Legal analyst Kimberly Wehle on the 14th Amendment and whether it can be used to keep Donald Trump off the ballot.
Guest Host: Nia-Malika Henderson
A gunman shot and killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, making it the worst mass shooting in recent history. Speaking after the incident, President Barack Obama called it an “act of terror and an act of hate.” The perpetrator, Omar Mateen, who was killed in the attack, is a 29-year-old American citizen. There’s still much authorities do not know like possible motives. Investigators have learned that he announced his allegiance to ISIS before being shot by police. He also had been questioned by the FBI in recent years. Guest host Nia-Malika Henderson and her guests discuss the latest on the Orlando massacre.
- Damian Paletta National security and intelligence reporter, The Wall Street Journal
- Adam Winkler Law professor at UCLA and author of "Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America"
- Michael Greenberger Founder and director, University of Maryland Center for Health and Homeland Security: heads a team that advises governments and private institutions on how to respond to catastrophic events; professor, University of Maryland Carey School of Law
- Fawaz Gerges Professor and chair, Middle Eastern Center, London School of Economics; author of, "ISIS: A History" (June 2016)
- Julia Ioffe Contributing writer at Politico Magazine and Highline; columnist at Foreign Policy.
MS. NIA-MALIKA HENDERSONThanks for joining us. I'm Nia-Malika Henderson of CNN sitting in for Diane Rehm. Early Sunday morning in a nightclub in Orlando, a 29-year-old man went on a mass rampage that left at least 49 dead, the deadliest shooting spree in US history. To discuss the latest on the Orlando massacre, I'm joined in studio by Michael Greenberger of the University of Maryland, Damian Paletta of The Wall Street Journal, Fawaz Gerges of the London School of Economics, Julia Ioffe, contributing writer at Politico.
MS. NIA-MALIKA HENDERSONAnd joining us by phone from Los Angeles, Adam Winkler of UCLA. Thank you all for being with us today. And we'll also be taking your comments and questions throughout the hour. Call us on 800-433-8850. Send us your email at email@example.com. Join us on Facebook or Twitter. Michael, I want to start with you. This is the worst mass shooting in US history. What do we know about the person who did it and why he did it?
MR. MICHAEL GREENBERGERWell, I think the first thing to say is it's too early to know definitively about this person. As I was walking into the room, I saw a flash across the screen that he had been in Saudi Arabia twice. And the development of the facts have been very important to understanding what we're dealing with here. He, clearly, had an anti-LGBT profile. His father talked about that. But also, he identified openly in a 9/11 call to the police that he was at least inspired by ISIS in carrying out this attack.
MR. MICHAEL GREENBERGERThe fact that he's gone to Saudi Arabia twice raises the question of whether he might have been directed by ISIS. But that, again, these are facts that need to be developed so -- and also, the final thing I would say is he was clearly a very troubled man. His wife had some very disturbing things to say about their four-month marriage or staying together in a marriage. And also, he had been provocative in his workplace, in his discussion of terrorism. So much so that the FBI twice came to interview him in 2013 to 2014 because of statements he had been making at work.
MR. MICHAEL GREENBERGEROne question I have is why these statements did not lead to his being terminated. He was working in a security company that were guarding federal buildings. And it seems to me having somebody with that kind of disturbing habits within the workplace should've lead the company -- and it's a very big, worldwide company, to take some action of its own.
HENDERSONAnd Damian, the investigation so far, they are labeling it as an incident of domestic terrorism. What does that mean?
MR. DAMIAN PALETTAWell, I think one of the key clues is that this guy was born in New York, right? His parents are from Afghanistan, but he was born in New York. It seems that a lot of his strongly-held views and opinions in this -- whatever lead him to this mass murder seems to have been fostered here in the United States. And so one of the things they're looking for -- and I know that US intelligence agencies are also joining this kind of global hunt for clues to see if there is any connection to Saudi Arabia, if there is any connection to Syria or Iraq.
MR. DAMIAN PALETTABut right now, it seems that a lot of the clues around this guy center both in New York, I guess, and also in Florida, parts of Florida where worked about, I think, an hour or so away from Orlando, rented a car and then drove up. So a lot of the clues they're focusing on right now are in that vicinity, but, of course, they're going to be looking to see if there's any international connection.
HENDERSONAnd Julia, one of the things we've seen with this incident is that it's at the confluence of a lot of different issues. Gay rights, gun rights, and terrorism. What do you make of that?
MS. JULIA IOFFEWell, I think it's been interesting to observe their, excuse me, their response to this incident because it's kind of one of those what do we talk about when we talk about X issues. You know, for some people, especially people in the gay community, it was about gay rights. It happened during Pride Week. It was about feeling safe and accepted in society, you know, coming a year after the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage, which was a big victory for the LGBT community.
MS. JULIA IOFFENow, this happening, people -- the people felt like they were being set back. Then, on kind of the left end of the spectrum, people were talking about gun control and what is it -- what has to happen for us to crack down on this issue. People on the right were talking about Islamic radicalism and immigration and refugees. So everybody -- it was interesting to see and kind of disturbing to see how quickly everybody kind of, like, went into their informational silos and their echo chambers and talked about this multifaceted even through their one prism, instead of seeing how all of these issues kind of interplayed and brought about this horrific outcome.
HENDERSONAnd Adam, the gunman in this case, he had two weapons. What kind of weapons were these and how did he actually obtain these weapons?
MR. ADAM WINKLERWell, apparently, he had two firearms with him, a Glock handgun and some kind of AR-15 variant. That's an assault rifle, a military style firearm that's been part of the very controversial debate over new kinds of gun control policies ever since the Newtown shooter used one to slaughter 26 people in that Sandy Hook Elementary School. Apparently, he bought these two firearms legally. Went to a gun store and bought them legally, passed a background check.
MR. ADAM WINKLERHe had been investigated previously for terrorism, but had been found not to -- the investigation had been closed for the lack of evidence and he was not on any prohibited purchaser list, didn't have any criminal convictions or had never been adjudicated mentally ill and so he was able to buy his guns legally.
HENDERSONAnd Fawaz, I want to go to you on this. ISIS' official radio station, they have claimed credit for this incident. What do you make of them taking credit for this?
MR. FAWAZ GERGESI mean, we should not be surprised. If I were ISIS, I would, in fact, claim responsibility. Whether ISIS directed this particular attack or not, it doesn't matter. For ISIS, it's a huge, huge, I mean, triumph, in particular on the last ten days or so. The second in command of ISIS, Muhammad al-Adnani, has called on followers worldwide, in particular in the United States, to carry out attacks against civilians, including children. He said it doesn't matter whether you have guns or you have knife.
MR. FAWAZ GERGESThe idea is to bleed and to terrorize. So here is, I mean, now, ISIS celebrating the event. But I want to just really make -- second what the guests have said. It is too early to make any definite conclusions. We have to be very cautious. We have to establish the ways and means by which this Omar Mateen was radicalized, whether he was a home grown radicalized individual, self-radicalized or whether he was radicalized, I mean, directly by ISIS.
MR. FAWAZ GERGESThe reality is there's a pattern here. We are -- we have seen dozens of cases where I live in Europe, you know, home grown radicalized. In the United States, we have seen several cases. It's a very complex phenomenon. We have to wait and see what the evidence has first before we jump into conclusions, as sadly, some American politicians who have called for war against radical Islam, it doesn't mean anything.
MR. FAWAZ GERGESThe notion of radical Islam is a very misleading concept because in fact, if you listen to the father of the killer and his family and the community, they are traumatized. They are angry. They are enraged. This is not about radical Islam versus the United States. This is about a traveling ideology that has found home and resonate with certain kinds of individuals. Let's find out what the evidence says and then we can talk about the various blocks and pieces of the situation.
HENDERSONDamian, you want to jump in?
PALETTAYeah. I mean, one of the most haunting things about this, you know, comes almost exactly six months after the shootings in San Bernardino that killed 14 people. There were two perpetrators of that attack, but it was also considered to be somewhat of a home grown attack. It wasn't clear that they had a lot of, you know, extensive connections to Islamic State overseas. But what -- after the San Bernardino attack and after this attack, there's all sorts of people coming forward that knew the perpetrators, that said things like these guys were whackos.
PALETTAYou know, they scared me. I didn't want to be anywhere near them. In San Bernardino, there was a bunch of bombs on the floor and they had small children. Here, you had former coworkers saying this guy, you know, one guy quit because he couldn't stand being around the guy, who was always making slurs, been investigated twice by the FBI. So, you know, we hear often from law enforcement and intelligence agencies that these lone wolves, these home grown guys are the hardest ones to track down.
PALETTABut then, when you sort of see, you know, the autopsy reports, pardon the pun, you realize that they leave a trail, they leave a huge trail behind them that there's maybe a lot of clues that had been missed.
HENDERSONAnd Michael, do we see similarities between what happened in San Bernardino, what we know of what happened in Orlando, Paris attacks, I mean, are there sort of clues or overlapping things that have happened?
GREENBERGERWell, I think one thing that has not been focused upon and this is the kind of work that my center does at the University of Maryland is that people have to be aware of hardening their facilities. And I'm not saying, you know, it has to be made into a fortress. There's reports, on and off, that there was a uniformed police officer at the door that engaged this person, the early reports that they exchanged gunfire. But what strikes me about this is that Chief Bratton in New York City who's facing future Gay Pride events, said we'll have police officers stationed out of places where the LGBT community gathers.
GREENBERGERAnd my view is one thing that doesn't involve ideology is that we have to get out the best practices for protecting a site that is known to be vulnerable without creating a fortress mentality.
HENDERSONComing up, more of our conversation on Orlando.
HENDERSONWelcome back. Thanks for joining us today. Adam Winkler, I want to go to you on this. Do you expect that what has happened here in Orlando, that any of this will change the gun debate in any way?
WINKLERWell, I think this will definitely feed the gun debate and make it even more likely that the gun debate becomes one of the central issues in the presidential campaign. We've seen how these mass shootings have, in the past, really provided fuel for the gun control movement and that really since the mass shooting at Newtown, we've seen a real reinvigoration of the gun control movement in America. And it's already one of the major distinctions between the two presidential candidates, their positions on guns, and I think this is going to inspire more discussion of gun control and particularly targeted towards gun control to avoid guns being used as tools of terror.
HENDERSONAnd Julia, what do we know about this club, this community in Orlando?
IOFFESo this club was one of the most popular in Orlando. It was in what was known to be a very kind of tolerate, hospitable neighborhood. It was set up by a woman whose brother died of AIDS in 1991, and Pulse is supposed to be his pulse, like, living on in this club. And it was also kind of -- it was a safe space for a lot in the gay community in that area and was also -- hosted a lot of events about HIV and AIDS awareness, et cetera.
IOFFEThe club had just finished hosting a series known as I believe Gay Days. It was Latin Night that night. So you're seeing a lot of the victims' names coming out are Hispanic names. There was a harrowing story that came out in the Washington Post last night about the center where relatives gathered to try to find something out about the victims. So one of the issues was the medical facilities were so overwhelmed, there were so many victims, six surgeons had to be flown in to the medical center to just keep these people alive and stabilized.
IOFFESo relatives were waiting for hours and hours and hours to find out whether their loved ones were dead or alive. And what you saw in this center was that a lot of people needed translating, a lot of people didn't speak English, a lot of the victims were Hispanic.
HENDERSONAnd Damian, it's pretty apparent that this perpetrator targeted this specific, this specific club, these specific people. Is there anything else we know about his background? What does this mean for the FBI investigation?
PALETTAThat's right. Sure. I mean, I was talking to counterterrorism officials yesterday around noon, and the fact that he chose this spot was very significant to them. I mean, we're talking Orlando, right. If you want to kill a lot of people, there's a lot of places you can do it. And, you know, there's between 20,000 and 50,000 people a day at Magic Kingdom, there's tourists literally everywhere, and there's -- this is also an area where there's people from all over the place. So it's easy to kind of, you know, slip through the cracks because there's literally tourists, you know, from all corners of the world.
PALETTAAnd so the fact that he chose this center, I think, helps connect this possible partial narrative or motive that he was -- had something very strong, some very strongly held feelings against the LGBT community. There are reports that his father had told people that he witnessed two men kissing in Miami recently and that that really upset him and that, you know, maybe helped trigger this. So, you know, that all kind of feeds into it.
PALETTAObviously the Islamic State is not tolerant at all of gays. There's reports out of Syria of them throwing suspected homosexuals off roofs of buildings and stuff like that. So this might have all fed into this, you know, kind of Ramadan call for the Islamic State to, you know, terrorize the United States and Europe, and it seems to have fit together like that.
HENDERSONAnd Fawaz, what does this incident mean for ISIS going forward? They possibly planted the seed for this incident. What does it mean going forward?
GERGESWell, you know, I'm truly not surprised by this, you know, terrible and savage attack in Orlando. The question is not whether ISIS is planning to attack a Western target. The question, if it has the capacity. That's -- it's all a question of capacity. In the past year, and I've worked most of my life on these movements, in the past year ISIS has devoted tremendous resources to attacking Western targets.
GERGESThe more ISIS loses in Syria and Iraq, and it's been losing, as you know, in the past seven months, the more ISIS is trying to really carry out spectacular attacks, whether in Paris or Belgium, California, now in the United States, even though we do not know the evidence because these attacks are, you know, force multipliers. You know, force multipliers will divert attention from the losses in Iraq and Syria. They basically fuel the recruitment drive.
GERGESISIS is trying to address its own basically social base. We are winning. We are standing up. We are resisting. And these attacks we should not underestimate regardless of whether ISIS directed, I mean, this attack or not. This is basically big news for ISIS because of its narrative. It's all about the narrative because we are saying ISIS is losing. ISIS is saying, look, what we have done, we are bloodying the nose of the United States, the greatest and the most powerful nation in the world.
GERGESWe should also harden our capacity. We should be resilient. I know it's painful, I know it's horrible, I know it's insidious. We all feel for the families of the victims. But we should maintain resilience because sadly and tragically we might basically see more attacks of this particular kind. One point about this particular attack, yes, I am surprised that this particular, I mean, killer had chosen this particular target. This tells me that he was not really directly directed by ISIS, rather his own violent, tormented soul, his own views about homosexuality and race and culture basically played a key factor.
GERGESAnd this tells me another sign that he was a homegrown, radicalized individual, as a person who was sent directly by ISIS or various al-Qaeda affiliates.
IOFFEThere's also a middle ground there between -- you know, it's not a binary lone wolf or ISIS directed and ISIS planned and executed. There's also -- you know, there have been incidents of attackers who, like the attacker of the train going from Amsterdam to Paris, where he was stopped by a couple of US servicemen, that person had been in contact with people in Syria, who kind of helped him, you know, kind of give the plot shape a little bit, and it was part of the kind of searching and feeling for an attack in Europe.
IOFFEBut it wasn't really -- it wasn't like the Paris attacks or the Brussels attacks, where you had a cell who were plotting and making explosives and kind of in urban hideouts, and it wasn't just a random person picking up a gun and saying I declare my allegiance to ISIS, let me shoot up this train. Somewhere in the middle, where there was some conversation but not really much in the way of logistical support.
HENDERSONAdam, is it your sense that this could be a tipping point in any way in terms of the gun control debate, that it was sort of suggested around Sandy Hook that that would be a tipping point? In this Congress there have been something like 230 pieces of legislation around gun -- around guns introduced. Is this going to make a difference?
WINKLERWell first of all, I would say I think the Sandy Hook shooting was a tipping point. We saw a major turn in the gun debate. Democrats who had run away from gun control for about 20 years all of a sudden made that a central plank in their platform, and there's a stark difference between the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 and the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton on this issue of gun control. He avoided it. She's really embracing it.
WINKLERSo I think we have seen already a pretty big change. We haven't seen big change in legislation, and I don't expect this will lead to a huge change in legislation. We still have Republican control of the House for the time being, and the Republicans very adamantly opposed to any new gun control laws. But I do think there's possibility, at least, that we will look into closing the terrorist watch list gap.
WINKLERWe allow -- we prohibit people on the terrorist watch list from boarding planes. Maybe we need, in addition to a no-fly list, a no-buy list for guns.
HENDERSONAdam Winkler, thanks for joining us today. We appreciate your comments. I'm joined in the studio by Damian Paletta of The Wall Street Journal, Michael Greenberger of the University of Maryland, Fawaz Gerges, who is a professor at the London School of Economics, and Julia Ioffe.
HENDERSONI want to turn to politics. This -- we have a very interesting presidential campaign going on. They both -- I think both of the candidates, Donald Trump on one hand and Hillary Clinton on the other, weighed in very differently. I wonder, Damian, if you could talk about the different approaches from these two candidates.
PALETTASure, you know, it's fascinating. Very soon after the shooting, Donald Trump issued some -- a tweet that said something along the lines of I appreciate the congratulations for kind of foretelling that this would happen. We have to be tough. He's -- in the past few months he's kind of walked back his proposed ban on the entry of Muslims into the United States, but yesterday it was back in full force.
PALETTAAnd he's giving a speech today where I expect him to be hammering on that again. He got a lot of flak from other Republicans, saying, you know, you can never ban the entry of Muslims to the United States, logistically it's impossible, and constitutionally it's probably illegal, but it really resonated with his base during the primary, and it really helped him get over the hump and knock out his opponents, quite frankly. So...
HENDERSONAnd that ban wouldn't have mattered here, right, because this is an American citizen.
PALETTARight, of course, yeah, right, but he -- but it really resonates with his voters, and I think he'd been, quite frankly, been playing a few weeks of defense. Hillary's been kind of clobbering him on foreign policy and economics. And you could see he was getting a little wobbly last week, and now he seems to be back in the driver's seat. This is kind of his -- his go zone, where he, you know, he's playing offense.
PALETTAAnd then, you know, with Secretary Clinton we saw sort of a more traditional response, grieving for the families, you know, commitment to find out what happened and prevent it from happening again. This morning she was -- she was going places that Obama wouldn't go in terms of saying this is radical Islam and that we shouldn't be afraid to sort of call it what it is. But she did say, you know, we can't alienate the Muslim community because that's only going to make things worse.
PALETTASo we're seeing much different approaches, and it's probably going to intensify in the coming days.
IOFFEI think, you know, getting back to the ban on Muslims, it's just like the wall, it's obviously not feasible and probably not legal, and -- although you pointed out that it wouldn't matter -- have mattered in this case because Mateen was born in New York. But I think it's -- you know, it's code for something else. Just like Judge Curiel wasn't really Mexican, he was born in Indiana, but Trump insisted in saying no, no, no, he's Mexican, just like this -- you know, banning Muslims from coming in I think means something much larger, and I think his base, his supporters, understand it in that way, that even somebody born in Indiana is still Mexican, and even somebody born in New York is a Muslim that should be banned.
IOFFEI think that's kind of where this -- that blank -- that space that he's playing with us.
HENDERSONI'm Nia-Malika Henderson with CNN. You're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. If you'd like to join us, call 1-800-433-8850, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Find us on Facebook, or send us a tweet. Fawaz, I want to get your reaction to Donald Trump's comments. He sort of -- the Muslim ban is back in the news again. He's tweeted about it and released a statement about it. What are your reactions to that?
GERGESWell, I mean, the question for me is that to what extent does the rhetoric of the political community contribute first to understanding this phenomenon and to basically trying to put an end to it. The idea of Mr. Donald Trump, of, you know, a war against radical Islam, let's put banning Muslims from entering, is basically irrational, and I'm being blunt, irrational because it does not help us to understand this particular complex phenomenon. And secondly, it plays into the hands of ISIS and al-Qaeda, who are trying to hijack the agency of Muslims. And it also alienates many Muslims, who feel as much, you know, hurt by this particular phenomenon.
GERGESSo really on multiple fronts, the idea -- and I'm also saddened by the fact that, you know, Secretary Hillary Clinton would go to this particular (inaudible), it's not radical Islam, it's a radicalized ideological, Salafi jihadism, masquerading as radical Islamism, trying to hijack Islam.
GERGESWe need to be careful, and that's why Barack Obama has been consistently trying to avoid using the term radical Islam. Analytically, philosophically, it's wrong. It does not really tell us a great deal, trying to understand this concept of, you know, extremism, radical extremism.
GREENBERGERYeah, I think the idea of Donald Trump is sort of there's a silver bullet to solve this problem, keep Muslims out of the United States, build walls, and if we learn anything from this episode, there's no one solution to this problem. Gun control may be a part of it. Mental health issues and the relationship of mental health to gun control is a problem. And by the way, there has been a lot of bipartisan support in Congress for mental health initiatives that would increase the treatment of people who are having mental health problems, and it's also said another issue is if somebody's being investigated by the FBI, and they're obviously on some kind of watch list, that should be built into -- that's not a big interference with the Second Amendment to say that those people should not have access to guns.
GREENBERGERAnd as I said earlier, you know, we all have a responsibility here. If you're having an event with 300 people crowded into a small place that is going to obviously be provocative to certain groups, you've got to protect yourself, not a fortress, but you've got to have police presence, not one police officer, but you will see in New York, the New York City Police Department will be around these kinds of venues in force.
GREENBERGERAnother question is how did he get the weapons into this building.
GREENBERGERAnd I suspect what we're going to find out is that he placed the weapons near an exit, walked in as a regular attendee and then went out and got the weapons and brought them back in. And the reason I suspect that is in the Aurora shooting in 2012, the perpetrator came in through the exits. He didn't even pay -- it was a movie theater. He didn't even pay for a ticket. He walked in through an open exit and brought all his equipment in. You can't have one person at the front.
HENDERSONWe're going to take a call now. Robby (PH) from Houston, Texas, you're on the air.
ROBBYI just want to say that that could have been me yesterday. My last name is Nunez, and I'm gay. And I know many people that are gay. Their names are Sotomayor, Ortiz, Rivera and Justice. That could've been me. When are we going to start talking about how right-wing Christianity has done much more than ISIS to create this sort of environment? When are we going to talk about homophobia and transphobia?
HENDERSONThank you, Robby. Julia?
IOFFEWell, I -- first of all, I -- you know, my heart goes out to you and the entire LGBT community. It's been really painful to watch my gay friends and relatives process this. I think, you know, there's this collective fantasizing about these, like, Professor Greenberger said, about these silver bullets, that if we just say the magic words radical Islam, if we just name the problem, correctly or not, it will go away. But we can't -- you know, God forbid we should put any -- any people on a no-gun, like no-buy list. God forbid we should infringe on their Second Amendment.
IOFFEYou also have Donald Trump talking about how -- basically portraying this Muslim community as this enclave that knows who all the radicals are and the blooming terrorists are, and they just need to be called out.
HENDERSONComing up, your calls and questions. Please stay tuned.
HENDERSONWelcome back. I'm Nia-Malika Henderson with CNN sitting in for Diane Rehm. We're going to go right to a call. Kashell, from Dallas, Texas, you're on the air.
KASHELLThank you for taking my call. I have a two part question. My first question is we clearly heard from the Muslim leaders after the attack and it looks supportive. However, why are we not seeing more marches, protests across our cities, nation, and I dare to say across the world from the Muslim community, publicly speaking out against this type of violence. Why? And my second question is, the gunman purchased a weapon legally. How do we properly gauge mental stability pre and post gun purchases?
HENDERSONThank you for your call. Fawaz, do you want to take the first half of that question?
GERGESYou know, first of all, I mean, I am sometimes a bit, I feel uneasy when I hear the term Muslims, the Muslim community. We're treating the Muslim community as somehow one voice, one herd. (unintelligible) responsibility. I mean, I'm not a Muslim myself. Why would the Muslim community, why would basically deal with the Muslim community collectively? Point one. Secondly, time and again, many members of the Muslim community in the United States and worldwide, have made it very clear it's not in their name.
GERGESTime and again. What this particular, another final point is that this particular phenomenon, regardless of whether it's homegrown or directed by ISIS, they revolt against their own families. Even the father was shocked, the family, I mean, even the father himself didn't know that his son would go, I mean, that particular way. So again, it's a very complex phenomenon, and it's unfair and unjust to basically really blame a section of the Muslim community or the Muslim community because the Muslim community is first and foremost victims of this particular phenomenon in the West and also in the Middle East as well.
HENDERSONAnd Michael, the mental health thing.
GREENBERGERYes, I mean, that's a conundrum of how you blend mental health into the control of selling weapons to people who are disturbed. But I do think Congress is on the right track of trying to increase mental health care in the country, provide more facilities, make it easier to treat people who have these difficulties. And if you have a venue, a national venue where people are being treated, then you have a place where, hopefully without violating privacy, you can feed that information into the question of whether or not people should be buying guns.
GREENBERGERYou know, the Navy yard shooting back in, I think it was 2013, that person was under substantial medical psychiatric treatment for his difficulties. And yet, he was being granted security clearances at the same time. So all of this has to work together, but until we have a grasp on getting -- reporting on people who are having mental difficulties by the medical profession, it's going to be hard to blend that into the question of whether they should be able to buy automatic weapons.
IOFFEI think here, though, it's a little bit simpler than a mental health issue. This is somebody who had been interviewed by the FBI twice, who had a history of violence, and was still able to very quickly buy very powerful weapons. So, here you don't -- you don't even need to bring mental health into this equation. As for the Muslim community, I agree with Fawaz. It's 1.6 billion people, and the caller herself said, yes, they've spoken out publicly, but they haven't spoken out publicly enough.
IOFFESo, it's kind of an impossible -- it's a moving goal post. Like when, how are 1.6 billion people -- are they supposed to release a press release? Do they all kind of agree on it together? And, you know, at the same time, you have the Lieutenant Governor of Texas tweeting out a New Testament verse right when the shooting happened, saying that you cannot mock God. A man reaps what he sows. So, then, should the Christian community apologize for that? This whole idea of collective responsibility, again, gets back to this whole Donald Trump paranoia thing, about there's this one community.
IOFFEThey embody all the evil, and we could just get rid of them, we would get rid of the evil and all of our problems. We've seen how that ends before.
HENDERSONAnd Damian, Clinton, Hillary Clinton, who is the presumptive Democratic nominee, is trying to do something different and counter Trump.
PALETTAThat's right. But her big problem in this is that if there's a terrorist attack every six months, where 14 people or 50 people are mowed down, you know, innocent people at a holiday party or at a nightclub at two in the morning, the party in power is in big trouble. Because what Trump has tapped into is this sense that the status quo sticks. And we're not -- we can't accept this as kind of like part of our everyday life that, you never know if some, you know, crazy guy with a gun is going to go, you know, kill your relatives.
PALETTAAnd I understand that obviously, this is part of the whole gun control thing, too. Sandy Hook, there was zero, you know, Islamic connections to, and the Aurora shooting as well. But these terror attacks, you know, they land differently in the country. And they make it into this whole, us versus them thing. It scares a lot of people. And Secretary Clinton's in big trouble if this continues. Because there's gonna be a lot of frustration that, you know, President Obama might have done certain things to the economy, might have done certain things, as part of his domestic policy. But when this kind of stuff persists, it really unsettles people.
GERGESOne particular point -- the Obama Administration has spent tremendous capital, intelligence capital, material capital, analytical capital, trying to tackle this particular phenomenon, the so-called -- the lone wolves or the homegrown or terrorism. He has been much more forthcoming and muscular than the previous administration on terrorism. We need to understand, it's not about the lack of will and the lack of investment. It's a very complex phenomenon. This ideology, sadly and tragically, is here to stay.
GERGESIt resonates with certain individuals worldwide. We need to understand the mechanisms, the logic, really, what appeals, why certain people are attracted to this particular ideology. I mean, this Omar Mateen, a tormented individual, very volatile, very sexist, very racist. Obviously, he was searching for an anchor. So, this is why this particular ideology appeals to this kind of individual. All the red flags were there. Come back to the arms. And I fully agree. Why could such an individual acquire such arms in the United States, even though he was interviewed by the FBI? It's a legitimate question.
GREENBERGERYes, I think Damian has a point of concern, which is if there are more terrorist attacks, it's only going to help Trump. But I do believe, just as today we're talking about banning Muslims from the United States would not have solved this problem, it wouldn't have solved the San Bernardino problem. As you discuss it further, it becomes clear it's highly impractical. And if there is further attacks, it will only increase the debate and the side that says there are multi-faceted solutions that have to be applied here and articulated.
GREENBERGERWe've got two Senators from Connecticut still shocked from the Sandy Hook situation, who are vigorously pushing for gun control.
IOFFEWell, as long as Donald Trump has us talking about terminology and what to call things, you know, why is Orlando terrorism, but Sandy Hook is not terrorism? Why is San Bernardino terrorism but Aurora, Colorado not terrorism? Is it because the perpetrators have funny names or a slightly different color skin? I mean, it's the same tactics, it's the same, same number of victims, same, you know, it's basically the same, but I think a lot of it comes down to ethnicity, to race and to what we're comfortable with.
IOFFEAnd, you know, a radical Christian ideology, we're okay with, a radical Islamic ideology is foreign. We have to keep it out. And we also, even in all of those cases, there are tools that this country has that it's not using. The ATF, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, still doesn't have a permanent Director. It hasn't really had one since 2010. It -- the ATF cannot use computers and computer databases to trace guns.
IOFFEPeople still have to use file cabinets and pieces of paper and have to call, first, the manufacturer. Then the distributor, then the gun store to trace a gun because the NRA has blocked very simple, very simple tools that we could use to stop these kinds of criminals.
HENDERSONAnd we're going to take a call. Will from Parsonfield, Maine. You're on the air.
WILLHi Diane. Thank you.
HENDERSONWhat's your question?
WILLHi, my question is if any of your panel has sought to look into why the religious leaders of the Islamic, you know, strong -- not stronghold, I think that's maybe too aggressive, but the cultural centers here in America aren't reaching out more, like you said, on, you know, either through media or through, you know, the people that attend their church. We tend to look at the way people of Islam interact here in America through the same way that we interact, but here in America, our centers for exchanging ideas and morals is more online and theirs is, essentially, done in the Mosques.
WILLIn the religious centers, in talks about things through the prism of religion. And so, a lot of their leaders, I think, need to step forward and go ahead and put it out there that people should not look at this as adversarial system. I know many people that worked as interpreters are now here in America and so they got to see a prism of what we were believing terrorism was.
HENDERSONOkay. Thank you for your question, Will. Michael, do you want to address that?
GREENBERGERWell, I, you know, there are several national organizations representing Islam that are outspoken about this and have gone on record and have made very clear where they stand on this issue. And I would also say, in an atmosphere where someone wins the nomination of a major party by the proposal that we should ban all Muslims from the United States, it clearly is not a hospitable environment to be stepping up. But Muslims are stepping up and I think it -- and finally, the Imam of the Mosque, which this guy attended, said he didn't see anything.
GREENBERGERHe couldn't have told -- the FBI came and talked to him. And he said he never saw any sign that this guy was a problem.
IOFFEHe wasn't even very religious, as far as I understand.
GERGESHe was semi, semi-religious. Absolutely.
GREENBERGERYeah. His co-workers saw the problem and that brings me back to the question, if that environment in a corporate setting is taking place, why is the corporation not responsible for taking charge of the situation?
HENDERSONI'm Nia-Malika Henderson with CNN. You're listening to The Diane Rehm Show. Fawaz, did you want to jump in on this conversation about...
GERGESYes. Two, two questions. First of all, the New York Times has ran several pieces on major efforts by Muslim clerics in the United States against ISIS and Al Qaeda. And they are on the death list of ISIS. If fact, the FBI now is providing support and protection for several American Muslim clerics who have stood up against ISIS, point one. Point two, for the caller, just a point, that ISIS, and this particular ideology, let's call it extremism, radical extremism, (unintelligible).
GERGESIt's a revolt against the religious establishment. Whether in the Middle East or here. In fact, they believe that the religious clerics in the United States are (unintelligible). They are living in the land of apostasy. So in this particular sense that the Muslim community is standing up, Muslim leaders are making their voices heard. This is not about Muslims versus Americans. This is about a radical ideology masquerading as religious and is really attacks -- has no (unintelligible). I mean, Westerners and mainstream Muslim leaders.
HENDERSONAnd I'm going to read an email from David and this gets at what we're talking about, Muslims. This -- David says, I'm not a fan of Donald Trump by a longshot, but I'm at a loss as to how to answer people who are responsive to his fear mongering when they point out that we're not seeing attacks on the US and other Western countries by religious extremists of other denominations. Is there something inherent in Islam that fuels the problem?
GREENBERGERWell, I would just say, a lot of the violence we've seen in the United States, let's just take the second greatest terrorist attack, which was the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. Timothy McVeigh, a white Caucasian, a lone wolf, a former veteran of the Army. And nobody is saying, oh, we have to go look at these white Caucasians who have housed themselves in the middle of forests and are armed to the link. And many of the, as was said earlier, a lot of the shootings, maybe they're not terrorism, but they're white Caucasian males that have been involved in the shooting.
GREENBERGERThis is not part of a one religious sect or one problem with one religion. Terrorism or violence is a problem embedded in the culture of the United States.
IOFFEAnd in the culture of human beings, the, you know, these strange animals that we are, and I think we have to understand that religion, all religion, is a fundamentally human institution. And most religions are, all religions are religions of interpretations and it's how people interpret them. There are violent strains in Judaism, in Christianity, even in Buddhism. You have, you know, radical Buddhists slaughtering people in Sri Lanka and Myanmar. You had the -- I mean, I hate to bring this up, but you had the Crusades and all kinds of, you know, Catholics and Protestants spilling blood for hundreds and hundreds of years in Europe.
IOFFEIs that something inherent in Christianity or in Buddhism? It's something inherent in human beings. It's a kind of violence and a hatred of people who are other and then, it's dressed up in a religious ideology.
HENDERSONDamian, where will the investigation go from here? What do you expect we'll start to here over the next couple of hours and days?
PALETTAWell, that's a great question. I mean, I think the US Attorney's office and also the, you know, CIA and others are going to be looking for external connections. They're going to try to track down, you know, email communication, possible cell phone, texting, communication that this guy Mateen had with outsiders, both domestically and possibly internationally. So that will help answer, potentially, the question of whether he was directed to do this, whether he was kind of, you know, razzed up to do this, or whether there was any sort of -- it was just kind of inspiration or whether he was, you know, crazy.
PALETTABut I mean, the trick is, especially with, you know, we heard this morning from Donald Trump saying we need to investigate the Mosques, we need more intelligence on the Mosques. The trick is that there's three million Muslims in the United States. Okay? There's -- this one person is capable of killing 50 people at two o'clock in the morning in Orlando. It doesn’t take that many people to do horrific, horrific things that will be -- I mean, this shooting will be something that they'll be talking about in 50 or 100 years. Right?
PALETTAIt's the worst shooting in US history. So, it's impossible -- even if we have police presences at every gay rights parade in the country, there's going to be a night club somewhere at two o'clock in the morning that's going to have a sleepy guy with, you know, providing security at the door. It's impossible for this sort of, kind of fortress type thing to ever be created. And so, they're going to have the investigation. They're going to look, but there's always going to be ways to slip through the cracks.
GREENBERGERDamian, I think protecting yourself doesn't guarantee that you're going to be always protected. But if you try and do something, it will improve the situation.
HENDERSONI'm Nia-Malika Henderson with CNN, sitting in for Diane Rehm. Thank you to our guests, Damian, Michael, Fawaz, Julia, and Adam. Thank you so much for listening.
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