Nineteen days later, a man whom the FBI had investigated as a possible terrorist went into an Orlando nightclub and, claiming solidarity with the Islamic State, shot 49 people to death with weapons he bought legally.Nowhere in Milbank's rant does he tell his readers that the Orlando shooter was not on the "Terrorist Watch List." The shooter had been investigated and removed for lack of evidence. Milbank, like the gun ban lobby, and Democratic legislators pushing this proposal, uses talking point phrases like "terrorist watch list" knowing that few if any of his readers understand exactly what that list entails. Here is what Milbank and the gun ban crowd don't want you to know, courtesy of David Inserra at the Daily Signal:
The legislation couldn’t have prevented the massacre; it wouldn’t have taken effect for months. But it highlights an absurd situation: Lawmakers have known for a long time that those suspected of terrorist activities can legally buy guns, but the Republican majority, putting Second Amendment absolutism above modest national-security considerations, is refusing to fix the problem.
What Is the Terrorist Watch List?That last paragraph is an inconvenient truth that the gun ban lobby doesn't want the public to know. If someone on the list purchases a firearm, federal law enforcement is already alerted and can respond and investigate.
The Terrorist Screening Database is the official name for the main terrorist watch list; it is maintained by the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center. The terrorist watch list is the central U.S. repository of known and suspected terrorists, both foreign and domestic.
The list receives names of suspected international terrorists from the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, maintained by the National Counterterrorism Center in connection with the U.S. intelligence community and security agencies that have information on terrorists. It also receives data on domestic terrorists from the FBI.
The terrorist watch list includes only information used to identify terrorists. The database itself does not include classified information on terrorists regarding what they have done and how we have been tracking them. This classified information is maintained in the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment for foreign terrorists, and at the FBI for domestic terrorists.
How Is the Terrorist Watch List Used?
From the Terrorism Screening Database, or terrorist watch list, more specific lists are created for different purposes.
For example, the no-fly list and the selectee list are used to prevent individuals from traveling or to subject them to greater scrutiny. For an individual to be included on the no-fly list or selectee list, additional evidence of his threat to aviation security and clear identifying information is needed above and beyond the standard of reasonable suspicion.
Another list extracted from the terrorist watch list is the Known and Suspected Terrorist File, or KST file. For someone to be included in the KST file, clear identifying information is needed.
The National Instant Criminal Background Check System, used to check firearm purchases, draws on the KST file. Inclusion in the file does not itself prevent a gun purchase, but flags the purchase for further review.
The individual is allowed to purchase a firearm so long as he is not a felon, adjudicated to be mentally ill, a fugitive from justice, an illegal immigrant, or prohibited from making gun purchases for another statutory reason.
What Is the Standard of Proof to Be Put on the Terrorist Watch List?
To get on the terrorist watch list, U.S. officials nominate an individual whom they have “reasonable suspicion” to believe is engaged in or aiding terrorist activities.
There must also be a sufficient level of identifying information to include an individual on the list. There have been, and continue to be, legal battles over whether proper avenues for redress exist to get off the no-fly list.
So How Did Omar Mateen Get His Guns?
Omar Mateen, identified as the killer in the Orlando massacre, was subject to two FBI investigations in 2013 and 2014. He was added to the terrorist watch list.
Following the conclusion of the investigations, Mateen was removed from the watch list. As a result, when he went to purchase the firearms used in the attack, he was not in the KST file and was not flagged by the FBI.
Even if Mateen had been on the list, he likely would not have been prevented from purchasing a weapon. The FBI would have been alerted, however, and could have responded and investigated further.
Remember that "no-fly list?" The gun ban lobby uses it to push for their gun ban because it is "poll-tested." Unfortunately, the list includes the name of a lot of people who are not terrorists. People like the late U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy, Representative John Lewis, singer Cat Stevens, children under the age of 10 and two journalists have erroneously ended up on the list. Additionally, Representative Tom McClintock was on the list because he had the same name as an Irish Republican Army (IRA) terrorist. That means they were all on the Terrorism Screening Database first before being put on the "No-fly" list since Inserra said the "no-fly list" is one of several created from the Terrorism Screening Database. It took Kennedy, Lewis, and McClintock months to get their names off the list. Can you imagine how long it takes regular American citizen to get the matter cleared up?
American citizens should not lose basic civil rights without due process. That is the reason all but two GOP Senators and Democrat Heidi Heitkamp (ND), voted against the Feinstein amendment. It has nothing to do with letting terrorists have access to firearms as Milbank and the Washington Post assert.
You're going to see a lot more about this issue over the next five months. I'm sure Dana Milbank will be more than happy to help our opponents distract the public from the real issue by continuing with poll tested talking points rather than laying out the facts.