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Why the FBI just declared the San Bernardino shooting a terrorism probe

For the first time since the San Bernardino massacre Wednesday, the FBI is formally describing its probe as a terrorism investigation.

FBI officials in Washington, D.C., said Friday that the two shooters, Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, were “radicalized,” but that there was no evidence they were part of a terror cell.

Here is the latest on the investigation from David Bowdich, assistant director in charge of the FBI office in Los Angeles, who spoke to reporters Friday:

FULL COVERAGE: San Bernardino shooting | Shooting updates

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On investigating this 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....

“There is a number of pieces of evidence that has essentially pushed us off the cliff to say: We are now investigating this as an act of terrorism.”

Are any suspects under arrest? “There are no other suspects currently under arrest. It is possible that there may be some in the future. We don’t know.”

On digital evidence: “We have uncovered evidence that has led us to learn of extensive planning. Obviously, we have uncovered evidence of explosive, multiple armaments. You know the ammunition that was out there. The high-powered weapons. The explosive devices…

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“We have also uncovered evidence that these subjects attempted to destroy their digital fingerprints. For example, we found two cellphones in a nearby trash can.  Those cellphones were actually crushed — we have retained those cellphones — and we do continue to exploit the data from those cellphones.

“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….

On where the cellphones were found: “I believe near the town house." 

On the assailants’ communications with people being watched for alleged links to terror: “There are some telephonic connections between these two individuals — at least one of these individuals — and other subjects of our investigation.”

On whether law enforcement is troubled that media were allowed into the assailants’ home by a property manager: “We executed a search warrant on that apartment. And last night, we turned that over back to the residents [property manager]. Once the residents have the apartment and we’re not in it anymore, we don’t control it. We did leave a list of items seized that I know some people have, and they’re asking, ‘Why did we give that?’ We have to give that out by law. Any time we execute a lawful search warrant, we have to leave, for the residence, a list that lists all of the items seized during that search warrant.

“Once we turned that location back over to the occupants of that residence, or once we boarded up [and left], anyone who goes in at that point, that’s got nothing to do with us." 

With all the ammunition the assailants had, does the FBI believe they were planning a second attack?: “I don’t want to speculate. It’s certainly a possibility that we are looking at." 

Was there anybody else in the room during the shooting that led the FBI to believe this was a terrorist attack? “We still don’t have the answer to that. But so far, the answer is no.”

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Is there evidence the assailants were directed by ISIS or Al Qaeda, or if they were inspired by them? “I don’t have the answer to any direction. Were they inspired? We do not yet know the answer. I’m aware of the post that you’re going to ask me about, that’s out on the Facebook. And I’m aware of it. We’re looking into it. But we don’t know all the answers to that question yet." 

Has the FBI concluded that this is the first time the Islamic State (ISIS) has attacked America? “I think you’re taking a leap. We’re not there. What I am confirming is: We are currently investigating this case as an act of terrorism." 

Some of the weapons were not bought by the assailants. Is the person who gave them the rifles detained? “There is a person that we know of their location who purchased those weapons. But I’m going to let ATF [the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives] answer the questions on the guns. ... The person is not under arrest at this point.”

So they are in custody, being questioned? “They’re not under arrest at this point." 

Who influenced who? Did the wife influence the husband? “I don’t know the answer of whether she influenced him or not." 

Had she been under investigation prior to the shooting? “We did not have her under investigation previously.”

Are you concerned that they were flying under the radar? That you didn’t know that they were planning this? “Of course, I’m concerned. Any one of us would love to have stopped this act. When you go into a crime scene like that, it’s one of the most heinous things you’ll ever see. It’s horrific.”

That you weren’t tracking them? That they weren’t on your radar? “Of course, I’m concerned. We didn’t know. There’s nothing that we’ve seen yet that would have triggered us to know....

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Is there an existence of a terrorist cell? “We don’t know. What I can tell you is, we are not aware of any further threats in the U.S. at this time.”

Responding to a comment on how government spends a lot of money on surveillance: “The FBI is also a federal law enforcement agency that is bound by federal law. So we don’t do wide sweeping, massive surveillance without legal process." 

On how Malik pledged allegiance to an Islamic State leader in a Facebook posting, according to two law enforcement officials. A reporter asked: With that Facebook post, did they pledge allegiance to either ISIS or [its leader, Abu Bakr] Baghdadi or any other principal connected specifically with any known terror organization? “I’m aware of the Facebook post you’re mentioning. And I saw the same thing you did. We don’t know what’s there yet. We’re still continuing to look into that.”

A reporter said a Facebook official confirmed the post was made and had been made just as the attack had been starting: “I know it was in a general timeline when that post was made. And yes, there was a pledge of allegiance.”

Do you know about the dynamic of marriage? There’s a lot of curiosity and some people say that perhaps the wife may have influenced him. Can you give us any insight?:  “I’ve been asked that. And I don’t know the answer. Whether she influenced him or not. Being a husband myself, we’re all influenced to an extent. But I don’t know the answer.”

But as you’ve learned about her, does that influence your belief, more so, that this was an act of terrorism instead of more about work? “We’re investigating it as an act of terrorism for good reason.”

Motivations for the attack: “We are continuing to go down the path of: What was the motivation for this attack? Because that will tell us a lot. As important, if not more important, is: Are there others? And are they based in the U.S.? Are they outside the U.S.? We don’t know the answers.”

Tips? A national hotline has been established for tips: (800) CALL FBI or (800) 225-5324, and choose option 4.

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