In view of 9/11, we have compromised our way of life and our civil liberties. Allegedly, it was the price that we had to pay if we wanted to be safe. Questionable policies have been put into place on our behalf since. We have been secretly wiretapped, put on secret no-fly lists, exposed to controversial body-scanners, indefinitely detained without due process, and even our library records were seized. Our requests for transparency were met with claims that information must be withheld from U.S. citizens in the name of national security. There has been little to no transparency, little to no accountability, and little to no checks and balances in the way our government has been operating.
The Orlando shooting, more than any other post-9/11 attack, showed just how little we were to receive in return for the civil liberties we have given up. Omar Mateen, a former terrorist suspect who was interviewed by the FBI and had a long history of violence, was able to legally obtain a semi-automatic gun and a pistol, shoot and kill 49 and injure 53 during a rampage. Weeks before the shooting, a gun shop owner had called the FBI and reported someone suspicious attempting to buy a Level 3 body armor who later turned out to be Mateen. The gun shop owner did not have any identifying information on the suspect, but the store had surveillance cameras in place. The FBI, however, has apparently never followed-up, or requested to see the video recording.
The FBI certainly could have not arrested Mateen for a crime he had yet to commit. However, why was Mateen not being more closely monitored? After all, the Bureau has historically never been a stranger to monitoring and keeping files on individuals, particularly on intellectuals and other persons with liberal views. The FBI has kept files on world renowned people such as Erich Fromm, or former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, to more recently, peace and animal rights activists, and Greenpeace supporters. When the FBI can justify monitoring peace activists, it should also be able to monitor people like Mateen, which brings us to another question: Why are we collecting an abundance of data and keeping files on individuals if we are unable to use the gathered information, regardless of whether Mateen's act of terror was related to ISIS or not? Mateen's act may have had little or possibly nothing to do with ISIS or Islam. However, that is not unusual in (homegrown) domestic terror cases as examples from Europe illustrate. Acts of terror and other forms of violence are increasingly also carried out by individuals who converted to Islam, or became radicalized at a later age, and use Islam to justify their actions.
Mateen's background was full of red flags. During its investigation, the FBI should have picked up on these signs. Unlike racial profiling, psychological profiling is an excellent law enforcement tool. Being prone to violence, splurging threats, being expelled from school are often a part of the background of individuals carrying out acts of violence, regardless of on whose name they claim to do it. However, the truth is that there was very little that the FBI could have done, because, regardless of exceptions that occur, we are a nation that operates within the frame of law. There are no laws and mechanisms that will help us to be "completely safe," because freedom requires that we take chances and tragedies, unfortunately, do happen.
What is really sad is that, apparently, no matter what happens, we are going to continue our irrational rhetoric about violence and guns, our irrational discourse on national security, and our sowing of hatred toward arbitrarily identified groups such as the homosexuals or Muslims. Although, apparently we are going to take a break from targeting "homosexuals" at this time and pretend that we never had a problem with "them" in this country in the first place.
We are a country with tremendous resources, knowledge, and intelligence. However, our political discourses have often been pathetic at the very least. Let us see how long it is going to take us to realize this and change the way we interact not only around the world, but also with each other.