Thoughts on the San Bernardino Murders [Updated]

* Syed Farook. That is the name of one of the suspects in the San Bernardino attack, the only name that has been released so far. So most people conclude that it is another case of Islamic terrorism. Based on what we know now, that is probably right. But it is a strange incident: why the Inland Regional Center? And the terrorist group, two men and a woman, may be consistent with a Muslim terror ring, but until now, haven’t female terrorists–suicide bombers or knife attackers, pretty much always–acted alone? Is there precedent for mixed gender Islamic terrorist teams? Maybe there is, but I can’t think of one.

* This case reportedly was broken because of a “tip.” That tip sent police officers to an address in Redlands where, shortly thereafter, the SUV that was being sought turned up. That led to the chase that culminated in the shootout between police and terrorists. Where did the tip come from? Maybe it was just a concerned citizen. Or else–this is pure speculation–maybe one or more of the perpetrators was already under some sort of surveillance as a potential terrorist. Maybe the tip came from the FBI or another law enforcement agency. Maybe there were actually a number of tips–the addresses of suspected terror sympathizers in the area–and this is the one that panned out.

* At this moment, a house in Redlands is now being searched pursuant to a warrant. Presumably this is the address that the tipster gave the local police. Within the next few days, we should know a great deal more about who carried out the San Bernardino murders, and why.

* A sign of the times: when one of these homicidal incidents occurs, those who are involved in politics on any side hope the perpetrators are not from the ranks of their allies. You can see this most clearly on Twitter, where way too many people fail to exercise self-restraint.

For several hours this afternoon, liberals were tweeting their conviction–most likely wrong, based on what we know now–that the “shooters” were right-wingers. ISIS had a better read on events; their hashtag was #America_burning. But being a liberal means never having to say you’re sorry. The same people will be hopeful once again, next time a high-profile violent incident occurs.

* The most contemptible pronouncement on today’s murders came from Barack Obama. Within minutes after the shootings, before anyone knew who the perpetrators were, Obama was already riding his favorite hobby horse–gun control:

Speaking to CBS News moments after news broke of the shooting, Obama called for “common sense gun safety laws” and urged lawmakers to pass a law to prevent individuals on the “No Fly List” who are barred from boarding commercial flights from legally purchasing firearms.

Were any of the three suspects on the federal “no fly list”? Maybe Obama knows something we don’t, but the odds are heavily against it. The problem with putting names from the no fly list on the federal NICS list is that the no fly list incorporates no due process. If you are convicted of a felony you go on the NICS list, likewise if you have been committed for mental illness. But those designations require due process. The no fly list does not, and it is of notoriously poor quality. Many wholly innocent people have been put on the no fly list because their names happen to resemble those of suspected terrorist sympathizers. That said, I would be open to dumping the entire no fly list onto the NICS register, with proper safeguards. But I would need more information before advocating that step. Obama’s bringing it up within minutes of the San Bernardino murders typifies the craven political nature of pretty much everything he does.

Plus, it is stupid. We need more gun control because terrorists always have so much trouble obtaining weapons? Please. France, to take one of many examples, has stringent gun control laws, far more so than would be constitutional here. But did those gun control laws prevent the Charlie Hebdo attack, or the Jewish deli slaughter, or the murder of more than 120 innocents in Paris a few weeks ago? Of course not. Suggesting gun control as an antidote to terrorism is worse than useless, and typifies the Obama administration’s pathetic approach to the number one issue of our time.

UPDATE: This morning’s news reports indicate that there were only two killers, not three. They were a husband and wife team, Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik. They were Muslims. Farook’s father describes him as “devout,” which evidently is not inconsistent with being a mass murderer. The Farook/Malik home was littered with terrorist equipment, including what is being described as a bomb factory. The attack was carefully planned, and the Farooks started their day by dropping off their six-month-old infant with grandparents, no doubt realizing that they would never see their baby again. Contrary to early reports, there was no altercation between Syed Farook and any co-workers prior to the attack. Farook attended the party for a while and then disappeared. Where is Syed? someone asked when they were about to start taking pictures.

At the moment, the investigation is focusing on whether the Farooks were in contact with ISIS or other overseas groups, or perhaps other domestic Muslim terrorists. This is obviously important to pursue, but in a larger sense it doesn’t make much difference. I don’t suppose there is any doubt that the Farooks were motivated by their Islamic faith–an extreme interpretation of Islam, as we conventionally describe it. The closest analogy that comes to mind is the Tsarnaev brothers.

ATF is reporting this morning that at least two of the weapons recovered from the Farook SUV were purchased legally, but the agency didn’t say who bought them.

In a sense, this attack was an instance of workplace violence, in that the Farooks attacked Syed’s office’s holiday party. So far, there is no indication that Farook had any grievances against his employer, the State of California. Perhaps the salient fact is that the event the Farooks shot up was a Christmas party. Well, sure, they called it a holiday party. But it may well be that this rebranding, typical of our times, didn’t fool Syed and Tashfeen. Maybe Christmas and Christians were the targets of their wrath. We don’t know yet; time will tell, probably.


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