If you look up a list of things that women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to do, you will find several issues that are frequently discussed in the press. Women are not, for example, allowed to drive cars or, to a large degree, compete in sports. Many news consumers would know that Saudi women are not supposed to leave their houses without being accompanied by a "male guardian."
Now, after the San Bernardino massacre, it might be appropriate to ask this question. Would a woman from Saudi Arabia, or with some tie to that kingdom, be allowed to do military style training with an assault weapon and even explosive devices?
Consider this recent Associated Press update about 28-year-old Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik, 27:
The suspect in the Southern California shooting that left 14 dead traveled to Saudi Arabia earlier this year and returned with a wife.
Co-worker Patrick Baccari says Syed Farook was gone for about a month in the spring. When he came back word got around Farook had been married, and the woman he described as a pharmacist joined him shortly afterward. The couple had a baby later this year.
Baccari says the reserved Farook showed no signs of unusual behavior, although he grew out his beard several months ago.
Various reports agree that Farook was a "very religious" Muslim, but they also note that the couple appeared to be living a "modern life" and -- in a phrase that keeps showing up -- they were "living the American dream." Was this life a cover story?
Watching hours of coverage last night, it was clear that the FBI was working hard to contain the language that was used to describe this event in terms of links to terrorism, while admitting that this attack appeared to have involved a great deal of planning.
USA Today offered a crisp summary that stated the two halves of the equation that authorities were using, when discussing a matrix of motives:
... Farook would briefly go to an office party at the Inland Regional Center where he worked as a environmental specialist. He left only to return with Malik, police say. With assault rifles and bombs, the pair gunned down 14 and injured at least 17 others.
On Thursday, the search for a motive continues. Police were zeroing on the lives of the couple in an attempt to determine whether the attack in San Bernardino, about 50 miles east of here, was a case of workplace violence or Islamic-inspired terrorism, or both.
At this point, there is a notable silence from two sources that are usually prominent at this stage of mainstream coverage -- witnesses and social media linked to the alleged shooter or shooters.
On one level, reporters may have little to go on in terms of witness testimony because so many of the people gathered in that "holiday party" (there were Christmas trees, but I wonder if there also were Menorahs) were killed. At what point will anyone be able to talk to the wounded? The big question: Where the attackers completely silent?
I find the couple's silence in social media to be very interesting. So you are a young couple living a normal American life and you have a baby. There is no Facebook page for the mother or the father and their relatives? The Washington Post noted:
The two left behind little in the way of a paper trail -- no apparent criminal record, no Facebook pages or Twitter accounts. An online dating profile for a “farooksyed49″ from Riverside, Calif. resembles the suspect described by law enforcement. The profile, on the “Indian matrimonial and dating service” iMilap.com, describes a 22-year-old man from a “religious but modern family.”
“I work for county as health, safety and environmental inspector,” it reads. “Enjoy working on vintage and modern cars, read religious books, enjoy eating out sometimes travel and just hang out in back yard doing target practice with younger sister and friends.”
Obviously, investigators will be looking for social-media contacts that may have been hidden or disguised.
The following long passage from The Los Angeles Times raises, for me, as many questions as it answers. I would stress that this is normal, at this point, especially if law enforcement officials are being very careful in what they say to the public.
As the holiday gathering got underway Wednesday morning, Syed Rizwan Farook joined dozens of his colleagues from San Bernardino County's public health department. Farook, an inspector, seemed quiet during the early hours of the event, then vanished just as a group photo was about to be taken.
Shortly afterward, gunfire erupted at the Inland Regional Center where the employees filled a conference room. By the end of the day, police had identified Farook, 28, as a suspect in the massacre and said he was one of two people shot to death in a gun battle with officers. The other was 27-year-old Tashfeen Malik, who a family member said was Farook's wife.
Police officials said Farook had worked for the county for five years. San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said that there were reports of a dispute before Farook left the party.
And returning to information from co-workers, including the often-quoted Patrick Baccari:
Baccari and Christian Nwadike said Farook, who worked with them for several years, rarely started a conversation. But the tall, thin young man with a full beard was well liked and spent much of his time out in the field.
They and other colleagues said Farook was a devout Muslim, but rarely discussed religion at work.
"He never struck me as a fanatic, he never struck me as suspicious," said Griselda Reisinger, who worked with Farook before leaving the agency in May.
Reisinger said she heard that the office recently threw a baby shower for Farook and that he had taken paternity leave. ...
Baccari said he was about to dry his hands in the restroom when bullets ripped into the towel dispenser, sending shrapnel into his face and blood spilling into his eyes. The rounds pocked the walls as he dived for cover onto the floor. He and another man pushed the door closed with their legs and waited for police.
Later, Baccari remembered his co-worker disappearing before the photo session.
"Where's Syed?" he recalled someone asking.
So as they search for facts that point to motives, where will the police and FBI be looking?
I would assume that all roads lead to Saudi Arabia. Farook went by himself? As part of a group? Also, if he took paternity leave, what did he do during that time? While it sounds ghoulish, I would predict that police are visiting local firing ranges as much as local mosques.
So we have a young, very religious Muslim man who recently traveled to Saudi Arabia and came back with a wife, a full beard and next to zero online life.
And a baby. A 6-month old child handed to its grandmother before a carefully planned mission to wipe out co-workers at a "holiday party."
Why did he do it?
My main question: Why did SHE do it? The wrinkle in all-too-familiar drama from hell is the women -- the one with the baby, the battle gear and the AR-15 rifle.