Nine days after 14 people were shot dead in California by a married couple the FBI says were inspired by Islamic extremism, the US Republican chairman of a key US Senate panel on Friday demanded that the US Department of Justice turn over much of the evidence collected so far in the case.
In a letter to US Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson asked her agency to furnish the requested evidence, along with answers to more than a dozen questions he posed about the investigation, by Dec. 24.
A US Department of Justice spokesman declined to comment, except to say, “We have received the letter and will review it.”
The 10-page letter gives no explicit rationale for the request other than to cite the committee’s congressional oversight authority in matters of national security, but the nature of Johnson’s queries and scope of the evidence he asked to review indicated his committee was looking for possible intelligence lapses in tracking extremist activity that might have worked to the killers’ benefit.
“What did you miss and how can we tighten that up,” a source close to the senator said in characterizing the core of Johnson’s inquiry.
Among the materials Johnson requested are any communications unearthed by investigators pointing to the couple’s plans for the massacre, how they concealed their intentions from law enforcement and any other attacks they might have contemplated.
He also asked for information the department had obtained that would suggest any sponsorship of the couple by “a foreign terrorist organization.”
US officials have said their investigation has yet to turn up any evidence that Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, or his wife, Tashfeen Malik, 29, were directed by foreign militants when they stormed a holiday gathering of his coworkers on Dec. 2 and opened fire with assault rifles.
Fourteen people died and 22 others were injured in the shooting, which the FBI said it is treating as an act of terrorism inspired by Islamic extremism, the most lethal such attack on US soil since Sept. 11, 2001.
Farook, the US-born son of Pakistani immigrants and Malik, a Pakistani native he married last year in Saudi Arabia, were killed in a shootout with police hours after their assault in San Bernardino, 100km east of Los Angeles.
The US Senate inquiry came about as new Gallup poll released on Friday showed Americans losing confidence in their government’s ability to protect them from militant attacks.
Last week’s deadly mass shooting has sparked intense debate about how Farook and Malik managed to avoid detection by law enforcement as they planned their attack while amassing a large arsenal of weapons, ammunition and explosives.
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