Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered a review of the FBI and Justice Department procedures after the bureau admitted Friday that it failed to follow protocol and investigate a tip about the Florida mass shooter.
The FBI announced on Friday that agents received a tip on Jan. 5, 2018 from someone close to 19-year-old shooter Nikolas Cruz. They “provided information about Cruz’s gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting.” But the FBI didn’t act, and Cruz was able to purchase an AR-15 legally, which he then used to kill 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Wednesday.
“It is now clear that the warning signs were there and tips to the FBI were missed. We see the tragic consequences of those failures," Sessions said in a statement Friday. “The FBI in conjunction with our state and local partners must act flawlessly to prevent all attacks. This is imperative, and we must do better." Sessions added that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein would be in charge of the review.
A little over three months earlier, the bureau received another tip, submitted to a Mississippi field office by a video blogger who noticed a comment under one of his videos from a user called “Nikolas Cruz” that read, “I want to become a professional school shooter.” After an initial review, the FBI didn’t investigate further.
On any given day, the FBI receives a deluge of tips, many from the tinfoil hat-wearing contingent. “They get thousands of emails every day,” said David C. Gomez, a retired FBI agent who spent nearly 30 years with the bureau. “Not all are worthy of investigation.”
But retired FBI Supervisory Special Agent Jeff Danik, who spent more than 28 years with the bureau, said a snobbish attitude toward reviewing tips coming through the Public Access Line can color that task. “Everyone’s out there wasting time, wanting to be the next Osama Bin Laden hunter. But the Public Access Line? That’s the work of being a detective,” Danik said. “We hired too many people who don’t understand that.”
In addition to Session’s investigation, Florida politicians are seething. Gov. Rick Scott has called for FBI Director Chris Wray’s resignation, while Florida Sen. Marco Rubio wants a Congressional investigation.
“The FBI’s failure to take action against this killer is unacceptable,” Scott said in a statement. "Seventeen innocent people are dead and acknowledging a mistake isn't going to cut it.”
“We constantly promote ‘see something, say something,’ and a courageous person did just that to the FBI,” Scott continued. “And the FBI failed to act. 'See something, say something' is an incredibly important tool and people must have confidence in the follow through from law enforcement. The FBI director needs to resign."
Danik, who's a vocal critic of the FBI, was at the bureau when the Public Access Line system was established. “That’s is so heartbreaking that the information went into the Public Access Center Unit and nothing Happened,” he said. “That whole unit. I was there when they put that together.”
Sessions’ intervention comes at a time when President Donald Trump and the Republican party have repeatedly accused the FBI of political bias or inefficiency in its Russia probe. Wray, who took over the reins after Trump abruptly fired former FBI Director James Comey, reportedly threatened to resign in December amid pressure from Sessions and Trump to fire Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe.