The FBI has dedicated an untold number of resources to an investigation based on the infamous, 35-page largely discredited anti-Trump dossier alleging unsubstantiated collusion with Russia and claiming without any evidence that Donald Trump engaged in sordid sexual acts caught on video.
Yet that same dossier-obsessed FBI is now facing scrutiny for allegedly taking few actions after the agency was alerted to a YouTube comment last fall bearing the name of the future Florida school mass shooter and declaring, “Im going to be a professional school shooter.”
The FBI’s probe of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign reportedly centered on the dossier despite the bureau being fully aware that the questionable document was produced by the controversial Fusion GPS opposition political research outfit and was paid for by Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
The Guardian recently reported that the FBI has been utilizing a second dossier in its investigation of unsubstantiated claims of collusion between Russia and Trump’s presidential campaign, this one authored by Cody Shearer, a shadowy former tabloid journalist who has long been closely associated with various Clinton scandals. National Review previously dubbed Shearer a “Creepy Clinton Confidante” and “the Strangest Character in Hillary’s Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy.”
A four-page House Intelligence Committee memo alleging abuse of surveillance authority detailed the centrality of the dossier in the FBI’s probe, which has not produced any evidence of collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia.
In addition to wild accusations about meetings with Russians, Steele’s dossier infamously claimed that while Trump was staying in the presidential suite at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Moscow in 2013, the real estate mogul hired “a number of prostitutes to perform a ‘golden showers’ (urination) show in front of him.” The dossier claims that Trump wanted to “defile” the bed because he learned that President Obama had used the same suite during a trip to Russia. Those dossier claims have never been verified.
A Washington Post report last year provided a window into some of the FBI’s resources in probing alleged Russian attempts to interfere in the election. According to the newspaper, in the summer of 2016, then-CIA Director John Brennan convened a “secret task force at CIA headquarters composed of several dozen analysts and officers from the CIA, the NSA and the FBI.”
The Post reported the task force included “a team of operations specialists at the CIA, NSA and FBI who took direction from the task force on where to aim their subsequent efforts to collect more intelligence on Russia.”
It would later be revealed that Comey’s FBI utilized the dossier in three FISA court applications to conduct surveillance on Carter Page, who briefly served as a volunteer foreign policy adviser to Trump’s 2016 campaign. The surveillance operation undoubtedly drained still more FBI resources.
While the FBI was ensconced in its dossier investigation it received another tip bearing the name of the Florida school mass shooter.
Ben Bennight, a bail bondsman in Mississippi, told reporters he took a screenshot of the “Im going to be a professional school shooter” comment last fall and flagged it to Youtube, which in turn removed the offending remark. Bennight said he alerted his local FBI field office in a voice mail and was interviewed the next day by field agents.
The YouTube user name for the individual who left the eerie comment was “nikolas cruz.” Bennight said he did not hear anything further on the matter until an individual bearing the same name carried out the Parkland, Fla. school shooting, murdering 17 people in cold blood.
Rob Lasky, the FBI special agent in charge in Miami, told the New York Times the bureau was reviewing what steps were taken after the FBI received Bennight’s tip.
“There was no particular information about the particular time, location or further identifiers about the person who posted the comment,” Lasky said. “No additional information was found to positively identify the person who posted this comment. There was no connection found to South Florida.”
It was unclear which “further identifiers” would be required given that the YouTube user’s name might actually be the real name of the Florida school shooter.
Running Cruz’s name through law enforcement databases might have turned up a positive ID. According to reports, Broward County police were called to the killer’s home at least 39 times over a seven-year period.
Cross-referencing the YouTube user’s name on other social media accounts would have found similarly disturbing patterns.
Local KTLA reported:
Posts under videos on YouTube and other sites by someone using the name Nikolas Cruz include threatening comments, such as:
“I whana shoot people with my AR-15.”
“I wanna die Fighting killing s**t ton of people.”
“I am going to kill law enforcement one day they go after the good people.”
Also an Instagram account using the name @Nikolascruzmakarov contained a profile picture of a masked individual and included posts of a collection of firearms on a bed, and a picture from the perspective of a scope looking out a window seemingly channeling a sniper.
The Times, however, reported that the FBI would have had few options even if they followed through with the tip:
Agents are still trying to sort out what happened, but without more information and limited ability under the circumstances to obtain a subpoena, their options were few.
Had agents sought a grand jury subpoena to obtain data from YouTube to identify the person behind the posting, it is not certain that prosecutors would have agreed to seek one based on the scant information available. Agents might have a hard time convincing prosecutors of an imminent threat because the post mentioned no time or location of a possible shooting.
Even if agents had tied Mr. Cruz to the YouTube post, the authorities probably would have questioned him or his family and friends but would have been unable seize his gun without a court order.