MIAMI (CBSMiami) — FBI Director James Comey says they are looking into their own work to see if they could have done something differently in previous investigations involving the Orlando massacre gunman.
“We’re also going to look hard at our own work to see whether there is something we should have done differently, so far the honest answer is I don’t think so, I don’t see anything in reviewing our work that our agents should have done differently but we’ll look at it in an open and honest way and be transparent about it,” said Comey. “We will continue to look forward in this investigation and backward.”
Comey said they first became aware of the gunman back in 2013 after he made inflammatory statements to his coworkers. They later looked into him during an investigation into a Florida man who blew himself up in Syria in May of 2014. The killer allegedly knew him casually from attending the same mosque but the investigation turned up no ties between the two men.
“He was working as a contract security guard at a local courthouse and he made some statements that were inflammatory and contradictory that concerned his coworkers about terrorism,” Comey said.
He said the bureau took it seriously.
“The FBI’s Miami office opened a preliminary investigation. And over the next ten months we attempted to determine whether he was possibly a terrorist something we do in hundreds and hundreds of cases across the country,” Comey said. “Our investigation involved introducing confidential sources to him, recording conversations with him, following him, reviewing transactional records from his communications.”
They even sent an undercover informant to talk to the gunman but did not find anything concerning.
When their covert operations failed to turn up any ties, Comey said the FBI brought Mateen in for questioning.
“We then interviewed him twice. He admitted making the statements that his coworkers reported but explained he did it in anger because he thought his coworkers were discriminating against him and teasing him because he was Muslim,” Comey said.
After ten months, the FBI closed the investigation.
The FBI director said the gunman had “strong indications of radicalization” potentially inspired by foreign terrorist organizations. Despite that, he said there is confusion as to what terrorist group he felt inspired to support.
During three 911 calls on the night of the mass shooting that left at least 49 dead and 53 injured, Comey said the gunman told dispatch he was doing this for the leader of ISIL but also claimed solidarity with the Boston Marathon bombers and the Florida man who blew himself up back in 2014.
“The bombers with the Boston Marathon and suicide bomber from Florida were not inspired by ISIL, which adds a little bit to the confusion about his motives,” said Comey.
Despite that, Comey clarified they had not indication that the mass shooting was something directed from outside the United States but they will continue to investigate.
“Our work is very challenging. We are looking for needles in a nationwide haystack, but we are also called upon to figure out which piece of hay might someday become needles,” he said.
Federal officials, at last check, were going through the gunman’s electronics and delving deeper into his life.
“We are working hard to understand the killer and his motives for inspiration,” said Comey, who added he would not name the killer so not to pile on attention to him or his family.
Comey said they are also trying to find out what role anti-gay bigotry had to do with the attack especially during gay pride month.
As they investigate, he called on Americans to channel their sadness, anger and frustration into something more positive – awareness of your surroundings.
“If you see something, tell us so we can look at it,” urged Comey.