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Suspect In San Bernardino Shooting Reportedly Had ISIS Ties

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Suspect In San Bernardino Shooting Reportedly Had ISIS Ties

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Suspect In San Bernardino Shooting Reportedly Had ISIS Ties

Suspect In San Bernardino Shooting Reportedly Had ISIS Ties

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A federal law enforcement official told NPR that Tashfeen Malik, a suspect along with her husband in Wednesday's mass shooting, had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and its leader on Facebook.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

NPR News today has new information about the attackers who killed 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif. It's information specifically about Tashfeen Malik. She was the woman in the husband-and-wife pair who, according to police, opened fire at a holiday party earlier this week. NPR Justice Department correspondent Carrie Johnson has been covering this story. She's in our studios.

Carrie, good morning.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: What's the information?

JOHNSON: So investigators, as you know, have been scouring the social media accounts and computers of this husband-wife team...

INSKEEP: Right.

JOHNSON: ...And either late last night or early this morning, they uncovered an important new fact, that Tashfeen Malik, who was born in Pakistan and came to America with her husband, had posted around the time of the attack in San Bernardino a Pledge of Allegiance to the Islamic State on a Facebook account. And this is important, Steve, because it's the first tie that ties this couple to support for an extremist group.

INSKEEP: Oh, absolutely. Up to now, we've heard from people who were around them, or their family members that they said they had no clue of their allegiance to any outside group or any extremist views of any kind.

JOHNSON: Absolutely, and federal officials, including the FBI which is leading the investigation, have been reluctant to call this a matter of terrorism. This adds a new level of scrutiny to the investigation. Steve, though, I'm hearing from federal sources that there's still no evidence this couple - this husband-wife shooting team - was directly inspired by people overseas, like an ISIS operative whispering in their ear. Instead, they may have been self-radicalized based on propaganda and contacts here in the U.S.

INSKEEP: And this would not be completely surprising either, would it? Because is it not correct that ISIS, or the Islamic State, or ISIL, has been encouraging people to act on their own, essentially to kill Westerners?

JOHNSON: Initially, Steve, the model was to try to persuade people from Western Europe and the United States to go to join the fight overseas. And as authorities here in the U.S. and in Europe have tried to knuckle down on that practice of travel, the inspiration has come and the message has come via Facebook and Twitter and other social media to attack where you are and where you can. And the FBI director and the director of homeland security have both expressed a lot of concern about that this year in testimony to Congress and in speeches. The worry is that these social media practices can get people to act in ways that are unpredictable, and that's what investigators are looking at right now in terms of San Bernardino.

INSKEEP: If people are just joining us, I'll remind you of the news. It is that federal law enforcement sources talking to NPR's Carrie Johnson say they've found a Facebook account linked with Tashfeen Malik, one of the suspects here, in which she pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.

I want to ask a question about this though, Carrie Johnson. If this was a Facebook account in her own name, everyone on the planet would've discovered it within five minutes of her name being out there. Was this an account in her name?

JOHNSON: It was not an account in her own name, according to my sources, and they are not describing how they came across this account, which was not in the name of Tashfeen Malik. But I think more information will come out in the next day or so about that.

Steve, one other important note here. Investigators still are pursuing some theory that the husband in this case, Syed Farook, was motivated in part by a dispute in his workplace. Of course, this attack took place during a holiday party at his workplace, the Department of Public Health, and there's some theory that investigators are pursuing with regard to an argument or a religious discussion that got out of hand there.

INSKEEP: So there could've been a long-term plan but then a triggering event that caused them to attack at this moment?

JOHNSON: We just don't know right now.

INSKEEP: OK. Carrie, thanks very much.

JOHNSON: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Carrie Johnson this morning.

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