The San Bernardino Shooting Will Be Investigated As Terrorism, The FBI Says — But There's Still A Ton We Don't Know
The FBI has confirmed that it is investigating the San Bernardino shooting as an act of terrorism. David Bowditch, the FBI's assistant director in charge of the bureau's Los Angeles field office, made the announcement at a press conference in San Bernardino on Friday, just hours after media hordes swarmed the home of the shooters' nearby. This is most certainly a significant development; for one, it means that federal investigators will be taking over the investigation from local officials. But let's not get ahead of ourselves here: There is still a ton that we don't know about this crime, its perpetrators, and their motives.
One big remaining mystery is the possible ISIS connection: Were the shooters linked with the Islamic State? And if so, what was the precise nature of that link? According to The New York Times, federal law enforcement officials said that one of the shooters, Tashfeen Malik, had pledged support to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi hours before the shooting using an alias on Facebook; an anonymous Facebook executive later confirmed this to the Associated Press. However, the FBI didn't confirm or deny this, or any ISIS connection at all, at Friday's press conference.
Furthermore, even if a link between the attackers and ISIS is discovered, that doesn't necessarily mean they were acting on behalf of the terrorist group. An anonymous official told The New York Times that "[a]t this point, we believe they were more self-radicalized and inspired by [ISIS] than actually told to do the shooting." That's a big distinction: It's one thing for Americans to commit an act of terrorism in the name of the Islamic State; it's another thing entirely for a foreign terrorist group to plan, order and carry out an attack inside the U.S.
There's also the question of whether Malik and Syed Farook, her husband and the other shooter, had planned further attacks. Bowditch hinted at, but didn't confirm, this possibility during the press conference, noting that the two had planned extensively for Wednesday's attack — in other words, it was premeditated.
We know the FBI is investigating this as an act of terrorism. We know the attack was premeditated, and that there may possibly be a connection between the shooters and ISIS. But while these insights do shed some light on the attacks, they don't tell the whole story yet. There are still a whole lot of question marks here.