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How difficult is it to monitor Americans who sympathize with ISIS?

The following is a script from Attack in Garland, which aired on March 26, 2017. Anderson Cooper is the correspondent. Graham Messick and Steve McCarthy, producers. Jack Weingart, associate producer.

Wednesday s terror attack in London by a man who had been known to British law enforcement is just the latest reminder of how difficult it is to prevent an attack before it takes place. Here in the U.S., in just the past three years, more than 100 people have been arrested for ISIS-related crimes. The FBI devotes significant resources to identifying potential terrorists and sometimes spends years tracking them. The terror attack in Garland, Texas, two years ago was the first claimed by ISIS on U.S. soil. It s mostly been forgotten because the two terrorists were killed by local cops before they managed to murder anyone. In looking into what happened in Garland, we were surprised to discover just how close the FBI was to one of the terrorists. Not only had the FBI been monitoring him for years, there was an undercover agent right behind him when the first shots were fired.

How Difficult Is It To Monitor Americans Who Sympathize With ISIS?

Terrorists behind 2015 Garland, Texas, attack. The target of the attack was an event taking place in this conference center on May 3, 2015. A self-described free speech advocate named Pamela Geller was holding a provocative contest, offering a cash-prize for the best drawing of the prophet Muhammad, whose depiction is considered sacrilege by some Muslims. Security outside was heavy. There were dozens of police, a SWAT team, and snipers.

The Garland attack is essentially the first opening salvo when it comes to attacks on the homeland.

More than 100 people were gathered inside and the event was ending when two terrorists drove up to a checkpoint manned by a Garland police officer and a school security guard. This grainy image shows both law-enforcement personnel standing next to an unmarked police car seconds before the attack. Bruce Joiner, the security guard, was unarmed. Bruce Joiner: It s like they pull up, stop, and the doors open. Anderson Cooper: Do you remember seeing the weapon?

Bruce Joiner: Oh, yeah. Definitely saw their weapon. And that s when I locked onto his face cause he s got this smile. Anderson Cooper: He was literally smiling? Bruce Joiner: Yeah, like, I got ya. I got ya.

The two terorrists opened fire with automatic rifles. Joiner dove for cover, but was shot in the leg. Officer Greg Stevens, returned fire with his handgun. Police nearby ran toward the scene.

Parnell: And right here (expletive) just started shooting at this convention!

When this video was recorded by a passerby, both terrorists had been mortally wounded by Officer Stevens, and were laying on the ground next to their car.

Parnell: They still shootin man!

A SWAT team shot them both in the head. Bruce Joiner: Because they kept moving and they weren t sure there were explosives involved they had to shoot them. Anderson Cooper: How quick did all of this happen?

Bruce Joiner: Oh, it s a matter of seconds. I would say 20, 30 seconds. It s very quick. The next day as the FBI picked through the crime scene, the evidence showed Garland police had prevented a massacre. The terrorists brought six guns, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, bulletproof and tactical vests, and Xeroxed copies of the black flag of ISIS. They were identified as 31-year-old Elton Simpson and 34-year-old Nadir Soofi. Just hours before the attack they had sent this tweet pledging allegiance to ISIS. But Simpson was already well-known to the FBI. He grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, and moved to Phoenix, Arizona, in middle school. He briefly played college basketball before dropping out and converting to Islam when he was 20.

According to leaders of the Phoenix mosque he attended, Simpson was well-liked and soft-spoken. Usama Shami: He was always asking questions, attending lectures.

How Difficult Is It To Monitor Americans Who Sympathize With ISIS?

Usama Shami, president of the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix

Usama Shami is president of the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix. People here thought so much of the young Muslim convert, who took the name Ibrahim, that he was included in the mosque s promotional video in 2007.

Elton Ibrahim Simpson: When you come together and you pray five times a day with the brothers and you re reminded about the hereafter

But at the time of this interview, Simpson had already become interested in radical Islam, and the Phoenix FBI, which was investigating one of his friends, hired an informant, a Sudanese refugee named Dabla Deng, to check Simpson out. Anderson Cooper: There are informants inside the mosque?

Usama Shami: Yeah. I mean the whole case with Elton Simpson was with an informant that he was befriending Elton and taping his conversations. Dabla Deng spent three years pretending to be Simpson s friend, and was paid $132,000 by the FBI. He taped more than 1,500 hours of their conversations and finally recorded him talking about traveling overseas to wage jihad. Simpson lied to the FBI about it and got three years probation. Usama Shami: When he found out that this guy was spying on him, and taping him and then finding out that the government was doing that, I think something clicked in him. And the mosque, we couldn t do anything. Because we don t know what he did.

Anderson Cooper: He felt that the mosque had abandoned him? Usama Shami: Yes. And he felt that a lot of people had abandoned him. And that s why he stopped coming to the mosque. He moved into this Phoenix apartment complex with Nadir Soofi, who he knew from the mosque. Soofi had just had a bitter break-up and the pizza parlor he owned was going out of business. It was here in this apartment that Simpson and Soofi began closely following the rise of ISIS, reaching out to their supporters online, and acquiring weapons for a terrorist attack.

Seamus Hughes: Simpson and Soofi knew what they were getting into and I think they likely knew they were going to die. Seamus Hughes tracks the online activities of ISIS sympathizers in the U.S. He served at the National Counter Terrorism Center, and is currently deputy director of George Washington University s Program On Extremism, where he also trains FBI agents on how to identify American jihadis. Anderson Cooper: Why is the Garland attack so significant?

Seamus Hughes: The Garland attack is essentially the first opening salvo when it comes to attacks on the homeland. Anderson Cooper: Attacks in the United States? Seamus Hughes: Attacks in the United States. These low-level attacks by ones and twos of people who are drawn to the ideology and decide to act.

Seamus Hughes: Ya gotta make sense of it all. So what you do is you bring it all together and put it on a board and say who s connected to who.

How Difficult Is It To Monitor Americans Who Sympathize With ISIS?

Using an old-fashioned law enforcement tool, Hughes maps out ISIS online tentacles into the United States. Seamus Hughes: So you have the two attackers, Soofi and Simpson. They re also talking to Mohammed Miski, who s an ISIS recruiter in Somalia. Anderson Cooper: This is somebody in Somalia who they re talking to online–

Seamus Hughes: Uh-huh. Yep. Through an encrypted app, Surespot. They re also talking to Junaid Hussein.

Anderson Cooper: And he s in Raqqa? Seamus Hughes: He s in Raqqa. Raqqa is ISIS stronghold in Syria. Hughes calls Junaid Hussain an ISIS rock star, a British citizen, who communicated online with English-speaking recruits worldwide. He was killed in a U.S. drone strike a year-and-a-half ago. Miski, an American living in Somalia, tweeted this link about the draw Muhammad contest, in Garland, Texas, and direct-messaged Elton Simpson urging him to attack it.

Seamus Hughes: The most interesting part about this is we re in a hybrid time, right. Before we used to be worried about these network attacks, think of 9/11 with the hijackers training for years and then coming over here. And then, we had lone actor attacks, individuals who were kind of drawn to this and decided to act. Now, we re in this weird moment in between, where you have a number of individuals in Raqqa, reaching out to Americans in Ohio, New York, and other places and saying, So here s the knife you should use. Here s the address of the local U.S. military officer and do what you can. Anderson Cooper: Do you think Elton Simpson would have launched this attack if it wasn t for people in ISIS overseas who were online whispering in his ear? Seamus Hughes: I think the folks whispering in his ear was a big part of it.

The FBI closed the case on Elton Simpson in 2014, only to re-open it several weeks before the attack because of statements he made on social media.

How Difficult Is It To Monitor Americans Who Sympathize With ISIS?

Seamus Hughes: It speaks to a larger problem the FBI has, which is you have an individual who pops into your radar in 2006, but doesn t commit an attack until 2015. So do you want the FBI to watch this individual for nine years? After the attack, Phoenix FBI agents became convinced the two men hadn t acted alone, and began investigating Elton Simpson s friends. They arrested this man Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem, a 43-year-old convert to Islam who grew up in Philadelphia, and accused him of funding the attack, as well as training and encouraging Simpson and Soofi. Witnesses at Abdul-Kareem s trial testified the three men watched ISIS execution videos together and discussed attacking a military base or the 2015 Super Bowl in Glendale, Arizona. Abdul-Kareem denied taking part in any discussions about a terror attack and says he rejected his friend s growing radicalization.

He was found guilty on multiple counts and sentenced to 30 years in prison. But his attorney Dan Maynard continued to investigate, and uncovered new evidence the FBI was much closer to the Garland attack than anyone realized. Anderson Cooper: After the trial, you discovered that the government knew a lot more about the Garland attack than they had let on? Dan Maynard: That s right. Yeah. After the trial we found out that they had had an undercover agent who had been texting with Simpson, less than three weeks before the attack, to him Tear up Texas. Which to me was an encouragement to Simpson.

The man he s talking about was a special agent of the FBI, working undercover posing as an Islamic radical. The government sent attorney Dan Maynard 60 pages of declassified encrypted messages between the agent and Elton Simpson and argued Tear up Texas was not an incitement. But Simpson s response was incriminating, referring to the attack against cartoonists at the French magazine Charlie Hebdo: bro, you don t have to say that… He wrote you know what happened in Paris so that goes without saying. No need to be direct. But it turns out the undercover agent did more than just communicate online with Elton Simpson. In an affidavit filed in another case the government disclosed that the FBI undercover agent had actually traveled to Garland, Texas, and was present at the event.

How Difficult Is It To Monitor Americans Who Sympathize With ISIS? 60 Minutes Overtime

How close was the FBI to terror attack in Garland, TX?

Attorney investigating ISIS-inspired attack discovered new evidence revealing undercover FBI agent photographed victims seconds before gunfire

Dan Maynard: I was shocked. I mean I was shocked that the government hadn t turned this over. I wanted to know when did he get there, why was he there? And this past November, Maynard was given another batch of documents by the government, revealing the biggest surprise of all. The undercover FBI agent was in a car directly behind Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi when they started shooting. This cell-phone photo of school security guard Bruce Joiner and police officer Greg Stevens was taken by the undercover agent seconds before the attack.

Anderson Cooper: The idea that he s taking photograph of the two people who happen to be attacked moments before they re attacked. Dan Maynard: It s stunning. Anderson Cooper: I mean, talk about being in the right or the wrong place at the right or the wrong time.

Dan Maynard: The idea that he s right there 30 seconds before the attack happens is just incredible to me. Anderson Cooper: What would you want to ask the undercover agent?

I can t tell you whether the FBI knew the attack was gonna occur. I don t like to think that they let it occur. But it is shocking to me that an undercover agent sees fellas jumping out of a car and he drives on.

Dan Maynard: I would love to ask the undercover agent– Are these the only communications that you had with Simpson? Did you have more communications with Simpson? How is it that you ended up coming to Garland, Texas? Why are you even there? We wanted to ask the FBI those same questions. But the bureau would not agree to an interview. All the FBI would give us was this email statement. It reads: There was no advance knowledge of a plot to attack the cartoon drawing contest in Garland, Texas.

If you re wondering what happened to the FBI s undercover agent, he fled the scene but was stopped at gunpoint by Garland police. This is video of him in handcuffs, recorded by a local news crew. We ve blurred his face to protect his identity. Dan Maynard: I can t tell you whether the FBI knew the attack was gonna occur. I don t like to think that they let it occur. But it is shocking to me that an undercover agent sees fellas jumping out of a car and he drives on. I find that shocking. Anderson Cooper: That he didn t try to stop–

Dan Maynard: He didn t try to stop em. Or he didn t do something. I mean, he s an agent, for gosh sakes.

Anderson Cooper: If this attack had gone a different way, and lots of people had been killed, would the fact that an undercover FBI agent was on the scene have become essentially a scandal? Seamus Hughes: It woulda been a bigger story. I think you would have seen congressional investigations and things like that. Lucky for the FBI and for the participants in the event you know, here in Texas, you know, everyone s a good shot there. The FBI s actions around this foiled attack offer a rare glimpse into the complexities faced by those fighting homegrown extremism. Today, the battle often begins online where identifying terrorists can be the difference between a massacre, and the one that never occurred in Garland, Texas.

Anderson Cooper: People brag about stuff. People talk big. One of the difficulties for the FBI is trying to figure out who s just talking and who actually may execute an attack.

Seamus Hughes: That s the hardest part when you talk about this, right. There s a lot of guys who talk about how great ISIS is. It s very hard to tell when someone crosses that line. And in most of the cases, you see the FBI has some touchpoint with those individuals beforehand. There had been an assessment, a preliminary investigation or a full investigation. It s just very hard to know when somebody decides to jump.

60 Minutes investigates first ISIS-claimed attack in U.S. and what the …

The following is a script from Attack in Garland, which aired on March 26, 2017. Anderson Cooper is the correspondent. Graham Messick and Steve McCarthy, producers. Jack Weingart, associate producer.

Wednesday s terror attack in London by a man who had been known to British law enforcement is just the latest reminder of how difficult it is to prevent an attack before it takes place. Here in the U.S., in just the past three years, more than 100 people have been arrested for ISIS-related crimes. The FBI devotes significant resources to identifying potential terrorists and sometimes spends years tracking them. The terror attack in Garland, Texas, two years ago was the first claimed by ISIS on U.S. soil. It s mostly been forgotten because the two terrorists were killed by local cops before they managed to murder anyone. In looking into what happened in Garland, we were surprised to discover just how close the FBI was to one of the terrorists. Not only had the FBI been monitoring him for years, there was an undercover agent right behind him when the first shots were fired.

60 Minutes Investigates First ISIS-claimed Attack In U.S. And What The ...

Terrorists behind 2015 Garland, Texas, attack. The target of the attack was an event taking place in this conference center on May 3, 2015. A self-described free speech advocate named Pamela Geller was holding a provocative contest, offering a cash-prize for the best drawing of the prophet Muhammad, whose depiction is considered sacrilege by some Muslims. Security outside was heavy. There were dozens of police, a SWAT team, and snipers.

The Garland attack is essentially the first opening salvo when it comes to attacks on the homeland.

More than 100 people were gathered inside and the event was ending when two terrorists drove up to a checkpoint manned by a Garland police officer and a school security guard. This grainy image shows both law-enforcement personnel standing next to an unmarked police car seconds before the attack. Bruce Joiner, the security guard, was unarmed. Bruce Joiner: It s like they pull up, stop, and the doors open. Anderson Cooper: Do you remember seeing the weapon?

Bruce Joiner: Oh, yeah. Definitely saw their weapon. And that s when I locked onto his face cause he s got this smile. Anderson Cooper: He was literally smiling? Bruce Joiner: Yeah, like, I got ya. I got ya.

The two terorrists opened fire with automatic rifles. Joiner dove for cover, but was shot in the leg. Officer Greg Stevens, returned fire with his handgun. Police nearby ran toward the scene.

Eyewitness video: And right here (expletive) just started shooting at this convention!

When this video was recorded by a passerby, both terrorists had been mortally wounded by Officer Stevens, and were laying on the ground next to their car.

Eyewitness video: They still shootin man!

A SWAT team shot them both in the head. Bruce Joiner: Because they kept moving and they weren t sure there were explosives involved they had to shoot them. Anderson Cooper: How quick did all of this happen?

Bruce Joiner: Oh, it s a matter of seconds. I would say 20, 30 seconds. It s very quick. The next day as the FBI picked through the crime scene, the evidence showed Garland police had prevented a massacre. The terrorists brought six guns, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, bulletproof and tactical vests, and Xeroxed copies of the black flag of ISIS. They were identified as 31-year-old Elton Simpson and 34-year-old Nadir Soofi. Just hours before the attack they had sent this tweet pledging allegiance to ISIS. But Simpson was already well-known to the FBI. He grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, and moved to Phoenix, Arizona, in middle school. He briefly played college basketball before dropping out and converting to Islam when he was 20.

According to leaders of the Phoenix mosque he attended, Simpson was well-liked and soft-spoken. Usama Shami: He was always asking questions, attending lectures.

60 Minutes Investigates First ISIS-claimed Attack In U.S. And What The ...

Usama Shami, president of the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix

Usama Shami is president of the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix. People here thought so much of the young Muslim convert, who took the name Ibrahim, that he was included in the mosque s promotional video in 2007.

Elton Ibrahim Simpson: When you come together and you pray five times a day with the brothers and you re reminded about the hereafter

But at the time of this interview, Simpson had already become interested in radical Islam, and the Phoenix FBI, which was investigating one of his friends, hired an informant, a Sudanese refugee named Dabla Deng, to check Simpson out. Anderson Cooper: There are informants inside the mosque?

Usama Shami: Yeah. I mean the whole case with Elton Simpson was with an informant that he was befriending Elton and taping his conversations. Dabla Deng spent three years pretending to be Simpson s friend, and was paid $132,000 by the FBI. He taped more than 1,500 hours of their conversations and finally recorded him talking about traveling overseas to wage jihad. Simpson lied to the FBI about it and got three years probation. Usama Shami: When he found out that this guy was spying on him, and taping him and then finding out that the government was doing that, I think something clicked in him. And the mosque, we couldn t do anything. Because we don t know what he did.

Anderson Cooper: He felt that the mosque had abandoned him? Usama Shami: Yes. And he felt that a lot of people had abandoned him. And that s why he stopped coming to the mosque. He moved into this Phoenix apartment complex with Nadir Soofi, who he knew from the mosque. Soofi had just had a bitter break-up and the pizza parlor he owned was going out of business. It was here in this apartment that Simpson and Soofi began closely following the rise of ISIS, reaching out to their supporters online, and acquiring weapons for a terrorist attack.

Seamus Hughes: Simpson and Soofi knew what they were getting into and I think they likely knew they were going to die. Seamus Hughes tracks the online activities of ISIS sympathizers in the U.S. He served at the National Counter Terrorism Center, and is currently deputy director of George Washington University s Program On Extremism, where he also trains FBI agents on how to identify American jihadis. Anderson Cooper: Why is the Garland attack so significant?

Seamus Hughes: The Garland attack is essentially the first opening salvo when it comes to attacks on the homeland. Anderson Cooper: Attacks in the United States? Seamus Hughes: Attacks in the United States. These low-level attacks by ones and twos of people who are drawn to the ideology and decide to act.

Seamus Hughes: Ya gotta make sense of it all. So what you do is you bring it all together and put it on a board and say who s connected to who.

60 Minutes Investigates First ISIS-claimed Attack In U.S. And What The ...

Using an old-fashioned law enforcement tool, Hughes maps out ISIS online tentacles into the United States. Seamus Hughes: So you have the two attackers, Soofi and Simpson. They re also talking to Mohammed Miski, who s an ISIS recruiter in Somalia. Anderson Cooper: This is somebody in Somalia who they re talking to online–

Seamus Hughes: Uh-huh. Yep. Through an encrypted app, Surespot. They re also talking to Junaid Hussein.

Anderson Cooper: And he s in Raqqa? Seamus Hughes: He s in Raqqa. Raqqa is ISIS stronghold in Syria. Hughes calls Junaid Hussain an ISIS rock star, a British citizen, who communicated online with English-speaking recruits worldwide. He was killed in a U.S. drone strike a year-and-a-half ago. Miski, an American living in Somalia, tweeted this link about the draw Muhammad contest, in Garland, Texas, and direct-messaged Elton Simpson urging him to attack it.

Seamus Hughes: The most interesting part about this is we re in a hybrid time, right. Before we used to be worried about these network attacks, think of 9/11 with the hijackers training for years and then coming over here. And then, we had lone actor attacks, individuals who were kind of drawn to this and decided to act. Now, we re in this weird moment in between, where you have a number of individuals in Raqqa, reaching out to Americans in Ohio, New York, and other places and saying, So here s the knife you should use. Here s the address of the local U.S. military officer and do what you can. Anderson Cooper: Do you think Elton Simpson would have launched this attack if it wasn t for people in ISIS overseas who were online whispering in his ear? Seamus Hughes: I think the folks whispering in his ear was a big part of it.

The FBI closed the case on Elton Simpson in 2014, only to re-open it several weeks before the attack because of statements he made on social media.

60 Minutes Investigates First ISIS-claimed Attack In U.S. And What The ...

Seamus Hughes: It speaks to a larger problem the FBI has, which is you have an individual who pops into your radar in 2006, but doesn t commit an attack until 2015. So do you want the FBI to watch this individual for nine years? After the attack, Phoenix FBI agents became convinced the two men hadn t acted alone, and began investigating Elton Simpson s friends. They arrested this man Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem, a 43-year-old convert to Islam who grew up in Philadelphia, and accused him of funding the attack, as well as training and encouraging Simpson and Soofi. Witnesses at Abdul-Kareem s trial testified the three men watched ISIS execution videos together and discussed attacking a military base or the 2015 Super Bowl in Glendale, Arizona. Abdul-Kareem denied taking part in any discussions about a terror attack and says he rejected his friend s growing radicalization.

He was found guilty on multiple counts and sentenced to 30 years in prison. But his attorney Dan Maynard continued to investigate, and uncovered new evidence the FBI was much closer to the Garland attack than anyone realized. Anderson Cooper: After the trial, you discovered that the government knew a lot more about the Garland attack than they had let on? Dan Maynard: That s right. Yeah. After the trial we found out that they had had an undercover agent who had been texting with Simpson, less than three weeks before the attack, to him Tear up Texas. Which to me was an encouragement to Simpson.

The man he s talking about was a special agent of the FBI, working undercover posing as an Islamic radical. The government sent attorney Dan Maynard 60 pages of declassified encrypted messages between the agent and Elton Simpson and argued Tear up Texas was not an incitement. But Simpson s response was incriminating, referring to the attack against cartoonists at the French magazine Charlie Hebdo: bro, you don t have to say that… He wrote you know what happened in Paris so that goes without saying. No need to be direct. But it turns out the undercover agent did more than just communicate online with Elton Simpson. In an affidavit filed in another case the government disclosed that the FBI undercover agent had actually traveled to Garland, Texas, and was present at the event.

60 Minutes Investigates First ISIS-claimed Attack In U.S. And What The ... 60 Minutes Overtime

How close was the FBI to terror attack in Garland, TX?

Attorney investigating ISIS-inspired attack discovered new evidence revealing undercover FBI agent photographed victims seconds before gunfire

Dan Maynard: I was shocked. I mean I was shocked that the government hadn t turned this over. I wanted to know when did he get there, why was he there? And this past November, Maynard was given another batch of documents by the government, revealing the biggest surprise of all. The undercover FBI agent was in a car directly behind Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi when they started shooting. This cell-phone photo of school security guard Bruce Joiner and police officer Greg Stevens was taken by the undercover agent seconds before the attack.

Anderson Cooper: The idea that he s taking photograph of the two people who happen to be attacked moments before they re attacked. Dan Maynard: It s stunning. Anderson Cooper: I mean, talk about being in the right or the wrong place at the right or the wrong time.

Dan Maynard: The idea that he s right there 30 seconds before the attack happens is just incredible to me. Anderson Cooper: What would you want to ask the undercover agent?

I can t tell you whether the FBI knew the attack was gonna occur. I don t like to think that they let it occur. But it is shocking to me that an undercover agent sees fellas jumping out of a car and he drives on.

Dan Maynard: I would love to ask the undercover agent– Are these the only communications that you had with Simpson? Did you have more communications with Simpson? How is it that you ended up coming to Garland, Texas? Why are you even there? We wanted to ask the FBI those same questions. But the bureau would not agree to an interview. All the FBI would give us was this email statement. It reads: There was no advance knowledge of a plot to attack the cartoon drawing contest in Garland, Texas.

If you re wondering what happened to the FBI s undercover agent, he fled the scene but was stopped at gunpoint by Garland police. This is video of him in handcuffs, recorded by a local news crew. We ve blurred his face to protect his identity. Dan Maynard: I can t tell you whether the FBI knew the attack was gonna occur. I don t like to think that they let it occur. But it is shocking to me that an undercover agent sees fellas jumping out of a car and he drives on. I find that shocking. Anderson Cooper: That he didn t try to stop–

Dan Maynard: He didn t try to stop em. Or he didn t do something. I mean, he s an agent, for gosh sakes.

Anderson Cooper: If this attack had gone a different way, and lots of people had been killed, would the fact that an undercover FBI agent was on the scene have become essentially a scandal? Seamus Hughes: It woulda been a bigger story. I think you would have seen congressional investigations and things like that. Lucky for the FBI and for the participants in the event you know, here in Texas, you know, everyone s a good shot there. The FBI s actions around this foiled attack offer a rare glimpse into the complexities faced by those fighting homegrown extremism. Today, the battle often begins online where identifying terrorists can be the difference between a massacre, and the one that never occurred in Garland, Texas.

Anderson Cooper: People brag about stuff. People talk big. One of the difficulties for the FBI is trying to figure out who s just talking and who actually may execute an attack.

Seamus Hughes: That s the hardest part when you talk about this, right. There s a lot of guys who talk about how great ISIS is. It s very hard to tell when someone crosses that line. And in most of the cases, you see the FBI has some touchpoint with those individuals beforehand. There had been an assessment, a preliminary investigation or a full investigation. It s just very hard to know when somebody decides to jump.

Missouri parents say Green Beret son was murdered in crime …

Cindy Lewellen didn t know about any soldiers getting killed until her sister called.

She went online. Three Green Berets had died at a checkpoint leading onto a military base in Jordan. Her son, Matt, had deployed to the region recently. Nothing she and her husband, Chuck, could do with the news report, so they went about their day. For 33 years, they ve run Pancake City, a popular restaurant in Kirksville, a college town of about 17,500 in north-central Missouri. But that evening, Cindy, pulled by a mother s heart, drove through the parking lots of motels looking for license plates from Kentucky or Tennessee.

I knew that s where they would come from, she said.

Matt was part of the 5th Special Forces Group, based at Fort Campbell[1], which is on the Kentucky-Tennessee border. His mom didn t see any plates, but around 9 p.m., the doorbell rang and she knew before the ring faded that the car had come. Three days later, on Nov. 7, she and Chuck were on a plane to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to see their 27-year-old son come home.

Missouri Parents Say Green Beret Son Was Murdered In Crime ...

Matt was the athlete, the prom king. Funny, told a good story. Through Matt s Army friends, they learned that even in combat he was first to crack a joke. And that he d received a Bronze Star. They d had no idea. The town turned out for Matt s funeral. People, strangers, stood on the side of the road for the 40-mile procession to a veterans cemetery in Jacksonville, Mo.

Matt Lewellen died doing what he loved, and that s where his parents would find their peace. Except they say Matt didn t die fighting for his country. They say he was murdered and nothing is being done about it.

We fund Jordan a billion dollars a year and as far as I m convinced one of their commanders executed my son, Chuck said last week at the family s home. Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Lewellen was part of a convoy entering King Faisal air base near Al Jafr, Jordan. The same Americans had used the same gate multiple times in the days before the shooting. As the vehicles passed through the allied checkpoint, a Jordanian officer opened fire with an M16, killing Lewellen and Staff Sgt. Kevin McEnroe of Tucson, Ariz.

A third Green Beret, Staff Sgt. James F. Moriarty of Kerrville, Texas, was killed during an ensuing gunfight with the same shooter. Several Jordanian soldiers were present, but according to an FBI investigation, only one, M aarek Abu Tayeh, fired at the Americans. Jordan, a key American ally and part of the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State, has not charged Abu Tayeh. In fact, Jordanian officials blame the Americans, saying they failed to follow gate procedure. A security video from the checkpoint contradicts that version.

An investigation by the FBI and American military concluded that the Green Berets acted heroically and cleared them of any wrongdoing. Earlier this month, Chuck Lewellen and fathers of the other fallen Green Berets spoke at the National Press Club in Washington. They want an apology from Jordan, and they ve called for a suspension of aid to the country until that happens.

The government of Jordan lied to the world, immediately claiming that our sons failed to stop at the gate, James R. Moriarty told the press club. When the FBI confirmed the video showed that to be a lie, the Jordanians then claimed there had been an accidental discharge by one of the Americans. This was also proven to be a lie.

The American public is told Jordan is our ally. Jordan has never accepted responsibility nor has a Jordanian official ever explained what truly happened. Last week in his dining room, Chuck Lewellen said it s important to have the names of his son and the two others cleared of any wrongdoing.

I want these three honored and not held up as screw-ups.

Gunshots at extremely close proximity

Special Forces Operational Detachment-Alpha arrived in Jordan from Fort Campbell in July 2016 to provide weapons training for allied soldiers fighting Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. According to investigative documents, the Green Berets involved in the shooting all were clean-shaven, wearing identifying uniforms, well trained in weapons and fluent in Arabic. The vehicles were low-mileage and well-maintained to prevent backfires. They were clearly identifiable to Jordanian guards as friendlies.

There was no indication of threats to U.S. personnel, thus the vehicles were not armored, the report said. Early on Nov. 4, the team left the base to conduct weapons training at a military range about four miles away. They returned shortly after noon. The convoy included five soldiers in four vehicles. The entry to the secured base included a pivot arm, spike strip and rolling gate.

The demeanor of the guards did not give any indication of fear or trepidation, according to the redacted report.

The first vehicle passed the guard shack without incident. When the second was even with the guard shack, Abu Tayeh, who was inside, fired numerous shots from his M16 rifle through the windshield, mortally wounding Lewellen and McEnroe, the report says. Moriarty and a fourth American bailed from their vehicle and took cover behind a concrete barrier. Abu Tayeh left the shack and pursued them while firing his weapon. The Americans at one time put down their pistols and told the gunman in Arabic that they were Americans.

The fourth American, whose name is redacted in the report, said in his statement: Every time we put our hands or heads above the barrier the guard fired upon us. I communicated with Moriarty and we decided to shoot back since the guard was not interested in talking. Abu Tayeh, wearing body armor, continued to fire, eventually killing Moriarty.

I stood up and fired a complete magazine of my Glock at the guard, the fourth American said. The guard fell to the ground and I kicked his (rifle) away. During the 6 1/2 minutes of gunfire, other Jordanian soldiers kept other Americans away.

The report concluded that Lewellen and McEnroe had no chance because of the extremely close proximity of the shooter. Of Moriarty and the other American, the report said they attempted to maneuver to gain a better position without abandoning their teammates. After the shooting, a U.S. spokesperson said investigators had not ruled out terrorism. Jordan s state news agency, Petra, reported that the American convoy had disobeyed direct orders from Jordanian troops, which led to a deadly exchange of small-arms fire.

Jordan later pulled back that claim. But in a letter dated March 6 from Jordanian ambassador Dina Kawar to U.S. Rep. Ted Poe of Texas, Kawar wrote that an investigation determined that the shooting was a tragic accident devoid of any terrorist intent and that Abu Tayeh had complied with rules of engagement.

Abu Tayeh was tasked with swift response, Kawar said, and fired toward the source of what he took to be gunshots coming from the Americans, who in turn fired directly at Abu Tayeh, believing he was targeting them.

Abu Tayeh was badly injured in the incident. She also cited Abu Tayeh s 14 years of service.

Chuck and Cindy Lewellen took the letter as a slap in the face. They and the other families received a briefing on Feb. 28 in Washington and said the surveillance video includes no noise that could have been mistaken for a gunshot. The three families want Jordan to clear their sons of any wrongdoing and for the shooter to be punished. Lewellen knows, however, that Middle Eastern politics is complicated. Jordan allows the United States a military presence in the country.

Would I say that Congress is going full-bore to help us no, probably not, he said. But I want Jordan to know that I know what happened. Now, it s up to them. Poe called the killings an ambush and called on Jordan to come clean about the shooter s motives.

In a statement, Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri said: I ve talked to the Jordanian government, been briefed on the FBI and Army investigations, and met with Matt s dad. Matt proudly served his country and we need to be sure we get all of the answers about this tragic loss. Chuck Lewellen wants those answers to lead to action. Cindy views things a bit differently.

It s not vengeance with me, she said, shaking her head. I think about the lives affected. I guess I want to understand him. I want to know his story and we re not getting that.

That beautiful smiling face ended

For more than an hour, Chuck and Cindy Lewellen sat at the dining table and talked about the day the Green Berets died. Then they shoved all the papers aside and talked about their son. They broke out family photos of the kids growing up Matt, Andrew and Danielle. Matt playing football. Matt the king of the prom.

Chuck told how Matt worked at the family s restaurant [2]when he was in high school.

Couldn t hardly afford for him to work there because he ate so much, Chuck said, looking like a dad who so badly wanted to smile for his son. Cindy showed a school paper Matt wrote when he was 9: The gift I give is laughter. I share my jokes and make people laugh really hard. I ll be a comedienne some day like Eddie Murphy or Jim Carey. That fit perfectly with what Matt s Army buddies said about him.

The parents were surprised when Matt enlisted in 2010. So were his friends. At the funeral, Chuck told about a college roommate who upon hearing the plan said: Umm, Matt, I m pretty sure the Army gets up before noon. Chuck and Cindy drove to the University of Kansas to try to talk him out of it. They were unsuccessful, but they went back home feeling good.

It was what he really wanted to do, Cindy said. She took comfort in his early duties. Honor guard, airborne school things that kept him from harm s way.

For a while. Then came the deployments. First to Afghanistan in 2014. He hurried back from that one for Danielle s softball senior day at Truman State University. In 2015, he rushed home after a second deployment to be best man at Andrew s wedding.

Any time Matt could make it home for family things, he was here, Chuck said. And when he was here, he never talked about what he d been doing. He told me just enough to keep me satisfied. Super Bowl Sunday hit Chuck hard. No matter where Matt was, no matter how far from home, he would always call after those games and they would talk.

This year after the game, Chuck cried.

Watching that surveillance video, watching the last seconds of your son s life, I tell you, that was hard, he said. That was when it ended. That s when that beautiful smiling face ended. Finally, he broke out Matt s medals. Among the stack, a Purple Heart and Bronze Star, awarded posthumously, and the earlier Bronze Star they didn t know about. Matt s girlfriend, Renee Laque, found it.

In a box, hidden away in a kitchen cabinet.

References

  1. ^ Fort Campbell (www.campbell.army.mil)
  2. ^ family s restaurant (www.pancakecitykirksville.com)