[SEE UPDATE BELOW]
“In the name of God, the merciful, the beneficial,” Omar Mateen began in Arabic during his first call to 911 operators from inside Orlando’s Pulse nightclub during his massacre of 49 people on June 12. “Praise be to God. And prayers as well as peace be upon the prophet of God. [Now in English] I let you know, I’m in Orlando and I did the shootings.”
“What’s your name?” the 911 dispatcher asked.
“My name is, I pledge allegiance ISIS.”
“What’s your name?” the operator repeats.
“I pledge allegiance to al Baghdadi,” the Islamic State leader, as CNN reported ahead of a press conference announcing the release of transcripts.
“Alright, where are you at?”
“In Orlando,” Mateen replied.
“Where in Orlando?”
At this point, Mateen terminates his first call.
Transcripts and audio of 911 calls surrounding tragedies and murders are often released to the public soon after an incident occurs — but the release of emergency calls made by Omar Mateen which he placed while in the act of slaughtering 49 people in an Orlando nightclub have been quite the exception.
Not only has the Department of Justice imposed a delay in the public release of Mateen’s 911 calls, but audio will not be released — worse, Attorney General Loretta Lynch told NBC’s Chuck Todd the FBI has heavily edited the written transcripts to remove potentially key elements.
“What we’re not going to do is further proclaim this man’s pledges of allegiance to terrorist groups, and further his propaganda,” Lynch explained. “We’re not going to hear him make his assertions of allegiance [to the so-called Islamic State].”
As CNN reported, however, in a live broadcast preview immediately prior to the press conference, the outlet made the stunning decision not to censor information — and included references Mateen made to ISIS and its leader al Baghdadi. Whether accidental or an act of rare journalistic integrity by the mainstream media, the choice to read the initial call as it had been placed by Mateen confirms what survivors have said — that the shooter pledged loyalty to the Islamic State while in the act of committing one of the worst mass shootings on American soil.
In the FBI’s official release of transcripts, references to ISIS and al Baghdadi have been omitted.
While a valid argument could be posited that allowing the public to hear such declarations might pose a threat to national security — by amassing those potentially sympathetic to such terroristic acts behind radical groups — censorship allows the obfuscation of truth. It rubber stamps the idea some thoughts or speech — which might be highly contentious — should be subjected to the government’s ubiquitous black highlighters.
According to the official FBI document:
“In these calls, the shooter, who identified himself as an Islamic soldier, told the crisis negotiator that he was the person who pledged allegiance to [omitted], and told the negotiator to tell America to stop bombing Syria and Iraq and that is why he was ‘out here right now.’ When the crisis negotiator asked the shooter what he had done, the shooter stated, ‘No, you already know what I did.’ The shooter continued, stating, ‘There is some vehicle outside that has some bombs, just to let you know. You people are gonna get it, and I’m gonna ignite it if they try to do anything stupid.’ Later in the call with the crisis negotiator, the shooter stated that he had a vest, and further described it as the kind they ‘used in France.’ The shooter later stated, ‘In the next few days you’re going to see more of this type of action going on.’ The shooter hung up and multiple attempts to get in touch with him were unsuccessful.”
Though the world had already been exposed to Mateen’s actual pledges to the Islamic State, thanks to accounts from witnesses and victims, the apparent gaffe by CNN provides confirmation. However, it’s imperative to remember the CIA has thus far found no evidence, whatsoever, of a solid connection between Mateen and the terrorist organization, ISIS.
UPDATE: Hours after releasing the censored version of Mateen’s 911 calls, the FBI made a stunning reversal and released the documents in their unedited, unredacted form. After claiming it sought to protect against further pain to the victims and their families, the FBI decided to reverse course —putatively in the interest of transparency.
While looking out for victims’ sensibilities might appear to be a laudable excuse on the surface, this flip-flopping by the FBI comes across as nothing short of disingenuous.
If transparency were truly the motivator for releasing the transcripts in full, why didn’t the agency simply do that the first time around? Why would the FBI leave out exceedingly pertinent information when the public already knew about it from the victims, themselves? Though this mass shooting appears far more likely to be hate crime-oriented, rather than motivated by radical Islamic extremism, the world deserves to receive all relevant information in the matter to better parse out events.
Perhaps CNN’s gaffe aided in the decision — though there hasn’t been any intimation of as much.
In the meantime, the FBI comes across as somewhat incompetent — if not downright suspicious — in its constant waffling on this case.
Whatever Mateen’s true motives were for carrying out this mass shooting will likely never be known with any degree of certainty — though a number of odd inconsistencies and seemingly strange details plaguing the case, including reports more than one shooter might have participated, continue to circulate.