CNN's Banfield Aghast By Lack of Gun Control For Those On Terror List

On Thursday's Legal View, CNN's Ashleigh Banfield bemoaned how "nine out of ten people on terror watch lists, who want to buy a gun, get to buy a gun after passing a federal background check — nine out of ten!" Banfield questioned former Rep. Mike Rogers about this statistic: "I can't believe I actually have to state that being on a terror watch list does not put you in the category of the other bad guys who we won't sell weapons to. How is this happening?" [video below]

The anchor first pointed out that the perpetrator of the terrorist attack in Orlando, Omar Mateen, "was once on the FBI's terror watch list, but we now know that the Pulse nightclub murderer managed to buy two firearms in the days leading up to the rampage — one of them a MCX assault-style, semi-automatic." She underlined, "If that surprises you, it should not," and cited a GAO report that "found that 244 people on the watch list walked into gun shops last year to buy firearms; and of them, 223 of them got the okay stamp. It was only 21 of them who were denied."

Banfield played up that "to be denied, you have to be among, other things, a felon or a fugitive or a domestic abuser or an undocumented immigrant or have a legally-declared mental health issue. But being on the terror watch list — ready for this? It's not an automatic strike." She continued with her lament about "being on a terror watch list does not put you in the category of the other bad guys who we won't sell weapons to."

Former Rep. Rogers replied, in part, that "there's a big disconnect....I think the criteria is (sic) not great. I hope that this is an opportunity — unfortunate as it is — to try to reconcile that....This is the time to review what it means to be on that list and how you would make sure that that's interlinked, so that...during that background check, a flag goes up that would allow the FBI to intercede."

The CNN journalist followed up by wondering, "Why is it so damn hard to do deep, deep dives into guys like Mateen?" She cited how the terrorist "celebrated 9/11. He made Facebook posts. He requested to buy body armor, all in advance of the attack." She then rephrased her question: "To me, I just don't understand how he could have been on, past tense, a watch list and dropped off without any residual, historical flagging that would come up. Can you help me with this?"

The former congressman complimented Banfield's inquiry as a "great one to answer," and noted that Mateen "was a United States citizen that has due process rights under the Constitution. They have to be protected. That's why we need to look at these lists, and find that standard that would be acceptable to everyone about — these are the things that would get you on the list, and these are the things that would prevent you from doing other things — or, at least, slow you down from doing other things."

The transcript of the relevant portion of the Mike Rogers segment from CNN's Legal View With Ashleigh Banfield on June 16, 2016:

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD: He was once on the FBI's terror watch list, but we now know that the Pulse nightclub murderer managed to buy two firearms in the days leading up to the rampage — one of them a MCX assault-style, semi-automatic like this one — and if that surprises you, it should not — because the reality is, nine out of ten people on terror watch lists, who want to buy a gun, get to buy a gun after passing a federal background check — nine out of ten!

Here's the breakdown: a Government Accountability report found that 244 people on the watch list walked into gun shops last year to buy firearms; and of them, 223 of them got the okay stamp. It was only 21 of them who were denied. That's because to be denied, you have to be among, other things, a felon or a fugitive or a domestic abuser or an undocumented immigrant or have a legally-declared mental health issue. But being on the terror watch list — ready for this? It's not an automatic strike.

Joining us now to discuss all of this: CNN national security commentator Mike Rogers. He's also the host of the new CNN series called 'Declassified.' Mike, as a — as a former congressman; as a former FBI agent, I can't believe I have to read something like that. I can't believe I actually have to state that — that being on a terror watch list does not put you in the category of the other bad guys who we won't sell weapons to. How is this happening?

[CNN Graphic: "Guns In America: How Terror Suspects Can Legally Buy Guns In U.S.; Pulse nightclub killer purchased two firearms days before rampage; Why Americans Fail Gun Background Checks: -Felon; -Fugitive; -Domestic Abuser; -Undocumented Immigrant; -Mental Health Issue"]

MIKE ROGERS, (R), FORMER HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIR: Well, there's a — a big disconnect. There's also a list called Tide that there are some million names on. And I think the criteria is not great. I hope that this is an opportunity — unfortunate as it is — to try to reconcile that. And so, even the FBI investigating this individual for ten months, which is a — that's a huge commitment on behalf of the FBI. They introduced confidential informants —  meaning, people that were in his pattern of life — giving information back. They did surveillances. Apparently, they did multiple interviews about — not only of him, but some of his — some of the people around him. That's a big investigation. With all of that, even their determination was — wasn't enough to get on the list.

This is the time to review what it means to be on that list and how you would make sure that that's interlinked, so that there is — during that background check, a flag goes up that would allow the FBI to intercede or interview or make sure that that person has the—

[CNN Graphic: "Report: 9-in-10 on terror watch list who sought guns were approved in 2015; Report: 223 people on terror watch list passed background checks in 2015; Pulse nightclub killer purchased two firearms days before rampage"]

BANFIELD: So—

ROGERS: Even if it's a temporary postponement, if that was a medium place to be, I'd take that for a 72-hour postponement, so people can get their arms around — I think that would be a good compromise—

BANFIELD: Although some argue that it's not just a 72-hour postponement — there's a lot of cumbersome work — including probable cause and a hearing — a judge is involved. And we have thousands and thousands and thousands of purchases a year, so that could be a pretty messy operation.

I got to ask you this about the CIA director, John Brennan, who, this morning, said that despite all of our progress against ISIL on the battlefield and the financial realm, our efforts have not reduced the group's terrorism capability and — and global reach; and says, in fact, that the more we degrade ISIL, ISIS, the more they want to make a big, bold, loud statement — maybe, inspire people or direct them, etc.

So, to that end, why is it so damn hard to do deep, deep dives into guys like Mateen? Because I'm compiling a list of all the stuff that we're finding out. He apparently has made all these awful comments — jihadist-like comments to co-workers. He wanted to bring a gun to his school and scared kids at school. He said that Bin laden was his uncle. He celebrated 9/11. He made Facebook posts. He requested to buy body armor, all in advance of the attack. To me, I just don't understand how he could have been on, past tense, a watch list and dropped off without any residual, historical flagging that would come up. Can you help me with this?

ROGERS: And again, this is — this is the big problem. And, by the way, that CIA director's comments today — a little overshadowed by the President's visit — is pretty astonishing — that they basically said we're not winning the fight against ISIS. They have both operational endeavors — meaning that they're going to control efforts into the West — which would also mean the United States; but likely, Europe — as well as continuing their inspiration campaign to get people like Mateen to do it. I thought that was pretty stunning from the CIA director today; and hopefully, that will come out in the next couple of days. That's pretty worrisome to me — that he was that aggressive about it.

Secondly, your question is a great one to answer; and we've wrestled with this. He was a United States citizen that has due process rights under the Constitution. They have to be protected. That's why we need to look at these lists, and find that standard that would be acceptable to everyone about — these are the things that would get you on the list, and these are the things that would prevent you from doing other things — or, at least, slow you down from doing other things. We haven't come together as Americans on this. There's as many people on the other side saying — well, you can't do it at all because you're violating his constitutional rights as a citizen. So we're going have to figure this out.

Remember: he wasn't convicted of anything; and Americans do have the right, under the First Amendment, to express themselves — even if we don't like what they say. So, we've — we're going to have to reconcile this from a national security and a domestic security position that — where everyone gets a comfort level about what this is going to look like — because you're going to have people on the list [that] probably don't deserve to be there. I mean, government does make mistakes. How do — and then, we have to make sure there's a mechanism to get them off that list. At the same time, we need sure to make — there's a mechanism to get them on the list; and that part, I don't think, we've worked out.

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