The San Bernardino Complaint

After some conflicting reports today about what would happen to Enrique Marquez — the long time friend of San Bernardino killer Syed Rizwan Farook, who purchased two guns used in the attack — DOJ charged Marquez on a 3-count complaint, including conspiring to materially support terrorism associated with a contemplated 2012 attack he and Farook started planning in the weeks after Anwar al-Awlaki got executed. Marquez had been cooperating for 10 days without a lawyer until yesterday (he almost demanded a lawyer part way into the first day, but was persuaded he didn’t need one). It’s unclear whether he stopped cooperating or the FBI just got bored interrogating him before charging him today.

Marquez’ apparent panic on December 2-3

In spite of the fact that Marquez supplied the gun and, the government says, the smokeless powder used in the couple’s pipe bomb, and in spite of the fact that he was raving about terrorist attacks on Facebook almost a month before the attack, the government claims to believe Marquez that he didn’t know about it beforehand.

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Given the timeline in the complaint, Marquez could not have been involved in the attack on the Christmas party, though he did take lunch during the period when the couple was on the run. The timeline after that is not provided: In a short period of time (though after midnight the day of the attack), he called 911, checked himself into the hospital (both times admitting he was Farook’s friend), and missed the immigration interview for his fake marriage, which will lead his fake wife (the sister of Farook’s brother’s wife) to be deported to Russia.

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Did Farook stop planning an attack between 2012 and 2015?

After Farook and Marquez called off the 2012 attack, Marquez claims he drifted apart from Farook (though how that’s consistent with fake-marrying his sister-in-law’s sister, I don’t know).

After having given extensive details of Farook, and through him, Marquez’ embrace of extremist culture up until 2012, the complaint goes silent about what Farook was consuming, raising questions for me about whether he continued to plan, or resumed plans after Tashfeen Malik came to the US.

One thing that raises questions for me is the powder allegedly used in pipe bomb intended to go off in the attack. Early on, the complaint claims the pipe bomb was “ready to detonate” ¶16. Later, it makes it clear the pipe bomb malfunctioned. Immediately after explaining that it had malfunctioned (without providing the details included in a report why it might have), the complaint ties the smokeless powder to Marquez’ purchase (for which no purchase record appears in the complaint) in 2012.

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One obvious explanation for why the pipe bombs didn’t go off (aside from the fact they used a really simple Inspire recipe) is that the powder was over 4 years old by the time of the attack. Given that they had considered using bombs for the 2012 attack, the container was likely opened. Which leaves open the possibility it had degraded.

If you’re planning a new attack — and spending money to train all through that period — why not buy new powder to ensure your bomb goes off?

But there’s a counter point having to do with Farook’s apparently meticulous accounting for the attack, which he called a wedding. Farook did a spreadsheet (FBI found it on a thumb drive) of his planned attack in 2011-2012, with the earliest date October 29 and the latest presumed to be January 2, 2012. The spread sheet tracks payments for a number of things, including one of the two guns Marquez bought, as well as gun range sessions and other equipment. It stops before the purchase of the second gun (which was purchased February 22, 2012) and doesn’t resume leading up to the 2015 attack.

So either Farook got bored playing terror accountant, or there’s a continuation of this spread sheet, but we don’t know how long. There have been reports that FBI is still looking for a hard drive missing from the house, so it’s quite possible a continuation of the spread sheet continued on, perhaps up to the present, track all the money spent on shooting practice. But why track this stuff? Was someone reimbursing him? And why put it on a thumb drive?

Malik’s ISIS surfing

Which brings me to the thing most outlets are focusing on, Malik’s statement of allegiance to ISIS. I have always thought this statement felt like an attempt to distract (which, if it was, it succeeded), and the description in the complaint only makes me wonder more.

The timeline in the complaint shows Malik searching for info on ISIS literally the minute before her husband arrived at the Christmas party.

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And it shows a post on a “Facebook page associated with Malik” (when the complaint talks about Marquez’ Facebook they described his verified account, though Malik is not the one being charged here) posting allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi just 16 minutes after the SUV returned to the county center.

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There’s no other mention of ISIS in the complaint (or, for that matter, what other radical Islamic propaganda the couple were consuming between 2012 and 2015).

How many involved in the shooting

Finally there’s a small but, given initial reports there were three people involved in the shooting at the county center, potentially significant discrepancy. Early in the complaint, the FBI describes two individuals conducting the shooting.

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Whereas later the complaint is not so sure how many people there were.

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There were reports that survivors recognized Farook when the shooting started, which says if there was just one shooter, it was him. But at least given what we know, there’d be no reason for Malik to stay in the SUV, as there’s no reason to believe she drove (she had no driver’s license mentioned, and of course lived much of her life in Saudi Arabia). Remember, too, there were four guns total used in the attack.

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.

44 replies
  1. orionATL says:

    benghazi all over again.

    je ne sais pas, but somehow i feel (“smell” would be a better term) a congressional investigation in, roughly, october, 2016.

  2. orionATL says:

    complaint #2 – could the hapless marquez have been an fbi informer at some time (after 2012) in his past?

    marquez sounds just like the kind of low-iq patsy fbi feeds on.

    complaint #3 – if “inspire” online is continuously monitored by the u. s., and farook repeatedly consulted “inspire”, how come he wasn’t on some u. s. official’s list somewhere? or was he?

  3. JB says:

    There were initially 3 shooters reported. It’s very convenient to have SB after Colo springs. There are some info wars types speculating that it was a false flag. Unfortunately we’ll probably never truly know.

  4. Denis says:

    Hmmm . . . Salon reported yesterday that Comey now says their is NO EVIDENCE the SB shooters posted support for Da’esh on social media. Does that contradict the complaint?

    .

    http://www.salon.com/2015/12/16/fbi_on_san_bernardino_massacre_shooters_did_not_post_support_for_jihad_on_social_media/

    .

    Ditto The Hill

    .

    http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/263448-fbi-no-evidence-san-bernardino-shooters-supported-jihad-on

    .

    And here is vid from FOX of the black SUV just before the massacre started. Note that it is moving slowly and it’s headlights are flashing, with all the cops trailing behind it.
    .
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8IbBhAyfBFY&feature=youtu.be
    .
    Totally bizarre. Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown. Well . . . all of California is Chinatown.

    • Denis says:

      “…just before the massacre…” — sorry, poor choice of words. I was referring to the cops killing the 2 “terrorists.” Hardly a massacre compared to a couple dozen unarmed folks being gunned down.

    • haarmeyer says:

      It really looks like the media got it wrong at first, Comey spoke, and they all went 180 degrees the other way and got it wrong again.

      There was a lot of consternation in the press and from political candidates as to why if these people were communicating on social media about jihad, the feds didn’t see it and refuse Tashfeen Malik a visa, let alone start surveilling Rizwan Farook. Comey corrected them by saying they did that communication via email, not social media. So the same people who had got it wrong the first time, then got it wrong again and said that the two never posted support for jihad on social media.

      The correct version is that they didn’t do so before the attack. But she did in fact post about allegiance during or after the attack and before the shootout.

    • orionATL says:

      thanks. this was very helpful, comey’s statement left me wondering about what, if anything, got posted just before, during, or after the shooting spree. i still haven’t found a blanket statement; maybe none can be made.

  5. RUKidding says:

    Well this incident and the way it’s been “reported” certainly took the heat off the GOP candidates who, imo, incited that Dear fellow into a white Christian guy terrorist attack on the PP clinic in Colorado Springs. Just saying… duly noted that even Carly Fiorina has stopped lying about dead baby parts and bringing up PP every 5 minutes. hmmm… what a coincidence.

    If the San Berdoo attack was truly not a false flag – and we’ll never know either way – the incident is being used by the PTB to do what the PTB want – divide & conquer, gin up FEAR and outrage, plus hate all Muslims, the new enemy du jour. Apparently now Putin is our manly-man pal to be worshipped for his manly killing techniques blah de blah.

  6. Dan Lynch says:

    Re: smokeless powder. No it doesn’t degrade with time. I have opened jugs of powder that is 30 years old, still works like new.

    The kind of small pipe bombs the S.B. shooters made are like the ones teenagers use to blow up rural mailboxes. Smokeless powder is technically not an explosive, it “burns” rather than detonates, so it doesn’t make good bombs, and it is hard to ignite in a way that makes things blow up. Yeah a homemade pipe bomb will blow up mailboxes and will hurt you if you happen to be holding it in your hand, but it’s not going to vaporize a room full of people.

    In other words, the S.B. shooters were rank amateurs who didn’t know how to make a good bomb. They also didn’t seem skilled at shooting people as evidenced by only killing 14 vs how many rounds fired ? If a terrorist was say a military veteran who knew his way around bombs and weapons he would kill far more than 14. See Oklahoma City 1995.

  7. orionATL says:

    little pieces of info hither and yon make me wonder if this massacre may have been spontaneous or at least impulsive. were i investigating, i would like to know personal histories 2-4 weeks prior to the shooting practice in la.

  8. Les says:

    Enrique Marquez seems to be both mentally ill and mentally handicapped. He doesn’t seem to understand the seriousness of the things others put him up to.

    It’s hard to tell what’s meant by searching social media for ISIS material. Was she trying to searching for background information because she knew nothing about ISIS? Was she trying to connect to known ISIS Facebook or Twitter pages for send a message, or was she doing lookups before defaulting to posting on her own Facebook page? Yes, it does look like a desperate attempt to put in a plug for ISIS at the last minute…

    • emptywheel says:

      Right: To be clear, I think it could be any of those things, some of which would be totally consistent with the ISIS tie being real. But given the absence of any known SM ties to ISIS before that, I find the timing all the more interesting.

      • bmaz says:

        Think Les also right about mental competency issues with Marquez. Not as to capacity to commit a crime or participate in defense, but maybe sufficient to seriously question how the interrogators talked him out of his invocation of right to counsel.

        • emptywheel says:

          Good luck to him. Didn’t work for Arbabsiar, with VERY similar detention stories and impact on convenient narratives.

          Of course that was Lynch’s district then.

          • bmaz says:

            No, probably won’t work, but you have to lay a good record for the next guy. It adds up sometimes, and needs to be explored and detailed.

          • Denis says:

            Looks like at least three potential competency issues w/ Marquez.
            .
            First, an evidentiary issue as to whether the statements he made should be suppressed. Was he sufficiently mentally competent to waive his right against self-incrimination and his right to a lawyer? [IMO, anyone who talks to a cop w/out a lawyer present must be mentally incompetent.]
            .
            Second, as to the charges: Was he mentally competent at the time the conspiracy , etc. took place?
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            Third, is he currently sufficiently mentally competent to assist in his own defense and stand trial?
            .
            #1 could get him off completely. #2 could help him avoid trial and prison and put him in a funny farm until he comes right. #3 could help him delay and, possibly, avoid trial. Long shot on all three, as MTW suggests, citing the Arbabsiar case.
            .

            Now, if Marquez or Arbabsiar had a surname suggesting a Hebrew background, maybe the question of their mental competence would be taken seriously. Take the Joshua Ryne Goldberg case in federal court in FL. It’s an analogous case. Goldberg, 20, was busted on Sep10|2015 for conspiring with an FBI plant to mfg. and detonate a pressure-cooker bomb at a 9/11 memorial in Kansas City. It was a typical FBI spoof like the one that entrapped Mohamed Mohamud, the Portland Christmas tree “bomber” in 2010.
            .

            Through an amazingly fortuitous concordance of Hebraic surnames, Goldberg appears to have gotten a huge break. His lawyer is Shorstein. The US prosecutor is Frein. They both agreed with the shrink, Feldman, that the poor wanna’-be bomber is too wacko to stand trial. A couple days ago the magistrate judge agreed. Evidence of mental incompetence included assertions that he exhibited different personalities online, as if we all don’t.
            .
            Defense lawyers in these cases should suggest their clients change their names, find a moyle, and try to move the case to Miami Beach.

      • ne plus ultra says:

        EW, in your post at #18, SM = who/what? Typo for Tashfeen Malik = TM?

        And on the subject of acronyms, the transcript of the Marquez 911 call has him saying he couldn’t keep the guns at his house because of “UI”. Anyone know what UI is?

        • emptywheel says:

          SM: Social media. Been arguing this point on Twitter too and guess I got too used to abbreviating.

          I’m not sure what the UI is.

    • orionATL says:

      as for “a plug at the last minute”, i can easily imagine a mother of a child wanting to leave behind some socially acceptable justification for a horrendous crime she had been involved in.

  9. John Blyth aka blueskybigstar says:

    3 witnesses say it was three white men. One says he was threatened not to tell the truth and says it was definitely not the accused. The bodies of the alleged perpetrators were found face down, shot up, and handcuffed.

    This is the one we should act on due to its obviousness in intent to fear monger and the intent to continue with regime change, flirtations with WW3, and the fake war on terror that is being used to justify the military and the private companies that supply it with at least 67% of our taxes is reason we all have to figure out ways to take immediate action to stop the crisis makers.

    • bmaz says:

      3 witnesses say it was three white men. One says he was threatened not to tell the truth and says it was definitely not the accused. The bodies of the alleged perpetrators were found face down, shot up, and handcuffed.

      Uh, no.

    • Mazoola says:

      “3 witnesses say it was three white men. One says he was threatened not to tell the truth and says it was definitely not the accused.”

      This last claim, currently being sprayed wildly about the web, is easily debunked by simply listening to the video of the interview excerpt that typically accompanies it. The witness, Chris Nwadike, makes none of those claims (i.e., three white shooters, Farook not involved, instructed not to reveal Farook wasn’t involved). Instead, he was in the restroom when the attack occurred, so he had limited first-hand knowledge. In addition, in the interview he says someone called him that evening simply to inform him Farook had been identified as one of the shooters, *not* to instruct him one what to say. Finally, his response that it wasn’t (or couldn’t have been) Farook is clearly one of surprise, rather than disbelief.

      We’re not talking getting BBN in to perform a high-level analysis of the tape; anyone with 90 seconds and half a brain anyone can quickly debunk this claim. That so few people bothered even to try reflects poorly on the quality of much of today’s political debate.

      (Bonus round: This interview originated with the LA Times and has clearly been gleened from a much longer source. Based upon one’s opinion about the Times, explain why the paper, with such a high-visibility story in its hands, would choose simply to slap it onto their blog quietly rather than (a) pump it for all the story was worth or (b) suppress it in obsequience to its neocon overlords.)

      • ne plus ultra says:

        >We’re not talking getting BBN in to perform a high-level analysis of the tape; anyone with 90 seconds and half a brain anyone can quickly debunk this claim. That so few people bothered even to try reflects poorly on the quality of much of today’s political debate.

        Far from me to defend today’s political debate, or to suggest that anyone does due diligence on the most basic factoids.

        But the particular theory you’ve debunked was never anywhere near the heart of the debate.

    • emptywheel says:

      One of the interesting implications from the Saudis’ claim that Malik and Farook overlapped is that she had overstayed here SAUDI visa.

    • orionATL says:

      as ye sow….
      .
      .

      [… The reality was otherwise. The United States was intimately involved in the enlistment of these volunteers — indeed, many of them were signed up through a network of recruiting offices in this country. The guiding light in this effort was a charismatic Palestinian cleric, Abdullah Azzam, who founded Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK), also known as the Afghan Services Bureau, in 1984, to raise money and recruits for jihad. He was assisted by a wealthy young Saudi, Osama bin Laden. The headquarters for the U.S. arm of the operation was in Brooklyn, at the Al-Kifah Refugee Center on Atlantic Avenue, which Azzam invariably visited when touring mosques and universities across the country.

      “You have to put it in context,” argued Ali Soufan, a former FBI agent and counterterrorism expert who has done much to expose the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program. “Throughout most of the 1980s, the jihad in Afghanistan was something supported by this country. The recruitment among Muslims here in America was in the open. Azzam officially visited the United States, and he went from mosque to mosque — they recruited many people to fight in Afghanistan under that banner.”

      The view through the scope of a weapon that belongs to a member of Ahrar al-Sham, Idlib, Syria, March 2015 © Khalil Ashawi/Reuters

      American involvement with Azzam’s organization went well beyond laissez-faire indulgence. “We encouraged the recruitment of not only Saudis but Palestinians and Lebanese and a great variety of combatants, who would basically go to Afghanistan to perform jihad,” McWilliams insisted. “This was part of the CIA plan. This was part of the game….]

      • orionATL says:

        [… In the wake of 9/11, the story of U.S. support for militant Islamists against the Soviets became something of a touchy subject. Former CIA and intelligence officials like to suggest that the agency simply played the roles of financier and quartermaster. In this version of events, the dirty work — the actual management of the campaign and the dealings with rebel groups — was left to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). It was Pakistan’s fault that at least 70 percent of total U.S. aid went to the fundamentalists, even if the CIA demanded audited accounts on a regular basis.

        The beneficiaries, however, have not always been content to play along with the official story. Asked by the ABC News team whether he remembered Charlie Wilson, the Texas congressman later immortalized in print and onscreen as the patron saint of the mujahedeen, Hekmatyar fondly recalled that “he was a good friend. He was all the time supporting our jihad.” Others expressed the same point in a different way. Abdul Haq, a mujahedeen commander who might today be described as a “moderate rebel,” complained loudly during and after the Soviet war in Afghanistan about American policy. The CIA “would come with a big load of ammunition and money and supplies to these [fundamentalist] groups. We would tell them, ‘What the hell is going on? You are creating a monster in this country.’ ”

        Fighters with Jabhat al-Nusra search residents at a checkpoint in Aleppo, Syria, October 2013 © Molhem Barakat/Reuters

        American veterans of the operation, at the time the largest in CIA history, have mostly stuck to the mantra that it was a Pakistani show. Only occasionally have officials let slip that the support for fundamentalists was a matter of cold-blooded calculation. Robert Oakley, a leading player in the Afghan effort as ambassador to Pakistan from 1988 to 1991, later remarked, “If you mix Islam with politics, you have a much more potent explosive brew, and that was quite successful in getting the Soviets out of Afghanistan.”

        In fact, the CIA had been backing Afghan Islamists well before the Russians invaded the country in December 1979. Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s national-security adviser, later boasted to Le Nouvel Observateur that the president had “signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul” six monthsprior to the invasion. “And that very day,” Brzezinski recalled, “I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.” The war that inevitably followed killed a million Afghans…]

  10. P J Evans says:

    Bob Goodlatte is talking about his office’s ‘investigation’ of her visa application.
    Why is he running off at the mouth about it?

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