2ND UPDATE: 12:45 PM PT: It does not appear the two perpetrators of Wednesday’s mass shooting in San Bernardino are part of an organized cell or part of a network, FBI director James Comey said at a news conference this afternoon.
“We are going through a very large volume of electronic evidence … these killers tried to destroy,” Comey said with Attorney General Loretta Lynch at his side. “There is a lot of evidence that doesn’t quite make sense,” he acknowledged. But “our investigation to date, so far we have no indication these killers are part of a larger organized group or part of a cell. There is no indication they are part of a network,” he maintained.
“Second, there is nothing in our holdings about these two killers,” Comey continued, saying reporting about one of the killers having been in contact with people who had been the subject of FBI investigations is misleading. “I would urge you not to make too much of that. There were no contacts between either of the killers and subjects of our investigations that were of such significance it raised either of these killers up onto our radar screen.”
“We know this is very unsettling for the people of the United States,” Comey said, adding, “We hope you will not let fear become disabling, but instead try to channel it into an awareness of your surrounding to get you to place where you are living your life. But, if you see something that doesn’t make sense you say something to somebody…Let us do the work you pay us to do, which is to investigate and fight terrorism, while you live the lives that are so wonderful in this great country of ours.”
Meanwhile, CNN and MSNBC have issued statements about their reporters and cameras being among many that entered, at the invitation of the landlord, the apartment rented by Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik. The networks were among many news outlets that broadcast footage of 50-100 (depending on your source) reporters and rubberneckers traipsing through the apartment while anchors and analysts watched in disbelief. Reporters Who Cover Television have been feasting on the jaw-dropping footage all afternoon.
CNN: “CNN, like many other news organizations, was granted access to the home by the landlord. We made a conscious editorial decision not to show close-up footage of any material that could be considered sensitive or identifiable, such as photos or ID cards.”
MSNBC: “MSNBC and other news organizations were invited into the home by the landlord after law enforcement officials had finished examining the site and returned control to the landlord. Although MSNBC was not the first crew to enter the home, we did have the first live shots from inside. We regret that we briefly showed images of photographs and identification cards that should not have been aired without review.”
UPDATED, 11:30 AM PT: FBI is investigating Wednesday’s San Bernardino shooting as an “act of terrorism.”
“As of today, based on the information and the facts as we know them, we are now investigating these horrific acts as an act of terrorism,” Dave Bowdich, from the FBI’s Los Angeles bureau said at a Friday morning news conference in San Bernardino, where, two days earlier, Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik stormed into a conference room full of holiday partygoers at the Inland Regional Center, killing 14 and wounding 21 more, two of whom remain in critical condition.
CNN reported this morning authorities had discovered one of the shooters had pledged her allegiance to ISIS just before the attack in a Facebook posting. At the news conference, Bowdich said federal investigators have uncovered evidence indicating extensive planning ahead of the deadly attack on Farook’s co-workers.
Update, 10:13 AM PT: White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest declined to comment on the report broken by CNN and picked up by other TV news outlets that Tashfeen Malik posted on Facebook a pledge of allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi before she and her husband killed 14 in San Bernardino. CNN broke the news this morning, saying Wednesday’s shooting is the deadliest Islamist terrorist attack in the United States since 9/11. CNN and other media outlets are citing unnamed U.S. investigators in their reports on this development and Earnest told reporters at his regular White House press briefing neither he nor Obama would have any comment until the FBI made a public statement. “I am aware the FBI is planning to provide you with some updates before the end of the day today,” he said.
“I’m not going to be in an position to confirm it,” he explained. “When they release it publicly, and until that time, I am not in position to confirm these reports. Let me just say in general… without confirming that information, the FBI is leading this investigation, as the president said yesterday… because of the possibility this is a terrorist attack.”
Earnest also dodged a question about the “stunning scene” that had just played out before the briefing in which TV crews stormed the shooters’ apartment at the invitation of the landlord, while TV news anchors watched in horror/disbelief.
UPDATE, 8:45 AM: Other networks were quick to jump on CNN’s breaking news. NBC News correspondent Pete Williams reported Tashfeen Malik, the female shooter in Wednesday’s San Bernardino mass killing, had posted to Facebook her pledge of allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi shortly before the attack. The post, under a different name, was taken down a short time later, Williams said of the post uncovered by the FBI in the course of its ongoing investigation. There is precedent; it’s part of the ISIS “playbook” to get supporters to post pledges of allegiance before carrying out attacks, Williams said.
PREVIOUS, 7:50 AM: As the San Bernardino attack was happening, the female shooter, Tashfeen Malik posted on Facebook, pledging allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, CNN reports this morning citing three U.S. officials familiar with the investigation. The posting was made by Malik made on an account using a different name, CNN reports, citing one U.S. official. The unnamed officials did not explain how they knew Malik made the post.
Extremely significant, that would make the attack in San Bernardino in which 14 people attending a company holiday party were murdered, the first time people were killed in the United States in an ISIS inspired attack. And, the “deadliest Islamist terrorist attack in the United States…since 9/11,” proclaimed CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank.
“We can expect ISIS to claim ownership of this attack in a big way to make propaganda over it,” he said, wondering whether the couple was “inspired by what they saw play out in Paris,” he added.
The attorney for the family of Syed Rizwan Farook has been doing TV interviews saying they had no knowledge of Farook having been radicalized and also no idea why Farook and wife, Malik stormed a holiday luncheon and opened fire on his co-workers. The couple died in a following shootout with police, leaving behind a 6-month-old daughter.
Yesterday morning, President Obama addressed the shooting, saying said the American public and legislators should search as a society to “make sure we’re taking basic steps that would make it harder — not impossible but harder — for individuals to get access to weapons.” At that time, Obama noted, a motive for Wednesday’s shooting has not been determined. “It is possible that this was terrorist related, but we don’t know,” he said yesterday morning. “It’s also possible this was workplace related.”