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Friend Of San Bernardino Shooter Charged For Conspiring To Support Plot

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

We know much more today about one of the San Bernardino attackers, Syed Farook. A lot of the insight into his life in the last several years came out in the criminal complaint filed against his neighbor. We've also learned in the last couple days that Farook's wife, the other attacker, had not openly posted on social media about radical Islam before moving to the U.S. Brian Bennett covers national security for the LA Times, and he's here in the studio to talk more about what we've recently learned. Thanks for coming in.

BRIAN BENNETT: Happy to be here.

SHAPIRO: Let's start with the charges against the friend and neighbor, Enrique Marquez, and what they have revealed. When this came out last night, the FBI said the Marquez and Farook had plans to carry out terrorist attacks as early as 2011. What else have you been looking into today?

BENNETT: It's been really interesting to read the charging documents closely and see how detailed the two had gotten in their plans in 2011, 2012 to launch attacks. It turns out that Enrique Marquez had been spending a lot of time over at his neighbor Farook's house. And they'd been spending time looking at radical videos online, talking about the teachings of Anwar Awlaki, who was and important preacher with al-Qaida in Yemen. And they had daydreamed about launching attacks against the Riverside Community College and also firing into rush-hour traffic on the 91 freeway in Riverside.

SHAPIRO: The criminal complaint suggests that Farook had been radicalized well before he met his wife and well for the rise of ISIS, as well. How does that change the view of this whole event?

BENNETT: It really changes it quite a bit, actually because the fact that Farook had been thinking about launching attacks as early as 2010 and 2012 and he and Marquez had taken steps like having Marquez purchase firearms and buying explosive powder. It really takes some of the emphasis off of Farook's wife, Malik, and the importance of her to the plot because, you know, when she came over to the country in 2014, it was clear that Farook had already been taking steps to think about and launch and plan attacks.

SHAPIRO: Let's talk a little more about Tashfeen Malik, the wife, and this question of what she posted on social media. The FBI says news report that said she openly wrote about radical Islam before coming to the U.S. are wrong. Will you help sort out the truth here?

BENNETT: So we've talked to law enforcement officials about this. They have been combing Tashfeen Malik's online presence going back several years. And they, so far, have only found postings that were on social media that had - were behind a privacy wall setting, were shared with friends and would not have been openly available to anyone searching the Internet and, law enforcement officials say, would not have been available to, for example, a visa officer who may have been looking at her social media postings on the open source network.

SHAPIRO: And this is separate from something else that has been reported, which is that Malik posted support for ISIS on the day of the attacks.

BENNETT: So in the complaints, it was made very clear that Malik did post a loyalty pledge to al-Baghdadi, the head of Islamic State, shortly after the rampage in San Bernardino. And we actually got to see the exact words of what she posted online just after the attacks.

SHAPIRO: What are the biggest questions that you're still exploring as this investigation continues?

BENNETT: Well, it's very intriguing to hear about some of the specific details of the timeline of the day of the attack, the fact that Farook entered this holiday party and placed an explosive bag on the table. And the explosive device that he had built matched very closely, according to the FBI complaint, with a bomb described in an al-Qaida magazine - English-language al-Qaida magazine called Inspire that put out in 2010.

SHAPIRO: That's Brian Bennett, reporter for the LA Times. Brian, thanks for joining us.

BENNETT: Happy to be here. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.