The 18-Minute Gap

The FBI had a press conference today to ask for help filling in the last 18 minutes of the 4-hour gap between the time  San Bernardino killer Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, shot up his holiday party and the time cops killed them in a shootout.

In the absence of any other evidence the couple worked with a more organized group, the FBI wants to make sure the couple didn’t do anything in that 18-minute window that would indicate some kind of cooperation.

[A]mid signs that the investigation is slowing down, they issued a public appeal for help from anyone who might have information on what the couple, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, did from 12:59 p.m. to 1:17 p.m. on Dec. 2, perhaps in the form of a witness sighting or an image by a stray surveillance camera.

[snip]

Officials said Mr. Farook left his home at 8:37 a.m. and arrived at the Inland Regional Center, where co-workers were attending a morning training session and a holiday party, at 8:47 a.m. They said he left at 10:37 a.m., leaving behind a knapsack filled with pipe bombs that were never detonated. He returned at 10:56 with Ms. Malik and opened fire, leaving 14 people dead and 22 injured.

From there, the couple went to Seccombe Lake, which is a short drive from the Inland Regional Center. F.B.I. divers searched the lake last month and found no items related to the investigation.

[snip]
Mr. Bowdich said the couple spent most of the four hours after the attack driving.

“A lot of zigzagging around, going back and forth on the highway, going up and down,” he said. “There is no rhyme or reason to it that we can find yet. Maybe that 18-minute gap closes that gap, maybe it doesn’t.”

Frankly, I’m more interested in why the FBI doesn’t have cell phone tracking data from this period, especially given that they clearly have it from after the 18 minute gap. I asked on Twitter today but none of the journalists who covered this presser seem to have asked that obvious question (though there seems to be a map indicating some kind of cell tracking).

If they shut off their phones or otherwise hid their tracks, it would suggest some importance to whatever they were doing in that 18 minute gap.

One thing the FBI didn’t say, nor any of the crack reports I saw covering the press conference, is that the 18 minute gap — from 12:59 p.m. to 1:17 — happens to coincide with a period when Farook’s now arrested buddy, Enrique Marquez, was not captured on his employers’ closed circuit video.

Screen Shot 2016-01-05 at 9.35.28 PM

Frankly, that’s not the most interesting possibility for the couple’s actions in that window (and I don’t know whether Marquez’ employer was in the geographical window where the couple may have been).

But as I noted, Marquez’ claims to have dissociated from Farook after they planned a terrorist attack in 2012 don’t accord with the fact that he fake-married Farook’s brother’s sister-in-law.

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.

15 replies
  1. rg says:

    And they say history doesn’t repeat. Yet now we have ANOTHER 18 minute gap to ponder. I get that what time Marquez came and went were recorded on a work punch clock, but how is it known what time Farook left home , or what time (to the minute) that any of these other events occurred?

  2. bloopie2 says:

    I think it’s fairly obvious. The 18-minute gap is in Gap Heaven, joining the Cumberland Gap and the Delaware Water Gap; Ireland’s Barnesmore Gap and Moll’s Gap; the beauteous Lauren Hutton gap; and of course those other famous surveillance gaps, the Ocean’s Eleven casino vault surveillance gap and Rose Mary Woods’ 18-1/2 minute Nixon tapes gap.
    .
    Really, though, they’re still working on that? To what end? Wouldn’t such resources be better spent trying to actually prevent another such incident? Or is that not the job of the FBI? If not, then whose job is it?

    • emptywheel says:

      In this case I actually support the obsession.

      The attack always looked to be driven by Malik, not Farook, even if the office politics may have precipitated it. I find that interesting bc 1) she was recruited to violence in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, 2) they were set up in Saudi Arabia, 3) the Saudis at first disclaimed her documented residency there.

      Plus, they clearly tried to hide something on their phone, all while trying to pretend an affiliation with ISIS (which, as I noted, is the easiest way to stop any investigation into other links).

      There’s something stinky about this attack and I’m happy the FBI is trying to figure out why.

  3. orionATL says:

    so the fbi can track your movements entirely over a 4hour span merely by using standard in-place surveillance equipment like security cameras and license plate readers, plus cell phone records?

    why, they could have tracked ew all the way to gramma’s house and back. each time the sleigh stopped at a major intersection, stopped for hay and some rest at a reststop, or ew used her cell phone, there be new tracks in the fbi’s surveillance snow. impressive.

    so naturally they have that info for marquez, right?

    and for any visits marquez has with his attorney, and any other visitors such as experts to marquez’s attorney.

    oh brave new world.

  4. P J Evans says:

    It’s possible they were in one of the many dead areas for cell coverage. (I lived in one for a year. I was a quarter mile from a freeway, on a major street, and still no coverage. Had to walk half a mile down the street to use the phone. In Los Angeles.)

  5. orionATL says:

    on the guns used.

    initialy i thought it was ak47(s?) and a glock pistol.

    the i read ar-___ (dont recall that number) and assumed that official.

    now its a smith and wesson rifle and one other with an odd name. pistols not mentioned.

      • orionATL says:

        here is a very informative dec 3 article from the washington post. the post was consistently excellent in reporting on san bernardino, by far the most reliable, informative, and fact-based of the news media i read.
        .
        https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/suspects-in-san-bernadino-shooting-had-a-small-arsenal/2015/12/03/9b5d7b52-99db-11e5-94f0-9eeaff906ef3_story.html

        the one assault rifle i was puzzled about was indeed a ar-15 manufactured by dpma (who the hell are they?)

        with regard to president obama’s efforts to do something abour gun violence, this section of the post article is a must read. it draws a clear picture of ammunition manufacturers gaming the system for profit to the harm of the nation’s citizens. this example shows how very effective presidential intervention can be to halt this gaming the system:
        .

        [… Caliornia law bans assault-style, semiautomatic rifles with the capability to accept a detachable ammunition magazine, because detachable, high-capacity magazines give people the ability to shoot a large number of rounds and to reload quickly. But in California, an ammunition magazine isn’t considered detachable if a “tool” is required to remove it from the weapon, according to the Violence Policy Center, which has published a study on the state’s assault-weapons ban.

        Gun owners, though, can purchase an assault weapon if it has a tiny device called a “bullet button.” It is a release button for the ammunition magazine that is activated by using the tip of a bullet as a “tool,” still allowing the detachable ammunition magazine to be removed and replaced quickly….]

        the wapo article in part:

        [… By Sari Horwitz December 3, 2015  

        The guns used in the San Bernardino, Calif., shooting were all purchased legally from federally licensed firearms dealers, according to law enforcement officials.

        The assailants, Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, a county health worker, and Tashfeen Malik, 27, a woman described as his Pakistan-born wife, used two assault rifles. Law enforcement officials identified the rifles as a DPMS model AR-15 and a Smith & Wesson M&P 15. The rifles were .223-caliber, law enforcement officials said.

        The couple also had two semiautomatic handguns, which were manufactured by Smith & Wesson and Llama, and four .223-caliber magazines of ammunition. They were wearing tactical clothing, including vests that held ammunition, police said.

        The firearms were all purchased in 2011 and 2012, the officials said.

        The shooters fired 65 to 75 rounds in the Inland Regional Center, where 14 people were killed, according to police…

        … California law bans assault-style, semiautomatic rifles with the capability to accept a detachable ammunition magazine, because detachable, high-capacity magazines give people the ability to shoot a large number of rounds and to reload quickly. But in California, an ammunition magazine isn’t considered detachable if a “tool” is required to remove it from the weapon, according to the Violence Policy Center, which has published a study on the state’s assault-weapons ban.

        Gun owners, though, can purchase an assault weapon if it has a tiny device called a “bullet button.” It is a release button for the ammunition magazine that is activated by using the tip of a bullet as a “tool,” still allowing the detachable ammunition magazine to be removed and replaced quickly… ]

  6. orionATL says:

    a smith & wesson assault rifle was used in san bernadino.

    but if you think that was entirely the responsibility of the company read this article:
    .
    http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jan/07/nra-gun-control-shootings-obama-regulations-clinton

    and understand the the nra is a tyrannical and fanatical organization.

    understand also that the nrw understands that it is in danger of complete, unrecoverable collapse if any part of its support withdraws.

    in short, the nra is a weak organization whose strength lies in keeping its small group key co gressional and corporate supporters strictly in line.

  7. ne plus ultra says:

    That is an interesting coincidence about the gap.

    Marquez worked at Walmart as a security guard. He also had the weekend gig at the bar. And who knows, maybe he had another, but my guess for the 7:00 am-4:00 pm job is Walmart. There are about a dozen Walmarts within 10-15 miles of Redlands.

    He clocked in at 12:54. I guess he could have clocked in and then gone elsewhere, but Walmarts have enough cameras that you’d think the exit would be covered.

    If the thought is that he somehow met Farook and Malik, you’d also have to wonder how it would have been arranged. Pre-arranged? You’d expect them to set a time during lunch, not after, which ran the risk of someone noticing that he clocked in then left. So if there was a post-lunch meet-up, it must have been arranged on the fly. How? Given that they didn’t have enough operational security sense to turn their personal phones off while driving, it seems unlikely that they had the sense to use burner phones. And you would expect if they called each other on their regular phones, the FBI would already have that record.

    It’s an interesting coincidence, and I hope the FBI follows up on it. But it seems likely not to amount to much.

    My guess for the 12:54 – 1:59 gap is that Marquez normally works in a particular spot covered directly by the camera, but that during the hour after his lunch, he was assigned elsewhere, not covered by the camera, but that his whereabouts were still confirmed by Walmart managers. I think they would have been very aware of the locations of their security people on what must have been the most nerve-wracking early afternoon in San Bernardino in decades. I can’t imagine he was clocked-in but AWOL.

    I agree with you that there are mysteries surrounding Marquez need to be cleared up, particularly because of the mysteries surrounding the ‘pro-ISIS” FB post, etc.

  8. Evangelista says:

    The more I learn of the “evidences”, and the gaps, not only the 18 minute one they are now trying to fill, the ones before the event and in the events and after, the less I believe that Farouk and Malik were involved in the shooting, and the more I suspect the incident was produced by someone trying to perpetrate an American ‘Charlie Hebdo event’ who picked Farouk from Marquez file info, and that Marquez was an FBI contact who ‘created’ Farouk a “terrorist” on his own nickel to start money-flow from the FBI and to keep it flowing. I am seeing less and less evidence of Farouk and Malik having been even aware of the plot, or Farouk’s, or Malik’s, having been “terrorists”, in 2011, 2012, in California, in Pakistan or in Saudi Arabia. There are too many holes, The FBI are too long and well established standard-issue bunko-liars, and Police, not only in LA and SoCal, but across the USA, being evidence-planters, fabricators, generators and liars. Missing evidences are not evidences, and making evidences, and witnesses, go missing are two common and standard means to cloud and obfuscate. Note, too, that in over 95% of “police shoot-outs” all shots fired are police shots, and suspects’ “guns” are way too often in the imaginations of the police shooters. Before Saudi Arabia’s new year’s ‘house-cleaning’ there certainly were Americans who had no idea how the Saudi legal system was working, who therefore had excuse for being clueless re: Saudi Arabia, but after, now, today, is it still possible for any to imagine Saudi Arabia a likely location for radicalization schooling? Even if we assign going jihadi to be a plausible form of post-partum depression manifestation, the scenario has problems. Problems that are starting to look more and more like those that plagued the perpetrators of the “Make this radical-acting guy Oswald the perpetrator” gamesters, who, the evidences indicate, made the mistake of picking an agency operative who was being ‘credentialed’ by his agency for credibility in the field.

    How much of the evidence is evidence, and how much is being created is the question, including being created by wannabe believers pulling and stretching to force things to tie in and fit together?

Comments are closed.