FBI: San Bernardino shooters pledged jihad over direct messages

Tashfeen Malik and Syed Rizwan Farook killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California, earlier this month.

Story highlights

  • FBI Director James Comey says couple pledged jihad online before ever meeting
  • They communicated via direct private messages
  • Authorities are working to trace the electronic trail of the killers

(CNN)San Bernardino shooters Tashfeen Malik and Syed Rizwan Farook communicated online about jihad via direct, private messaging as far back as 2013, FBI Director James Comey told reporters on Wednesday.

Malik and Farook opened fire on the latter's co-workers at a work event on December 2 in San Bernardino, California, killing 14.
"In late 2013 -- before there is a physical meeting of these two people 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 this investigation, we have found no evidence of posting on social media by either of them at that period of time and thereafter," he said.
    Citing U.S. law enforcement officials, CNN previously reported that Malik advocated jihad in messages on social media, but her comments were made under a pseudonym and with strict privacy settings that did not allow people outside a small group of friends to see them.
    Those same officials have since clarified the communications were direct messages, not public posts, and thus would not have been retrievable by the FBI without a warrant.
    Authorities are working to trace the electronic trail of the killers in an attempt to find out whom they interacted with, how they hatched and carried out the plot, and why.