The San Bernadino Shootings: Terrorism Or Not?

Ken AshfordGun Control, War on Terrorism/TortureLeave a Comment

Here’s what we know about the shooters:

  • They have been identified as Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27.
  • Farook was an environmental specialist who had worked for the county health department for five years.
  • Farook attended a holiday party for county employees earlier that day.
  • Farook left the party under circumstances that were decribed by witnesses as “angry”
  • Farook returned maybe half an hour later with Malik. Farook and Malik both were armed with .223-caliber assault-style rifles and semi-automatic pistols.
  • They also were wearing attack gear and brought some explosive devices
  • 14 people were killed at the holiday party.
  • The couple fled in a black SUV before law enforcement intercepted them hours later.
  • Both were killed in a shootout with police, who tracked them to a home in nearby Redlands.
  • A third person was detained, but police said they hadn’t determined whether that person was involved
  • The Los Angeles Times has reported that Malik had recently married Farook after meeting him online.
  • Farook was born in the U.S.
  • Co-workers described him as a devout Muslim to the Los Angeles Times, but said he rarely discussed religion.
  • Farook had traveled to Saudi Arabia to apparently attend Hajj pilgrimage
  • Farook and Malin had a six month old daughter, who they left with Farook’s mother that morning, saying they had a doctor’s appointment.
  • Neither one was on the FBI terrorist watch list.

The question on everyone’s lips: was it terrorism or not?

On the one hand, it appears to be a workplace revenge situation.  He got into a fight at a holiday party, left angry, came back, and started shooting up the place.

But what is undeniable is that there was planning involved.  They had improvised explosive devices, which had to be made well in advance.  They had the gear and extra ammo.

So here are the theories:

(1)  This was workplace revenge (non a terrorist attack)

(2)  The fight/party was a ruse (or coincidental) and this was a terrorist attack all along (perhaps they intended to go on and hit other soft targets).

(3)  They were planning a terrorist attack somewhere, which is why they had the equipment, but something work-related triggered Farook, and at the last minute, he decided (with his wife) to shoot up the workplace.

In other words, it was a workplace revenge attack (not terrorism) or an Islamic-based attack (terrorism) or some combination of the two.

#1 seems unlikely simply because of the preparedness — the IEDs etc.  That leaves #2 or #3, and I lean toward #3 because the left the baby with the mother that morning and lied about having a doctor appointment.  I think they knew that day what was going to happen.

Now, it still is an odd choice for a target, unless you take into account that he knew the building.  And the lack of “Allah Akbar” is unusual.  And it is unusual that they radical background could be so hidden.

We don’t know the motives for sure, and the FBI is still not saying whether this is terrorism or not.  Time will tell.

Matt Pearce has a wonderful tweet about how Ted Cruz interprets these events when it is a Christian shooter versus a Muslim shooter:

Not surprisingly, Cruz won’t acknowledge Christian terrorism even when the motive is known, but will call out Islamic terrorism when the motive is still murky.

UPDATE: CNN is saying that Farook was in touch with more than one international terrorism subjects.  That seems to end the debate.

UPDATE #2:  It seems that the couple were re-armed for a second attack, after stopping at home (presumably to get more supplies).  But police fortunately intervened.  Also, twelve pipe bombs were found in home of the suspect.

We also know that the shooters fired 65 to 75 rounds at the holiday party and 76 more during police pursuit, according to the SB police chief.

Also, number of injured raise to 21.

UPDATE #3:  

The brother of the San Bernardino shooter is a decorated veteran of the U.S. Navy, a spokesperson told BuzzFeed News.

Syed Raheel Farook enlisted in August 2003 and left the service in August 2007.

He was awarded the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Navy records show.

Syed Raheel Farook was an Information System Technician, Third Class. He was on duty on the USS Enterprise; in the Surface Warfare Officer School Unit, in Great Lakes, IL; and at the Recruit Training Command, in Great Lakes, IL.

He was an Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist and won the Good Conduct Medal, records show.

His brother, Syed Rizwan Farook and sister-in-law are suspected of a mass shooting that killed 14 on Wednesday. They both died in a shootout with police.