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FBI investigates shooting as act of terrorism

<p>The FBI announced Friday that it is now investigating Wednesday’s massacre in San Bernardino, California, that killed 14 and wounded 21 as a terrorist attack, citing evidence that showed extensive planning and explosives.</p><p>&quot;We are now investigating these horrific acts as an act of terrorism,&quot; said David Bowdich, the assistant director in charge for the FBI’s Los Angeles field office, at a news conference in San Bernardino.</p><p>But federal authorities still seemed puzzled by the conflicting information about the attackers’ possible motivations. &quot;There’s a lot of evidence in this case that doesn’t quite make sense,&quot; said FBI Director James Comey at a news conference on Friday.</p><p>The bureau’s probe has &quot;developed indications of radicalism by the killers,&quot; Comey said, suggesting they had been influenced by a foreign terrorist organization. But there was no evidence of direction from abroad, he said. &quot;There’s no indication they are part of a network.&quot;</p> <p>Nothing the killers did had put them on the FBI’s &quot;radar screen,&quot; Comey said.</p> <p>Bowdich declined to state definitively whether the two suspects, Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, 27, were inspired by ISIL, remarking that many facts remain unknown. He confirmed that investigators found two crushed cellphones in a trash can, showing a desire on the part of the attackers to destroy their digital fingerprints.</p> <p>&quot;We have retained those cellphones, and we do continue to exploit the data from those cellphones,&quot; he said. &quot;We do hope that the digital fingerprints that were left by these two individuals will take us towards their motivation. That evidence is incredibly important.&quot;</p><br><p>The New York Times had reported earlier that in the days leading up to the attack, Malik and Farook deleted online information about themselves to cover up their electronic footprints. The report cited authorities who said that has led them to believe that Wednesday’s massacre was a premeditated act.</p> <p>Asked whether this represented the first ISIL attack in the U.S., Bowdich said that would be a &quot;leap,&quot; that all of the facts must be discovered first. But if confirmed, the mass shooting would be the deadliest act of Islamic-inspired terrorism on U.S. soil since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. It would represent a severe blow to President Barack Obama’s credibility in protecting the American homeland from terrorist threats, underscoring Republican warnings that the White House has underestimated the scale of the problem.</p> <p>The female shooter is believed to have pledged allegiance to the head of the Islamic State on social media, it emerged Friday. Malik posted a message on Facebook supporting ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as the attack began, a person familiar with the investigation confirmed to POLITICO. CNN first reported on the posting.</p> <p>“I’m aware of the Facebook post you’re mentioning,&quot; Bowdich told a reporter at the briefing. &quot;I know it was in a general timeline where that post was made, and yes, there was a pledge of allegiance.&quot;</p> <p>Bowdich was also asked about an ISIL-affiliated news agency’s claim that followers of the group had carried out the attacks. &quot;I’m not surprised. I’ve not heard of that yet,&quot; he said. &quot;It only helps them to be able to attach themselves to an act like this.”</p><p>Experts on ISIL said the news agency’s online posting did not yet represent an official claim of responsibility. Nor was it clear whether Malik’s Facebook post meant she had any connection to the terrorist group. “At this point, we believe they were more self-radicalized and inspired by the group than actually told to do the shooting,” a federal law enforcement official told the Times earlier.</p><p>But the attorneys for the family of the shooters cautioned the media against making rash judgments before the investigation was complete. They insinuated that if the shooters had been of a different religion, it might not be a terrorist investigation, and that the media would treat the attack differently.</p><p>“I think every investigation the FBI does when it involves a Muslim will involve some type of terrorist investigation,” Mohammad Abuershaid, an attorney for the family, said during a press conference Friday. </p><p>The lawyers also drew a contrast to how the media covered last week’s shooting at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs that left three dead. “When a Christian goes to shoot up a Planned Parenthood or a Catholic goes to bomb an abortion clinic all the headlines don’t say extremist radical Christian, Catholic … just like right now every headline is saying Muslim,&quot; the other attorney, David Chesley, said. </p><p>The lawyers said not to rule out the possibility that the attack could have been triggered by workplace disgruntlement. They stated multiple times that coworkers had made fun of Farook’s beard, and said he had very few friends at work.</p> <p>Law enforcement officials on Friday played down the possibility of any further attacks. “What I can tell you is, we are not aware of any further threats in the U.S. at this time,&quot; Bowdich said. San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon said that there are &quot;no known credible threats to the communities that we serve.&quot;</p><p>The husband and wife attackers, who were killed in a police shootout, had amassed an arsenal of weapons and ammunition at their middle-class Redlands, California, home, leading police to earlier conclude that there had been &quot;a degree of planning&quot; behind it. According to officials, the couple sprayed 65 to 75 rounds of ammunition from four guns at the holiday work party — two .223 assault-style rifles and two 9mm pistols. All four guns were purchased legally. At their house, police discovered 4,500 rounds of ammunition as well as 12 pipe bombs in the garage.</p><p>&quot;Nobody just gets upset at a party, goes home and puts together that kind of an elaborate scheme or plan to come back and do that,&quot; San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said on Thursday.</p><p>The attack comes at a particularly fraught time politically, less than a month after the Nov. 13 ISIL-backed shootings and suicide bombings in France that killed 130 and less than a week after a man opened fire at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado, killing three. As details of the San Bernardino shooting emerged, it became clear that the latest massacre did not fit as neat of a political narrative.</p><p>Republicans have generally focused on the killers’ potential links to Islamic radicals, while Democrats — including President Obama — have urged stricter gun control measures.</p><br><p>The White House earlier this week had been hesitant to define the attack as terrorism, drawing fire from Republican presidential candidates. Obama said on Thursday that it is &quot;possible&quot; that the shooting was terrorist-related, workplace-related, or a hybrid of the two.</p><p>“As the investigation moves forward, it’s going to be important for all of us — including our legislatures — to see what we can do to make sure that when individuals decide that they want to do somebody harm, we’re making it a little harder for them to do it,” Obama said of the role that guns played in this and other recent massacres. “Because right now, it’s just too easy.” </p><p>Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus rebuked Obama and other Democrats for exploiting the massacre to push for gun control. The Republican-led Senate rejected a pair of gun-control measures Thursday. </p><p>“Apparently the Democrat Party isn’t willing to let this ‘crisis go to waste,’ even if it means making it harder for Americans to protect themselves after terrorists again showed their ability to strike on U.S. soil,” Priebus said in a statement. “More broadly, this attack is another troubling reminder of how badly President Obama and the Democrat Party have handled the threat of radical Islamic terrorism and the rise of ISIS.”</p><p>GOP presidential candidates blasted the president’s policies on Friday.</p><p>&quot;The best example I can give you of how detached President Obama is from the reality of radical Islam is the first thing out of his mouth when he heard this attack was a call for gun control,&quot; Sen. Lindsey Graham said on Fox News.</p><p>&quot;Obama passivity allows ISIS to adapt, plan, &amp; plot. Need to take fight to terrorists, deny sanctuary, disrupt networks, discredit ideology,&quot; former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush tweeted.</p><p>&quot;The horrible shooting that took place in San Bernardino was an absolute act of terror that many people knew about. Why didn’t they report?&quot; tweeted billionaire Donald Trump.</p><p>At Friday’s White House briefing, spokesman Josh Earnest declined to comment specifically on the ongoing investigation into the San Bernardino attack, referring questions to the FBI. But he issued a broad defense of the Obama administration’s counterterrorism policies.</p><p>“Let me just say in general that the president and our national security officials have talked about how challenging it is to disrupt particularly lone wolf attacks,&quot; Earnest said. &quot;But, if you take a look at the track record, and particularly the important work that is done by the FBI and the Department of Justice, their record of disrupting these kinds of plans before they’re carried out is good and should give the American people confidence in the capabilities that we have and in the resources that are used to confront this threat.”</p><p>Officials have said that Farook returned to the U.S. in July 2014 after traveling internationally, returning with Malik, whom he had not yet married. Malik, who lived for years in Saudi Arabia, traveled under a Pakistani passport with a K-1 visa, which is typically issued to the fianc&eacute; or fianc&eacute;e of a U.S. citizen seeking entry into the country. The two had a 6-month-old daughter.</p><p>&quot;I think he married a terrorist,&quot; Farook’s coworker told CBS News, speculating that Malik had radicalized him since the couple returned from Saudi Arabia.</p><p>“I’ve been asked that and I don’t know the answer whether she influenced him or not,&quot; Bowdich said Friday, adding that the agency &quot;did not have her under investigation previously.”</p><p><i>Josh Gerstein and Nolan McCaskill contributed.</i></p><br>

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