FBI Director Refuses to Name Orlando Killer

“Part of what motivates sick people to do this kind of thing is some twisted notion of fame or glory, and I don’t want to be part of that.”

Jeff Wheeler/Star Tribune/AP

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FBI Director James Comey took an unusual step while briefing the press on the investigation into Sunday’s mass shooting at an Orlando gay club, saying that he would try not to use the name of the killer in the hope of denying mass shooters publicity.

“I am not using the killer’s name and I will try not to do that,” he told reporters. “Part of what motivates sick people to do this kind of thing is some twisted notion of fame or glory and I don’t want to be part of that, for the sake of the victims and their families and so that other twisted minds don’t think that this is a path to fame and recognition.”

Mother Jones’ Mark Follman has previously covered how media focus on mass shooters—including publishing their names, photos, and social media musings—can actually help fuel future attacks. “Evidence amassed by the FBI and other threat assessment experts shows that perpetrators and plotters look to past attacks both for inspiration and operational details,” he wrote after mass killings last year. FBI agents and psychologists recommended to him that media outlets cut down on using killers’ names, especially in headlines, and publishing images of them. “Their use can have a dangerous effect on other young men vulnerable to dark and violent identifications with the perpetrators,” said forensic psychologist Reid Meloy of the University of California-San Diego.

Comey also defended the FBI’s previous dealings with the killer, 29-year-old Omar Mateen, who was investigated twice by the agency. The FBI investigated Mateen for ten months and interviewed him twice in 2013 after he threatened his colleagues at the courthouse where he was working, but eventually closed the case. The next year he was interviewed again as the FBI tried to find out out if Mateen had significant links to Moner Mohammad Abusalha, a South Floridian who carried out a suicide bombing in Syria in 2014 for Jabhat al-Nusra, Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria. The agency determined he didn’t. “I don’t see anything in reviewing our work that our agents should have done differently,” Comey said.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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