I do believe we’re zeroing in on a motive.
Syed Rizwan Farook — one-half of the couple behind the San Bernardino shooting massacre — was apparently radicalized and in touch with people being investigated by the FBI for international terrorism, law enforcement officials said Thursday…
Officials had previously said that neither Farook and Malik were known to the FBI or on a list of potentially radicalized people. Nor had they had any known interactions with police until Wednesday’s deadly shootout that culminated in their deaths.
Yet Farook himself had communicated by phone and via social media with more than one person being investigated for terrorism, law enforcement officials said. A separate U.S. government official said the 28-year-old has “overseas communications and associations.”
But wait, there’s more:
Authorities later found thousands more rounds of ammunition at the couple’s residence, 12 pipe bombs and hundreds of tools that “could be used to construct IEDs or pipe bombs,” the chief said.
Some of those bombs were attached to a remote-controlled device that was left at the scene of the shooting, presumably for the purpose of killing a bunch of cops and EMTs once they showed up to treat the wounded. These scumbags really came to play.
So let’s ask some questions. Question one: How did a guy earning $51,000 a year as a county employee afford thousands of rounds of ammo, bomb material, tools, and the necessities for a young wife and infant children? Remember that report this morning about six Middle Eastern men coming and going in Farook’s neighborhood? Were those friends and family? Or were they members of a cell?
Question two: What’s the connection to Pakistan?
FBI: Investigation indicates male attacker visited Pakistan at some point; female attacker in US on K-1 visa via Pakistani passport.
— NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt (@NBCNightlyNews) December 3, 2015
Farook’s wife was from Pakistan, it seems, so maybe it’s as simple as them having gone back home to visit her relatives. If there’s a terror nexus to that visit, though, it would be surprising. Everyone’s thinking ISIS here because they’ve launched so many attacks lately — Paris, Beirut, the downing of that Russian jet — but Pakistan is a less likely locale for an ISIS cell than Syria or Iraq would be. Is this ISIS or is it someone else? The Taliban? Al Qaeda? There’s a report out there right now that Farook and his wife were looking at ISIS propaganda online but that doesn’t necessarily mean that ISIS supplied them.
Question three: If Farook was on the phone with people who were already being investigated for terror connections, how the hell did the NSA miss this?
— John Schindler (@20committee) December 3, 2015
Could be, but the first excerpt I quoted above notes an earlier report that Farook and his wife weren’t known to the FBI. Was that earlier report wrong or did something slip through the cracks here between the NSA and FBI? Don’t blame this on the new standards for data harvesting created by the USA Freedom Act either. That Act doesn’t take effect until this month; the NSA has been operating under the old Patriot Act provisions authorizing bulk collection of Americans’ phone data all year, so they could have checked in on Farook’s records at any time. (Even if the USA Freedom Act was in effect, the NSA is still authorized to collect data en masse on foreign suspects even if they’re in contact with Americans. Farook could have been identified by the NSA via looking at the phone records of the jihadis he was talking to.) What happened? And if the NSA knew Farook was a problem but the FBI judged him not enough of a problem to watch him, how did his purchases of ammo and bomb parts not send up the red flags needed to pinch him?
Question four: Is this what happened yesterday?
“You don’t take your wife to a workplace shooting, and especially not as prepared as they were,” said a senior law enforcement official briefed on the investigation. “He could have been radicalized, ready to go with some type of attack, and then had a dispute at work and decided to do something.”
That would be the “workplace jihad” theory, but according to reports, the shooting started just 20 minutes after he left the Christmas party. If there was a “dispute at work” that led him to target his colleagues, it didn’t happen at that party. He and his wife were obviously ready to strike when he first showed up there yesterday.