The Muslim couple behind last week’s terror attacks in San Bernardino, Calif., were each radicalized on their own at least two years ago and bonded over online talk of “jihad” and “martyrdom,” FBI Director James Comey told Capitol Hill lawmakers Wednesday.
Investigators originally suspected Tashfeen Malik, 29, radicalized her husband after she came to the U.S. in July of 2014, then married a month later. But they now believe Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, was already committed to radical Islam before they met, Comey said.
“They were radicalized before they started dating online,” he told the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The pair burst into a holiday party given by Farook’s employer at a county social services facility and opened fire with assault rifles, killing 14 and wounding 21 before fleeing. They were killed hours later in a shootout with police just two miles away.
So far, authorities have not charged anyone else in the attack, but Comey said they also appeared to have been “inspired by foreign terrorists.
“We’re working to understand if there were any others involved or if there were other plans,” said Comey, who was called to testify on recent terror attacks, the U.S. visa program and terrorists’ ability to electronically communicate through hard-to-detected encrypted messages.
Malik was admitted into the U.S. on a “fiancée visa,” and the investigation comes amid ongoing concerns about the federal government’s ability to screen refugees and immigrants from nations where terrorists live.
Under questioning from committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Comey acknowledged that the intelligence community is concerned about terrorist groups’ ability to manufacture fraudulent passports and use encryption in communication.