Acting Deputy FBI Director David Bowdich told House members privately Tuesday that the FBI missed two tips about the gunman who killed 17 people at a Florida high school, but also asserted that the ongoing federal investigations into other matters -- including Russia meddling -- were not the cause of the tragic error.
President Donald Trump has suggested that the Russia investigation undercut the ability of the FBI to act on tips before the shooting. But Bowdich seemed to reject that assertion under questioning during a briefing before the House Judiciary and Oversight panels, suggesting that no other ongoing inquiries affected how the Florida case was handled, multiple sources said.
Still, Bowdich acknowledged there were significant mistakes in how the FBI handled the tips -- and said the matter remains under further investigation, the sources said.
Bowdich told lawmakers in a private briefing Tuesday that the FBI had received two tips -- one last September and one in January -- about the threat that Nikolas Cruz posed to his community in Parkland, Florida, according two sources familiar with the matter. The first tip came following a YouTube post that asserted that Cruz wanted to be a school shooter, something that was directed to a field office in Jackson, Mississippi. The agent in charge of the matter investigated the issue, but that agent was unable to make any headway in the investigation, failing to determine who Cruz was.
But the agent did not ask YouTube for a copy of the original posting or send a preservation order to YouTube, according to the sources. After fruitlessly trying to determine Cruz's identity, the agent sought to close the case on October 11, 2017, and it was officially closed after a second review suggested that the matter was not a national security threat.
In January, an employee for the FBI's call center in West Virginia got a call warning about Cruz, and the employee ran the matter by her supervisor. The caller told the FBI that the Parkland police had been notified about the threat posted by Cruz, as the tipster warned about his recent behavior and actions. But the caller was not aware of any specific plans to carry out a school shooting, the sources said. So the FBI did not consider the matter a direct threat.
While the FBI employee did see the report from September 25 about the YouTube post, the FBI did not act upon the matter since the earlier report was not labeled as a national security threat at the time. Whether the employee shared that information from that report with the supervisor is uncertain, and Bowdich made clear both calls are under further investigation. He said the second call should have been referred to local field offices to follow up.
Moreover, a source who was in the room told CNN that Bowdich detailed how the FBI missed a warning from the tipster, who told the FBI they witnessed Cruz possessed guns and kept them on his bed.
A person close to Cruz contacted the FBI on January 5 to report concerns about him, the FBI said in a statement February 16. But the bureau did not appropriately follow established protocols in following up on the tip.
Last month, Bowdich acknowledged that proper protocols weren't followed on a tip about Cruz, who confessed to the shooting.
"There was a mistake made, we know that," Bowdich told reporters at a news conference February 22. "Our job is to make sure that doesn't happen again."
"It is not easy work, I'm not making excuses, because what happened was a tragedy, truly a tragedy," he continued. "But it is our job to make sure that we do everything in our power to ensure it does not happen again."
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said last month the Justice Department was "looking at a number of things" in response to the school shooting "to make sure that we do everything we can reasonably do to push back against this kind of violence."
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