Holding the FBI Accountable
All law enforcement should be held to the same standard of accountability when mistakes are made—including the FBI.
Remember when Gary Lee Sampson called the FBI from a pay phone in Abington to turn himself in for a slew of bank robberies in 2001? He waited several hours to be arrested. And no one showed up.
The next day he went on a killing spree. Now he’s on death row and three men are dead.
Remember when the FBI intercepted communications between Major Nidal Hassan and Al Qaeder leader Anwar Al-Awalki while Nidal was working as an Army psychologist?
But nothing happened. On November 5, 2009 Nidal went to work at his base in Fort Hood, Texas where he executed 13 soldiers and wounded another 30.
Or that time the FBI and the CIA got warnings about the Tamerlan Tsarnaev in 2011 that he was communicating with dangerous radicals in Dagestan? Tsarnaev was on two terror watch lists when he went to Dagestan in the months before the Boston Marathon bombings to talk to those radicals in person.
When Tsarnaev “beat feet” as one Congressman described it out of Russia in July 2012 no one stopped him from reentry into the US via Boston despite the terror listings. Within weeks the FBI told immigration officials that they saw no problem that should prevent Tsarnaev from being naturalized [despite a 2009 arrest for slapping his then girlfriend that made him ineligible]. Tamerlan and his brother, Dzhokhar, who was a citizen, unleashed the Boston Marathon attack four months later, killing four people, wounding 260 others, among the critically injured 17 amputees.
As Omar Mateen opened fire at the Pulse nightclub he gave his “homeboy” Tamerlan Tsarnaev a “shout out” in a call to a Florida dispatcher. He had been under FBI surveillance twice and a gun store owner had called the FBI about the startling amount of ammo he purchased weeks before the June 2016 slaughter of 49 people. Despite those warnings, the club became a bloodbath and it was the responding officers who were questioned about THEIR response.
Then there was Esteban Santiago who walked into a FBI field office in Alaska making erratic statements about ISIS in Nov. 2016. He got on a plane with a gun in his checked luggage and opened fire the following year, killing 5 and wounding 8.
The FBI does amazing work everyday – the current MS13 federal prosecutions, the largest number of the deadly gang members facing trials in the nation, are a fantastic example of their dedication – but when mistakes along the mahogany rows of the FBI lead to bloodshed there needs to be accountability, like the punishments doled out to rank and file law enforcement who make mistakes on the job.
Michele McPhee is a best selling true crime author; three-time Emmy-nominated television investigative producer in Boston for ABC News Brian Ross Investigative Unit; award-winning columnist; magazine contributor.