We will leave no stone unturned, and we will work all day and all night
to understand the path to that terrible night. 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.
-- James Comey, FBI Director, on the Orlando Massacre --
They say there are no absolute truths. However, it is absolutely true that no American bureaucrat exists who has not heard or said "C.Y.A."
Cover Your Ass.
It wasn´t always like that.
Back in the good old days, when the federal government screwed up, the president would grab the guy in charge and dump him on the nearest street corner.
"Oh really?" you inquire/growl: "Name one!"
Glad to. Abraham Lincoln gave seven generals the heave-ho before he found Ulysses Grant who won the Civil War. See our post of October 6, 2014, "The ISIS Crisis: Abraham Lincoln´s Solution."
Obama admires Lincoln for the same reason I admire Luciano Pavarotti and Usain Bolt: I have no talent to do what they do. The difference between Obama and me is I do not try to do it.
The record shows that Obama had zero administrative experience before becoming president. He did not know that bureaucrats always test an incoming chief executive.
In his case, the test was Guantanamo.
He had promised during his 2008 campaign to close the prison. No sooner did Obama move into the White House than the bureaucrats gave him their time-honored watchword -- it cannot be done -- then sat back, waited.
Obama´s response was ... oh, O.K. Bureaucrats all over D.C. emitted a deeper-than-deep sigh of relief and returned to their 2-hour lunch of steamed cherry stone clams. Smiling inwardly, they slathered on the butter.
To this day, Guantanamo remains open.
Instead of practicing the Abraham Lincoln solution, Obama apologizes for incompetent officials, gives them raises and fat pensions. For him, decision-making is another word for photo-op. Slathering on the butter.
We will go ahead and give a name to his tone-deafness to administration: El Problama. It is causing a huge part of the bureau-pathic behavior in, over, around, and through D.C.
Gridlock, passing the buck, ballooning agency budgets, failure to acknowledge and correct mistakes: you, dear reader, know the bureaupathic syndrome only too well.
C.Y.A. sums it up.
* * *
Over a year before Omar Mateen massacred 49 people in Orlando, this blog had a direct encounter with FBI´s mishandling of terrorists.
The textbook case of G-man ineptness involved masked ISIS henchman-spokesman Jihadi John.
On September 25, 2014, Comey announced he knew the identity of Jihadi John but was keeping it secret. Why?
Our Lincoln solution post identified the reason. To wit:
Comey was playing the same old bureaucrat game. In a situation of ambiguity, he who is in a POSITION to know has the power. Rumors, innuendos, half-truths, lies, errors and conflicting reports ruled the airwaves worldwide. Over the fields we go, laughing all the way: Comey was only too happy to sit back and take it all in -- to let ambiguity reign.
In an attempt to end the sleigh ride, we made an end run.
We challenged SIS (British Intelligence), which also claimed to know Jihadi John´s identity, to boldly go where Comey refused to go:
"Britain, don´t get blindsided in the Jihadi John affair; don´t get sucked into the D.C. incompetence vortex. Washington desperately needs the Lincoln solution plus structural reforms ...
Regarding Comey and his refusal to identify publicly Jihadi John, the SIS can decide not to follow the disastrous lack of initiative that characterized The Unmagnificent Seven [generals who Lincoln fired], and instead take the advice of boxing coaches with sixth grade educations:
Don´t wait on him. Get off first."
Instead of seizing the initiative and showing leadership, the SIS sat on its hands. Their inaction gave us no recourse but to return to Comey.
Our three-part series, "New Perspectives on Terrorism" that started in November 2014, turned up the heat on Comey to make public Jihadi John´s identity. That series presented some basic points developed in The Source of Terrorism: Middle Class Rebellion; it continues to receive thousands of visitors worldwide. Recent arrivals from Denmark, Iraq, Turkey, Singapore, United Arab Emirates Emirates, Alabama, Switzerland, London, Brazil, Missouri and Hong Kong -- welcome.
Why did we relentlessly challenge Comey?
By not releasing Jihadi John´s identity, the FBI was unwittingly playing the terrorists´ game. The agency was relating to a video persona*; worse, they were relating to it on its terms, not theirs.
Dressed entirely in black against a desert backdrop; a mask covering his face except for the eyes of a forlorn mollusk; pistol at the ready; muffled voice with a discombobulating British accent; knife in hand: Jihadi John was a persona if there ever was one. More than Osama bin Laden, he persona-fied terrorism.
Comey and the FBI got sucked in.
For five long months we badgered, pestered, defied, needled, prodded and goaded the FBI to change course and do what for it was unthinkable: break the seal of silence, fear, mystery and horror -- the terms ISIS set. Our post of December 29, 2014 ("A New Perspective on Terrorism"):
"Assuming the FBI is not lying [about knowing Jihadi John´s identity], in terms of strategy and tactics the FBI´s position is complete nonsense. To tear off Jihadi John´s mask would instantly strip him of his mystique. He would become what he was before he joined ISIS: Wally or Billy, son of the saccharine couple two doors down -- the boy the other boys used to beat up in the bathroom between classes."
Did the FBI finally listen?
Two months later, on February 26, 2015, Jihadi John was publicly revealed to be Mohammed Emwazi, a shy middle class youngster bullied by boys and girls alike, who became a computer scientist.
His mask torn off, Jihadi John was gone in a flash. Because it has no analysis, the FBI still does not have the foggiest idea why the maneuver worked -- but it did.
* * *
-- Speaker of the House Paul Ryan
on FBI redaction of Omar Mateen´s
calls to 911 --
We are a long way from Efrem Zimbalist Junior.
Out of step and out of touch, the FBI stumbled and fumbled its public release of the telephone calls Omar Mateen made during his rampage at Orlando´s Pulse Nightclub. However, we have a more important slip-up to discuss than the FBI´s pr error.
By its own admission, the FBI interviewed Omar Mateen not once but twice, and saw no serious problem.
What went wrong?
Whatever it was, those who think Comey will fix it had better think again. He defiantly declared in his post-Orlando press conference -- see the top of this post -- that he saw no need to change FBI procedures for interviewing people like Mateen.
What´s that, dear reader? -- you don´t view his statement as defiant? Please, look again. You must read between the lies.
Either-or. Either correct things or ... Comey´s refusal to correct things left him only one option:
C.Y.A. I don´t think so. Hunker down; ratchet up; double down. Comey´s intransigence is all the more remarkable in the face of a failure completely obvious to everyone, including the most stalwart FBI defender. We will meet one in a moment.
The reason Comey launched a hurry-up offense was he sensed what was coming; we will present it shortly.
We have seen before the government´s abject and dangerous inability to interview and identify terrorists.** This blog has documented case after case of the inability of American authorities to recognize a terrorist, e.g., ISIS head Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Boston Marathon murderer Tamerlan Tsarnaev, sitting two feet in front of them. That result is inevitable when you have no analysis of who terrorists are.
What is the FBI´s defense for failing to spot Mateen as a terrorist?
It was given by David Gomez, former head of the Seattle-based Puget Sound Joint Terrorism Task Force, in his article "How Did The FBI Miss Omar Mateen?":
"The fact is the FBI’s ability to investigate any case is limited by the requirements of probable cause to open a full investigation, which stem from the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. Probable cause is a belief based upon articulable facts that would lead a reasonable person to believe an individual has committed, or intends to commit, a crime. It is the standard from which all coercive police powers stem in the United States. Without probable cause based on fact, the FBI cannot open a case, execute a search warrant, or take other appropriate law enforcement action. Both of Mateen’s investigations were closed when the FBI determined that he had committed no crime, and had no verifiable intent to commit one in the future...
Extraordinary investigative techniques like wiretaps, undercover operations, and targeting by an informant are restricted absent probable cause for a full investigation.
There are many valid legal, constitutional, and privacy arguments for maintaining strong restriction on the FBI’s ability to investigate terrorism. The strongest often come from the conservative political right as well as from the progressive left. But as more terrorists become successful in hiding from the FBI in plain sight using encryption and other means, perhaps it is time to revisit the probable-cause standard to open investigations in potential terrorism cases."
Sorry, David Gomez et al. The problem is not justifiable cause per se. Gentlemen, you are seeking to use the Orlando massacre as a pretext to erode the probable cause restriction on your investigations [read: your power]. You are also seeking to substitute issues and divert attention -- nice try.
The solution is not doing away with justificable cause; it is defining justifiable cause reasonably. To do that, you need to know what a terrorist is. In that area, the FBI and the rest of Washington are today what they have always been: clueless.***
Speaking of the rest of Washington...
Comey´s CIA competitors across town, who are chortling in their bourbon and Gatorade over the latest FBI screw-up, are equally unprepared, unqualified. Their horrendous torture of suspected terrorists detailed in reports made public last month shows they, too, have no analysis, consequently have no idea who is sitting in front of them.
In calling the CIA incompetent in handling terrorists, do you, dear reader, feel I am over the top? Unfair? If so, I know somebody who disagrees with you: the CIA.
The CIA made that admission to the New York Times in an article about what happened when the CIA suddenly found itself in charge of suspected terrorists in the about-to-open Guantanamo prison:
"´I asked, "What are we going to do with these guys when we get them?" recalled A. B. Krongard, the No. 3 official at the C.I.A. from March 2001 until 2004. ´I said, "We’ve never run a prison. We don’t have the languages. We don’t have the interrogators."´"
The CIA's resounding inexperience, plus a political pressure-cooker atmosphere to "do something," doomed the agency to the path of least resistance. The New York Times:
"In its scramble, the agency made the momentous decision to use harsh methods the United States had long condemned. With little research or reflection, it borrowed its techniques from an American military training program modeled on the torture repertories of the Soviet Union and other cold-war adversaries, a lineage that would come to haunt the agency."
In other words, rather than create, develop, and employ techniques relevant to terrorists -- most are middle class rebels -- the U.S. took lessons at the feet of foes who crashed out in 1991. The tab for the two psychologist consultants who offered bogus, Soviet-based lessons to the CIA: $81 million. For more on this subject, see our post of April 28, 2011, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Part 2: Catch 23.
$81 million for a derivative, cut-and-paste, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants snow job. On top of everything else, the CIA demonstrated it doesn´t know how to avoid being conned.
* * *
The first thing to know about the Orlando terrorist attack is what the United States Government and the mainstream media are at best marginalizing, at worst studiously ignoring:
Omar Mateen was middle class.
His father was a life insurance salesman who currently has his own company. Omar Mateen graduated with a degree in criminal justice technology from Indian River Community College in 2006. During his first marriage in 2009, he was earning $1,600 a month as a security guard; his wife earned $3,000 a month as a real estate agent. A $54,000-a-year household solidly qualifies Mateen as economically middle class.
I strongly suspect that Mateen was also middle class in the larger sense of the term, i.e., he was caught in an intermediate/-transitional/marginal status or condition. Biographical details are still coming in. From what we have seen so far, nothing disputes the conclusion that Omar was a middle class rebel turned terrorist.
What that means:
For all the reasons the FBI gave Omar a passing grade -- ditto his employer, the security guard firm G4S which, like the FBI, screened Omar twice and saw nothing seriously wrong -- we would have failed him.
We would have started with Mateen´s house purchased in 2013. For readers of The Source of Terrorism, the building sends up a bevy of red flags.
The James Comeys of this world see nothing wrong or even interesting about Omar´s house. And yes, the house is normal.
All too normal.
* * *
I would like now to address Americans only -- in particular the CIA, FBI, Homeland Security and other anti-terrorist professionals:
You do not understand what happened in Orlando for the same reason I do not understand Chinese. As a group (not as individuals) you do not have the formal education, cultural background or life experience required to make sense of Omar Mateen in particular, middle class rebel terrorists in general. Furthermore, in your case, there is an additional barrier:
You are overpowered by an ideology; it is blinding you to realities two feet in front of you.
A precursory rundown:
-- You believe that socio-economic classes are unimportant, that they tell little or nothing about a person. That belief prohibits you from seeing that the very classes-don´t-count belief you hold so dearly is the product of a class -- the middle class, to be exact. Because the phenomenon of socio-economic class means nothing to you, the fact that Omar Mateen and other terrorists are middle class means nothing to you. You see that fact -- nobody denies it -- but, puzzled and befuddled, you shake your head, go eat lunch.
-- If socio-economic classes mean nothing, then the idea of class consciousness/ideology can only be meaningless too -- and the idea of class unconsciousness, ridiculous. All I can say is, consult the nearest rich or poor (i.e., non middle class) teenager; he or she will set you straight about the importance of classes and that they perceive things differently.
-- What little you know or think about the middle class comes from ancient Greece. Aristotle argued that the middle class is the best class, that it is the center of reason and moderation, that it reconciles rich and poor and restrains their excesses: that, in short, it makes peace and stability possible. The fact that argument has endured for 2,000 years means it must have some truth. However, it is not the only truth. The middle class is also the source of irrationality, of extremism, of nihilism, of disorder, of terrorism. That opposing, disquieting truth is evident to most Americans; however, it is allowed to be seen in the mind only. That is to say: it is taboo.
What you just read are only 3 of numerous ideological layers that must be stripped away before you can get where you want to go. Or say you want to go...
The Source of Terrorism: Middle Class Rebellion identifies and removes the ideological blinders so that you can see -- finally -- what Omar Mateen and other middle class rebel terrorists think and feel. What happened in Orlando deeply disturbs you because it forces you to choose between keeping the blinders on or taking them off. To remove them would allow you to know, but it would also discard an incredible number of time-honored and comfortable thoughts, feelings, sensations, intuitions.
In the end, then, you do not want to know because the answer is something you do not want to hear.
As for Orlando, when all is said and done, you will decide exactly what you decided after the massacres at the University of Texas, Columbine and Northern Illinois University, after Ft. Hood and Santana High School. You will go on preferring not to know, for the price of knowledge is too high; it would upset you. You will go on paying yourself in the counterfeit money of your dreams -- in this case Walt Disney World.
Because you will continue being clueless, you are condemned to make the same mistakes over and over again.
On reading the above address, many of our regular readers no doubt experienced déjà vu. That feeling has nothing to do with ESP, however -- the address was written four years ago. See our post "James Holmes. Clueless" published July 26, 2012.
I simply substituted "Omar Mateen" for "James Holmes;" "Orlando" for "Aurora, Colorado;" "Walt Disney World" for "Batman."
* * *.
My kid died because nobody responded
to what happened at Sandy Hook.
-- Richard Martinez, father of Chris Martinez who was murdered by terrorist Elliot Rodger. May 26, 2014 --
Lacking a single executive bone in his body, Obama does not understand that James Comey is engaging in full-court press C.Y.A.
That press shows where Comey´s priorities lie. True, he is working all day and all night, but not to understand the path to that terrible night [in Orlando].
The 49 murder victims of Orlando have barely been buried and Comey is already defending himself against what you are about to read:
James Comey, do the honorable thing. Stop lying and making excuses. Don´t wait for Obama´s phone call -- you know it will never come. Ditto a call from Bureaupathic Hillary or Lowest UNcommon Denominator Donald.
James Comey, we know a steamed clam when we see one. Not only are you not turning over stones looking for answers, you are finding new stones and piling them up to form a wall.
James Comey, stop being a part of El Problama.
PLEASE COME GET US. NOOOOOWWW. James Comey, you did not do your job. You failed to protect the American people.
James Comey, you should follow the example set today by British Prime Minister David Cameron after losing the referendum on Brexit.
James Comey: resign.
July 4th Update: The Bangladesh Terrorist Attack.
Puzzling; normal, regular guys; jobs; families; hard to understand; that is not my son. A CNN report this morning on the Bangladesh bakery attack in which 22 people died displays in wall-to-wall technicolor the middle class background of terrorists as well as the on-going lack of insight into it.
The report correctly notes of the Bangladesh terrorists that there was an ideological narrative infecting their minds. But as The Source of Terrorism: Middle Class Rebellion shows, that narrative is not limited to terrorists; it is part and parcel of middle class ideology in general. It is the refusal -- make that, inability -- to see and accept the latter reality where this blog parts company from Western governments, media and academia.
Something else the Western establishment has in common: it is rapidly running out of excuses.
The heart of the CNN report:
They went to top schools and universities. They seemed like normal, middle-class men.
And on Friday, they killed 22 people in a terror attack that has left the country reeling in shock.
Bangladesh is a country depressingly used to terror -- with dozens of secular bloggers, Hindu priests and others murdered in the last 18 months -- but the July 1 attack was different, both in terms of scale, and the perpetrators.
"What's really puzzling is the background of these attackers," said Faiz Sobhan of the Dhaka-based think tank Bangladesh Enterprise Institute.
"They were normal, regular guys who hung out at cafes, played sports, had Facebook pages."
Bangladesh Information and Broadcasting minister Hassanul Haq Inna told Indian broadcaster NDTV that the attackers "were from a top school and university in Dhaka ... The parents of these boys are normal and have secular credentials."
'That is not my son,' killer's horrified father cries...
Youth, wealth and education.
These are the three biggest risk factors associated with violent radicalization, according to a study by Queen Mary University in London.
Whether it is the foreign fighters who have flocked to join the group in Iraq and Syria, or homegrown attackers who pledge allegiance online, ISIS members have defied stereotypes of just who is at risk of radicalization.
While the U.S. government warned last year of impoverished young people who "have no hope for the future," many who join ISIS are often wealthy with plenty of opportunities in front of them that do not involve jihad.
Computer scientist Zeeshan ul-hassan Usmani analyzed thousands of online profiles of current and potential ISIS recruits. He told CNN last year that contrary to popular belief, recruits from Europe and the U.S. are far more likely to be educated and come from middle or upper class families.
Research by Usmani, George Washington University and the Brookings Institution has shown that more than 70% of ISIS recruits are middle class or wealthier.
They are also likely to not be particularly religious before their radicalization. Usmani found that many recruits come from secular backgrounds, learning about Islam from ISIS-linked preachers posting videos to YouTube, rather than at a local mosque.
"Capture the rebelliousness of youth, their energy and idealism, and their readiness for self-sacrifice, while fools preach 'moderation,' security and avoidance of risk," reads "The Management of Savagery," a treatise by Islamist scholar Abu Bakr Naji that has served as a playbook of sorts for ISIS.
Asking 'who becomes a terrorist,' [is] like asking 'who owns a Volvo?'
If the Dhaka attackers did self-radicalize online, they would fit a pattern of relatively non-religious or secular ISIS recruits such as Mohammed Emzawi -- the ISIS executioner known as "Jihadi John" -- and Tahla Asmal, a 17-year-old teen whose parents had no idea he had joined the militant group until ISIS posted a photo of him online.
"There is an ideological narrative that is infecting their minds ... we have also seen this in the West," says Gohel.
"We've seen people that have what looks like a good life -- they've got jobs, families, they're well educated. It's hard to understand why they would give all this up to join a death cult."
Came from very good educational institutions; stunned, dumbfounded; good educated families, children of professionals, government officers; brainwashed...under someone´s spell; we were good parents. For more on the Bangladesh terrorists, see the BBC report also published today.
Regular readers of this blog and of The Source of Terrorism have seen before, many times, the stereotypical, middle class rebel-terrorists who stepped out of the shadows in Bangladesh. Those readers see through the same old shallow reactions and explanations offered up by the go-to guys of the status quo, starting with TV talking-heads who make no attempt whatsoever to discover why the infectious narrative is infectious.
In sum: nothing new in Dhaka -- zero.
*"The persona is a complicated system of relations between individual consciousness and society, fittingly enough a kind of mask, designed on the one hand to make a definite impression upon others, and, on the other, to conceal the true nature of the individual." C.G. Jung, "The Relations Between the Ego and the Unconscious" (1928).
**What, then, would constitute an effective interview technique for identifying terrorists like Omar Mateen?
For obvious reasons I am not going to develop that point here. I will, however, repeat what we said elsewhere (November 28, 2014, "Peter Kassig and Beyond: New Perspectives"). Its approach to terrorists has nothing whatsoever in common with that of any Western government; it was developed and analyzed in depth in The Source of Terrorism: Middle Class Rebellion:
"Ambiguity is the middle class rebel-terrorist´s lot because any middle class position, status, or condition -- of which the socioeconomic middle class is the largest but by no means the only example -- is inherently transitional/intermediary/marginal, i.e., ambiguous. Anybody who has ever crossed a street has been middle class in that wider meaning of the term.
On the one hand, on the other; there´s the good side and the bad side... The middle class rebel-terrorist seeks relief from ambivalence because he cannot endure the tension of opposites endemic to his situation. Those feelings are for the most part unconscious; their dynamic, their energy, is the source of his fervor.
For a cure, he turns to an absolute because an absolute is the opposite of ambivalence. The absolute can be a religion, a political ideology, whatever. Indeed, a middle class rebel can make an absolute out of anything: a straight line will do. It is that propensity, rather than any specific absolute, which matters.
The quest for an absolute is the telltale heart of the middle class rebel-terrorist.
On a practical level, any interrogation of a terrorist ... should first and foremost focus on the terrorist's ambiguous situation and associated ambivalent emotions. Without that focus, counterproductive results are inevitable."
***We showed in our post of September 12, 2014 -- "(3) ISIS: Winston Churchill Speaks" -- how, if you accept United States Government definitions of terrorist (including that of the FBI), then Churchill and Truman were terrorists; they fill the bill perfectly. To the contrary, according to those same definitions, the murderers at Columbine, etc., were not terrorists because they did not enunciate a political agenda.
Here, definitions are decisive. They decide who will and will not get the death penalty.
Unlike the U.S. Government, our definition of terrorist excludes both Churchill and Truman and includes the Columbine killers:
"A terrorist is most often a middle class rebel (1) experiencing magnified marginal and/or transitional conditions, who (2) voluntarily (3) goes through certain rites of passage, among which are (4) clique membership and (5) a deliberate decision to commit a criminal act which is almost always (6) violent and usually (7) murder, in (8) the name of higher intentions or convictions without (9) retaining consciously the ambiguity of his criminal act and his higher intentions/convictions. He manifests powerful, unconscious, ambivalent emotions in two ways: (10) converting his intentions/convictions into idées fixes or absolute truths, the opposite extreme from ambiguity, and (11) wielding uncertainty as a weapon. That uncertainty is total, as demonstrated by the fact that (12) everybody -- allies, non-combatants, even himself -- is a potential victim.
A concluding note: it is the syndrome, the running together of components, which counts -- not components in isolation.
By not admitting what he cannot admit, the terrorist guards his secret, even from himself.
By not admitting what he is, the terrorist shows the gravity that admission holds for him. To my knowledge, no terrorist or other middle class rebel ever said what he is.
What he is, is the secret he keeps: he is a middle class rebel." (The Source of Terrorism: Middle Class Rebellion, p. 141).