Over the last few days, there has been mounting evidence of long-term pre-meditation by Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, the jihadi couple responsible for a massacre at a Christmas party in San Bernardino last week. New indications have surfaced that the supposedly innocuous Farook had radical leanings for quite some time.
According to NBC News on Wednesday, investigators now believe the San Bernardino couple planned their attack for at least a year – apparently beginning as soon as Farook’s wife Tashfeen Malik arrived on U.S. soil.
Not only did NBC’s sources say Farook and Malik practiced their shooting skills at a California gun range for over a year, but they also made preparations to “take care of both grandma and the baby.” They had a six-month-old daughter, and “grandma” is a reference to Farook’s 62-year-old mother Rafia. The baby was left in Rafia Farook’s care when the couple launched their attack.
The offficials who spoke to NBC thought some of the money from Syed Farook’s $28,500 bank deposit, traced to an online loan company called Prosper, was intended to provide for Rafia Farook and the child. “They had purposely thought through that problem. There were other indications of preparations,” said one source.
Prosper representatives said they were legally barred from discussing the details of Farook’s loan with the media, but they said it conformed with “all identity verification and screening procedures required by law, including U.S. anti-terrorism and anti-money laundering laws.” The company added it was “shocked and saddened by recent events in San Bernardino.”
NBC also references a story about Syed Farook planning a jihad attack in 2012. This account comes from Enrique Marquez, the neighbor and longtime friend who provided Farook and Malik with their rifles. It turns out Marquez converted to Islam several years ago, and attended the Islamic Center of Riverside mosque with Farook and Malik.
In another unusual connection, Marquez married one of a pair of Russian sisters in 2014, and the other married Syed Rizwan Farook’s brother, Syed Raheel Farook. The home address given by Marquez and his wife is the same residence belonging to Syed Raheel Farook and his father, who is also named Syed Farook.
According to Fox News, Marquez told investigators that Farook and another as-yet-unidentified individual “may have conspired to carry out an attack in 2012,” but they “got spooked” and scuttled their plan after “a series of terror-related arrests in Southern California.” There have been rumors of local police officers taking an interest in Farook long before he launched his attack.
As Breitbart News has reported, local news sources spoke of Farook and Malik checking out a high school in their area and taking pictures of it with a smartphone. It is not clear if this high school was the target of the earlier terror attack plan, or might have been the target Farook and Malik planned to hit, if they could have escaped after the Christmas party shooting. Also, the 2012 attack plot roughly coincides with Farook’s hiring by the county health department, suggesting that he might have taken the job to help plan a jihad attack. His job involved visiting a number of school cafeterias.
One interesting discrepancy between the Fox News and NBC reports is that NBC claims Marquez converted to Islam three or four years ago, but Fox says he is still “in the process of converting to Islam” and had “begun using an Islamic name, making it more difficult for authorities to get in touch with him.” The Fox report goes on to quote an official from the mosque who confirmed Marquez began attending services there in 2010 or 2011, initially making monthly visits, but later attending services more sporadically.
A law enforcement source told Fox News that investigators were “looking closely at the possibility that Malik was a terror ‘operative’ who had been radicalized before she came to the United States in July 2014,” and were also looking at her family for links to Islamic terrorism. If Farook was interested in planning jihad attacks as far back as 2012, this would fuel suspicions he brought Malik into the country for the purposes of carrying out an attack, rather than marrying her and becoming swiftly radicalized by her influence.
Update: In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) asked FBI Director James Comey if Farook and Malik’s marriage might have been “arranged by a terrorist organization.”
“I don’t know the answer to that yet,” Comey replied, agreeing that “it would be a very, very important thing to know.”
He also confirmed that investigators believe the couple became radicalized “before they started courting or dating each other online, and as early as the end of 2013, were talking to each other about jihad and martyrdom before they became engaged and married and were living in the U.S.”