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A year after San Bernardino, still no proof it was a terrorist attack.

Nigel Morris-Co...

It is unfortunate that, in the USA, the word terrorism is so easily bandied about that it has all but lost its meaning. A year ago, a mass killing occurred, but there remains no definitive evidence that the attack was, in fact, motivated by ideology which is a requirement for it to be classified as terrorism. Prosecutors and media must be more careful in their choice of words.

Even more, there is no evidence that the conduct took place in order to influence policy. California's Attorney General Kamala Harris has added credence to the description of the actions as terrorism. We should not be surprised: US prosecutors have a tendency to make statements as if opinion is fact. They shouldn't.

In a statement issued on 3rd December, Harris said "“One year after the devastating and tragic terrorist attack in San Bernardino..." We can, in the circumstances, forgive her the use of over-worked adjectives but we cannot allow her failure to properly describe a criminal offence, the prosecution of which is, after all, her job.

The facts, as they are known are simple: at a training seminar on 2nd December 2016, a group of employees of San Bernardino Health Service included a 28 year old man called Syed Rizwan Farook. Part way through the seminar, he left the room and returned shortly afterwards with his 29 year old wife, Tashfeen Malik. Using guns they brought with them, the pair shot approximately 100 rounds at Farook's colleagues and then ran from the room.

They were later tracked down and killed during a gun battle in a residential road.

Despite detailed investigation of their lives, computers, homes and connections, the best the authorities have found is that Farook declared himself a follower of Da'esh's (he called it ISIL) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (a nom de guerre) and even that was hardly secret: he did it on Facebook. In the absence of evidence of any encouragement or support from the terrorist group, authorities have more or less given up trying to find the source of his recruitment and consider him to be a self-starter, self-radicalised type. However, it is also known that couple were not hard-line religious until Malik went on holiday to the Middle East and returned with a different view. It is her that the Jarrod Burguan, San Bernardino's Chief of Police, was heard to say that Muslims should not be forced to take part in non-Muslim celebrations. That, the police now think, might have been in response to the fact that the training room was adorned with Christmas decorations.

There are connections between the couple and their next door neighbour who had some contact with Islam and sometimes attended prayers although he had not converted, it is reported. https://www.washingtonpost.com....

Barguan is quoted in the Washington Post as saying "That really is one of the very, very few pieces of potential evidence that we have that we can truly point to and say, that possibly is a motive in this case".

And in that sentence is the biggest red flag for Harris and those who would abuse the word of the law: there is only "potential evidence" and even then it is only "possibly" a motive. That's a long way from saying it's terrorism and prosecutors should realise that it is not they who make such determinations and the media should realise the same. It is only a finding by a court that turns a mass killing into terrorism, not the hyperbole of politicians and journalists.

The San Bernardino pair were horrible, nasty, brutal and a whole raft of other unpleasant adjectives. But one thing that they have not been proved to be is terrorists.