trevor Aaronson, a journalist and author of “Terror Factory: Inside the FBI’s Manufactured War on Terror,” revealed that nearly half of terror cases between 9/11/01 and 2010 involved informants, including some with criminal backgrounds raking in as much as $100,000 from the FBI. The FBI’s assets have often preyed on mentally ill men with little capacity to resist their provocations. “Is it possible that the FBI is creating the very enemy we fear?” Aaronson wondered.
The revelations of FBI manipulation have cast Mateen’s case in a troubling light. Though he refused to bite when an FBI asset attempted to push him into a manufactured plot, he wound up carrying out an act of spectacular brutality years later and allegedly swore loyalty to ISIS in the midst of it.
“It looks like it’s pretty much standard operating procedure for preliminary inquiries to interview the subject or pitch the person to become an informant and/or plant an undercover or informant close by to see if the person bites on the suggestion,” Coleen Rowley, a former FBI agent and division counsel whose May 2002 memo to the FBI Director exposed some of the FBI’s pre-9/11 failures, told AlterNet. “In the case of Mateen, since he already worked for a security contractor [G4S], he was either too savvy to bite on the pitch or he may have even become indignant that he was targeted in that fashion. These pitches and use of people can backfire.”
To highlight the problematic nature of informants, Rowley pointed to the case of Humam Khalil al-Balawi, a Jordanian physician whom the CIA used to gather intelligence on Al Qaeda,. The CIA ignored obvious warning signs like Balawi’s extremist online manifestos and never subjected him to a vetting process. While Balawi claimed to have penetrated Al Qaeda’s inner circle, he was actually exploiting his CIA security clearance to plan a major attack. On December 30, 2009, Balawi strode into Camp Chapman in Khost, Afghanistan, and detonated an explosive vest that killed seven CIA agents and wounded six more — the deadliest attack on CIA personnel in 25 years.
Mateen, for his part, displayed many of the psychological characteristics that typify both FBI informants and those they attempt to ensnare in bogus terror plots. Raised in a troubled home by an abusive mother and an apparently eccentric father, Mateen exhibited signs of erratic, violent behavior throughout his life. His ex-wife told reporters that he physically abused her and was “unstable and mentally ill.” He transformed from a chubby adolescent to a burly young man with the help of steroids, yearning for a career in law enforcement.
Seven months into a job as a prison guard in 2007, Mateen was fired for threatening to bring a gun to class. He settled on a career as a low level security guard for G4S Security Solutions, a global security firm that employed him for nine years. Though Mateen’s applications to two police departments were rejected, he was able to pass a G4S background check and receive several guard assignments. (The world’s third largest private employer, G4S has accumulated a staggering record of human rights abuses, including accusations of child torture.)
While the full extent of Mateen’s contact with the FBI is unknown, the fact that an informant encouraged Mateen to agree to carry out a terror attack should provoke serious questions and further investigation. Whether or not manipulation by a FBI informant had any impact on Mateen’s deadly decision, there is no denying that the attempt to entrap him did nothing to protect the public.
“The FBI should scrutinize the operating procedure where they use undercovers and informants and pitch people to become informants,” said Rowley. “They must recognize that, in this case [with Mateen], it had horrible consequences if it did, in fact, backfire.”