The FBI redacted the name of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other extremists from a partial transcript of conversations with the gunman in the June 12 deadly massacre in Orlando, in a move that quickly drew a rebuke from critics of the Obama administration.
The gunman, Omar Mateen, proclaimed allegiance with ISIS during 911 calls in the midst of the shooting and also expressed solidarity with the Boston Marathon bombers and an American suicide bomber in Syria.
But those remarks were redacted from a partial transcript released on Monday morning.
Instead, the transcript notes that Mateen identified himself “as an Islamic solider” and repeatedly spoke in Arabic and gave reference to God.
The Justice Department said that it would withhold some details to avoid putting the victims through any more pain and so as not to further ISIS's propaganda efforts.
“Redactions have been made to avoid re-victimizing those who were in the Pulse nightclub during the early morning hours of June 12th,” Lee Bentley, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida, told reporters at a press conference shortly after the transcript was released.
"Part of the redacting is meant to not give credence to individuals who have done terrorist acts in the past," added Ronald Hopper, the FBI's assistant special agent in charge. "We’re not going to propagate their rhetoric, their violent rhetoric.
"For cowards like this one, people like that influence them, so we’re not going to continue to put their names out front."
Some congressional critics were unmoved, warning that the decision amounts to censorship.
“Selectively editing this transcript is preposterous,” House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanPaul Ryan researched narcissistic personality disorder after Trump win: book Paul Ryan says it's 'really clear' Biden won election: 'It was not rigged. It was not stolen' Democrats fret over Trump-district retirements ahead of midterms MORE (R-Wis.) said in a statement not long after the transcript was released.
“We know the shooter was a radical Islamist extremist inspired by ISIS. We also know he intentionally targeted the LGBT community,” he added.
“The administration should release the full, unredacted transcript so the public is clear-eyed about who did this, and why.”
The shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando killed 49 people and injured another 53, the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
Mateen was not directed by ISIS or any other foreign terrorist group, federal authorities have said. Instead, he appeared to have become radicalized by himself over the internet.
“In the name of God the Merciful, the beneficial [in Arabic],” Mateen told the 911 operator early on the morning, according to the FBI.
“Praise be to God, and prayers as well as peace be upon the prophet of God [in Arabic],” he added. “I let you know, I’m in Orlando and I did the shootings.”
When asked what his name was, Mateen declined to directly address the question.
“My name is I pledge of allegiance to [omitted],” he said.
“I pledge allegiance to [omitted] may God protect him [in Arabic], on behalf of [omitted].”