As noted earlier, the FBI so far says they have found no evidence of a wider conspiracy in the San Bernardino terror attack last week. However, Fox News reported late last night that Syed Farook had received a deposit of $28,500 from a Utah bank two weeks before the attacks. Between that deposit and the massacre, Farook converted almost all of it to cash and transfers to his mother (starts at 2:40):

A $28,500 deposit was made to Syed Farook’s bank account from on or about Nov.18, some two weeks before he and his wife Tashfeen Malik carried out the San Bernardino massacre, a source close to the investigation told Fox News Monday.

Investigators are exploring whether the transaction was a loan taken out by Farook, who with his wife killed 14 and wounded 21 when they opened fire at a holiday lunch.  He earned $53,000 a year with the county as an environmental health inspector. Investigators are also exploring the possibility that a subsequent cash withdrawal was used to reimburse Enrique Marquez, the man who bought the two AR-15 semiautomatic rifles used in the San Bernardino shootings. Marquez, who could be charged, especially if it is determined that he illegally modified the weapons, is now reportedly answering investigators’ questions. …

The deposit came via Utah-based, which describes itself as “a leading provider of national consumer and commercial private-label and bank card financing programs” on a nationwide basis. On or about Nov.20, Fox News is told Farook converted $10,000 to cash, and withdrew the money at a Union Bank branch in San Bernardino.  Afterwards, in the days before the shooting, there were at least three transfers of $5,000 that appear to be to Farook’s mother.

The loan and large cash withdrawal were described to Fox News by the source as “significant evidence of pre-meditation,” and further undercut the premise that an argument at the Christmas party on Dec. 2 led to the shooting.

The FBI insisted yesterday that they had not uncovered any evidence yet of a plot outside the US, although it was still early in the investigation:

At the news conference, Mr. Bowdich said that at this point, the authorities did not believe that forces beyond the nation’s borders had been involved in orchestrating the attack.

“I want to be crystal clear here — we do not see any evidence so far of a plot outside the continental U.S.,” he said. “We may find it someday, we may not; we don’t know. But right now we’re looking at these two individuals.”

He said that the F.B.I. had interviewed 400 people, and he asked for patience from the public as the agency seeks to untangle the origins and motivations of the attack on the Inland Regional Center, which also wounded 21 people. He said that the F.B.I. was still building profiles of the suspects and of the people around them. “That takes time,” he said. “This is Day 5.”

Assuming that the Fox News report turns out to be true, that large deposit would certainly suggest a wider plot — at least in the absence of other explanations. It could be that Farook sought out a loan under false pretenses, never intending to pay it back but to use it to fund an attack that he dreamed up on his own. If so, why not convert the whole amount to cash? Why transfer funds to his mother rather than use cash, knowing that the transfers could be traced and his mother held liable for the money?

The answer to that might be the time frame. Transactions that go above $10,000 have to be reported to the federal government in accordance with the Bank Secrecy Act of 1970, a law put in place at first to track tax evasion and fraud but also used in counter-intelligence operations. Had Farook pulled out the entire amount in cash, either in one transaction or multiple transactions within a few days, it might have been enough to raise suspicions and blow his operation.

As it was, the transfer itself should have raised a flag as it exceeded the $10,000 limit, again assuming this report is accurate. Did either WebBank or Farook’s bank file a Currency Transaction Report or a Suspicious Activity Report? If not, why not? And if so, what action resulted from the report?

At the very least, that kind of financial activity can be traced. If it was a loan Farook initiated with the expectation of being dead or incapacitated and never having to repay it — which seems at least a plausible explanation — then it won’t mean much except to underscore the premeditated nature of this terrorist attack. If it’s something else, then it would indicate that Farook had help.