August 11, 2022

USA: The Pulse Gay Nightclub Massacre Happened 6 Years Ago. The Killer's Father Was Working For The FBI And FBI Consider Recruiting The Shooter As An Informant Investigated Twice Before Shooting.

The Intercept
written by Trevor Aaronson
March 26, 2018

FBI files suggest that agents consulted Seddique Mateen when trying to determine whether his son Omar posed a security threat.

BEFORE OMAR MATEEN charged into the Pulse nightclub in Orlando and killed 49 people in June 2016, the FBI conducted two so-called assessments, the bureau’s term of art for limited national security investigations that do not require probable cause. In both cases, the bureau determined that Mateen was not a potential terrorist.

During the attack, while barricaded in a bathroom, Mateen suggested to hostage negotiators that he had committed the nightclub massacre in response to U.S. airstrikes in Syria and Iraq, including one that killed senior Islamic State member Abu Wahib.

“You have to tell America to stop bombing Syria and Iraq. They’re killing a lot of innocent people,” Mateen said by phone, shortly before police shot him. “So what am I to do here when my people are getting killed over there?”

After the shooting, then-FBI Director James Comey said federal agents would examine their failures to stop Mateen before he attacked “in an open and honest way and be transparent about it.” The FBI has not disclosed what came of the examination. When The Intercept inquired about it one year after the attack, the FBI answered: “We have no comment.”

A motion filed on Sunday may help explain the FBI’s lack of transparency. In it, lawyers for Mateen’s widow, Noor Salman, who is charged with material support and obstruction of justice in connection with the Pulse attack, say Mateen’s father, Seddique Mateen, worked as an FBI informant for 11 years, up to June 2016, when Mateen attacked the nightclub. The prosecution knew this but sought to hide it, Salman’s lawyers say.

The disclosure is significant because it sheds light on why the FBI may have chosen to close the assessments of Omar Mateen. FBI files provided to Salman’s defense lawyers suggest that agents consulted Mateen’s father, in his capacity as an informant, during the first assessment, raising questions about whether Seddique Mateen helped persuade FBI agents to close out an inquiry that could have prevented the deadly terrorist attack. It’s unclear whether the FBI consulted the elder Mateen during the second assessment as well.

Assessments, intended to provide quick responses to possible security threats, allow FBI agents to investigate people based on nothing more than internal suspicions or vague tips from the public. Though the law does not establish a time limit, the bureau restricts assessments to 60 or 90 days unless agents find information to justify a full investigation.

The FBI launched its first assessment of Omar Mateen in 2013 after he had allegedly boasted to co-workers at G4S, a security company, that he had terrorist connections. The FBI reported that it had closed the investigation after Mateen told agents he made the comment to scare his co-workers, who were reportedly mocking his religion. One year after closing that first assessment, the FBI opened a second, spurred by Mateen’s relationship with Moner Mohammad Abusalha, a Florida man who became the first American suicide bomber in Syria. Mateen and Abusalha attended the same mosque on Florida’s Atlantic coast. The FBI, finding that Mateen’s contact with Abusalha was minimal, closed that assessment as well.

An FBI intelligence report indicates that agents told an unidentified undercover informant that they were investigating Mateen. The informant then “became very upset” that Mateen was under scrutiny, according to the report. Although neither federal prosecutors nor the FBI has confirmed that the unidentified informant in the report was Mateen’s father, defense lawyers for Salman assert that they “can now infer” that Seddique Mateen “played a significant role” in the FBI’s decision to close the assessment and not to pursue a larger investigation or criminal charges against Mateen.

While Mateen’s widow is standing trial for allegedly aiding the Pulse attack and misleading investigators, Seddique Mateen has not faced criminal charges despite a tip to the FBI that he raised money for terrorism in Pakistan, and an ongoing investigation into money transfers he allegedly made to Turkey and Afghanistan.

According to an email from Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara Sweeney to Salman’s lawyers, an anonymous tip indicated that Seddique Mateen, an immigrant from Afghanistan, was trying to raise $50,000 to $100,000 to support an attack against the government of Pakistan. The tip came on November 1, 2012, while Seddique Mateen was working as an FBI informant. After the Pulse shooting, an FBI search of Seddique Mateen’s home uncovered receipts for money transfers to Turkey and Afghanistan between March and June 2016, right before the Pulse shooting. Omar Mateen was researching flights to Turkey at the same time that his father was sending payments there, according to defense lawyers’ summary of FBI evidence.

“Now, the fact that Seddique was sending money to Turkey and Afghanistan indicates the possibility that Omar Mateen was planning to travel to either of those countries to join forces with a terroristic organization,” Fritz Scheller and Charles Swift, Salman’s lawyers, allege in their filing. These facts, they argue, undercut the government’s claim that Salman was aware of plans for and aided her late husband’s terrorist attack.

Defense lawyers have the option to call Seddique Mateen as a witness and ask about his work as an FBI informant. But federal prosecutors have said they do not intend to cross examine the elder Mateen. Sweeney notified the defense that they “will not seek to elicit any of this information from him.”

Salman’s trial continues today. During testimony this morning, FBI Special Agent Juvenal Martin, Seddique Mateen’s FBI handler, admitted that federal agents had considered recruiting the younger Mateen as an informant before he attacked the Orlando nightclub.

A federal judge on Monday rejected Salman’s request for a mistrial in light of the new information. As a policy, the FBI neither confirms nor denies the identity of informants.
The Orlando Sentinel
written by Krista Torralva and Gal Tziperman Lotan
March 26, 2018

Pulse nightclub gunman Omar Mateen’s father, Seddique Mateen, was an FBI informant for more than a decade before the 2016 mass shooting and is facing a criminal investigation in connection with money transfers to Turkey and Afghanistan, it was disclosed Monday during the trial of Mateen’s widow.

FBI Special Agent Juvenal Martin also testified that he considered developing Omar Mateen as an informant after closing an investigation into comments Mateen made at work in 2013 about belonging to terrorist organizations.

Defense lawyers for Noor Salman argued the case against her should be thrown out or declared a mistrial, but U.S. District Judge Paul Byron rejected that request.

"This trial is not about Seddique Mateen. It's about Noor Salman," Byron said.

Afterward, Salman hunched over the table in front of her and held her face in her hands while lawyers spoke privately with the judge.

According to a motion filed by Salman’s lawyers, the defense team learned about Seddique Mateen’s work for the FBI on Saturday, in an email from prosecutor Sara Sweeney. She said the elder Mateen had been an FBI source “at various points” between January 2005 and June 2016. Seddique Mateen was on the prosecutors’ witness list, but they rested their case last week without calling him to testify.

Sweeney also disclosed that FBI agents investigating the shooting found receipts for money transfers to Turkey and Afghanistan between March 16, 2016, and June 5, 2016. On June 10, Omar Mateen searched for cheap tickets to Istanbul.

Omar Mateen opened fire inside Pulse nightclub on June 12, 2016, killing 49 people.

Salman’s defense lawyers suggested his father’s sending money to Turkey and Afghanistan indicates Omar Mateen might have planned to travel to one of the countries to join a terrorist organization.

Seddique Mateen was not aware he was under investigation, but defense lawyer Fritz Schellar told the judge he since informed the elder Mateen’s lawyer, Tampa-based attorney Todd Foster. Foster declined to comment when reached by phone late Monday.

The nature of the FBI’s investigation of Seddique Mateen was unclear.

In their motion, Salman’s lawyers said they had never before been told about the FBI’s relationship with Mateen or the money transfers — an omission that was grounds, they argued, for the case to be dismissed.

“It is apparent from the Government’s belated disclosure that Ms. Salman has been defending a case without a complete set of facts and evidence that the Government was required to disclose,” Scheller wrote in the court filing.

Defense lawyers began presenting their case Monday. They are expected to rest Tuesday, and both sides would give closing arguments Wednesday before jurors begin deliberating.

In the aftermath of the Pulse attack, Seddique Mateen told CNN he was “not aware of” his son’s being a terrorist, though he considered the mass shooting an act of terror. "This is the worst thing that can happen for a father to see a son act like this,” he said in a June 14, 2016 interview.

Born in Afghanistan, Seddique Mateen had worked as a fringe political commentator before the massacre, often railing against Pakistan and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, according to a report by Reuters.

Martin, the FBI special agent who oversaw Seddique Mateen as an informant after transferring to the FBI’s Miami division in 2006, also testified Monday about investigating Omar Mateen after co-workers at the security firm G4S reported in 2013 that Mateen had made comments about being connected to Al Qaeda, Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Martin had Mateen’s supervisor wear a concealed recording device. It did not capture him making such statements again, Martin said.

Martin, along with other law enforcement, later interviewed the younger Mateen three times at his apartment. Salman was home all three times, the agent testified.

Mateen admitted making the comments but said he did so because he felt harassed at work.

Martin said he considered trying to develop Mateen as an informant, like his father, after finding he didn’t have ties to terrorism. Omar Mateen would later claim allegiance to the Islamic State group in conversations with an Orlando police crisis negotiator as he carried out the mass shooting at Pulse.

Salman, 31, is accused of obstruction of justice and aiding and abetting Omar Mateen’s providing material support to a foreign terrorism organization.

On Monday, Salman clutched tissues and wiped her face as two childhood friends and an uncle testified in her defense. Her uncle, Abdallah Salman, described giving his blessing to Mateen to marry Salman in 2011. Abdallah Salman’s voice broke when he repeated what he said to Mateen’s father: “I trust you with my niece.”

Among the witnesses called to testify for Salman’s defense were two women with whom Mateen had trysts outside his marriage and a computer forensics expert who read aloud sexually explicit messages Mateen sent women.

The testimony comes as defense lawyers work to convince Salman’s jury that her husband, a manipulator and abuser, was leading a secret life about which his wife was unaware.

Her defense attorneys have said they plan to tell jurors that Salman was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder because of Mateen’s domestic abuse. In her opening statements, defense attorney Linda Moreno said Salman is a “trusting, simple” person with a low IQ, who did not know she would be widowed because her husband became “a martyr for a cause that she didn’t support.”

An expert in false confessions who has said Salman was especially susceptible to signing a false confession is expected to testify Tuesday.

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