Before Omar Mateen Committed Mass Murder, the FBI Tried to 'Lure' Him Into a Terror Plot
New revelations raise questions about the FBI’s role in shaping Mateen’s lethal mindset.
Before Omar Mateen Committed Mass Murder, the FBI Tried to 'Lure' Him Into a Terror Plot
By Max Blumenthal and Sarah Lazare /

Before Omar Mateen gunned down 49 patrons of the LGBTQ Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, the FBI attempted to induce him to participate in a terror plot. Sheriff Ken Mascara of Florida’s St. Lucie County told the Vero Beach Press Journal that after Mateen threatened a courthouse deputy in 2013 by claiming he could order Al Qaeda operatives to kill his family, the FBI dispatched an informant to "lure Omar into some kind of act and Omar did not bite."

While self-styled terror experts and former counter-terror officials have criticized the FBI for failing to stop Mateen before he committed a massacre, the new revelation raises the question of whether the FBI played a role in pushing Mateen towards an act of lethal violence. 

Since 9/11, the FBI has relied heavily on informants to entrap scores of young, often mentally troubled Muslim men and send them to prison for as long as 25 years. As Aviva Stahl reported for AlterNet’s Grayzone Project, the FBI recently encouraged an apparently mentally disturbed recent convert to Islam named James Medina to bomb a South Florida synagogue and pledge allegiance to ISIS, a militant group with which he had no prior affiliation. On trial for planning to commit an act of terror with a weapon of mass destruction, Medina has insisted through his lawyer that he is mentally ill.

Trevor Aaronson, a journalist and author of “Terror Factory: Inside the FBI’s Manufactured War on Terror,” revealed that nearly half of terror cases between 9/11/01 and 2010 involved informants, including some with criminal backgrounds raking in as much as $100,000 from the FBI. The FBI's assets have often preyed on mentally ill men with little capacity to resist their provocations. “Is it possible that the FBI is creating the very enemy we fear?” Aaronson wondered.

The revelations of FBI manipulation have cast Mateen’s case in a troubling light. Though he refused to bite when an FBI asset attempted to push him into a manufactured plot, he wound up carrying out an act of spectacular brutality years later and allegedly swore loyalty to ISIS in the midst of it. 

“It looks like it's pretty much standard operating procedure for preliminary inquiries to interview the subject or pitch the person to become an informant and/or plant an undercover or informant close by to see if the person bites on the suggestion,” Coleen Rowley, a former FBI agent and division counsel whose May 2002 memo to the FBI Director exposed some of the FBI’s pre-9/11 failures, told AlterNet. “In the case of Mateen, since he already worked for a security contractor [G4S], he was either too savvy to bite on the pitch or he may have even become indignant that he was targeted in that fashion. These pitches and use of people can backfire.”

To highlight the problematic nature of informants, Rowley pointed to the case of Humam Khalil al-Balawi, a Jordanian physician whom the CIA used to gather intelligence on Al Qaeda,. The CIA ignored obvious warning signs like Balawi’s extremist online manifestos and never subjected him to a vetting process. While Balawi claimed to have penetrated Al Qaeda’s inner circle, he was actually exploiting his CIA security clearance to plan a major attack. On December 30, 2009, Balawi strode into Camp Chapman in Khost, Afghanistan, and detonated an explosive vest that killed seven CIA agents and wounded six more -- the deadliest attack on CIA personnel in 25 years.

Mateen, for his part, displayed many of the psychological characteristics that typify both FBI informants and those they attempt to ensnare in bogus terror plots. Raised in a troubled home by an abusive mother and an apparently eccentric father, Mateen exhibited signs of erratic, violent behavior throughout his life. His ex-wife told reporters that he physically abused her and was “unstable and mentally ill.” He transformed from a chubby adolescent to a burly young man with the help of steroids, yearning for a career in law enforcement.

Seven months into a job as a prison guard in 2007, Mateen was fired for threatening to bring a gun to class. He settled on a career as a low level security guard for G4S Security Solutions, a global security firm that employed him for nine years. Though Mateen’s applications to two police departments were rejected, he was able to pass a G4S background check and receive several guard assignments. (The world’s third largest private employer, G4S has accumulated a staggering record of human rights abuses, including accusations of child torture.)

While the full extent of Mateen’s contact with the FBI is unknown, the fact that an informant encouraged Mateen to agree to carry out a terror attack should provoke serious questions and further investigation. Whether or not manipulation by a FBI informant had any impact on Mateen’s deadly decision, there is no denying that the attempt to entrap him did nothing to protect the public.

“The FBI should scrutinize the operating procedure where they use undercovers and informants and pitch people to become informants,” said Rowley. “They must recognize that, in this case [with Mateen], it had horrible consequences if it did, in fact, backfire.”

Max Blumenthal is a senior editor of the Grayzone Project at AlterNet, and the award-winning author of Goliath and Republican Gomorrah. His most recent book is The 51 Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza. Follow him on Twitter at @MaxBlumenthal.

Sarah Lazare is a staff writer for AlterNet. A former staff writer for Common Dreams, she coedited the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahlazare.

3.5 ·
What's Next
Trending Today
Noam Chomsky Has 'Never Seen Anything Like This'
Chris Hedges · 10,818 views today · Noam Chomsky is America’s greatest intellectual. His massive body of work, which includes nearly 100 books, has for decades deflated and exposed the lies of the power elite...
Donald Trump Is the Mirror and Hillary Clinton Is the Mask
Chris Agnos · 7,767 views today · Disclaimer: I do not support Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton for president. I think the scope of the political debate is far too narrow for the kinds of actions that need to...
Gil Scott-Heron Deconstructs Colonialism and Black History in His Own Unique Style
3 min · 3,911 views today · His-Story: I was wondering about our yesterdays, and starting searching through the rubble and to say the very least, somebody went to a hell of a lot of trouble to make sure...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 3,637 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 2,442 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
Mark Corske's Engines of Domination (2014)
60 min · 2,047 views today · Political power -- armed central authority, with states and war -- is it part of human nature? Is it necessary for human communities? Or is it a tool that ruling elites use to...
HyperNormalisation (2016)
161 min · 1,566 views today · We live in a time of great uncertainty and confusion. Events keep happening that seem inexplicable and out of control. Donald Trump, Brexit, the War in Syria, the endless...
Donald and Hobbes Is Genius
Various · 1,529 views today · Some clever folk have been replacing precocious 6-year-old Calvin, from the Calvin and Hobbes comic strips, with Donald Trump and the results are, well, take a look...
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 1,317 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
10 Quotes From an Oglala Lakota Chief That Will Make You Question Everything About Our Society
Wisdom Pills · 1,086 views today · Luther Standing Bear was an Oglala Lakota Sioux Chief who, among a few rare others such as Charles Eastman, Black Elk and Gertrude Bonnin occupied the rift between the way of...
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 1,030 views today · Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the...
Anarchists - What We Stand For
unknown · 974 views today · Anarchism : The word “anarchy” comes from Greek and means “no rulers”. As a political philosophy, anarchism is based on the idea that organization does not require rulers—that...
For Those Who Don't Want to Vote for the Lesser of Two Evils
Peter White · 884 views today · Ranked-choice voting is catching on, and Maine might become the first state to help citizens vote for candidates they actually want.
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 776 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Planet Earth II Could Be Best Nature Doc Ever Made
3 min · 629 views today · 10 years ago Planet Earth changed our view of the world. Now we take you closer than ever before. This is life in all its wonder. This is Planet Earth II. A decade ago, the...
Lessons in the Calais Jungle: Teaching Life Stories and Learning About Humanity
Aura Lounasmaa · 428 views today · I am part of a team of academics teaching a course to residents in the Calais Jungle, a camp for migrants and refugees outside the French city. Life Stories in the Jungle has...
Schooling the World (2010)
66 min · 398 views today · If you wanted to change an ancient culture in a generation, how would you do it? You would change the way it educates its children. The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th...
The Top 100 Documentaries We Can Use to Change the World
Films For Action · 364 views today · A more beautiful, just and sustainable world is possible. Take this library and use it to inspire global change!
The Untold History of Palestine & Israel
22 min · 340 views today · Previewing Abby Martin’s on-the-ground investigation in Palestine, The Empire Files looks at the long history of Zionist colonization, expansion and expulsion of Palestine’s...
Eckhart Tolle: Your Facebook Ego, That's Not Who You Are
2 min · 291 views today · “Identification with thoughts and the emotions that go with those thoughts creates a false mind-made sense of self, conditioned by the past: the "little me" and its story. This...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
Before Omar Mateen Committed Mass Murder, the FBI Tried to 'Lure' Him Into a Terror Plot