More information is coming out about Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, the San Bernardino terrorists, mostly through the testimony this morning of FBI Director James Comey before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The basic takeaway from Comey’s testimony is that Farook and Malik “were radicalized for quite a long time before their attack.”
In fact, Enrique Marquez, the friend of Syed Farook who bought the rifles that were used in the attack, reportedly has told investigators that he and Farook planned a terrorist attack, which they aborted, in 2012.
Most attention, however, has focused on Farook and his wife, who met and “courted” online. Comey testified that “…as early as the end as 2013, they were talking to each other about jihad and martyrdom before they became engaged and then married and lived together in the United States….” Which raises the question: was the whole thing, starting with their engagement, which allowed Malik to come to the U.S. on a “fiance visa,” set up by ISIS or another terrorist group?
When asked by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a presidential candidate, if the marriage between Malik and Farook was arranged by a terrorist organization, Comey said he didn’t know yet.
“It would be a very important thing to know,” Comey said.
Malik ultimately pledged her loyalty to ISIS on the day of the San Bernardino massacre, but it doesn’t seem likely that ISIS was behind her move to the United States. As the Washington Post notes, “[t]his radicalization appears to predate the rise of the Islamic State, the terrorist group that in 2014 formally declared a caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria.”
Which raises a significant point: jihadism transcends specific terrorist groups that arise from time to time in different places. It is possible that the Farook-Malik marriage was arranged by a different terrorist group that set them up as sleepers in the U.S., but much more likely that they found each other as adherents of radical Islam and, inspired by various groups like al Qaeda and, later, ISIS, hatched their own mass murder plot. Which is to say, the real issue isn’t any particular terrorist group, it is jihadist ideology, which a significant number of Muslims find inspiring.
It is also noteworthy that Malik was issued a visa even though, as we now know, there is an electronic trail connecting her with a longing for mass murder. This shouldn’t be surprising. After all, there was no reason to track down and translate her communications with Farook until after the San Bernardino murders. Her “vetting”–the term that is much used these days–presumably consisted of nothing but checking her name against a list of known or suspected terrorists. Naturally, she wasn’t on any such list. The idea that we have any way of preventing most jihadists from entering the United States via our present immigration system is fatuous.
So Tashfeen Malik might possibly have been a Manchurian jihadist, smuggled into the U.S. by a foreign state or terrorist organization, but she didn’t have to be. We have, really, hardly any defenses in place against the importation of people who come here with the intention of carrying out terrorist attacks.