Correlations on Facebook Probably Key to ISIS Claim in San Bernardino

Authorities investigating the San Bernardino killing just told all the press that they found a posting from the wife in the attack, Tashfeen Malik, pledging allegiance to ISIS’s Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. CNN’s report included the following interesting details:

Investigators think that as the San Bernardino, California, attack was happening, female shooter Tashfeen Malik posted a pledge of allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on Facebook, three U.S. officials familiar with the investigation told CNN.

Malik’s post was made on an account with a different name, one U.S. official said. The officials did not explain how they knew Malik made the post.

What this implies is that the FBI found this pledge by correlating the name under which she made it with her known identity as Tashfeen Malik.

At first, I assumed they did with this IP addresses (and that’s definitely possible).

But given the way they haven’t been releasing as many pictures of her, I wonder whether it wasn’t, instead, done via Facebook’s facial recognition technology, working first off her face and then backwards to her devices?

In any case, I have little reason to doubt this is a sound correlation. What I do find interesting is, after gagging Nicholas Merrill for 11 years to avoid revealing how they use such requests to correlate all of a person’s identities, they’ve hinted at that ability here almost immediately, presumably because there’s such a demand for answers (and, in reality, for some way to tag this as Islamic terrorism).

Update: On reflection, I think it virtually impossible Facebook correlated these accounts using facial recognition, because there are almost no public pictures of Malik (I’ve seen thus far reported).

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

36 replies
  1. orionATL says:

    so how come no discussion this time about why this attack wasn’t detected?

    we heard lots of such chitchat after the Paris attacks.

    why isn’t John Brennan or general Clapper or general (jag) Graham on the air all the time complaining of some constraint or another that prevented our haystacks early warning system for terrorist (or our ordinary domestic) group murders?
    I mean after Paris – Brennan was everywhere misdirecting attention away from the haystacks failure.

    now all the media yack-yack is about whether the killers could be labeled “terrorists” or not.

    why did our surveillance dragnet (plural) fail to detect the San Bernardino shooting?

    somehow I’m reminded of the major nodal shooting at Fort____, years ago.

    on the surface these dragnet just aren’t worth shit at prediction and prevention.

      • haarmeyer says:

        The attorneys for the Farook family are on TV right now (MSNBC, live). They say none of the male family members have ever seen her face (aside from presumably her deceased husband) because she wore the burka. The real reason we haven’t seen a photo of her face is perhaps none exists. Although there should be a California D/L since she co-rented the SUV.

    • Ed Walker says:

      I don’t. It consistently tags my brother in pictures of me posted by my wife. He lives in Colorado, and I live in Chicago, so why does that persist after dozens of changes?

  2. OSS says:

    Have *any* pictures of Tashfeen Malik been released? There were some pics of the Russian wife of the other Brother Darryl, err, Syed that people mistakenly thought were her. I’m baffled why we haven’t seen her visa pic yet.

    I liked how Bowdich mentioned that the FBI doesn’t engage in dragnets on American soil unless they have a valid court order.

  3. orionATL says:

    no matter how many “screen names” you create in Google, all are easily and rapidly traced back to some original name you first used.

    Google also tries to bluff users into giving.
    them the user’s phone numbers.

    if Facebook is the same, Google or Facebook could easily have done fbi’s work for them in a couple of minutes.
    .
    a question occurs – was the femme fatale an agent on coming to the u.s.?

      • orionATL says:

        the time Malik spent in Saudia Arabia might be relevant to being an agent or not, and hence the San Bernardino shooting.

        • orionATL says:

          the fact, reported by fellow mosque members, that the husband of the two left the mosque (i.e., never returned to participate) immediately after his marriage to t. malik further supports suspicion that one or both were unusual in some, possibly clandestine, way.

          • haarmeyer says:

            I think you’re underestimating the possibility that the radicalization occurred during the Hajj for both of them.

            The group from which Boko Haram split off was a study and activist group that was formed by people who went to the Hajj, and were told there that the Islam they had always practiced back home in Maiduguri was wrong and blasphemous (that would be Tijaniyyah and other forms of Sufism). Abubakar Shekau’s group split with them to form a more militant movement, which eventually became Boko Haram. But the underlying strain of strict Islam didn’t come from contact with al Qaeda, and certainly not from swearing bayat to the IS caliphate. It came from indoctrination at the Hajj — i.e. it formed as a cleansing movement to cleanse Islam of non-Wahhabi faiths.

            So many Muslims go to the Hajj and never do anything but march around to the holy places that people ignore what happens when some people go there for some reason seeking instruction. What they bring back clashes with what’s at home and that changes them. Sometimes for the worse.

            • orionATL says:

              I’m not underestimating anything, thank you; I’m speculating for the pleasure of speculating, that malik was a kind of Mata Hari.

              if you want to start your own speculation off with the couples’ having a revelation and change in viewpoint due to a religious journey – fine.

              just do it on your own time, not as a sneaking critique of my guesses.

              for the record. I think the american national police’s and the american national media’s use of the terms “radicalized” and “radicalization” is inane.

              what, besides dead bodies, distinguishes a “radicalized” gun-killer from other guns killers.?

              in Oregon what?
              in Connecticut what?
              in Colorado (multiple times) what?
              in Arizona?
              in South Carolina what?

              you know why the label “radicalized” is being bandied about so much? because it is part of a cokamami social science theory cooked up at the FBI social behavioral science lab to be served up to simple judges and simple juries by doj prosecutors.

              the issue here is not “radicalized”. it is not “mentally ill”. it is not “fannatic”.

              the issue here is assault rifles and assault rifle ammunition in quantity that generated 14 dead, 17 wounded, AND DOZENS UPON DOZENS OF RELATIVES AND FRIENDS AND COWORKERS traumatized for years and decades.

              the issue behind this carnage is a political machinery led by that pass-through organization and lobbyist for gun and ammunition manufacturers, and a supreme Court chock-full of cokamami right-wing sophists like Antonio scalia.

              • orionATL says:

                correction to #17-

                ” led by that pass-through organization and lobbyist for gun and ammunition manufacturers,…”

                should read

                ” led by that pass-through organization and lobbyist for gun and ammunition manufacturers, the NRA, and a supreme Court…. “

  4. orionATL says:

    I am extremely skeptical of the current “terrorism” hysteria sloshing around in the national corporate media-which-benefits-from-terrorism workspace.

    this massacre took place at husband killer’s workplace, more precisely, at a workplace party.

    – whatever else, this was a certified workplace killing.

    – there was said to be some kind of altercation between husband killer and others at the workplace party. after that husband went home, got into his batman costume and recruited wife Robin to go back to the party and kill some fellow employees.

    – a curious circumstance of the assault on co-workers was that one woman with a muslim name was shot multiple times (but survived). why might she have been targeted? – I’m a warning you, keep your hands off my man.

    – were the 14 victims randomly associated with the shooters, or connected by some conflict?

    – were there multiple arab-american workers in the workplace? did shooter have a political or religious disagreement with group? any hint of Shia vs sunni?

    if you and wifey are going to get all costumed up and do a little terrorism, why not pick a government target? go to the courthouse, the post office, some military installation, the airport.

    your workplace party? that’s lame.

    as the saying goes – there are lacunae here to be investigated :)

  5. orionATL says:

    I’m going to add another piece of info I think could play a part in judgment.

    the couple had a 6 months old child.

    anybody who has ever had children knows what sleepless hell the first six months of a child’s life can be. the stomach is effectively non-existant (who needs one when mom provides all nourishment). the child needs feeding every couple of hours. sleep deprivation is a fact of life until the child begins to sleep thru the night (sort of).

  6. RUKidding says:

    The rush to label this very sad event as “terrorism” is predictable but crap. From the very little we know, it’s had to label it as anything other than a workplace violence incident.

    We are told by the incompetents at the FBI that allegedly the wife had “pledged allegiance” to the big cheese at ISIS on her Facebook account. Really? Maybe that happened, maybe it’s bogus. Even if verifiably true that she did that, WTF does it mean?

    Comparing this incident to the 2 in Paris highlight how amateurish the San Berdoo massacre was. No less lethal, to be sure, but hardly well organized or coordinated. My point being that IF we’re going to label THIS as “terrorism,” WTF places it in that category? The fact that they were of ME extraction/citizenship? The fact that they were Muslims? The fact that they did the Haj? Really? That’s IT?

    When white “Christians” (mostly male of varying ages) massacre many, including little kids, none dare call it terrorism. When a white “Christian” male clearly responds to ongoing attacks on Planned Parenthood using patently false lies to shoot and murder people at a PP clinic, none dare say that this man was in any way influenced by the rightwing noise machine, by the propaganda Wurlitzer and by GOP “presidential” candidates. Heaven forfend.

    But it’s terrorism if maybe some woman has allegedly pledged allegiance to ISIS? Why?

    Please inform me exactly HOW this particular incident is any worse than any of the many preceding incidents, most esp Sandy Hook (not meaning to in any way disparage or make light of people murdered)??

    Finally, when can we, as “the people” (and not Chief Terrorist Pimp Wayne LaPierre) have a sane and rational discussion about gun violence and sensible gun controls.

    Why is this couple any different from any of the other gun nut hoarders? They are out there, and they own just as many assault weapons, ammo and pipe bombs, IEDs, as this couple did. It’s entirely regrettable, but why is it “ok” for white people to own all that shit but somehow these people are the ones who get the bone pointed at them.

    Misdirection, much?

    Not to mention the sheer barking utter incompetency of the FBI in this whole mess. Their committed indifference to the putrid ghouls in our “media” who broke the law by breaking, entering and showing off drivers’ licenses, SSNs, photos, etc. Fibbie Prime says: eh? who cares? Not MY problem. GAH.

    Not to mention the Fibbie MAD RUSH to label this terrorism in order to again misdirect the hapless brainwashed citizens from cottoning onto the fact that our zillion$ in tax dollar$ yet again did absolutely ZIP, F*ck All in preventing this. What. A. Waste.

    • P J Evans says:

      The fact that they had multiple firearms, several thousand rounds of ammo, some pipe bombs, and had changed clothing between leaving the lunch and coming back and shooting it up?

      • bmaz says:

        No, so far the only halfway credible fact that places then within “terrorism” is the pipe bombs. We’ll see about interaction with known “terrorism groups” or whatever, but so far that is incredibly thin gruel.

  7. orionATL says:

    I don’t see any evidence of a terrorist attack.

    terrorists would attack symbolic targets and places where multitudes gathered – a marketplace or police training station in Iraq, a stadium, concert hall, and eating/drinking area in Paris, a hotel keeping foreigners in Mali. mash note to isil or no, this was just a vindictive attack on co-workers.

    be this as it may, however, this workplace attack has been labeled and will probably remain labeled, terrorist. that is primarily because the Republican politicians running for president have long given indication they intend to run on some manner of outside threat to the nation. now they have another benghazi to gum, and to froth about – the mo’ war party just found its Maine.

  8. Les says:

    The FBI and the press have really gone away from pursuing the workplace conflict angle. The primary target of the attack was a Zionist and Messianic Jew who had gotten into argument with Syed Farrok over his religion. He had some very strong opinions about religion, abortion, terrorism, Israel, etc. that most would find extreme. As a recent convert, he may have also been prosletyzing in the workplace. There were also indications that others in the office had some problems with him growing out his beard as a religious sign.

    • orionATL says:

      thanks for that info. I don’t follow along, so don’t know the latest.

      I suspected the connection you mentioned (#22 & #24), but murdered bigots is always a dangerous place to go, especially in this country.

      the guy originally was Greek orthodox.

      so many lives lost; so many others changed into sadness, forever.

      I recall my initial feeling, despair, on hearing of the Paris massacre – can the zealots not leave us alone to live our ordinary lives? by extraordinary coincidence I was talking that evening with a contractor whose brother lives outside Paris – what a perishable small world we live in.

  9. Les says:

    They left a lot of ammo unused, 4000 rounds versus the 75 that were discharged at the crime scene. The police found out his identity from one of his coworkers and intercepted the couple as they tried to make it back to their home. Maybe they had more attacks in mind, but they didn’t seem to have the contingencies planned beyond an attack on his coworkers. It looks like a rage killing. The wife may have egged him on to carry out the attack, so the motivation from her end may be political or terroristic.

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