Even though Tnuza Jamal Hassan admitted to planning to join al-Qaida, marry a fighter and consider wearing a suicide belt, the Federal Bureau of Investigation let her go free.
Hassan was stopped from flying to Afghanistan in September and interviewed by the FBI, according to The Associated Press, but allegedly set small fires on her college campus in St. Paul, Minnesota, four months later after they let her go free.
“She confessed to wanting to join al-Qaida and took action to do it by traveling overseas. Unless there are other circumstances that I’m not aware of, I would have expected that she would’ve been arrested,” Jeffrey Ringel, a former FBI agent and Joint Terrorism Task Force supervisor, said. “I think she would’ve met the elements of a crime.”
Neither FBI spokesman Jeff Van Nest and U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Tasha Zerna would discuss the case with the AP, but counterterrorism experts acknowledged that it seems as though Hassan was not monitored after her FBI interview on Sept. 22 where she admitted that she tried to join al-Qaida.
“I would certainly look at this person, not knowing more, as somebody who would be of interest to the FBI,” a retired assistant director of the FBI’s criminal division, Ron Hosko, said to the AP.
On Dec. 29, Hassan was prevented from traveling to Ethiopia with her mother using her sister’s identification with a jacket and boots in her possession, which seemed unnecessary for Ethiopia’s warm weather.
She was later reported missing on Jan. 10 and did not reappear until the Jan. 17 fires at St. Catherine University.
No one was hurt in the fires, which officials said was a “self-proclaimed act of jihad,” according to the AP. Hassan pleaded not guilty to “attempting to provide material support to al-Qaida, lying to the FBI and arson.”
According to Assitant U.S. Attorney Andrew Winter, she had told investigators that “she hoped people would get killed.”
Hosko cautioned the public from jumping to conclusions and said, “Not every subject requires 24/7 FBI surveillance.” Hosko said that it is hard to know if Hassan was under surveillance and how the FBI assessed her capacity to follow through on her threat.
“I’m sure there are plenty of days where they hope they are right and they are keeping their fingers crossed,” he added.
A law professor at the University of Texas said that law enforcement has to balance preventing violence with not trampling on civil rights.
“This is a circle that can’t be squared,” Stephen Vladeck said. “We are never going to keep tabs on every single person who might one day pose a threat.”
This is just one of many people of interest cases that the FBI has mishandled. Most recently, the bureau admitted that “protocols were not followed” after they received a tip in January about Florida shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz.
According to their statement, a person close to Cruz called the FBI’s Public Access Line and reported concerns about him on Jan. 5, 2018.
“The caller provided information about Cruz’s gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting,” the statement read.
The information from the caller “should have been assessed as a potential threat to life” and then given to the FBI Miami Field Office, “where appropriate investigative steps would have been taken,” under the established protocols.
“We have determined that these protocols were not followed,” the statement read. “The information was not provided to the Miami Field Office, and no further investigation was conducted at that time.”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.