Sources indicate heated tension between President Obama and FBI Director James Comey about the nature of the San Bernardino shooting, which left 14 civilians dead. Although the FBI believed that it was an act of terrorism from the beginning, immense political pressure was brought down on investigators to avoid using the term “terrorism,” with Obama stating, “It is possible that this is terrorist related, but we don’t know…It is also possible that this was workplace related.”
A SOFREP source confirmed that after the shooting, Obama held a meeting in the Oval Office with his National Security Council, the attorney general, and the directors of the DHS, FBI, and NSA, in which a directive was given to downplay the terrorism angle. Such meetings are not held for mass shootings. Besides that, SIGINT aircraft like the ones the U.S. military flies over Africa (programs such as Creek Sand and Aztec Archer previously detailed on SOFREP) and Afghanistan don’t slurp up data from the skies over California unless the government is actively searching for other members of a terrorist cell. The same was done after the Boston bombings and the attempted Times Square bombing.
If the San Bernardino killings are linked to terrorism, especially if they were directed or even inspired by ISIS, then the administration will come under immense pressure to “do something” in Syria. It has previously sought a minimalist strategy focused on not overly committing U.S. ground troops to the fight. Beyond this, it was clear early on that this was an act of terrorism. The two suspects, Tashfeen Malik and Sayad Farook, are radicalized Muslims who had pledged allegiance to ISIS on social media.
The FBI’s Los Angeles field office and local police are scared of losing any and all credibility by not declaring the shootings an act of terrorism, especially considering another recent incident in which they were made to look as if they were hiding information from the public. In the face of relevations about Farook having contact with ISIS, Al-Nusra, and Al-Shabaab, the FBI was finally forced to make an announcement that they were pursuing a terrorism investigation, whether the White House liked it or not.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch simply announced that the Department of Justice would prosecute people for anti-Muslim rhetoric. Former DIA chief Michael Flynn has also recently gone on the record to say that Obama is downplaying domestic terrorism angle because it doesn’t fit his reelection narrative claiming al-Qaeda was on the run. “I think that they did not meet a narrative the White House needed,” he said, referencing the rise of ISIS.
The FBI is said to be frightened of crossing the White House’s party line while they attempt to investigate the San Bernardino shootings. After 9/11, and the more recent attacks in Paris, law enforcement officials served warrants, investigated known associates, and did what they needed to do to gather evidence and make arrests. Now, the FBI is afraid of investigating the mosque Farook attended, as Obama’s priority seems to be avoiding anti-Muslim backlash. All Director Comey can do is plead with the White House to allow his agents to properly investigate the crime.
It is also worth noting that the FBI cannot access the suspects’ phone logs due to the expiration of bulk collection warrants that came in the aftermath of the Edward Snowden scandal. The warrant expired four days prior to the San Bernardino attack.
Finally, last night, President Obama made a direct appeal to the American public in an address from the Oval Office, in which he directly called the San Bernardino killings an act of terrorism. There was no further patience for labeling the incident anything else. Much of the president’s speech was on target. He told Americans that one of the biggest mistakes we could make is categorizing the war against ISIS as a war against Islam, that committing to a large ground force in Iraq and Syria would be a strategic mistake, and that we should take a closer look at how terrorists are allowed to obtain U.S. visas.
Obama also rightly called on Congress to authorize military action against ISIS, as the American campaign has thus far taken place under the auspices of the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which was enacted following 9/11. This congressional authorization would give further legitimacy to the strategy Obama has been pursuing in Syria and Iraq, using air strikes, special operations teams, and local partners to defeat ISIS.
Obama then veered far off course, stating that Americans who are placed on the “no fly” list should not be able to purchase a firearm. Individuals placed on the “no fly” terrorist watch list are not allowed to board an airplane in the United States, and the list itself has come under intense criticism over the years as almost anyone can be placed on it for little reason. Less than one percent of the people requested to be put on the no fly list are rejected, and there is no clear path to be taken off the list. Stripping Americans of their constitutional right to bear arms without due process is simply illegal.
However, Obama’s most egregious, and dangerous, gaffe came when he stated that at the moment there is no intelligence indicating that the San Bernardino shooters received direction or funding from terrorist organizations overseas. While Obama made this statement on television last night, the Department of Defense and Special Operations Command’s Threat Finance Agency has concluded that Malik and Farook most likely received funding from terrorists abroad. With this in mind, the Threat Finance Agency has issued alerts to the appropriate banking institutions to flag financial transitions from specific banks accounts.
For the moment, America will continue to live with Islamic terrorism, a problem Obama described as a cancer with no clear cure.