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Many Questions Remain In San Bernardino Shooting


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. The FBI is now investigating Wednesday's massacre in San Bernardino as an act of terrorism. Authorities are still grappling with important unanswered questions about Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, the suspects, and what might motivate them to mount the attack that killed 14 people. NPR's Martin Kaste has this update from San Bernardino.

MARTIN KASTE, BYLINE: Since Wednesday, people have been arguing over whether this attack should be called terrorism. Yesterday, the assistant director of the FBI office in Los Angeles, David Bowdich, took a step toward resolving that question.


DAVID BOWDICH: There's 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.

KASTE: Still, his announcement didn't explain that much. Bowdich said the huge amounts of ammunition stockpiled by the suspects indicated preplanning. But whose idea was the attack? Bowdich had no theories to offer the reporters, who were gathered just down the road from the scene of the massacre.


BOWDICH: 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.

KASTE: Bowdich was referring to a Facebook post that the suspect Tashfeen Malik made around the time that the shooting started. The post has been characterized as pledging allegiance to ISIS. But investigators aren't ready to say that ISIS directed this attack.


BOWDICH: I'm aware of it. We're looking into it. But we don't know all the answers to that question yet.

KASTE: Bowdich said investors found two cell phones in a garbage can near the suspects' home. The phones had been smashed in what Bowdich called an attempt to, quote, "destroy their digital fingerprints."


DAVID CHESLEY: None of the family members had any idea that this was going to take place. There were totally shocked.

KASTE: That's David Chesley, one of two lawyers representing the family of the dead suspects. He told reporters that he and the family members had met with the FBI for four hours and that they'd continue to cooperate with the investigators. But he pushed back at the notion that anybody had proved that this attack was part of a bigger conspiracy.


CHESLEY: They have come up with some things where they're trying to say that they were inspired by some groups. But there hasn't been any clear, smoking-gun evidence that they were part of any particular cell or any group.

KASTE: Chesley said Americans should not automatically assume that this was all somehow related to Islam. He says people should consider other factors - for instance, Syed Farook's apparent estrangement from the people around him.


CHESLEY: There was information about the fact that his coworkers kind of made fun of him, for example, and his beard. He was a very isolated, introverted individual with really no friends.

KASTE: But the real blank space on the map of this investigation is Farook's wife, Tashfeen Malik. We know that she grew up in Pakistan and met her future husband in Saudi Arabia. She arrived in the U.S. last year. And the couple had a baby a few months ago. And Chesley acknowledged that he, the representative of Farook's family, doesn't have much more to offer than that.


CHESLEY: She was a very, very private person. She kept herself pretty well isolated. She was very conservative.

KASTE: In fact, he says, because she scrupulously wore a burqa, the other men in Farook's family here in California never once even saw her face. Martin Kaste, NPR News, San Bernardino. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.