The FBI Needs More Dedicated Digital Detectives

Think of all the ground-breaking scientific developments that have helped in the fight against crime. Fingerprinting, blood testing and DNA profiling to name just three. Today it is way past time for another major advancement.

This one must be laser-focused on the digital world in which we all exist. And it must be a fully funded and staffed by modern day detectives who have an expertise in the ever-changing computer science landscape. 

There is no denying that our internet driven society is ripe with clues the criminally minded have left behind. The question is when will law enforcement get the funds needed to regularly and thoroughly plumb this field of publicly available evidence? Instead of waiting for a crime to occur and then working to identify the perpetrator, how about we help investigators try to stop crime before it happens?

A Check of Cruz’ Internet Activity Would Have Turned Up This Gun Photo (R.)

I don’t pretend to know what went wrong with the FBI’s internal communications system vis-a-vis the case of Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz but we now know there were numerous red flags about this kid and the bureau received at least two specific warnings about the teenager.

Last September, a Mississippi bail bondsman e-mailed with a Cruz posting which read, “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.” The message from Ben Bennight bounced back. Imagine, the advertised FBI address for concerned citizens who have seen something and want to say something was not operative! Bennight didn’t give up. He called his local FBI office, left a message and finally had a discussion with a couple of visiting agents. The upshot? The FBI says it couldn’t locate a Nikolas Cruz, despite the unique spelling of his first name.

Maybe the FBI Needs a Dedicated Hot Line for Suspected Mass Shooters

And just last month, the FBI failed to investigate a second warning. A caller alerted agents to Cruz by name and said he owned guns, acted erratically, posted disturbing social media messages and was talking about “his desire to kill people,” possibly at school. I know, hindsight is 20/20 but such a detailed warning surely deserved a follow up!

Cruz, the mentally anguished confessed killer of 17, left a trail of digital breadcrumbs that, if followed, might have helped avert the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Yes, the FBI is busy and possibly underfunded. Their field offices get a gazillion citizen tips each year but if just one agent had bothered to check Cruz’s online activity they would have found his Snapchat account where he  was seen cutting himself and expressing an interest in buying guns. The agent would have seen how young he was and discovered his location. A call to Parkland, Florida police would have revealed that officers had been to the home of Cruz’s now deceased adoptive parents many times for domestic disturbances. A check with the Florida Department of Children and Families would have discovered a 2016 investigation into Cruz’s history of troublesome behaviors. Cruz’s high school would have told the FBI that Cruz was a constant, disruptive and violent kid.

Cruz Posted Photos of Himself With a Gun and His Gun Stash on His Snapchat Account

Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, YouTube and Instagram – all these online sites and many more — hold a treasure trove of pre-crime fighting clues. But they are worthless if there are no available detectives to investigate.

This isn’t written to bash the FBI. Rather, it is a clarion call to everyone who is concerned about citizen safety – from FBI cybercrime unitpoliticians and cops to clergy and voters — to endorse an all-out onslaught on those who post online threats and statements casting doubt on their mental stability.

As I have written here previously, I have an internet stalker. In his more manic state he imagines various ways he will lash out at me and several others, blaming each of us for his troubled life. After I wrote a column in June 2014 about another campus massacre he wrote: “Diane, I am mentally ill. I am a prime candidate for committing a mass gun shooting. I am easily triggered.”  Local police and the FBI said he has the right to free speech. Police did not visit him. His mental state was not evaluated.

In February 2015, he wrote to another victim, “If I do become a serial killer guess who gets slaughtered first?” in November 2017 he warned a long list of people, including an FBI agent in the Midwest, that he was “just going to have to start f —-ing people up. Anyone who stands in my way will be demolished.” A month later he used Facebook to inform another target, “I’ll kill you dead if you ever have the guts to come near me. You bring a gun after me and I’ll rip it from your arms and beat you to death with it.”

We victims, scattered across the country, stay in touch with each other for safety sake. We have begged the FBI’s cyber-crime unit to find this nomadic soul before he acts on his ever-evolving violent threats. No action has been taken so we are left to keep our own files of his years-long threats. When this disturbed man finally snaps – as young Nikolas did — perhaps the FBI would be interested to look at the mountain of disturbing breadcrumbs he left scattered across the internet.

To lawmakers and law enforcement:  Today’s crime fighting battleground is online. Re-focus the forces. Lives depend on it.




  1. Diane Dimond on February 26, 2018 at 3:08 pm

    ABQ Journal Reader Alex Baca writes:

    I think there is something that is missing from this discussion and that is the age of the shooter. Actually, I believe law enforcement may be doing a better job than they are being giving credit for in the aftermath of the Parkland Florida shooting. I don’t think a week goes by where I don’t read or hear about some kid or kids being caught planning some mass killing attack on their school. The thing is they are minors and therefore there are many legal options available to prevent them from carrying out their plans.

    However, in this case the person making all the threats was 19, an adult. As Dimond points out with her stalker, it is much more difficult when you’re dealing with an adult who has the full protection of the First and Second Amendment shielding them as long as they haven’t yet committed a crime.

  2. Diane Dimond on February 26, 2018 at 3:09 pm

    Twitter Pal Ken Jenkins@Mad_Monk writes:

    So right !!! There may not have been any deaths if the FBI had done their job !

  3. Diane Dimond on February 26, 2018 at 3:25 pm

    Facebook Friend Ginnie Oleskewicz Schwartz writes:


  4. Diane Dimond on February 26, 2018 at 3:25 pm

    Facebook Friend Maureen Flatley writes:

    Please…..Diane, the FBI is the least of the problems associated with this case. Florida child welfare – a graveyard for children – and local law enforcement had literally hundreds of opportunities to address this young mans obvious problems. Anyone who has listened to his heartbreaking cries for help in the says after his mother’s death can see the screaming red flags that were ignored. Meanwhile this FBI Agents daughter who is an expert in child welfare policy will work to ensure the Bureau institutes policy/procedure that closes any gaps in their current system.

    • Diane Dimond on February 26, 2018 at 3:25 pm

      Diane replies:

      I’m confused – You seem not to like my thesis here….that being: The FBI needs to institute a MUCH better system to follow up on mass shooter tips. Yet your last line indicates that is exactly what you think the FBI should do. I noted in this column the failures of local cops and social workers – although I don’t think they really had “literally hundreds of opportunities” to intercede with this young man. The FBI admits it got two tips they failed to check out, the sheriff said they’d had 20+ calls to his home before mom died and social services did an ’emergency counseling’ intervention (whatever THAT is) and deemed he was in a good home, etc. Anyway, I think we can all agree the system (including the schools) could have done more.

  5. Diane Dimond on February 26, 2018 at 3:25 pm

    Facebook Friend Donnakay Church writes:

    There is enough blame to go around to many organizations in this case. Not one law in place supposedly to protect people from mass shootings worked from multiple agencies.

  6. Diane Dimond on February 26, 2018 at 3:26 pm

    Facebook Friend Joe Andrews writes:

    Listen folks… Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative or independent…. this affects us all. The fact Is, we had ONE courthouse shooting and we immediately had metal detectors and deputies at EVERY courthouse in America. But after multiple school and church and movie theaters we still have nothing? Are the judges and attorneys more important than our kids? It’s not guns…. it’s security. Where are the millions if not billions of dollars we were supposed to see from state lottery ticket sales that were promised to schools? ///One resource officer per school isn’t enough.

  7. Diane Dimond on February 26, 2018 at 3:26 pm

    Facebook Friend Terri L Hargrove-Taylor writes:

    There are plenty of metal detectors in schools in “the ‘hood” and even so I can’t remember any mass shootings there. How come they don’t have them in these ‘affluent’ area schools, especially when it seems that’s where most if not all occur???? Serious question…I really wanna know.

  8. Diane Dimond on February 26, 2018 at 3:26 pm

    Facebook Friend Nancy Spieker Robel writes:

    These calls really need a multi-pronged, collaborative, agency working on the local level. A task force of mental health, law enforcement, school, parent and student representatives evaluating threats. The schools need to use metal detectors and classroom door barricades. Active shooter drills should be conducted regularly. We can turn this around if we would just listen to the cries for help. We can make inexpensive changes that will increase safety in the schools. I would donate to my area schools and I no longer have school aged children. The FBI seems too busy investigating Russian collusion to be of any help.

  9. Diane Dimond on February 26, 2018 at 3:26 pm

    Facebook Friend Ginnie Oleskewicz Schwartz writes:

    My opinion is every school in the Country needs to hire Veterans and retired Police to secure the schools. Have them tested in mental health …

  10. Diane Dimond on February 26, 2018 at 3:27 pm

    Facebook Friend Madeline Michele Hovey writes:

    ONLY one responsible for this mass killing is the shooter IMO

  11. Diane Dimond on February 27, 2018 at 1:43 pm

    Facebook Friend Ronald Jeffries Tallman writes:

    Flabbergasting so many things
    Went wrong and now with the deputies standing their ground and not going in. I know no crime until the trigger is pulled but so many calls in about him parents unaware. Perfect storm. 911ish.

  12. Diane Dimond on February 27, 2018 at 1:44 pm

    Facebook Friend Cliff Darnell writes:

    Eeeeek, all these shooters had a community around them that failed. The students that went to school with him failed him and each other. Parents need to send respectful seven year olds to school ready to learn. Blame game is destructive we need to accentuate positive things that we can do, not spurring division. Don’t ask government to do more… their failure is every where.

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