The Justice Department’s decision to release unredacted versions of the transcripts of the Orlando shooter’s statements to authorities was probably inevitable. The earlier decision to excise any references to Islam was among the more boneheaded ideas we can recall on the part of any administration and triggered an eruption of criticism and ridicule.
But the bizarre course of the aftermath of Omar Mateen’s murderous rampage in a gay nightclub that resulted in 49 deaths and many serious injuries should be an object lesson for all Americans. There is something seriously wrong with the thinking of some administration decision makers.
Two days after the June 12 attack, President Obama gave a speech on the matter following a meeting with his National Security Council. Despite the perpetrator’s name, his reported remarks to a crisis negotiator that the United States needed to “stop bombing Syria and Iraq,” his pledge of allegiance to the Islamic State and its leader, and his support for other extremist ideologies, Mr. Obama in his address talked about the carnage largely in terms of anti-gay targeting and the need for more gun control. And he described the gunman as an unstable young man who became radicalized, not as someone with a religious zeal to implement what he believed to be the teachings of Islam.
Of particular note is this comment in the president’s speech:
In all of our efforts, foremost in our minds is the loss and the grief of the people of Orlando, those who died, those who are still recovering, the families who’ve seen their loved ones harmed, the friends of ours who are lesbian and gay and bisexual and transgender who were targeted.
Recall, though, that back in January 2015, Mr. Obama said this about the murder of four Jews at the Hyper Cacher kosher market in Paris at the hands of an Islamic extremist: “It is entirely legitimate for the American people to be deeply concerned when you’ve got a bunch of violent, vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris.”
So for Mr. Obama the shooting of Jews who were patronizing a kosher food establishment was random, not purposeful – though the terrorist plainly chose a Jewish venue – but the victims of the Orlando shootings were presumptively targeted because of their sexual orientation. That is, they were not just “a bunch of folks” in a nightclub, but a bunch of gay folks.
But the height of absurdity was reached with the announcement by Attorney General Lynch, in response to requests by media outlets for the transcripts of Mr. Mateen’s remarks, that only redacted versions would be released. All references to any pledges of allegiance to terrorist groups or to Islam or ISIS would be scrubbed. She said by way of explanation: “What we’re not going to do is further proclaim this man’s pledges of allegiance to terrorist groups, and further his propaganda.”
Eventually, as noted above, the administration relented and the full transcripts were released. But it is instructive to see how foolish the redacted version looked. Here is a sampling: “I let you know, I’m in Orlando and I did the shootings”; “My name is Omar Mateen, I pledge of allegiance to [omitted]”; “I pledge allegiance to [omitted], may God protect him [in Arabic], on behalf [omitted].”
It certainly is silly and unbecoming for ostensibly serious people to try to manipulate reality in such a cartoonish fashion. Do they really think they can micromanage the news and hide things from the public to the extent this episode suggests? In retrospect, it is more than silly. It is downright scary.Editorial Board