Dedicated to Transparency and [Omitted]

by Dan Ward

The response to the tragic shooting at the Pulse nightclub has been nothing short of amazing, from the outpouring of support from local citizens to the efforts of local leaders to keep the community informed.

That makes the short-sighted decision to release “limited transcripts” from the shooter’s 911 calls such a disappointment.

It is no secret that the shooter declared his allegiance to ISIS in his calls to 911.  It has been reported extensively, and confirmed by survivors of the tragedy.  So what possible public interest was served by issuing redacted transcripts with comments such as “I pledge allegiance to [omitted]”?

The Attorney General initially stated that the transcripts would be limited “to avoid re-victimizing those people that went through this horror.”  To that point, I can understand redactions that omit background comments from victims or detailed descriptions of the carnage.  But how does ignoring motive, especially one that has already been covered extensively, help anyone?

Communications professionals know that any attempt to ignore or conceal information that has already been reported and discussed will only bring more attention to the issue.  And that clearly happened in this case.

Following well-deserved protests from media on both the left and right, the Department of Justice and FBI quickly reversed course and re-issued call transcripts, with a statement that the redactions “caused an unnecessary distraction.”

In understanding the motivation of mass killers, transparency is essential. If there have been any unnecessary distractions, they were caused by FBI and DOJ decisions that hopefully will not be repeated.

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