Bipartisan concerns over the FBI’s ability to monitor potential mass shooting threats arose following the House Oversight and Government Reform’s closed-door meeting with Deputy FBI Director David Bowdich on Tuesday.
Committee members — who were briefed on the failures made by law enforcement officials during the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida — said they were taken aback by the agency’s lack of action despite having received detailed leads on the shooter.
Democratic Illinois Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi and Republican Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz said Bowdich was unable to answer their questions on whether the FBI has the ability to comb social media to look for signs someone is planning an attack.
“The FBI came in to brief and they’re describing different flection points in regards to this individual’s interaction with law enforcement and mental health professionals, and they’re telling us about the different times that red flags were raised and that notice was given that this guy was going to do something horrible and tragic on a massive scale,” Gaetz told The Daily Caller. “Raja, sort of flipped that on its head and asked well,instead of sitting around waiting for the phone to ring with someone expressing concern about a dangerous individual, are we using technology, artificial intelligence, machine learning to go and regularly scrape social media platforms and digital platforms for content that would then inform on someone’s intentions.”
Krishnamoorthi said the FBI had “no good answer” on whether they are currently using their databases or searching social media profiles.
“The way they take tips, the way that they take leads has to be closely examined because the lead with regard to this specific issue was so specific issue was so specific. It was detailed, it was substantive, it was urgent,” Krishnamoorthi told TheDC. “The woman called in had been monitoring the social media, had seen the guns on his bed, said he dressed like ISIS. I mean what more do you need for an agent to go to the home.“
The Illinois Democrat called for the agency to reevaluate its vetting process, calling for the FBI to search for keywords so they can start an investigation before receiving a call about suspicious behavior.
“If I were to send a lead, to call the FBI and they thought it was worthy of pursuing they would call the lead and pursue the lead,” he said. “But my question was, ‘Well we know that certain buzz words or buzz phrases like ‘I want to be a professional school shooter’ should be constantly monitored. There’s like a set of search terms, I don’t know how many, that you want to constantly be looking for across all your databases, across social media all the time. And if you come across it then you should start an investigation right away.”
Gaetz echoed Krishnamoorthi’s sentiments, adding he believes the agency needs make sure it’s utilizing all tools available to prevent similar school shootings in the future.
“It’s ridiculous Google and Amazon and Facebook can run algorithms 24/7 against my blog, my website, my social media platforms to figure out what kind of sunscreen to sell me, but our law enforcement can’t use the very same ubiquitous technology to identify people who are most likely to do a great deal of harm,” he said.
The Florida Republican said a number of questions remain unanswered and they expect regular briefings as the investigation continues.