In an interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd, Attorney General Loretta Lynch says that on Monday, the FBI will release edited transcripts of the 911 calls made by the Orlando nightclub shooter to the police during his rampage.
Here’s the relevant portion of the Meet The Press transcript:
LORETTA LYNCH: What we’re announcing tomorrow is that the FBI is releasing a partial transcript of the killer’s calls with law enforcement, from inside the club. These are the calls with the Orlando PD negotiating team, who he was, where he was… that will be coming out tomorrow and I’ll be headed to Orlando on Tuesday.
CHUCK TODD: Including the hostage negotiation part of this?
LYNCH: Yes, it will be primarily a partial transcript of his calls with the hostage negotiators.
CHUCK TODD: You say partial, what’s being left out?
LYNCH: What we’re not going to do is further proclaim this man’s pledges of alleigance to terrorist groups, and further his propaganda.
CHUCK TODD: We’re not going to hear him talk about those things?
LYNCH: We will hear him talk about some of those things, but we are not going to hear him make his assertions of allegiance and that. It will not be audio, it will be a printed transcript. But it will begin to capture the back and forth between him and the negotiators, we’re trying to get as much information about this investigation out as possible. As you know, because the killer is dead, we have a bit more leeway there and we will be producing that information tomorrow.
This is the worst single-shooter mass killing in US history, and the federal government is trying to edit out the killer’s actual words for the sake of manipulating public reaction. What moral right does the government have to do this? It’s almost certain that the Obama administration doesn’t want the public to be inflamed by Mateen’s crediting his rampage to Islam. I understand not wanting to inflame anti-Muslim bigotry, especially when we have the spectacle of a US presidential candidate calling for profiling Muslims, but as a general rule, the government ought to have a very high bar to clear before hiding relevant information about a high-profile crime, especially a terrorist atrocity, from the public.
This kind of thing makes me even more determined that Congress vote to compel the administration to declassify those 28 pages of the 9/11 Report, disclosing Saudi involvement in the plot. The Bush administration put those 28 pages off limits for supposed national security reasons, a policy that has continued under Obama.
Obviously the 9/11 Report is an incomparably bigger deal than the Mateen transcript, but the principle — the US government reserving the right to manipulate public reaction to terror facts for the sake of achieving political goals — is the same.
Not releasing the full transcript allows The New York Times editorial page and others on the left who wish to maintain the fiction that the Orlando rampage is really the fault of Republicans and conservative Christians to continue with their smear campaign. It’s at a time like this you really wish Christopher Hitchens was still around to hammer away at the Orwellian character of this phenomenon.
UPDATE: It gets even more Orwellian. Yesterday on CNN, Dana Bash interviewed AG Lynch:
Dana Bash: He was, of course, in a gay nightclub. Did he talk about his feelings about gay Americans?
Lynch: You know, he didn’t get into that. So we’re still exploring why he chose this particular place to attack. We’re asking people who have information to come forward… We are trying to learn everything we can about this individuals motivations. As you note, he was in a gay nightclub. This was an act of terror and an act of hate targeted against a community, the LGBT community, the Latino community, and of course the LGBT community is so far too often the victims of these types of crimes.
Right. There is no reason at this point to believe that this was an attack driven by homophobia. But there is every reason to believe that insofar as there is an ideological reason for it, Mateen did make it clear what his attack was about. From an interview with a survivor:
Throughout that period of hours, the gunman was in there with us. He actually made a call to 911 from in there. Everybody could hear – who was in the bathroom, who survived. We could hear him talking to 911, saying that the reason why he’s doing this is because he wants America to stop bombing his country. From that conversation, from 911, he pledged allegiance to Isis, he started speaking in, I believe … after he get off the phone with 911, he started speaking in Arabic … at first I didn’t know what the language was. And after that, he even spoke to us directly in the bathroom. He said: ‘Are there any black people in here?’ I was too afraid to answer, but there was an African American male in the stall where most of my body was, where a majority of my body was, had answered and he said, ‘Yes, there are about six or seven of us,’ and the gunman responded back to him saying, ‘You know that I don’t have a problem with black people, this is about my country. You guys suffered enough.’
He made a statement saying it wasn’t about black people. This isn’t the reason why he was doing this. But through the conversation with 911, he said that the reason why he was doing this is that he wanted America to stop bombing his country. So, the motive was very clear to us who were laying in our own blood and other people’s blood, who were injured, who were shot. We knew what his motive was and that he wasn’t going to stop killing people until he was killed, until he felt like his message got out there.
It is politically inconvenient to pin Mateen’s slaughter on US foreign and military policy. It is politically convenient to pin it on LGBT hate. Noted.