How Not To Terrorist

San Bernardino’s All American “Terrorism”

Farook and Malik were not very good at being terrorists. They were unable to join real terrorist groups. They couldn’t build working IEDs. Their attack was common work place violence, rather than a terrorist attack. The last minute bay'ah to ISIS shows just how poorly planned and ad hoc the entire attack was.

Bottom Line Up Front

  • Farook had a long and lame career being a jihobbiest with delusions of relevance
  • Malik was unable to get any terrorist organisations to even talk to her, let alone accept, direct or train her. Same for Farook.
  • Workplace violence has certain characteristics which closely match this attack.
  • Terrorist violence has features and characteristics which are nothing like this attack.

Delusions of Relevance

Farook had a pretty long career of being a loser terrorist fantasist. In 2010 Farook and his buddy Marquez became “radicalized,” according to the prevailing narrative. This is not a very useful framing device for understanding the mind set of the pair. What seems to have happened is they began identifying more with their social group (Muslims) and listened to an imam (Awlaki) who complained about how American foreign policy led to a lot of Muslim suffering. They also download at least one copy of Inspire magazine. (Download the whole series from the Internet Archive.)

Almost two years pass before the “radicalized” Farook and Marquez start planning to “do something!” In late 2011 they begin talking about a number of different extremely American violent acts. These are a school shooting and an attack on a highway (for some reason.)

The School Shooting Plot

Farook had been a student at [Riverside City College], and planned with Marquez to attack a library or cafeteria using pipe bombs “because they wanted to maximize casualties,”

These guys plan to copy the Columbine shooting, right down to using pipe bombs in the cafeteria. Whatever they learned from Inspire magazine (which obviously didn’t include how to actually make a functional IED), this they learned entirely from American culture.

The Highway Shooting Plot

The attack on Highway 91 was planned for rush hour on a stretch of highway far from exits. The two neighbors planned to throw pipe bombs, stopping traffic, and then fire on people inside cars, according to the FBI

This plan seems to be based entirely on movies. I am not aware of any successful terrorist attacks based on throwing small bombs from a hillside at cars. Taking pot shots at people trapped inside vehicles seems to be a poor way to achieve mass casualties.

The Sit On Your Ass For Four Years Plot

From 2011, when Farook and Marquez bought some guns, until the end of 2015 when Farook went postal — they do nothing. There are no further plans. No effort is made to advance the existing plans. They don’t even try to figure out how to make working pipe bombs.

The Get Married Plot

In 2014 Farook gets hitched with Malik. Unlike Farook and Marquez, it seems like Malik is a bit of a doer. She tries (and fails) to reach out to real terrorists.

Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You

U.S. government sources told Reuters on Thursday that Malik tried in vain to contact multiple Islamic militant groups in the months before she and Farook staged their attack, but her overtures were ignored.
The number of organizations that Malik attempted to approach and how she sought to reach them were unclear, though the groups almost certainly included al Qaeda’s Syria-based official affiliate, the Nusrah Front, the government sources said.
One source said investigators have little, if any, evidence that Malik or her husband had any direct contact with Islamic State.

Source: Reuters (emphasis added)

Terrorist organisations are generally extremely careful about who they recruit (the Islamic State is a very rare exception, 20% of IS European recruits have mental illness). Security concerns are a significant consideration for clandestine organisations. People who are irrational, unstable, mentally ill, dim witted, or drug addicts are liabilities. They’re major security risks as well as poor operatives. Only ISIS operates an open door policy, allowing anyone to join.

Recruits to clandestine organisations must be vetted to ensure they are not informants or agents of the security forces. For Islamic groups in Syria and Iraq, such as Nusra Front (al Qaeda in Syria), the basic form of vetting is to have a trusted imam vouch for the authenticity of the recruit. Farook and Malik would have a significant problem because they had no one to vouch for them. They lacked this crucial entry point into the jihadi pipeline.

Without anyone to vouch for them, Farook and Malik were an unknown quantity, too suspect to be dealt with by serious terrorist organisations. Malik’s last minute bay’ah to ISIS shows how desperate they were to find a group to accept them. ISIS isn’t about to turn down some free publicity.

Neither Farook nor Malik had any communication from a terrorist group.

Going Postal, Possibly the Best Path to Jannah

The attack by Farook has all the hallmarks of classic workplace violence. It has no indicators of terrorism. A terrorist attack is typically associated with achieving a broader goal by high profile violence some sort. Workplace violence, on the other hand, is typically about assaulting the people that are most associated with workplace grievances.

[The attack] could be construed as workplace violence, the law enforcement source said, noting that evidence and witness recollections suggest that they shot Farook’s supervisors first

Source: LA Times

Few, if any, Islamic terrorist organisations emphasize the important operational and strategic criticality of killing one’s supervisors at the office holiday party.

A work party in an obscure building for an unknown government agency is not the sort of targeting that would be inline with the goals of a jihadi terrorist organisation. High casualty counts are a frequent goal of Islamic terrorist groups, such as al Qaeda and ISIS. A high profile target is also typically a goal for a terrorist group.

A professional terrorist handler would direct two operatives in America to target somewhere famous and full of people. In the Los Angeles area there are any number of very good targets for terrorist attacks. The office holiday party at the IRC is not one of them.