Breaking: Officials say San Bernardino shooter pledged allegiance to ISIS during attack

Show of hands: who’s shocked by this? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? The pledge to the terrorist quasi-state came from Tashfeen Malik, the wife of Syed Farook who initially attended the meeting the couple later targeted for a massacre. CNN reports from three sources in the investigation that Malik posted the pledge on Facebook, although not on either of the couple’s previously known accounts:

As the San Bernardino attack was happening, investigators believe the female shooter, Tashfeen Malik, posted on Facebook, pledging allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, three U.S. officials familiar with the investigation told CNN.

The posting was by Malik made on an account with a different name, according to one U.S. official. The officials did not explain how they knew Malik made the post.

The family’s attorneys still insist that the family had no clue that either or both of the perpetrators were radicalized. Before this story broke, CNN’s Chris Cuomo interviewed the lawyers, who insisted that the suspicions about the pair didn’t “add up.” One of them dismissed those who saw radical Islamist terrorism in this attack as “clueless,” but the person who comes across as the most “clueless” in this interview is the attorney himself:

The attorney claims that Malik couldn’t have been a participant because she only weights “90 pounds” and could not have held the rifle. We don’t know yet whether Malik fired any of the rounds in the San Bernardino attack, but her size isn’t a determining factor. Even a small framed woman (or man) can handle a semiautomatic rifle with just a small amount of training, and the fact that she was wearing armor and carried ammunition speaks to a different conclusion than the one offered here.

Then we have this, from the other attorney:

“Having a good amount of ammo doesn’t mean you’re planning an attack.” Interestingly, I discussed this with another attendee at the Bullets & Bourbon event I’m at this weekend, and we agree. It’s not uncommon to have a significant number of rounds in hand in order to have enough to train at a range on short notice. One person noted that he has a few thousand rounds in his house at the moment, and he’s certainly not planning an attack. However, I’m pretty sure the number of pipe bombs in his house is, oh … zero. That’s not the case with Farook and Malik, as the Washington Post noted prior to the revelation this morning about the pledge to ISIS:

Authorities were still trying Thursday to establish a motive for the deadliest U.S. mass shooting in nearly three years, even as they revealed that the two attackers had amassed a large stockpile of explosives and ammunition. …

“We do not yet know the motive,” David Bow­dich, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles office, said at a news conference. “It would be irresponsible and premature for me to call this terrorism.”

The case doesn’t fit any familiar template. If it was terrorism, why would the shooters target co-workers in a small city that many Americans couldn’t find on a map, rather than some more spectacular target? If it was workplace violence, why build up an arsenal of bullets and pipe bombs?

Well, it clearly wasn’t workplace violence, despite a suggestion made by Barack Obama yesterday that it remained a possibility. It was immediately clear that Farook and Malik were hardly finished:

Police found more than 1,600 rounds of ammunition on or near the couple, suggesting that they were prepared for a long siege. Police recovered two assault rifles and two 9mm pistols, all legally purchased, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Two of the weapons were traced to one of the assailants, said Dannette Seward, an ATF spokeswoman, while the other two were traced to another person who has not been publicly identified.

Even without a manifesto or a social-media trail of radicalization immediately available in the aftermath, it’s clear that this was aimed at more than just a grievance with co-workers:

“There appears to be a degree of planning that went into this,” San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said. “Nobody just gets upset at a party, goes home and puts together that kind of elaborate scheme or plan.”

So no, this is hardly a surprise. The FBI’s initial reluctance to positively assert that this was a terror plot can be chalked up to professionalism and investigative caution, as the New York Times report suggests, but it’s adding up for everyone else … except the media. Given last week’s events in Colorado Springs and the immediate leap made by the media to blame videos critical of Planned Parenthood, that seem rather curious, no? Does anyone want to guess what’s behind the two sharply divergent approaches to the two mass shootings? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

Update: The New York Times corroborates CNN’s reporting, although they emphasize that the allegiance so far looks like a one-way relationship:

There’s no evidence the group directed the woman, Tashfeen Malik, and her husband Syed Rizwan Farook, to launch the attacks, which killed 14 and wounded 21, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is continuing.

“At this point we believe they were more self-radicalized and inspired by the group than actually told to do the shooting,” one of the officials said.

The posting had been removed from the social media site and it’s not clear when federal authorities obtained it.

In the days leading up to the shooting, the couple took several steps to delete their electronic information, in an apparent effort to cover their tracks, officials said. Those efforts have led authorities to believe that the shooting was premeditated.

Islamic terrorists have used the oath of allegiance, called a bayat, to declare their loyalty to specific groups and leaders. To become a member of Al Qaeda, for instance, terrorists historically swore their devotion to Osama bin Laden.

Well, a couple of hours ago the Washington Post pronounced itself mystified as to the motive, too.

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David Strom 6:41 PM on January 26, 2023