Did the FBI Drop the Ball on the Texas Shooting?

How did a known radicalized criminal get so close to committing a massacre?

KNXV Elton Simpson_1430791135637_17849768_ver1.0_640_480A bloodbath was averted yesterday in Garland Texas thanks to the alert actions of a police officer assigned to traffic patrol. But for his brave actions, there likely would have been a repeat of the Charlie Hebdo attacks, just on a much larger scale. There were some 300 people in attendance at the Mohammed art and free speech exhibit and the gunmen, shielded in body armor, were said to have been equipped with AK-47 assault rifles with drum-type magazines capable of holding far more bullets than the standard 30 round banana clip.

The perpetrators of the attempted terrorist attack, identified as 30-year old Elton Simpson and his accomplice 34-year old Nadir Hamid Soofi, both residents of Phoenix Arizona, had pledged allegiance to ISIS. A now suspended twitter account linked to Simpson confirms their loyalty oath to the terror group and also makes a cryptic reference to the pending attack with the hashtag, #texasattack.

Simpson had been on the FBI’s radar for some time. In 2006 the government enlisted the help of a paid informant to record conversations with him. In 2010, he was charged with lying to federal officials in connection with his intention to travel to Somalia to join Islamic terrorists in pursuit of global Jihad. He was eventually acquitted on the terrorism-related charge due to a lack of legally sufficient proof but was found was found guilty of lying to federal officials and was sentenced to three years of probation and a fine, a mere slap on the wrist.

The Islamic State, aka ISIL, aka Daesh, has already claimed responsibility for the attack. In a statement broadcast on ISIS radio from Syria, the terror group issued a threat to the United States stating “We tell … America that what is coming will be more grievous and more bitter and you will see from the soldiers of the Caliphate what will harm you, God willing.”

Authorities are still in the beginning phases of the investigation and are not saying whether they believe this was an ISIS-planned attack or merely an ISIS inspired attack. What is clear however, is that these two men had been radicalized and at least one of them – Simpson – was well known to the FBI.

Three vexing questions ought to preoccupy federal authorities in their quest to uncover more facts. First, what led to the radicalization of these individuals? Did they hear inflammatory sermons laced with Jihadi rhetoric in their local mosque or were they influenced by social media?

Second, did these individuals operate as so-called “lone wolves” or did they receive outside assistance in the form of logistical support, financing, training and intelligence? If the latter is the case, it would represent an ominous turn in America’s war against Islamic terrorism and would mean that the ISIS cancer has already reached America’s shores.

Third and perhaps most disturbing, how did someone such as Simpson, who was already known to authorities and had a past criminal history, manage to get his hands on an AK-47 assault rifle without anyone taking notice and how was he able to travel 1,000 miles undetected?

No doubt more information will come to light once authorities perform forensic analysis on their computers and gather additional information from searches of their apartments but this case is eerily similar to the Charlie Hebdo terror attack. There too, the perpetrators of the attack, the Kouachi brothers and Amedy Coulibaly were radicalized Islamists, with criminal records who were well known to authorities. And there too, the French General Directorate for Internal Security (DGSI), France’s FBI equivalent, dropped the ball and failed to conduct proper surveillance that would have likely led to the apprehension of the culprits and the thwarting of France’s worst terror attack in recent memory.

Unlike Charlie Hebdo however, the terrorists were thankfully unable to overcome security officers assigned to protect the free speech event. A slaughter was averted yesterday. Let’s hope the FBI learns from this foul-up and begins to take a more pro-active approach to the phenomena of home-grown Islamist terrorists.

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