The attack on a gay club in Orlando in which 50 people were killed and more than 50 wounded — now the largest mass shooting in U.S. history — demonstrates how potential threats are escaping the FBI’s vast counterterrorism dragnet.
While it’s unclear whether gunman Omar Mateen’s inspiration was hatred of gays, the Islamic State, or something else, attackers like him are the intended targets of the FBI’s post-9/11 prevention program. Federal law enforcement’s top priority today is to stop the attacker of tomorrow.
But Mateen’s mass shooting is an example of how dangerous men slip past the FBI’s watch while federal agents focus on targets of questionable capacity.
Born in the United States to parents from Afghanistan, Mateen was reportedly a “known quantity” to the FBI.
According to The Daily Beast, whose reporter quoted an unnamed “senior law enforcement source,” Mateen was a person of interest to the FBI in 2013 and again in 2014. The Intercept has been unable confirm independently from sources that Mateen had been under FBI investigation during those years.