BOSTON (CBS) – Omar Mateen was on the FBI Terror Watch List in 2013 and 2014. He was under surveillance for 10 months and interviewed twice by agents. Yet still, he was able to legally buy a gun.
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“I think the average person in the United States just thinks if you’re a suspect in a terrorism case you won’t be able to get a gun. Well that’s not the case right now and the law has to change to fix that,” says former Boston Police Commissioner and WBZ Security Analyst Ed Davis.
A person on the FBI Watch List can buy a firearm. But, the FBI is alerted when they do. However, even though Mateen had been on the list, there was not enough evidence to charge him with a crime so he dropped off the list in 2014.
It’s a striking similarity to Tamerlan Tsarnaev, investigated, vetted and ultimately, case closed. Davis says the FBI has more than 1,000 open active terrorism investigations across the country. Many more have been closed because of lack of evidence.
When Davis ran the Boston Police Department, he says there were hundreds of terror leads tracked down every year in New England. “If you put everyone on a terrorism case and didn’t have them do anything else, it would be impossible to follow all these people around,” he explained.
Last summer, WBZ spoke with Vince Lisi, who was then the Special Agent in Charge of the Boston FBI office. He told us leads come into the office every single day. He had recently directed more resources to tracking down and investigating potential lone wolves radicalized online.
“We don’t have the resources to open up an investigation into everyone there is and keep it open forever,” he explained about the need to quickly assess leads.
“The real challenge is figuring out who will take action?” WBZ asked. “Yes and who’s gone beyond the rights that have been afforded them under the constitution,” he said adding, the move from talk to action can happen rapidly.