Citing 'Unnecessary Distraction,' FBI Reverses Stance On Orlando Gunman Transcript

Jun 20, 2016
Originally published on June 21, 2016 7:11 am

Hours after releasing a partial transcript of Orlando gunman Omar Mateen's 911 phone call with police during the deadly shooting that left 49 victims dead, the FBI has released a new version of the record — one that includes Mateen's pledge of allegiance to ISIS.

The Justice Department's decision to redact references to ISIS and its leader from the transcript took many observers by surprise, particularly as many media outlets, including NPR, have reported that Mateen had pledged his support for ISIS and its leader during phone calls with police.

As we reported this morning, references to ISIS were redacted from the transcript in a move Attorney General Loretta Lynch discussed Sunday. But after the newly released transcript raised questions about what was missing, the Justice Department issued another version Monday afternoon.

In media analysis of the transcripts, part of the confusion seems to stem from uncertainty over what motivated the decision to obscure key information from a primary source of information in a high-profile case. A joint statement by the Justice Department and the FBI seeks to explain its reasoning; here's the full text of that statement:

"The purpose of releasing the partial transcript of the shooter's interaction with 911 operators was to provide transparency, while remaining sensitive to the interests of the surviving victims, their families, and the integrity of the ongoing investigation. We also did not want to provide the killer or terrorist organizations with a publicity platform for hateful propaganda. Unfortunately, the unreleased portions of the transcript that named the terrorist organizations and leaders have caused an unnecessary distraction from the hard work that the FBI and our law enforcement partners have been doing to investigate this heinous crime. As much of this information had been previously reported, we have re-issued the complete transcript to include these references in order to provide the highest level of transparency possible under the circumstances."

Because of the unique circumstances surrounding the transcripts, we'll repeat the acknowledgement we posted this morning:

"NPR and nearly 40 other news organizations last week asked the city of Orlando to release tapes of the 911 calls, dispatch calls, scanner recordings and other records related to the shooting. Those organizations have yet to respond to the decision to release edited transcripts."

Our post on this morning's news conference includes the original version of the partial transcript. Here's the newer version:

"2:35 a.m.: Shooter contacted a 911 operator from inside Pulse. The call lasted approximately 50 seconds, the details of which are set out below:

(OD) Orlando Police Dispatcher

(OM) Omar Mateen

OD: Emergency 911, this is being recorded.

OM: In the name of God the Merciful, the beneficent [Arabic]

OD: What?

OM: Praise be to God, and prayers as well as peace be upon the prophet of God [Arabic]. I wanna let you know, I'm in Orlando and I did the shootings.

OD: What's your name?

OM: My name is I pledge of allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of the Islamic State.

OD: Ok, What's your name?

OM: I pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may God protect him [Arabic], on behalf of the Islamic State.

OD: Alright, where are you at?

OM: In Orlando.

OD: Where in Orlando?

[End of call.]"

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