After all hostages were released from Beth Isreal Synagogue in Colleyville, Texas where they were held for 11 hours on Saturday, FBI Special Agent in Charge Matt DeSarno from the Dallas field office told reporters that the gunman was “focused on one issue” that was unrelated to the Jewish community, and that they are “continuing to work to find the motive.”
That “one issue” is presumably the imprisonment of Aafia Siddiqui, also known as “Lady Al Qaeda,” a Pakistani national who is serving an 86-year sentence in a prison less than 20 miles from the synagogue. The gunman, Malik Faisal Akram, a 44-year-old British citizen, was heard shouting about Siddiqui’s release and demanding to speak to his “sister,” a terrorist whose release mainstream Muslim groups have recently been lobbying for. Akram died of gunshot wounds after the hostages were released.
The FBI’s statement that they “are continuing to work to find the motive” is another example of the agency’s ineptitude on multiple levels. The first is simply their refusal to even hint at the crime’s motivation as antisemitism, which is the only accurate label for an attack at a synagogue on Shabbat where a rabbi and three congregants are held hostage.
“If the law enforcement community doesn’t understand what’s going on, they’re not going to be able to address the fallout from this,” said Kenneth Marcus, the founder and chairman of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law. “This was not a mere slip-up. It is symptomatic of a widespread failure with law enforcement to understand the problems of antisemitism and anti-Zionism,” he told Fox News.
But perhaps even more frustrating is the FBI’s corrupt obsession and use of resources on cases that suit their political fancy, like the Jan. 6 Capitol riot or “Operation Varsity Blues” (catching rich people scamming to get their underachieving kids into top universities), while letting serious violent threats to Americans fly under the radar.
The BBC reports Akram arrived in the United States via New York’s JFK International Airport two weeks ago and he is believed to have bought a handgun used in the incident after his arrival, which would have required him to pass a federal background check, a system run by none other than the FBI.
The BBC report also said the FBI would be conducting investigations in Pakistan, “where it is understood Akram had been recently – to establish if he was acting alone or was supported by others.”
Perhaps he bought the gun “on the street,” as President Joe Biden claimed Sunday, but that still leaves questions as to what the FBI ought to know about who is helping foreigners who recently traveled to Pakistan purchase illegal firearms.
Even with the details sparse on what the FBI could or could not have known about the gunman, this caught-off-guard response from federal agents is sadly what Americans have come to expect from our top law enforcement agency.
The FBI’s failures as an entire institution in recent years are too long to list here, but looking at just the mass shootings and explosions alone that happened after the FBI was aware of the assailants as potential threats is frightening. My colleague Joy Pullmann has documented a number of instances in which the FBI was aware of threats before the violence occurred and did nothing. She writes:
For example, the 2009 Fort Hood shooter, who killed 13; the Boston Marathon bombers of 2013 who killed three and injured 264; and the Pulse nightclub shooter who killed 49 people and wounded 53 more. All were known to the FBI and several had been interviewed by the FBI before they went on killing sprees.
The FBI had also been warned numerous times about the Parkland, Florida school shooter, before he killed 17 and injured 17 more in 2018. It also knew beforehand about the 2018 Nashville, Tennessee Waffle House shooter, who killed four and injured two more, and the 2020 Nashville RV bomber.
The FBI also has a bad track record at categorizing motives and crime, just as in Colleyville. Last spring, it was brought to light by Republican congressmen that after the 2017 congressional baseball shooting, the FBI told lawmakers the mass assassination attempt was officially designated as a “suicide by cop.” The Fort Hood attack carried out as a radical Islamist was designated by the FBI as “workplace violence.”
Whether it’s their inability to move on threats before they occur, or their corrupt labels after the fact, the FBI is notorious for botching both. In the Texas synagogue case, they’ve already missed the mark on one. It will be wholly unsurprising if new details eventually confirm the other.