A few changes in the way we address and respond to possible terror threats in this country may have changed what happened in Orlando, or could prevent some possible catastrophic terror attack in the future.
We can stop someone from getting a credit card with the push of a button, but there is no flagging mechanism that alerts the FBI and or local police that someone that the FBI has spoken to on two or three occasions, is trying to buy firearm. Why not?
The San Bernardino killers had been on the FBI’s radar, as was the Orlando shooter, as was the Boston bombers, and others, but I will bet you that their local police departments did not know. This is a major intelligence sharing failure that must be corrected.
The FBI does not have the staff to continually monitor or follow up on these kinds of concerns, but local law-enforcement if they knew, could.
Local law enforcement is also responsible in many states for conducting background inquiries of possible firearms purchasers. Shouldn’t they know more than anyone that they could have a problem in their community?
When a possible terrorist, sympathizer or suspect is identified by the FBI and agents are sent into a community to interview that person, the local police department should be notified, and local police investigators should sit in on that interview.
We want our local police departments to know what’s going on in their communities, but do they? Not really, and that has to change.
There are only 14,000 sworn FBI agents in the United States, but close to 800,000 local and state law-enforcement officers. That’s a lot of eyes and ears in the communities that could and should be aware of the FBI’s intelligence and or concerns.
In those states that require a background investigation to purchase a firearm and local law enforcement is charged with that task, I would want them to know that a person attempting to buy an AR-15 and handgun, had been the subject terror related inquiries by the FBI.
We’ve come along way over the last 15 years with regard to intelligence sharing at the international, and local and state levels, but we’re still not there yet. There is more that can be done, and more that should be done to ensure that our communities are safe and secure.
Lastly, the United States Congress must reevaluate the staffing and funding levels of the FBI. Director James Comey has indicated that he is short staffed given the workload that the FBI has, especially with close to 1000 possible terror targets that they are looking up around the United States. Perhaps it’s time to give him the people he needs to do the job he has to do. That just may be the difference in preventing another Orlando type attack.
Bernard Kerik was New York City's 40th Police Commissioner.
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