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FBI Pressure Increases After Shooting  02/17 09:33

   The revelation that the FBI botched a potentially life-saving tip on the 
Florida school shooting suspect is a devastating blow to America's top law 
enforcement agency at a time when it is already under extraordinary political 
pressure.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The revelation that the FBI botched a potentially 
life-saving tip on the Florida school shooting suspect is a devastating blow to 
America's top law enforcement agency at a time when it is already under 
extraordinary political pressure.

   Even before the startling disclosure that the FBI failed to investigate a 
warning that the suspect, Nikolas Cruz, could be plotting an attack, the bureau 
was facing unprecedented criticism from President Donald Trump and other 
Republicans, who have accused it of partisan bias.

   The agency and its supporters had been able to dismiss past criticism as 
just politics, but this time it had no option but to admit it made a disastrous 
mistake.

   The FBI's acknowledgment that it mishandled the tip prompted a sharp rebuke 
from its boss, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and a call from Florida's 
Republican Gov. Rick Scott, a Trump ally, for FBI Director Christopher Wray to 
resign.

   Wray, on the job for just six months, had already been in a precarious 
position defending the bureau from relentless attacks by Trump and other 
Republicans. They are still dissatisfied with its decision not to charge 
Hillary Clinton with crimes related to her use of a private email server, and 
they see signs of bias in special counsel Robert Mueller's probe of possible 
Trump campaign ties to Russia.

   As evidence, they've cited the former deputy director's connection to 
Clinton allies, and they've publicized anti-Trump text messages exchanged 
between an FBI agent and a bureau lawyer. Democrats have said the accusations 
are aimed at damaging Mueller's investigation and protecting Trump.

   Through it all, Wray has repeatedly stood up to Trump, defending the 
bureau's independence and publicly praising its agents in implicit rebuttals to 
the president's criticism. Wray unsuccessfully fought to block the release of a 
classified Republican memo accusing the FBI of abusing its surveillance powers 
in the Russia probe --- a document Trump wanted aired. Wray also publicly 
contradicted White House accounts of how it handled recent domestic abuse 
allegations involving an aide.

   The shooting provides fresh grounds to criticize the FBI. First it was 
revealed that the FBI failed to delve into a YouTube comment posted by a 
"Nikolas Cruz" that said, "Im going to be a professional school shooter." The 
FBI said it could not determine who made it.

   On Friday, the bureau said it had failed to act on a tip that Cruz had a 
"desire to kill people," disturbing social media posts and access to a gun. 
Cruz is charged with killing 17 people in the school he once attended.

   Sessions, a Trump loyalist who has at times seemed to welcome criticism of 
the FBI, called the massacre a "tragic consequence" of the FBI's failure. He 
ordered a review of the Justice Department procedures.

   The House Judiciary and Oversight committees, whose Republican leaders have 
been some of the strongest FBI critics, demanded Wray brief them on what went 
wrong.

   Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, said it was "inexcusable" the FBI 
did not follow protocols and urged Congress to launch its own investigation. 
Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch of Florida promised to be in "close communication 
with the FBI so we can get to the bottom of this."

   Wray apologized in a rare statement admitting the FBI's missteps. But Scott, 
the governor, said that "isn't going to cut it."

   "People must have confidence in the follow-through from law enforcement," he 
said, calling for Wray to step down.

   This isn't the first time the FBI has been seen as missing an opportunity to 
prevent a major violent attack. The white supremacist who killed nine people at 
a historically black church in South Carolina in 2015 was able to purchase his 
weapon only because of breakdowns in the FBI's background check system. The 
background check examiner who evaluated the shooter's request to buy a gun 
never saw an arrest report in which he admitted to possessing illegal drugs. 
Under federal rules, that should have been enough to disqualify him from a gun 
purchase.

   Congress in 2009 criticized the FBI for missteps ahead of a shooting that 
left 13 people dead at Fort Hood, Texas, after finding that agents failed to 
act on emails between the gunman and terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki.

   In the Florida school shooting, "somebody made a mistake, somebody did not 
do their job," said Jeffrey Ringel, a former FBI agent and Joint Terrorism Task 
force member who now works for the Soufan Group, a private security firm.

   "The FBI will be criticized for a failing that they have basically owned up 
to," he said. "It's a learning lesson. Unfortunately, a very expensive learning 
lesson."


(KA)

 
 
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