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Concealing terrorism

By Orange County Register

This article was published June 27, 2016 at 2:33 a.m.

So what’s in a name? Sometimes quite a bit, as the U.S. Justice Department and the FBI have quickly learned.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch gave several interviews last week to announce that the Justice Department and the FBI would be releasing a partial transcript of a 911 call from the Orlando gay nightclub shooter, who murdered 49 people and wounded 53 others. “[W]e’re trying to get as much information about this investigation out as possible,” Lynch told host Chuck Todd of NBC News.

But issuing redacted transcripts is hardly getting out as much information as possible. As a result, the shooter’s references to the Islamic State and Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi were removed from the transcript.

Amidst a forceful backlash, the Justice Department and FBI quickly reversed course, issuing the full transcript and calling the debate over the redaction “an unnecessary distraction.” One of the main statements in question reads, in full: “I pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, may God protect him [in Arabic], on behalf of the Islamic State.”

The decision to withhold information was always a curious one, as it was no secret that the gunman had declared his allegiance to the Islamic State and cited U.S. bombing in Iraq and Syria as motivation for the attack.

As always, politics probably played a large role.

In responding to criticisms that he, and his administration, refuse to use the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism,” President Barack Obama argued that “Calling a threat by a different name does not make it go away.”

True enough, but neither will refusing to call a threat by name “make it go away.” If anything, this only sows doubt that the administration is taking the threat seriously, and undermines the U.S. government’s credibility more than its efforts to undermine the credibility of the Islamic State. The Justice Department’s and FBI’s waffling on the 911 transcript does not help matters.

Words have meaning, as a consummate politician like the president of the United States knows well. This administration has repeatedly demonstrated a strong proclivity for trying to hide or spin facts that do not comport with the policy prescriptions it is pushing. Not only is this dangerous from a security standpoint, it is dangerous to a free society. A government that cannot be honest with its citizens is a government destined to subjugate its citizens, not serve them.

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