National Security

DOJ weighs releasing audio of Orlando gunman’s 911 calls

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The Justice Department is considering releasing the audio from 911 calls that Orlando, Fla., gunman Omar Mateen made while carrying out the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

A day after releasing a partial transcript of one of the three calls Mateen made from the Pulse nightclub, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said that the audio of the calls might also be made public.

“We are looking to be as transparent as possible and to provide as much information as possible,” she said after meeting with officials in Orlando on Tuesday.

{mosads}“Over the course of time, we certainly are open to that. I can’t tell you when or in what context, but I can tell you we are open to that.”

Law enforcement officials had originally said that they would not release the audio tapes of the calls, due to their disturbing nature.

“The audio is compelling,” FBI agent Ronald Hopper told reporters on Monday, “but to expose that now would be excruciatingly painful” to victims and family members of people affected by the violence. Forty-nine people were killed by Mateen in the rampage, and another 53 were injured.

During one of the calls, for which the FBI released a transcript on Monday, Mateen pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

“While the killer made these murderous statements, he did so in a chilling, calm and deliberate manner,” Hopper said.

Mateen was on the phone with a 911 operator two other times, the FBI has said. The first time he called, he quickly hung up without saying a word. Shortly afterwards, he called back and made his pledge to the ISIS leader, but hung up after 50 seconds. Then, the 911 responder called him back, but the transcript of that conversation has not been released.

The fact that Mateen died during a shootout with police roughly three hours after opening fire in the gay nightclub makes it legally easier for the department to release the audiotapes, Lynch told reporters on Tuesday. His death meant that privacy protections, which might otherwise apply to a living suspect, would seemingly not prevent the release.

She also said that the government would consider releasing the results of his autopsy, but declined to make a firm commitment.

The Justice Department found itself in an unexpected bit of hot water on Monday, after releasing the partial transcript from one of Mateen’s 911 calls.

Initially, the department redacted his references to ISIS and al-Baghdadi, in what it said was an effort to avoid spreading the extremist group’s propaganda.

But Republican erupted in outrage, accusing the Obama administration of misleading the public about the motivation of his rampage, prompting the Justice Department to reverse course and release the full version just a few hours later.  

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