The FBI kicked off a noon news conference today reiterating that the agency did nothing wrong when it left personal documents lying about for TV cameras to shoot at the home of the San Bernardino shooters last week. On Friday morning, TV news crews combed through the shooters’ home at the invitation of the landlord as anchors, as TV news analysts watched in horror, and Reporters Who Cover Television dined on the melee.
“I want to correct something because it continues to come up. There was a search warrant that was executed at the Center St. address in Redlands,” FBI assistant director in charge David Bowdich began, kicking off today’s presser updating reporters about its investigation into the shooting death of 14 at the hands of ISIS sympathizers Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik.
“We’re actually getting a lot of calls about misbehavior,” Bowdich said, explaining that the agency went into the home with a search warrant, took away “those items that can be seized under the scope of that warrant” and left.
“When we leave the residence, we will either hand the keys to the owners, or we will secure the residence if it was breached, as was the case in this incident. We secured it with screws and wood and left the premises. Once the FBI and our local partners left those premises, anything that occurred as far as forced entry, or if anyone was allowed into that residence, that has absolutely nothing to do with us,” he insisted, adding, “I want to make that clear. That’s an important thing for the public, to maintain confidence in your law enforcement professionals.”
Looking like an episode of Storage Wars, TV news reporters with cameras stormed the Redlands apartment Friday morning. MSNBC, CNN and CBS were among the outlets broadcasting jaw-dropping footage of their reporters rummaging through rooms strewn with baby toys, passports, driver’s licenses, personal photos and other articles left behind and out in plain sight by investigators. Camera also trained in on the list left by authorities of items they had removed, including ammunition, hard drives, thumb drives, etc.
“They’ve turned a crime scene in a terrorist mass murder into a garage sale!” CNN legal analyst Paul Callan ranted, forecasting the outrage against the media, the landlord, and investigators that was sure to be the second-day story.
“I am having chills down my spine,” added CNN’s law enforcement analyst Harry Houck. “This apartment clearly is full of evidence. I don’t see any fingerprint dusts on the walls where they went in and checked for fingerprints for other people that might have been connected with these two. You’ve got documents laying all over the place; you’ve got shredded documents that need to be taken out of there to see what was shredded…Now you have thousands of fingerprints all over inside on this crime scene.”
TV news veterans, including CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell, cobbled together never-before-in-all-my-days-as-a-journalist commentary as best they could to capture their dismay without throwing under the bus their networks’ reporters on the scene. A CNN reporter boasted she’d been first to enter one of the bedrooms as she picked up and fingered prayer beads left on a bed. An MSNBC reporter told Mitchell, “We have quite a number of photographs here, but we don’t know if it’s [Farook and Malik],” and Mitchell’s voice oozed discomfort as she instructed the reporter and cameraman to stop showing a photo of a small child. MSNBC and CNN issued statements stressing they had been granted access to the home by the landlord.
Some conspiracy theorists have suggested the FBI staged the house, to pull one over on the media.