Discrepancies between Past Versions of Mateen’s Calls and the “Transcript”

As promised, DOJ has censored the transcript of Omar Mateen’s calls with authorities the night of his attack. There is a discrepancy between Jim Comey’s earlier version of the calls and what appears in today’s “transcript.” Here’s what Comey said a week ago.

It is also not entirely clear at this point just what terrorist group he aspired to support; although, he made clear his affinity, at the time of the attack, for ISIL, and generally, leading up to the attack, for radical Islamist groups. He made 911 calls from the club, during the attack, at about 2:30 in the morning, Sunday morning. There were three different calls. He called and he hung up. He called again and spoke briefly with the dispatcher, and then he hung up, and then the dispatcher called him back again and they spoke briefly. There were three total calls.

During the calls he said he was doing this for the leader of ISIL, who he named and pledged loyalty to, but he also appeared to claim solidarity with the perpetrators of the Boston Marathon bombing, and solidarity with a Florida man who died as a suicide bomber in Syria for al Nusra Front, a group in conflict with Islamic State. The bombers at the Boston Marathon and the suicide bomber from Florida were not inspired by ISIL, which adds a little bit to the confusion about his motives.

And here’s what FBI says the censored “transcript” says.

The following is based on Orlando Police Department (OPD) radio communication (times are approximate):

  • 2:02 a.m.: OPD call transmitted multiple shots fired at Pulse nightclub.
  • 2:04 a.m.: Additional OPD officers arrived on scene.
  • 2:08 a.m.: Officers from various law enforcement agencies made entrance to Pulse and engaged the shooter.
  • 2:18 a.m.: OPD S.W.A.T. (Special Weapons & Tactics) initiated a full call-out.
  • 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:

Orlando Police Dispatcher (OD)
Shooter (OM)

OD: Emergency 911, this is being recorded.
OM: In the name of God the Merciful, the beneficial [in Arabic]
OD: What?
OM: Praise be to God, and prayers as well as peace be upon the prophet of God [in Arabic]. I 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 [omitted].
OD: Ok, What’s your name?
OM: I pledge allegiance to [omitted] may God protect him [in Arabic], on behalf of [omitted].
OD: Alright, where are you at?
OM: In Orlando.
OD: Where in Orlando?
[End of call.]

(Shortly thereafter, the shooter engaged in three conversations with OPD’s Crisis Negotiation Team.)

  • 2:48 a.m.: First crisis negotiation call occurred lasting approximately nine minutes.
  • 3:03 a.m.: Second crisis negotiation call occurred lasting approximately 16 minutes.
  • 3:24 a.m.: Third crisis negotiation call occurred lasting approximately three minutes.

In these calls, the shooter, who identified himself as an Islamic soldier, told the crisis negotiator that he was the person who pledged his allegiance to [omitted], and told the negotiator to tell America to stop bombing Syria and Iraq and that is why he was “out here right now.” When the crisis negotiator asked the shooter what he had done, the shooter stated, “No, you already know what I did.” The shooter continued, stating, “There is some vehicle outside that has some bombs, just to let you know. You people are gonna get it, and I’m gonna ignite it if they try to do anything stupid.” Later in the call with the crisis negotiator, the shooter stated that he had a vest, and further described it as the kind they “used in France.” The shooter later stated, “In the next few days, you’re going to see more of this type of action going on.” The shooter hung up and multiple attempts to get in touch with him were unsuccessful.

In Comey’s original version, there were just 3 calls, and only with the dispatcher, two of which included actual conversation. Now, there are 4 total calls, only one with the dispatcher (and no mention of the hang-up). I’d say the difference stemmed from confusion and a conflation, last week,  of all calls with authorities, but there seems to be a counting discrepancy I’d like resolved.

Predictably, the FBI censored details that should have led them to raise questions about Mateen’s invocation of ISIS. It made no mention of what Comey did: that Mateen also invoked al-Nusra and the Tsarnaev brothers (presumably in the calls to the crisis negotiation team), which doesn’t make sense. So rather than elucidating, this “transcript” actually covers over one of the problems with FBI’s reaction.

As noted, there’s also a (more explicable) discrepancy between this “transcript” and what survivor Patience Carter has said (7:16 and following). She said that Mateen said he wanted the US to stop bombing “his country,” which reports on this have interpreted to mean Afghanistan. Given the unbelievable amount of stress she must have been under, I would expect discrepancies in any case. But since she doesn’t specify precisely what he said that she interpreted to mean, “his country,” I don’t think this is a significant discrepancy.

Update: FBI and DOJ have now released the name Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (calling it the “complete” transcript), but not the other things that would make them look bad.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

11 replies
  1. Phil says:

    George Carlin nailed it years ago;

    “I have certain rules I live by. My first rule I don’t believe anything the government tells me. and I don’t take very seriously the media, or the press, in this country”.

  2. Bitter Angry Drunk says:

    Pretty confident that whatever the FBI is hiding reflects very poorly on the FBI. Call it a hunch.

    • P J Evans says:

      All the clues they missed because they’re looking for Daesh/al-Qaeda and not angry Americans (“Y’all-Qaeda”), would be my guess.

  3. martin says:

    From what I’ve read, not ONE word where he got the weapons. Please update me if I am wrong.

  4. Les says:

    He tried to buy body armor and ammo in early May from Lotus Gunworks, but was refused. He later bought the AR-15, handgun, and ammo from St. Lucie Shooting Center the week before the shooting.

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      Is your report based on a media report you read?
      Are there any witnesses that will confirm that report?
      Any witnesses that are willing to testify to such?
      If this can not really be verified, then you are just
      propogating a narrative.

  5. Rayne says:

    Fox News (take with grain of salt) hed: Cop says first responders surrounded bathroom where Mateen was holed up, but told to wait

    A local cop apparently arrived on scene almost immediately. Standby instructions may explain the blankspots between 2:08-2:18 and 2:18-2:35.

    Didn’t see a report yet, but the same Fox piece also includes a video in which it’s reported a gay Hispanic may claims to have been Mateen’s lover for two months, he’d been interviewed by the FBI, and he believed Mateen’s wife knew he was gay. Ugh. I can see this being used to demonize LGBT and Hispanic communities.

  6. tashamaria tromer says:

    We give far too much attention to these killers. Why keep reprinting his picture. Why give him even more notoreity. Why make him into a holy card, a martyr? I propose not giving killers the post-death satisfaction of running their photos ever again.

  7. Dan says:

    Funny (not HaHa) that Comey doesn’t know ISIS and al Nusra are on the same side in the Syrian civil war.

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