Three hours before the attack on a controversial Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest and exhibit in Garland, Texas, on Sunday the FBI had alerted local police about one of the two gunmen who were later both killed by a police officer on the scene.
FBI director James Comey said on Thursday that the intelligence bulletin sent to local authorities contained a photo and other information on Elton Simpson, 30, who carried out the attack on Sunday night with his roommate Nadir Soofi, 34.
Comey said the FBI “developed information just hours before the event that Simpson might be interested in going to Garland,” but noted that there was no indication that he was planning an attack or that he had left Phoenix, Arizona where he lived.
Simpson and Soofi were killed by a local traffic officer after firing assault rifles at the Curtis Culwell Center where a school security guard was shot in the leg. Comey spoke highly of the local traffic officer, saying he “remained calm, and returned fire in an appropriate way.”
The controversial cartoon contest arranged under the guise of free speech, law officers believed, could insult and provoke Muslim sensitivities and become a target for violence.
Comey said the FBI field office in Dallas was screening for potential threats to the contest and sent local police a list of people showing an interest in the event.
ISIS was reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack.
Referring to ISIS and its recruitment methods, Comey said the message was “if you can’t travel [to join ISIS in the Middle East], kill where you are.”
Covey pointed out that the FBI can no longer simply monitor "jihadist propaganda" websites as it did just a few years ago. He said people who are interested in ISIS can now follow it on social media and receive its messages.
He said that ISIS had many American followers on social media who are “consuming this poison” and that the FBI had to determine whether a follower was a “talker” or a “doer” when trying to identify threats to national security.
Covey spoke of users who “go dark,” i.e. start encrypted communications that the FBI cannot read, and added that while the bureau has “hundreds working on it around the clock” it is now “more important than ever” for friends and family members to speak up against the threat of violence.