Law enforcement officials and reporters continue to plug new information into the still mysterious timeline of the lives of Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, but now the emerging picture has been framed by one stunning, but not surprising, piece of information.
The bottom line: Deadly violence linked to ISIS has come to the United States, either through online poison or through contacts during visits to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The answer, of course, could be "both-and." Were two people -- alone -- really gong to use all of those pipe bombs and thousands of round of ammunition, while taking care of a 6-month-old baby?
Early on, reporters (and law officials, one can assume) were surprised to find little online evidence that Farook and Malik existed. Now it's clear -- in another sign of premeditation and planning -- that they had attempted to wipe their cyber slates clean.
But that's almost impossible, which led to today's big revelation. Here is the CNN link:
Authorities are officially investigating the San Bernardino, California, massacre as "an act of terrorism," FBI official David Bowdich said Friday.
Bowdich said a number of pieces of evidence pushed authorities to launch a terrorism investigation. He noted some phone conversations between at least one of the San Bernardino shooters and others are being investigated by federal officials. ...
Investigators think that as the San Bernardino, California, massacre was happening, female shooter Tashfeen Malik posted a pledge of allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on Facebook, three U.S. officials familiar with the investigation told CNN. Malik's post was made on an account with a different name, one U.S. official said.
Several major newsrooms have now published long features built on emerging information about Farook and the still very mysterious figure that is Malik, his wife. In addition to CNN, that includes The New York Times, The Washington Post and an unusually straightforward news piece at The Daily Beast.
Compared with earlier coverage, it is striking how much of the new information that is emerging is linked to religion and, in particular, the degree to which Farook was known as a devout, practicing Muslim -- while also leaving clues that he may have believed that he was now practicing the faith on another level and might need to leave America. The modern Muslim home in which he had been raised, it appears, was dysfunctional at best. He yearned for more.
This is from The New York Times feature that ran with the headline, "Couple Kept Tight Lid on Plans for San Bernardino Shooting."
Mr. Farook was well known in the religious Muslim community here. From 2012 to 2014, he showed up twice a day for services at the Islamic Center of Riverside, sometimes as early as 4:30 a.m. and again in the evenings, said Mustafa H. Kuko, the director of the center. In a mosque where attendance on Fridays regularly tops 1,000, Mr. Farook stood out as one of the most devout members, wearing long robes to Friday services.
“He always kept a bit of a distance between him and other people,” Mr. Kuko said. “He never had any dispute with anyone here at all. Mostly when the service is over, his usual move is from the prayer to his car.” If he saw the director on the way out, he said “salaam,” but that was it.
And, at the very end, there is another chilling detail. What are the odds of Farook shooting a member of his own mosque?
Mr. Kuko, the director of the mosque Mr. Farook attended, said that before Mr. Farook went to Saudi Arabia to pick up his future wife, “he was asking my advice, my blessings,” he said. “He did double-check on her family background, and he was quite convinced that she was the right person for him.”
They held the religious ceremony in Saudi Arabia and a reception at the mosque in Riverside, once they returned.
Mr. Kuko said he was still trying to make sense of the idea that someone like Mr. Farook could have been involved in mass murder. A woman who was wounded in the shooting, Mr. Kuko said, was a member of the mosque, the wife of the mosque’s program director, and a county worker.
“He’s a mosque goer,” Mr. Kuko said of Mr. Farook. “He comes to the mosque regularly. Something might have happened to him mentally, physically or whatever that made him change.”
He said, “I never thought of him as someone who is violent.”
Want one more example of the vivid information that is emerging at this point? The Daily Beast feature ends with one ironic, truly bitter, note of thanksgiving.
At least Farook and Malik, when they decided to make a run for it, didn't lock their 6-month-old daughter in their still-new infant car seat.
Along with Johnson’s Head-to-Toe Baby Wash and Pampers Swaddlers Diapers, the mom’s baby registry with Target (“Tashfeen’s Baby Registry”) lists an Evenflo Tribute Convertible Car Seat. That would suggest some awareness of child safety, but there seems next to no chance the couple would have refrained from firing at pursuing officers out of concern for their daughter.
And the police who were being fired upon would have had no way of knowing there was a tiny child behind those tinted windows in the back. Nobody would have felt worse than the cops if the child had come to harm.
The child survived, the absolutely innocent beginning and end to her mom and dad’s diabolical plot. Other plots have reminded us that we are at war. This one tells us that we are in a war like no other, a war in which a couple drops their baby with grandma, then goes to a holiday party to murder co-workers who not long ago threw them a baby shower.
A shudder accompanies the question of whether the murdered included anybody who bought one of the items on Tashfeen’s Baby Registry.
Shudder. More details to come, I am sure. Covering ISIS is all about the details.