Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, the couple who killed 14 and injured a number of others in a jihadist siege in San Bernardino last week, had become radical Islamists long before meeting, according to FBI Director James Comey.
Addressing the Senate Judiciary Committee, Comey said that there was no evidence that one of them had radicalized the other. “They were actually radicalized before they started … dating each other online, and as early as the end of 2013 they were talking to each other about jihad and martyrdom before they became engaged,” he testified, according to Reuters.
Comey added that there was yet no robust evidence that an Islamist terrorist group had arranged their marriage, though it would be “very, very important” to know if this was the case, as they may have ties to sleeper cells or jihadis-in-wait planning a similar attack within America’s borders.
Reuters notes that a “U.S. government source familiar with the investigation” noted that Farook may have been attempting to organize a jihadist attack as early as two years prior to meeting Malik online. Farook’s father, also named Syed Farook, told Italian newspaper La Stampa that his son was “obsessed” with Israel, and he had tried to calm the younger Farook by telling him that “he had to stay calm and be patient because in two years Israel will not exist anymore.” An attorney for the Farook family and a representative of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) – a UAE-designated terrorist group and Hamas affiliate– both later said the father did not remember making these statements. The attorney attributed this to “medication.”
This information contracts a report last week by Fox News stating there was a “very serious” chance that Farook had been a moderate Muslim before meeting Malik, and she had radicalized him. It also completely rules out the possibility that the attack at a Christmas party where Farook worked was an instance of “workplace violence,” as had been initially speculated, triggered by a heated discussion between coworkers.
Farook and Malik were married earlier this year, following a trip Farook made to Saudi Arabia to meet with her. She entered the United States on a K-1 “fiance” visa, using a false address in Pakistan. Malik was born in Pakistan but grew up in Saudi Arabia; Farook was a U.S. citizen.
Should authorities find evidence that a foreign terrorist organization, like the Islamic State, arranged Malik and Farook’s marriage, evidence cited by President Barack Obama in a speech on the fight against the Islamic State on Sunday will have been false. President Obama stated in that speech from the Oval Office that “so far, we have no evidence that the killers were directed by a terrorist organization overseas, or that they were part of a broader conspiracy here at home.”