There is no evidence a married couple who killed 14 people in California this month were part of a terrorist cell, the head of the FBI said on Wednesday, confirming that investigators believe the pair were inspired but not directed by Islamic State.
Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik had been radicalized “for quite some time” and practiced shooting at a gun range days before they opened fire on a San Bernardino holiday party, authorities said Monday.
The widow of a man killed in last week’s rampage in San Bernardino said Monday that she believed the two shooters targeted her husband. “I know my husband discussed religion and Israel with a lot of people, including” one of the shooters, his wife said.
Much of Obama’s failure to drive the conversation his way — that his strategy against the Islamic State is working however slowly — stems from his own rhetoric, particularly his reluctance to speak in anger or alarm about terrorism.
The San Bernardino massacre, which killed 14 people, has focused new attention on “lone wolf” terrorists who plan attacks away from traditional high-profile targets without directly coordinating with others.
Syed Farook was Chicago-born, with Pakistani roots. He didn’t drink or smoke. He avoided TV and movies, preferring instead to tinker with old cars, work out and memorize the Quran. He had a $49,000-a-year government job as a health inspector and wanted a young wife who shared his Sunni Muslim faith.
President Barack Obama vowed on Sunday to hunt down anyone plotting militant attacks against the United States as he sought to reassure Americans after a deadly California shooting rampage that has raised new questions about U.S. defenses against homegrown extremism.
The San Bernardino shootings are reviving a debate about Washington’s digital surveillance effort to find and capture violent extremists, with the recent shutdown of a U.S. cellphone spying program coming under renewed criticism.
No matter what inspired the couple, whether Islamist extremism or perceived workplace grievances, they were mimicking countless other American mass shooters who find some twisted glory in gunning down other citizens — strangers, passers-by, co-workers, moviegoers, schoolchildren. This is a peculiarly American phenomenon, a homegrown form of madness.
If you hope the San Bernardino deaths will move minds to limit access to guns by those who would cause such carnage, think again. That’s not how fear works in America. We freak out first. Wisdom comes later, if at all.
U.S. investigators are evaluating evidence that Malik, a Pakistani native who had been living in Saudi Arabia when she married Farook, had pledged allegiance to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, two U.S. officials told Reuters.