There is no evidence that the couple behind the mass shooting that killed 14 people in San Bernardino posted publicly on social media about their commitment to jihad before attacker Tashfeen Malik arrived in the United States, FBI Director James Comey said Wednesday.
Comey said at a morning news conference that reports to the contrary are "a garble." Comey's comments provide more insight into the activities of Syed Farook and Malik in the years before the Dec. 2 shooting at a health center in Southern California and address confusion over whether the husband and wife posted extremist messages publicly that could have been detected when Malik applied for a visa before coming to the United States.
"As I have said before, you can see in our investigation that in late 2013 -- before there is a physical meeting of these two people and resulting in their engagement and journey to the United States -- they are communicating online, showing signs in that communication of their joint commitment to jihad and to martyrdom," said Comey. "Those communications are direct private messages.
"So far in our investigations, we have found no evidence of posting on social media by either of them at that period of time or thereafter reflecting their commitment to jihad or to martyrdom."
There is no indication that the couple, killed in a shootout hours after the San Bernardino massacre, had direct contact with terror organizations, Comey said. Investigators are still not certain why they targeted the Inland Regional Health Center, where Farook's co-workers were attending a holiday celebration, he added at Wednesday's news conference.
Comey's comments come after a State Department spokesman said Monday that the government might impose tighter scrutiny of visa-seekers' social media accounts. American consular officers can already review social media posts if they find in "valuable or necessary" in the visa application process, but those decisions are made case by case and social media reviews are not mandatory.
The tougher protocols would make the reviews mandatory.
Malik, a Pakistani national, passed two background checks and was admitted to the United States in 2014. She passed a third check last summer when she obtained a green card.
It wasn't until after the mass shooting at the Inland Regional Center that authorities discovered the private social media posts.