What do the Ft. Lauderdale Airport Shooter and Orlando Pulse Nightclub Shooter Have In Common?
Omar Mateen, the alleged gunman who stormed the gay nightclub in Orlando on June 12th, 2016, and killed 49 people, had three years prior been placed by the FBI on the TSDB (Terrorist Screening Database) in 2013, and was also placed on the narrower Selectee List (a subset of the TSDB)¹ which currently contains approximately 1,700 Americans.²
According to the FBI, he was placed on the list after several of his colleagues at the St. Lucie County Courthouse, where he worked as a contract security guard, reported him due to his self-proclaimed association with specific terrorist groups.
In response, the FBI deployed two confidential informants who repeatedly met with Mateen over the course of 10 months in an attempt to secretly record him saying something incriminating. During this time they learned that Mateen had twice traveled to the Middle East in 2011 and 2012.³
After determining that Mateen had lied to coworkers about terrorist ties, the FBI closed its investigation and he was taken off the TSDB in March of 2014.
That summer the FBI investigated Mateen once again after an individual from his local mosque reported him for allegedly talking about watching videos, which he described as “very powerful,” of Anwar al-Awlaki (the U.S. citizen who was drone bombed by the CIA while in Yemen in 2011 and who was credited with having radicalized the Fort Hood shooter).
This came just after another individual from that same mosque, Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha, blew himself up in a terrorist attack in Syria. After interviewing Mateen the FBI determined that no further investigation was necessary.¹
After the attack in Orlando in 2016 it came to light that Mateen had actually been enrolled in an online Islamic fundamentalist course run by Marcus Dwayne Robertson.⁴
Robertson has a long and telling history. He was discharged in 1990 from the U.S. Marine Corps 2nd Force Reconnaissance Company after being trained in, among other things, marksmanship, parachuting, surveillance, and counterterrorism.
In 1991 he was arrested in New York as being the head of a notorious gang that had conducted a litany of armed robberies on banks, private homes, and post offices, and which had shot several police officers. Robertson was also, at some point, acting as a bodyguard for Omar Abdel Rahman, the individual currently serving a life sentence after allegedly being involved in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.
Following the arrest Robertson only served four years because he cut a deal with the FBI to work as an undercover operative. He did so, at the very least, between 2004 and 2007 documenting terrorist networks in Africa, Egypt, and the U.S., but was supposedly “dismissed” from the program in 2007 after attacking his CIA handler in Africa.
It was in 2008 that he began the online seminary course that Mateen would later enroll in.⁵
Several years later, in 2011, Robertson was arrested on a firearms charge and pleaded guilty in January of 2012.
Prior to his arrest, wiretaps on Robertson recorded him instructing one of his students, Jonathan Paul Jimenez, to file false tax returns in order to obtain a refund which could be used to pay for travel to Mauritania for terror training. Jimenez, who was later arrested and sentenced to 10 years in federal prison, studied with Robertson for a year in preparation for his travel to Mauritania, where he was supposed to further train in killing, suicide bombing, and identifying and eliminating U.S. military personnel.
During Robertson’s sentencing, federal prosecutors attempted to tack on another 10 years to his prison term under enhanced terrorism charges, but failed.
While he was in prison, he apparently had to be moved into solitary confinement after it was believed that he was radicalizing up to 36 inmates. In June of 2015 he was freed with time served.
Not surprisingly, many of the court filings on Robertson are under federal seal and remain inaccessible to the public.⁴
Robertson was not the only alarming connection to the Mateen case, however.
At around 8 AM EST (5 AM PST in Santa Monica, California), several hours after Mateen’s rampage had been brought to an end, officers responding to a call of a possible prowler just so happened to get lucky and stumble upon James Howell sitting in his car. Howell was an Indiana resident who had driven across the country to Santa Monica with three assault rifles, high capacity magazines, ammunition, and a five-gallon bucket of explosives.⁶
After Howell was brought to the Santa Monica Police Department for questioning the Police Chief, Jacqueline Seabrooks, put out a tweet saying:
Man told @SantaMonicaPD officer of wanting to harm Gay Pride event during arrest for weapons and explosive materials possession.
James Howell held on weapons and explosive materials charges. Stated intent: go to Gay Pride event; wrong on initial rpt of wanting to harm
Given that the deadliest terrorist attack in the U.S. since 9/11 had just been plastered all over every news outlet on the entire planet, an attack which was directed towards individuals at a gay nightclub, one would think that Seabrooks’s original tweet about someone in possession of weapons and explosives wanting to “do harm” to LA Pride, which was scheduled to continue for its final day on the 12th, was not a tweet that was taken lightly or sent out willy nilly without having thoroughly confirmed directly with Howell his stated intent.
Nevertheless, with no explanation as to how she got it “wrong” the first time, Seabrooks later retracted that claim, possibly after the intervention of federal agents.
It goes without saying that when there are two incidents thousands of miles apart and yet within hours of one another, both specifically targeting gay individuals and both involving multiple weapons and lots of ammunition, the likelihood of those incidents having no connection to one another is astronomically low, approaching the level of a “kooky coincidence theory.”
But what may have been the nature of that connection? Were both Howell and Mateen enrolled in Robertson’s online seminar?
Howell had allegedly left Indiana for Santa Monica because he knew he was under investigation for child molestation, a crime for which he was charged on June 15th following his arrest in Santa Monica.⁸
Esteban Santiago, the shooter at Ft. Lauderdale airport, had been investigated by DHS in 2011 for child porn, although there was supposedly not enough evidence to prosecute.⁹
It is well established at this point that police and federal agencies sometimes arrange for lenient prison sentences, or no sentence at all, for convicted felons who agree to become informants.¹⁰
The FBI maintains at least 15,000 informants in the U.S. and also “allows” them to break the law. In 2011 alone those informants were allowed to commit over 5,600 crimes.¹¹
So in other words, the federal government hires convicted criminals, through what amounts to a form of extortion, and provides them with official protection to engage in a litany of crimes as they maraud about the U.S. under the cover of a clandestine program on which Congress cannot even get information. What could go wrong?
Naturally, one of the first questions about Santiago is whether his 2011 DHS investigation roped him in to becoming an undercover operative of some kind, possibly as part of a counterterrorism dragnet. Howell may have also found himself in a similar situation following his child molestation investigation.
In Santiago’s case, prior to his DHS investigation, he had been deployed to Iraq as a combat engineer from April 2010 to February 2011, and was a “changed man” when he returned to the U.S., according to his aunt. She said he spoke about the “destruction” he witnessed and the “killing of children.”
As mentioned above, Omar Mateen was also a security guard. Mateen was contracted by G4S who was eventually fined $151,000 for faking Mateen’s psychological tests.¹⁶
G4S, which, at least as of 2014, was the world’s 3rd largest private-sector employer commanding a force three times the size of the British military,¹⁷ has been involved in numerous incidents, including an employee who was charged with making a bomb threat during the 2012 London Summer Olympics (for which G4S was hired to run security),¹⁸ an employee (of a G4S subsidiary) who killed two colleagues in Iraq while claiming to be “the antichrist” and saying he “must satisfy” his “bloodlust,” a contract signed in 2007 with five Israeli prisons and “interrogation centers” which led to accusations that G4S was complicit in torture and the imprisonment of children, a 2010 killing by three employees of an Angolan national during a deportation flight from the U.K. (by restraining him in an asphyxiating position), and a 2016 arrest of five employees after a BBC expose revealed systematic abuse and neglect at a G4S-run youth jail, among other incidents.¹⁹
In fact, G4S, which was known as Securicor before merging with Group 4 Falck (to form Group 4 Securicor) in 2004,²⁰ had contracts with United Airlines via a subsidiary, Argenbright Security, to run passenger security at Dulles International Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport when hijackers boarded Flight 77 and Flight 93, respectively, on 9/11.²¹
Terrorism is great business for state-connected “private” corporations like G4S considering the U.S. alone spends $115 billion per year on domestic homeland security which is distributed to at least 1,072 governmental organizations and agencies and some 2,000 companies.²² After the Orlando shooting, however, G4S’s market valuation dropped $280 million.²³
Omar Mateen’s FBI investigation while he was a G4S employee would have fallen under the jurisdiction of the Miami field office, one of the FBI’s most active and aggressive counterterrorism units in the country.²⁴
George Piro, the FBI agent and sole interrogator of Saddam Hussein starting in January of 2004, is currently the special agent in charge of the FBI Miami field office, and is leading the investigation into the Ft. Lauderdale Airport shooting (Ft. Lauderdale is about a half hour drive from Miami).²⁵
Santiago previously had a run in with the FBI in November 2016 after walking into the Anchorage field office saying that he was hearing voices urging him to violence and that his mind was being controlled by the CIA, who was forcing him to watch ISIS videos. The FBI contacted local police who sent him in for a psychiatric evaluation.²⁶
Weeks later Santiago boarded a flight in Anchorage, stopped off in Minneapolis airport, and then flew to Ft. Lauderdale on January 6th.
According to the FBI affidavit, at approximately 12:56 PM he pulled out a gun in the Terminal 2 baggage claim area and fired ten to fifteen rounds at victims’ heads while walking and shooting in a methodical manner. At one point he exited Terminal 2 onto the sidewalk and then re-entered, still carrying the handgun. Moments later he was approached by a Broward County Sheriff’s Office deputy. Santiago dropped the handgun, which was empty, and got down onto the floor where he was arrested.
During his interview with BSO and FBI personnel, Santiago said he planned the attack and purchased a one-way airline ticket from Anchorage to Ft. Lauderdale. He checked baggage consisting of a box containing a 9mm semi-automatic handgun and two clips, and upon arrival in Ft. Lauderdale he took the baggage into the men’s restroom, removed the handgun, loaded it, and put it in his waistband. He then left the restroom and began firing. After emptying his first clip he reloaded and shot again until the second clip was spent.²⁷
The fact that Santiago had recently told Anchorage FBI agents that the CIA was controlling his mind and forcing him to watch ISIS videos obviously raises a lot of questions despite the fact that the mainstream media has been quick to write that off as paranoid ramblings while instead whining about Santiago’s ability to check baggage with a gun in it. It’s unclear how that’s at all relevant considering if checking bags containing guns was illegal someone could just as well have walked IN to the airport and opened fire before going through security. He didn’t hijack the plane. He shot people in the airport near a baggage claim which is accessible without any passenger screening.
But that brings to light an important question. The FBI Miami field office investigators don’t know why Santiago decided to fly all the way to Florida to carry out an attack.¹² Clearly this was not a spur of the moment killing spree as a result of a sudden mental breakdown but a highly premeditated act of mass murder.
Appearing shackled and handcuffed in a courtroom on January 9th Santiago said nothing about why he came to Florida for the attack, but did say that he was earning about $15,000 per year while in the Army for 10 years and that he currently has no assets and only five or ten dollars in his bank account.²⁸
So how exactly did he afford the plane ticket then? Did he have help? In fact, nothing about the entire incident — where he got the money, why he flew all the way to Florida with a one-way ticket, why he decided to kill people in such an unnecessarily elaborate plot involving checking baggage which contained only a gun and ammunition — makes any sense. Unless you consider the FBI’s history.
FBI informants offering money, weapons, and explosives to targets has been part of the FBI’s modus operandi for decades at least, stretching back to incidents like FBI informant Howard Godfrey who was paid from 1967 to 1972 to infiltrate a right-wing paramilitary group in San Diego during which he fired shots into the home of a San Diego State University professor, badly wounding a woman inside (he was not terminated as an informant after this), and subsequently sold explosives to a subordinate in the paramilitary group who used it to bomb the Guild Theater in San Diego in 1972.²⁹
Since 9/11 the FBI’s main focus has been its counterterrorism operations upon which it spends $3.3 billion annually, the largest portion of its $8.2 billion budget.
Oftentimes the FBI trolls the internet for targets based upon social media posts and then deploys informants who establish an on going relationship wherein the target, who never would have had the ability or even the idea to engage in a terrorist attack, is deliberately radicalized and supplied with the plan and the means. Then, prior to the attack, the target is arrested and the media gushes over how safe the federal government is keeping us from otherwise harmless individuals.³⁰
Not surprisingly FBI Director James Comey, in his statement to the Senate Appropriations Committee for fiscal year 2016, mentioned some version of the word “terrorism” 25 times.³¹
Given that the actual terrorist threat in the U.S. is virtually non-existent, being that in the decade following 9/11 the number of authentic terrorist threats could be counted on one hand (and even those are highly questionable in terms of whether U.S. intelligence was involved),³²* the FBI and the rest of the U.S. domestic security state along with the endless corporations joined at the hip require there to be the widespread perception among Americans that the War on Terror isn’t and hasn’t always been one big fake dog and pony show used to justify spending billions and billions of taxpayer dollars, not to mention an endless slew of restricted liberties and demeaning abuses at the hands of imperious goons such as TSA agents.
The FBI’s counterterrorism sting operation program helps to manufacture the false terrorist threat. And when media stories about “terrorists” being arrested before carrying out an attack aren’t enough, one has to wonder if the lack of accountability for the massive network of FBI informants isn’t by design so that when something does inevitably slip through the cracks and turn into a real attack with real victims, the terrified public is graphically reminded as to why they need the FBI, who can blame a lack of power or whatever else for why they didn’t see it coming, despite it being right in front of their faces, all the while conveniently running the entire investigation process to ensure any possible unwanted details, whether they relate to incompetence or complicity, can be swept under the rug.
The real problem here is that when you have a monopolistic institution which is effectively guaranteed a stream of revenue regardless of its actual performance (which, as we’ve seen, results in excuses for more money and more power the worse it is, the exact opposite of what you’d want), and which controls investigations over incidents it may have facilitated either through incompetence or on purpose, you cannot reasonably expect that institution to do anything remotely resembling the idiotic sloganeering coming from politicians or media or anyone else.
In the case of Santiago, assuming a theory consistent with the FBI’s modus operandi, what may have actually transpired?
Of course because there is such a dearth of information we have no choice but to speculate using historical cases as a guide.
The 2011 DHS child porn investigation, which resulted in the confiscation of his laptop, provides a touch point between Santiago and the federal government, and the possibility that other information was obtained from the hard drive such as material relating to his feelings about the Iraq war from which he had recently returned. The investigation also raises the possibility of him being pressured into becoming an informant, or perhaps some other kind of intelligence asset, in exchange for not being charged, if indeed he did actually have child porn on his computer. Evidence from the investigation may have also been used to blackmail him later on.
The fact that he walked into the FBI Anchorage field office provides a second touch point. Santiago’s claims about being forced to watch ISIS videos by the CIA suggests that he may have already had on going contact with informants who he suspected to be U.S. intelligence operatives, perhaps thinking they were CIA when they may have been FBI. That relationship could have been established through any social media posts that Santiago may have made regarding his feelings about the war in Iraq.
According to NBC News, Santiago’s brother, Bryan Santiago, said that during a trip to Alaska months ago Esteban told him that “he [was] hearing voices, seeing people following him, the CIA and the government are, you know, writing him secret codes on the website to him and to join a group.”³³ Rather than Esteban having personal interaction with any informants, perhaps he was being contacted online.
If instead his words to his brother and claims made while in the Anchorage field office are to be interpreted as delusions stemming from mental issues, perhaps involving medication he may have been taking, then the next consideration is whether the FBI deployed informants following his visit, which wouldn’t have necessarily been unusual considering some of the individuals the FBI has run sting operations on in the past.
The final question, beyond the full nature of Santiago’s relationship to the FBI, and any involvement he may have had with the CIA or other individuals, is if indeed Santiago was directed to carry out this attack in some fashion by U.S. intelligence operatives, why would Ft. Lauderdale Airport be chosen, beyond the FBI Miami field office’s focus on counterterrorism which provides the impetus for corruption and the experience in conducting cover-ups?
Apparently, on December 20th, 2016, a bill, SB 140, was referred to the Judiciary, Governmental Oversight and Accountability, and Rules Committees in the Florida Senate.³⁴ The bill would repeal laws banning the carrying of guns in airport passenger terminals, among several other public locations.³⁵ Days before the shooting gun rights activists were rallying support for the measure.³⁶
While I’m not suggesting that SB 140 alone provided the motivation for the Ft. Lauderdale shooting, since as is so often the case with these incidents there are numerous different incentives which come together in order to shape the course of the event, the coincidence here is extraordinary enough to consider whether it played a role.
Santiago also reportedly purchased a ticket to New York City on New Year’s Eve, six days before the attack, but canceled the flight and opted for Florida instead.³⁷ He does have family in Naples, and actually spoke to one of his half-brothers there the day before the attack who offered Santiago a place to stay due to the difficult time he was having, although it’s still not clear whether that was his intention at any point. The drive from Ft. Lauderdale would have been two hours, whereas Southwest Florida International Airport is about an hour and a half closer.³⁸
Ultimately however we’ll probably never know what happened since everything the federal government does is classified and kept under wraps. Even barring any government-involved conspiracies, the covert nature of the FBI’s counterrorism sting operation program, and the unaccountability of its informant network, prevent the public from being able to critically assess the true risks involved with these dangerous activities.
*32. Aaronson, Trevor. The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI’s Maufactured War on Terrorism (Kindle Location 122). Ig Publishing.