As evidence piles up that the NAS Pensacola mass killer is a radical Islamic jihadi, the Secretary of Defense says that it’s too early to declare the shootings an act of terrorism.
The AP reported Saturday that investigators have discovered the Saudi pilot, Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, who came to NAS Pensacola for training, had hosted a movie night featuring jihadi snuff films in the days leading up to the shootings.
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told those gathered at the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, Calif., that he can’t say if the Saudi pilot shot up his classroom because he was a jihadi or a cold-blooded killer who managed to bring a gun on a secure naval air station teeming with thousands of American military members.
“I can’t say that it’s terrorism this time, I think we need to let the investigators – the FBI – do its work and get us the facts and we’ll move up from there,” Esper said.
Fox News host Bret Baier, who was conducting a Q & A with Esper, interjected that the killer “posted a will on Twitter praising Osama bin Laden, there have been multiple arrests…” but Esper brushed away the concerns saying,
“It’s time to let the investigators do their work. And in the meantime, we have taken precautions,” Esper said. “Yesterday, I directed that we look at our security precautions across our services at all our installations and bases and facilities to make sure that we’ve got the appropriate degree of security to protect our service members and their families and the communities, and that’s underway. And, at the same time, I also directed that we look at our vetting procedures within DOD for all the many foreign nationals that, for good reason, come to our country to train.”
“Anybody who comes to the United States to train is, or should be vetted by the Department of State, Department of Homeland Security and ultimately us,” he said “So, we need to relook at all that, but what we need to do is make sure we understand the whats and whys and hows of this and not jump to any conclusions.”
The Navy’s Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Michael Gilday, who was also at the Defense Forum, also called for caution on declaring the killings an act of terrorism.
The New York Times points out that military installations still don’t allow people, even people whose jobs it is to wield guns to kill America’s enemies, to bring personal firearms to work.
In all, Alshamrani killed three people and wounded eight others, including the two sheriffs deputies who eventually shot him dead. The deputies are expected to survive.
Watch Esper’s full remarks here:
(Video starts at 26:47)