The Wrong Message: Censorship and the Redacted Words of Orlando Terrorist Omar Mateen

911 Call from Omar Mateen

The recent controversy over the redacted 911 call to the Orlando Police from Omar Mateen is just another example of politics getting into the mix. For years numerous terrorist statements of all sorts for one reason or another have been tacitly censored. As if the American people couldn’t understand them or what motivated a terrorist to undertake a particular course of action. For the most part, many terrorist organizations love communicating what they believe, what they want to do and then taking credit when someone commits a horrific act of murder even if the person conducting the attack wasn’t directly connected. Media and propaganda play an important role in any terrorism attack.

The ebb and flow of ideas is a constant in the fight against terrorism. There should be no room for any sort of censorship dealing with this challenge we face. Last week my daughter started her summer reading program by taking one of the books she must read for 10th grade to the pool. Ironically, she will be reading two books Fahrenheit 451 and The Book Thief.  In Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, the author reminds  the reader of the harshest measures of censorship. Bradbury creates a world of strict rules and order where books are illegal and free thought is prohibited.   Free thought when dealing with the political issues of terrorism appears to not be so free. Yet, the American people are smart enough to realize why a terrorist commits some horrible killings and they don’t need a terrorist’s statements redacted. Bradbury has a line in Fahrenheit 451 that says “If you hide your ignorance. . . .you’ll never learn.”

It should surprise no one that Omar Mateen was a radical Islamist terrorist inspired by ISIS. He deliberately targeted a gay night club killing 49 Americans. He is not the first terrorist to target a gay night club and unfortunately he probably isn’t the last hate filled terrorist to target a segment of society. In 1997, a domestic terrorist, Eric Robert Rudolph detonated two bombs at the Otherside Lounge outside of Atlanta.

What is surprising is that politicials have been downplaying the threat from “homegrown inspired radical Islamist terrorists.” One individual who has been sounding the warning is FBI Director James Comey. Last year, Comey stated that the FBI caseload of ISIS suspects had exploded to more than 900 in all 50 states.  This growing threat should concern every American. The FBI, local law enforcement and the intelligence community need additional resources to combat this growing challenge before it gets out of hand. With close to 300 Americans that have traveled to fight for ISIS in Syria and Iraq and numerous attacks from Paris, Chattanooga to Orlando this is a threat that is not going away. Redacting the words of one terrorist will do nothing to stop the threat.

What a terrorist says is important to understand how to defeat them. In 2004, I drafted “Words of Terror” Statements and Analysis of Al-Qaeda Leaders” a document used in our Mirror Image training. I put this together because we identified a lack of knowledge of what terrorist leaders had said and the statements they had issued in those attending our immersion training. The bulk of those terrorists who spoke and issued statements we examined were true believers. Until law enforcement does a total review of Mateen’s background and a digital analysis of his computer, phone and electronics it is hard to say with any certainty who might have radicalized Mateen or who truly motivated or manipulated him to launch this attack. In the last two years, ISIS’ Dabiq magazine has been telling followers to conduct attacks where ever they are using knives, firearms and even trucks to kill disbelievers.

A few things are certain. Omar Mateen wanted to attack a soft target-a gay night club in Orlando. He lawfully acquired the weapons and ammunition needed. This attack has almost nothing to do with the Second Amendment. A terrorist that can’t get a firearm will seek out a knife. If he can’t get a knife or firearm he might seek out a truck. If he can’t get the weapon he wants he might build a suicide bomber vest or some other explosive device. Omar wanted the world to know that he pledged “bayat” or allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. If he didn’t want to attach himself to ISIS he wouldn’t have contacted the Orlando Police Dispatch. Omar wanted to instill terror and fear in the first responders who were trying to bring this to an end. But police had to worry about bombs outside the nightclub. Then Omar Mateen stated that he was going to put explosives on four people inside the nightclub. Forced suicide bombers would have added another dimension to an already dangerous situation. Omar also threatened that there would be other attacks in the following days. As if this attack wasn’t brutal enough.  As Brian Jenkins, the renowned terrorism expert has previously stated “kill one terrorize thousands. In this case, Omar killed 49 Americans and did terrorize thousands.

Omar Mateen was a killer who didn’t mind becoming a martyr for his cause. Much is at stake as America deals with the challenges of confronting homegrown inspired radical Islamist terrorists. But the last thing we need is to redact anything these terrorist say. Show the world who they really are and what they are attempting to accomplish. Our way of life will prevail.