Nicholas Teausant, the Californian who sought to join ISIS in Syria and spoke of bombing a “Zionist” daycare center, has pleaded guilty to supporting a terrorist organization. According to news reports, prosecutors had sought approval from the Justice Department for a plea deal with Teausant, but on December 1 he pleaded guilty apart from any such agreement.
The day after Teausant’s guilty plea, American-born Syed Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik, a Pakistani national, murdered 14 Americans and injured 21 in San Bernardino, California. The mass murder was the worst terrorist attack since September 11, 2001 but in the early going public officials hesitated to identify the killings as terrorism. The president invoked “workplace violence,” as he had in the case of Nidal Hasan, the Army psychiatrist who murdered 13 unarmed American soldiers at Ford Hood, Texas, in 2009.
Unlike that case, San Bernardino police managed to kill Farook and Tashfeen in a shootout with no loss of innocent life. The couple’s residence, police and FBI agents discovered, was a veritable bomb factory and arsenal.
The 14 victims included African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, and a Jewish American, Nicholas Thalasinos, but public officials did not describe the attack as a hate crime. The oldest victim, Isaac Amanios, 60, had come to American fleeing violence in Eritrea. Amanios shared a cubicle with Syed Farook, who worked as a health inspector. Victim Bennetta Betbadal, 46, fled to America from Iran to escape Islamic extremism and the persecution of Christians, according to a statement from her family. The mother of three earned a chemistry degree from Cal Poly Pomona. Victim Michael Wetzel, 37, had six children.
Relatives of victims told reporters they found it disturbing that Farhan Kahn, Syed Farook’s brother-in-law, spoke at a CAIR news conference on December 2 instead of speaking first with law enforcement. Kahn proclaimed himself an “honorable person” and said he had “absolutely no idea” why Syed Farook would act in such a manner. According to Syed Farook Sr., the killer’s father, his son was a supporter of the Islamic State and “obsessed by Israel.”
Media responses to the terrorist attack spanned a wide range of opinion. Erin Burnett of CNN wondered if “postpartum” psychosis” motivated Tashfeen Malik, mother of an infant the couple left with a relative before killing the 14 Americans. It emerged that Malik had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and had contact with two overseas terrorist organizations. In Pakistan she attended the Al Huda Institute, which promotes fundamentalist Islam. Al Huda has a branch in Mississauga, Canada.
California governor Jerry Brown invoked gun control but Brown also told reporters, “I don’t want to minimize the significance of this terrorist attack.” Brown saw the attack as a “very clear indication that this is a global phenomenon, and that people who are committed to this jihadist doctrine are going to be killing people in very unexpected places. So as I’ve said, we have to be on guard, and we have to do whatever we can do. And I’m going to be spending some time making sure that our federal-state collaboration really is working and that our own threat-assessment centers are adequately staffed and led to get the job done.”
Farook and Malik’s mass murder spree invited speculation about the safety of mass events such as the Rose Parade. With nearly 40 million people, California offers many inviting targets to Islamic terrorists. Ahmed Ressam, for example, aimed to blow up LAX in 1999, stopped only by a sharp-eyed customs agent in Washington State.
ISIS supporter Nicholas Teausant, meanwhile, faces 15 years in prison and will be sentenced on March 8, 2016. Teausant will join Hamid Hayat of Lodi, California, convicted in 2006 on four counts of providing material support to terrorists. Hayat was born in the United States but spent half his life in Pakistan where he attended terrorist training camps. He is now serving 24 years for providing material support to terrorism.
In 2013, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Hayat’s conviction. His father, Umer Hayat pleaded guilty to a lesser charge in a different case and served 11 months.