February 19, 2018

YES, HEADS SHOULD ROLL FOR FAILURE: John Fund: End the 9/11 Syndrome at the FBI: Terrible Things Happen, and There’s Little Accountability.

In the wake of the Florida school shooting, can we now have a real conversation about what is wrong with the FBI?

Howard Finkelstein, the Broward County public defender whose office is representing Nikolas Cruz, the suspect in the mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., puts it bluntly:

This kid exhibited every single known red flag, from killing animals to having a cache of weapons to disruptive behavior to saying he wanted to be a school shooter. If this isn’t a person who should have gotten someone’s attention, I don’t know who is. This was a multi-system failure.

Specifically, the FBI admits that it received two separate tips about Cruz. Last fall, a frequent YouTube vlogger noticed an alarming comment left on one of his videos. “I’m going to be a professional school shooter,” said a user named Nikolas Cruz. The vlogger alerted the FBI and was interviewed. But the agency subsequently claimed its investigators couldn’t locate Cruz, despite the highly unusual spelling of his first name.

Then, just six weeks ago, a person close to Cruz warned a call taker on the FBI’s tip line that the expelled student had a desire to kill and might attack a school. The bureau said that the information was not passed to agents in the Miami office. Florida governor Rick Scott has called for FBI director Christopher Wray to be fired. So has NRO’s Kevin Williamson in a powerful piece: “Fire the FBI Chief.” Other officials are calling for FBI heads to roll, but at a level below Wray’s. Florida attorney general Pam Bondi told Fox News, “The people who had that information and did not do anything with it, they are the ones that need to go.” . . .

Nor is the Parkland shooting the first time the FBI has fallen down on its most basic job: assessing threats and acting on them. Look at what has happened just in Florida in the last two years. FBI agents investigated as a suspect the man who gunned down 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in 2016, but concluded the agency couldn’t act against him. The FBI also had an unexpected visit from the mentally ill man charged with killing five people at Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport last year. He had walked into an FBI field office and made bizarre, though not threatening, statements.

Of course there should be a housecleaning at the FBI. But there is a larger issue. I call it America’s 9/11 Syndrome. I was across the street from the World Trade Center the day the terrorists flew two planes into it. I will never forget what I saw that day, including people holding hands jumping from the burning towers before they collapsed and killed 2,606 people.

I retain a mixture of feelings about that day, ranging from deep sadness to pride that my fellow New Yorkers played against stereotypes and helped each other so much that day and afterwards. But what also sticks in my mind is a simple fact: Not one person in the federal government was fired on account of 9/11.

When there’s this sort of major failure, the firings should begin at the top, but reach all the way down the chain. And not just at the FBI.

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