FBI Director James B. Comey gave a statement to the media regarding the suspected attackers in the San Bernardino, Calif., massacre. According to investigations Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik wrote private messages to each other stating support for jihad. “So far, in this investigation we have found no evidence of posting on social media by either of them at that period in time and thereafter reflecting their commitment to jihad or to martyrdom. I’ve seen some reporting on that, and that’s a garble,” Comey said at a media availability during an event in New York City.
Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik were “showing signs in their communication of their joint commitment to jihad and to martyrdom” through private messages, rather than publicly visible postings, Comey said. “Those communications are direct, private messages,” Comey said during a news conference.
Comey also stated that there was also no proof that the married couple were part of a terrorist cell, echoing investigators’ views that the pair were inspired by, rather than organized by, Islamic State.
Comey’s attempt to elucidate that point came the day after Tuesday night’s GOP debate. At that debate, Republican presidential nominee Ted Cruz said, “It’s not a lack of competence that is preventing the Obama administration from stopping these attacks. It is political correctness. We didn’t monitor the Facebook posting of the female San Bernardino terrorist because the Obama DHS thought it would be inappropriate. She made a public call to jihad, and they didn’t target it.”
In an English-language radio broadcast on the Saturday after the attack, ISIS claimed Farook and Malik as “soldiers of the caliphate.” An Arabic version of the same message referred to them as “supporters,” which The New York Times notes is a term “denoting a less direct connection to the terrorist group.” Terror outfits sometimes claim credit for strikes, even if they’re not directly responsible.
Speaking at 1 Police Plaza, the New York Police Department’s headquarters in Lower Manhattan, Comey said the FBI follows the law when investigating people. “We don’t intercept the communications of Americans…without predication, without probable cause or belief that they are involved in terrorism or serious criminal activity,” he said. “If we don’t know anything about somebody we are not combing through their emails or direct messages.”
Former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina another candidate for the Republican nomination, echoed that claim. “For heaven’s sakes, every parent in America is checking social media and every employer is as well, but our government can’t do it?” she also made a point to say that the couple had made problematic declarations that authorities had ignored. However Comey clarified and said on Wednesday that there weren’t any declarations that were public.
The couple, who had a child, killed 14 people at a holiday party in the California City last month, an attack that officials have since said was inspired by Islamist terrorists. Comey repeatedly clarified and said that Malik and Farook didn’t appear to be administered or controlled by a foreign terrorist organization.