San Bernardino shooting suspects Tashfeen Malik and Syed Rizwan Farook did not apparently express an interest in jihad publicly prior to the day of the shooting, according to the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Around the time of the deadly Dec. 2 attack, Malik, 28, reportedly pledged allegiance on Facebook to the leader of the self-proclaimed Islamic State on behalf of herself and her husband, Farook, 29. However, the couple only expressed their “joint commitment to jihad and to martyrdom” through private messages prior to the attack, FBI Director James Comey told reporters Wednesday at 1 Police Plaza in New York City.
“I’ve seen some reporting on that, and that’s a garble.”
“Those communications are direct, private messages,” Comey said. “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,” added Comey.
Law enforcement officials reportedly dated the messages between Malik and Farook to late 2013, before they were engaged. Malik arrived in the United States from Pakistan in July 2014 on a K1 fiancée visa after passing three background checks by American immigration officials.
Only a few months passed before the husband-and-wife duo fatally shot 14 people and wounded 20 others in what the FBI is calling a terrorism-inspired attack.
Responding to criticism over what some have characterized as a breach at the U.S. border, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said on Wednesday that his department has been consulting with social media companies on immigration screening.
Reuters reported on Wednesday that the U.S. government has began “testing new procedures for reviewing social media activity of foreigners seeking U.S. entry visas.” The official who discussed the procedures would not elaborate further.
The recent terrorist attacks in California and Paris have renewed calls to bolster national security and online surveillance. An NBC News poll released Sunday showed that 40 percent of Americans believe terrorism is the top priority for the federal government, a 19-point rise from earlier in the year. At Tuesday night’s GOP debate, committing the government to monitoring social was a no-brainer for 2016 Republican presidential candidates.
“My gosh,” Former Gov. Mike Huckabee said. “We were told we couldn’t do it because it might invade somebody’s privacy. This lady who came over here and shot up San Bernardino was posting things on Facebook, yet, we were restricted from looking.”
A State Department spokesman told reporters on Wednesday that there is no policy prohibiting social media checks on people entering the country, though there’s no requirement to investigate online profiles either.
Sen. Lindsey Graham said that “any system that would allow a terrorist to communicate with somebody in our country and we can’t find out what they’re saying is stupid.” And Former Sen. Rick Santorum concurred with Huckabee: “We should in fact be looking at people’s social media posts. That’s just common sense.”
Update 3:14pm CT, Dec. 16: Law enforcement sources have informed multiple news outlets that the Facebook post pleding allegiance to ISIS went up at roughly 15 minutes after the attack began. The FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
H/T Washington Post | Illustration by Max Fleishman