FBI admits failure to act on Florida school gunman, draws anger

This composite images shows on the flet, Florida's Republican Gov. Rick Scott (Photo by Joe Radlle /Getty) and on the right FBI Director Christopher Wray (photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP). (AFP)
Updated 17 February 2018
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FBI admits failure to act on Florida school gunman, draws anger

PARKLAND, Florida: The Federal Bureau of Investigation on Friday said it failed to act on a tip that the teenager accused of killing 17 people in Florida had guns and the desire to kill, drawing calls from Florida’s Republican governor for the FBI director to resign.
A person close to accused gunman Nikolas Cruz called an FBI tip line on Jan. 5 to report concerns about him, the FBI said in a statement.
“The caller provided information about Cruz’s gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting,” it said.
The tip appeared unrelated to a previously reported YouTube comment in which a person named Nikolas Cruz said, “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.” The FBI has acknowledged getting that tip as well but failing to connect it to Cruz, who is accused of carrying out Wednesday’s mass shooting with an AR-15-style assault rifle.
Florida Governor Rick Scott said FBI Director Christopher Wray should step down over the agency’s mishandling of the tip.
“The FBI’s failure to take action against this killer is unacceptable,” Scott said in a statement. “We constantly promote ‘see something, say something,’ and a courageous person did just that to the FBI. And the FBI failed to act.”
Other Republicans including Florida Senator Marco Rubio also harshly criticized the FBI and US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he had ordered a review of the bureau and Department of Justice procedures following the shooting.
At the funeral for massacre victim Meadow Pollack, an 18-year-old senior who had been headed to university, family friend Jeff Richman expressed disbelief at the FBI fumble.
“The FBI apologized? Tell that to families,” said Richman, 53, an advertising executive who lives in Parkland. “Everybody always tells you ‘when you see something, say something.’ Well, here people were seeing something and saying something and it still happened.”
The FBI said the information on Cruz should have been forwarded to its Miami field office and investigated, but that never happened.
“We have spoken with victims and families, and deeply regret the additional pain this causes all those affected by this horrific tragedy,” Wray said in a statement.
The killings in the affluent Miami suburb of Parkland have raised concerns about potential failures in school security and stirred the ongoing US debate about gun rights, which are protected by the Second Amendment of the US Constitution.
The sheriff of Broward County where the shootings took place said in a Friday press conference that authorities had received around 20 “calls for service” in the last few years regarding Cruz.
The sheriff, Scott Israel, said not all of the calls had resulted in the dispatch of law enforcement officers but added that his office would scrutinize them all to see if they were properly handled.
Leaders including US President Donald Trump have linked mental illness to Wednesday’s violence, suggesting that it was the public’s responsibility to warn officials of such dangers.
Cruz, who had been expelled for undisclosed disciplinary reasons from the school where he allegedly staged his attack, made a brief court appearance on Thursday and was ordered held without bond.
“He’s a broken human being,” his lawyer, public defender Melissa McNeill, told reporters. “He’s sad, he’s mournful, he’s remorseful.”
Wednesday’s shooting ranks as the greatest loss of life from school gun violence since the 2012 shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, that left 20 first-graders and six adult educators dead.
Broward County officials have called for the demolition of the school building where the killings took place.
“No parents are going to want to send their children back into that annex, no one is going to want to go there,” said Broward County Commissioner Michael Udine.
Trump tweeted on Friday morning that he would leave for Florida later in the day to meet people whose “lives had been totally shattered” by the shooting.
The vice mayor of Broward County, a strongly Democratic area, blasted any visit by Trump, saying Republicans had failed to back common sense gun laws and had rolled back measures that made it harder for severely mentally ill people to buy weapons.
“Him coming here is absolutely absurd, and he’s a hypocrite,” Mark Bogen told CNN in an interview following Trump’s tweet.


Southeast Asia boosts fight against ‘real and present’ militant threat

Updated 6 min 14 sec ago
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Southeast Asia boosts fight against ‘real and present’ militant threat

  • The forum delegates agreed to share real-time intelligence that can immediately be acted upon
  • The weekend security meeting was attended by defense ministers of the 10-member ASEAN, as well as the US, China, Australia, India and Russia
SINGAPORE: Southeast Asian nations seeking to combat the threat of militancy have agreed to share intelligence, Singapore’s defense minister said Saturday, as he warned of a “real and present” danger to the region.
More than a year after Daesh-linked fighters seized the southern Philippine city of Marawi, the terrorist threat is as potent as ever, said Ng Eng Hen after hosting a meeting of defense ministers.
“Unfortunately even as the situation in Iraq and Syria improves, we are expecting more foreign fighters to come this way,” he added.
Ng said all 18 ministers at the gathering in Singapore, from Southeast Asia and key partners outside the region, viewed “terrorism as a real and present threat.”
The Southeast Asian delegates adopted an information-sharing platform called “Our Eyes” that will be used to share real-time intelligence that can immediately be acted upon, the minister added.
This came after the countries realized that they had underestimated the threat before the attack on Marawi, where the rebuilding effort could cost around $1 billion, he said.
Proposed by Indonesia, the platform is based on an intelligence-sharing alliance set up by the United States, Britain and three other countries after World War II to monitor the former Soviet Union.
The weekend security meeting was attended by the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), as well as US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and their counterparts from countries including China, Australia, India and Russia.
In last year’s assault on Marawi, hundreds of armed militants backed by foreign Daesh fighters attacked and took control of the largely Muslim city in a bid to establish a base in Southeast Asia.
Philippine troops, supported by sophisticated surveillance planes from the United States, dislodged the militants after five months of heavy fighting that left more than 1,000 people dead and the city in ruins.
Militants from other Southeast Asian countries, including Indonesia and Malaysia, were involved in the fighting.
Those at the meeting “felt that this must never happen again to any city within ASEAN,” Ng said.