The FBI had a decade-long confidential informant relationship with the father of Pulse nightclub shooter Omar Mateen, prosecutors admitted Saturday, 12 days into the trial of his wife.
The undercover relationship with the father, Seddique Mateen, continued even though the bureau was tipped off in 2012 that its informant was himself raising money to plan a terrorist attack on the government of Pakistan.
The father’s status also played a role in the FBI’s decision not to seek prosecution of Omar in 2013 after they investigated him for violent threats, attorneys for the shooter’s wife said. If Omar had gone to prison in that case, the infamous Pulse shooting might have been avoided.
Omar Mateen killed 49 people and injured 68 others at a gay nightclub in Orlando in June 2016.
“Mateen’s father played a significant role in the FBI’s decision not to seek an indictment from the Justice Department for false statements to the FBI or obstruction of justice against Omar Mateen during its 2013 investigation into his alleged threats,” lawyers for his wife, Noor Salman, said in a motion.
The defense lawyers argue that Omar’s father, rather than his wife, may have been the real co-conspirator. They claim the FBI was too embarrassed to pursue that line of investigation because of its longstanding relationship with Seddique despite red flags.
The FBI told its informant Seddique in 2013 that his son was being investigated because he told people he’d become a member of Hezbollah and “appeared to be pleased with the alleged death of FBI agents.” Seddique became “very upset” to learn of the investigation, but the FBI continued working with him as an informant.
The father was widely photographed directly behind Hillary Clinton at a campaign rally after the shooting.
Though former FBI Director James Comey painted Omar as a “lone wolf,” prosecutors say the attack was carried out in support of ISIS and that his wife was well aware of his plans. Salman admitted to lying to the FBI about it. She is now facing trial in Orlando for providing material support to a foreign terror organization. Police shot and killed Omar, ending the attack.