HOUSTON, June 16, 2016 (Xinhua) -- People attend a vigil in memory of the victims of the Orlando mass shooting in Houston, the United States, on June 15, 2016. At least 49 people were killed and 53 others wounded in the shooting at the popular gay nightclub Pulse early Sunday in Orlando, Florida, the United States. (Xinhua/Jia Zhong)
By Matthew Rusling
WASHINGTON, June 19 (Xinhua) -- The recent shooting massacre in Florida has revealed the U.S. vulnerability in tracking terror suspects to prevent similar lone wolf terror attacks.
In the worst shooting incident in the U.S. history, 29-year-old Omar Mateen attacked a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida last Sunday, killing 49 people and wounding 53 others.
The attacker had pledged allegiance to Islamic State (IS), the deadly terror group that has carried out a brutal attack late last year in Paris that killed 130 people.
While it remains unknown whether Mateen had any direct contact with IS, it appears that he was highly influenced by IS and other radical Islamist propaganda disbursed online.
What disturbed U.S. authorities is the fact that Mateen had been on a watch list for alleged links to terrorism. He was interviewed twice by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for making inflammatory comments to coworkers alleging possible terror ties.
Mateen was later removed from the watch list as the FBI could not verify the substance of his comments. And he purchased the guns legally which he used in the shooting attack.
The shoot massacre raised the question of how to combat the influence of radical Islamist propaganda in the U.S., which has led hundreds of people in the West to join the ranks of IS.
It also casts doubts on U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies on their ability to track terror suspects to prevent them from launching lone wolf attacks.
Wayne White, former deputy director of the State Department's Middle East Intelligence Office, told Xinhua that reducing the influence of dangerously radical militant Islam in the U.S. involves multiple actions.
Harsh political rhetoric and inflammatory proposals such as shutting down Muslim immigration must tamp down, in order to reduce the U.S. Muslim community' s alienation, White said.
Indeed, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump in a speech the day after the attack called for a ban on immigration from countries linked to radical Islam - a proposal experts say will only isolate the U.S. Muslim community and do little to thwart future attacks.
"We know from the experience of Muslims in even less tolerant countries like France and Belgium that such mistreatment causes homegrown Muslim extremism to spike," White said, referring to two countries that have witnessed horrific terror attacks.
American Muslims themselves must do even more to espouse moderation, heighten their awareness of potential extremism in their midst, and increase their willingness to report disturbing individual views and behavior, White said.
Laws perhaps should be toughened regarding those who assist violent extremists, he said, reflecting growing concerns that Mateen' s wife had assisted him in plotting the attack in some ways.
While Central Intelligence Agency chief John Brennan on Thursday said IS is plotting to send operatives to the West to carry out more terror strikes, it remains unknown exactly how many such radicals are in the West or the U.S.
Colin P. Clarke, an associate political scientist at the RAND Corporation, said the U.S. needs to dedicate more resources to countering violent extremism and countering the narrative of groups like IS.
Clarke added that the U.S. advertising industry could play a role.
"America spends a lot of money and resources on the kinetic aspects of warfare, but not nearly enough on information operations," he told Xinhua.