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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Could The FBI Do More To Track ‘Lone Wolf’ Killers, Not Just Terrorists?

James E. Holmes (left) appears in Arapahoe County District Court in Centennial, Colo. Rezwan Ferdaus (right) allegedly plotted to fly explosives-packed model planes into the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol. (Department of Justice/AP/Denver Post, RJ Sangosti, Pool)

James E. Holmes (left) appears in Arapahoe County District Court in Centennial, Colo. Rezwan Ferdaus (right) allegedly plotted to fly explosives-packed model planes into the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol. (Department of Justice/AP/Denver Post, RJ Sangosti, Pool)

Twenty-four-year-old Colorado shooting suspect James Holmes bought an assault rifle, two automatics, a shotgun and 6,000 rounds of ammunition without ever showing up on the radar of law enforcement.

Yet 26-year-old Muslim-American Rezwan Ferdaus, who pleaded guilty in Boston last week to terrorism charges related to a plot to fly remote-controlled airplanes into federal buildings, was the focus of a year-long sting operation that provided him with material support that he otherwise likely would not have had to commit crimes. A comparison of the two cases raises troubling questions about FBI priorities and intelligence-gathering.

National security expert James Bamford told WBUR reporter David Boeri, “I think if Holmes had a Muslim name he would have come into a great deal of attention with a lot less purchases.” Boeri suggests that FBI could use the kind of intelligence-gathering process the Drug Enforcement Agency puts into practice in Massachusetts: staying in contact with community leaders who might be able to tip agents off to any unusual behavior.

Guest:

  • David Boeri, WBUR reporter

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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