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Mass Shooting Investigation. Aired 16-16:30p ET

Aired December 4, 2015 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We begin today with breaking news on many fronts in our national lead. The FBI is now officially investigating the San Bernardino massacre as a terrorist attack. This latest development comes after the news that broke on CNN this morning that law enforcement officials have uncovered writings on Facebook by the female terrorist pledging support to ISIS leadership.

Also this afternoon, after it was cleared by law enforcement, the landlord allowed CNN inside the terrorist couple's apartment. It's no longer, according to the FBI, an active crime scene. It was an extraordinary place to visit. We will bring you into that scene.

But moments ago, FBI Director James Comey spoke about the investigation.


JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: Our investigation to date -- and, again, it's only two days' old -- so far, we have no indication that these killers are part of an organized larger group or form part of a cell. There's no indication that they are part of a network.


TAPPER: We are also learning much, much more about the lives tragically cut short by the two callous killers. All of the 14 victims now identified, they range in age from 26 to 60. We will tell you about them later in the show, but let's begin with the latest on the investigation.

Pamela Brown has been speaking with her sources. She joins me now live from San Bernardino, California.

Pamela, why are officials so confident that this was an act of terror?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, today, officials, Jake, said that there were several new pieces of evidence that came to light recently that moved the dial for them to this possibly being an act of terrorism, including this Facebook post where the wife apparently posted her allegiance to al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, just before the attack. Investigators are looking at the possibility that this couple was

self-radicalized. So, Jake, this could possibly be the worst terrorist attack since 9/11.


DAVID BOWDICH, FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: As of today, based on the information and the facts as we know them, we are now investigating these horrific acts as an act of terrorism.

BROWN (voice-over): For the first time, the FBI is calling the attacks in San Bernardino terrorism. Surrounding the chaos, investigators say Syed Farook's wife, Tashfeen Malik, was on Facebook pledging her allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Malik's post was made on an account with a different name, one official said.

BOWDICH: We have also uncovered evidence that these subjects had -- they attempted to destroy their digital fingerprints.

BROWN: CNN has learned two smashed cell phones believed to be the couple's were recovered from a garbage can near one of the crime scenes. And a computer found at the shooter's home was missing a hard drive. Investigators suspect it might have been destroyed.

Authorities hope the digital footprint they can recover will reveal more about the motive.

BOWDICH: That will take time. But I truly believe that's going to be the potential golden nuggets, but we just don't know yet.

BROWN: Inside Farook's house, police found a virtual bomb-making laboratory with smokeless powder and remote control cars, like the one found in the suspect's car. They also found a cache of nearly 5,000 rounds of ammunition.

The family's attorney tells CNN that while they were aware Farook and Malik had guns, there was no warning sign they had been radicalized.

DAVID S. CHESLEY, ATTORNEY FOR FAROOK'S FAMILY: Having a good amount of ammo doesn't mean that you're planning an attack. There wasn't anything to the family to show or signify that he's doing something out of the ordinary.

BROWN: U.S. government officials tell CNN Farook traveled to Saudi Arabia twice in 2013, when he met his Pakistani-born wife there, and again in 2014. A foreign official says Malik was not on any watch list or under suspicion for suspicious activity.

(on camera): How much are you learning about the dynamic of the marriage? Because there's a lot of curiosity there. And people -- some people are saying that perhaps the wife may have influenced him. Can you give us anymore insight?

BOWDICH: I have been asked that. And I don't know the answer, whether she influenced him or not. Being a husband myself, we're all influenced to an extent, but I don't know the answer.

BROWN: But has what you have learned about her, has that influenced your belief more so that this was an act of terrorism as you learn more about her?

BOWDICH: We're investigating it as an act of terrorism for good reason.


BROWN: And, today, Director Comey saying a lot of this evidence still doesn't add up. And that is part of why it has taken a couple of days for the FBI to say that we're investigating this as an act of terrorism.

One thing investigators are really focused on trying to figure out is why Syed Farook's workplace was targeted. Did they have another target in mind and then switch gears to that? Was there a religious issue in the workplace? Investigators right now waiting on the returns from that electronics to give them a better idea of why that place of work was targeted, Jake.


TAPPER: Pamela Brown, thank you so much.

It was a bizarre scene in San Bernardino just a few hours ago when the attackers' home opened after law enforcement and the FBI said they had been completed with the scene, the crime scene, and the landlord invited members of the press inside. There, the media saw everything from religious books and family photos and baby items presumably belonging to the 6-month-old daughter of the terrorist couple.

Our correspondent Victor Blackwell was there.

Victor, I know CNN has been careful about what information to show and what information not to show, but you did get a firsthand look at this terrorist couple's home. That's something you seldom see. Tell us about it.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jake, I know I didn't -- I don't think anyone expected that this would happen today, or ever actually, to go inside the home of the San Bernardino shooters.

But the landlord, the owner, Doyle Miller, invited the media inside to get a look at the life they left behind. Take a look.


BLACKWELL (voice-over): The first glimpse inside the lives of the San Bernardino shooters. The killer couple's landlord prying open the boarded-up doors to allow media to look inside the home left behind by Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, an extraordinary scene with no objection from the FBI. BOWDICH: We executed a search warrant on that apartment. And

last night, we turned that over back to the residents. Once the residents have the apartment and we're not in it anymore, we don't control it.

DOYLE MILLER, LANDLORD: They called me late last night.

BLACKWELL (on camera): What did they say?

MILLER: They said that you...

BLACKWELL: Landlord Doyle Miller reacts to the scene left behind by investigators in their search for evidence against the San Bernardino shooters.

MILLER: This is unbelievable.

BLACKWELL: Around the apartment, there are signs of life familiar to families everywhere, clutter in the kitchen. Toys belonging to the couple's 6-month-old daughter are scattered on the floor. But it's here in the couple's bedroom closet where you find a sign of the intense investigation that took place, as CNN's Stephanie Elam discovered during a tour of the home.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here, you can see where they smashed up into the ceiling to take a look to see what was up there. It does appear based on how much debris is on the ground, that there was an effort to get up there and make sure that they checked every crevice of this back bedroom.

BLACKWELL: Personal identification and other documents belonging to Farook's mother were left scattered on the bed. Evidence of the couple's devout faith are also scene throughout the apartment, a prayer rug on the wall, various books on the subject of Islam, even prayer beads left on the edge of the bed.

And here, in a corner, the crib belonging to their baby girl left with her grandmother on the day of the shooting, a haunting reminder of what the young family might have become.


BLACKWELL: Now, there were scores of reporters and photographers who went inside, also some neighbors. There was a woman walking through with her dog. It was open for about an hour, but eventually two people with the owner's wife walked up, resealed that door.

And the owner, Doyle Miller, got into an unmarked law enforcement car and was driven away -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Victor Blackwell, thanks so much.

The FBI is now the lead agency investigating the San Bernardino terrorist attack. And the FBI is classifying it as an act of terrorism. Just minutes ago, the director of the FBI, James Comey, and the

U.S. attorney general, Loretta Lynch, weighed in on Wednesday's mass shooting and the potential links to ISIS or another terrorist group.

CNN justice reporter Evan Perez joining me now live from FBI headquarters in Washington.

Evan, what did they have to say?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Jake, we don't often have the attorney general and the FBI director together doing a briefing.

Now we have had a couple of them just in a couple of weeks after Paris and now after San Bernardino. One of the headlines here is the fact that they have found indications of radicalization. This is something that we first reported a couple days ago obviously, but now the FBI is saying that that is the reason why they are now classifying this investigation as a terrorist organization -- as a terrorist investigation.

And part of that is also because they believe that these two killers were inspired by a foreign terrorist organization. Now, he's not prepared to say which one. He said we know about the message posted on Facebook by the female pledging allegiance to the leader of ISIS.

The FBI director says there's still a lot of investigative work to do, but from what they are seeing, this is a classic case of terrorism. It's also a classic case that frankly he has warned about, one that's extremely difficult for the FBI to stop.

He says, you know, frankly, that people who are not part of a larger network, which they believe, this case is not part of any larger organization, are always difficult to find because if they're radicalizing in private, the FBI really has no idea what they're doing.


One of the important things is, he talked about the contact that we have reported on previously that these two people -- rather, that Syed Farook had with known people to the FBI, people who were under investigation by the FBI previously.

He talked about those contacts. He said they weren't really significant. There wouldn't have been anything that the FBI would -- would have caused the FBI to take a closer look at these two people, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Evan Perez, thank you so much.

Joining me now, Phil Mudd, former deputy director of the CIA's Counterterrorism Center, Mary Ellen O'Toole, former senior FBI profiler, and CIA terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank.

Thanks to one and all of you for being here.

Let me start with you, Phil.

It's interesting that the female terrorist posted something on Facebook swearing her allegiance to ISIS, and yet the FBI not yet prepared to say that they were a cell or even that they were necessarily radicalized by ISIS, leaving open the possibility that they were radicalized by al Qaeda or a different group.

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: If you look at how you investigate a case like this, there's a couple avenues you're going to take. One avenue we're just starting to learn, that is the broken phones and the hard drive, which will give you e-mail, will give you searches on Google.

It's going to take a while for the forensic guys in Quantico to work through those. That is a key indicator in the 21st century of who you talk to over time. I want to build a web of understanding around you so I know everything you did. The second avenue is people. The family are saying they didn't know anything, the friends are saying they didn't know anything.

So if you want to assess intent and the people you know say they didn't know anything and the electrons you want to access are difficult to access because you tried to destroy them beforehand, that's going to take a little while, Jake.

TAPPER: And, Paul, let me ask you. Has ISIS issued any sort of claim of responsibility for this horrific attack?


TAPPER: What is that?

CRUICKSHANK: It's a news agency which is affiliated with ISIS which has carried their exclusive content in the past.

They have commented. And they have said these are two ISIS supporters, not fighters, but supporters. They're making that distinction. They're saying essentially that this was an ISIS- inspired attack, not an ISIS-directed attack. And that, of course, is very significant, the language they are using, because it fits with this pledge of allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi by the female involved in this, Jake.

TAPPER: Let's talk about the female involved with our FBI profiler.

A co-worker of Rizwan Farook told CBS News that it was the wife who radicalized the husband. You hear a little bit of this out there, media chatter. How common is that in this type of case?

MARY ELLEN O'TOOLE, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: The whole totality of this case makes her very uncommon. And I think once all the facts evolve, she's going to really sort

of stand in a category all by herself. It's not just that she might be the ringleader, but it's the behavior within, for example, within that venue where the shootings occurred that will cause her to stand out. It's the predatory behavior.

If she was walking around that venue shooting and killing people, actually we call that hunting human beings, that's predatory behavior. It is consistently and almost unanimously always associated with a male.

And even if she stood in the corner and started to shoot while people were screaming and yelling, that's very sadistic behavior, again, almost exclusively male behavior. So that callousness and that lack of compassion really will cause this woman to stand apart in her act of violence.

TAPPER: Very unusual.

All of you, please stick around. We're going to continue this conversation after the break. We have lots more to discuss, including the evidence that the shooters apparently destroyed before they were killed in the shoot-out with police.

Stay with us. We will be right back.


[16:18:03] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. We're going to continue with our breaking news.

The FBI officially investigating the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, as a terrorist attack.

Back with us our panel of experts, Mary Ellen O'Toole, Phil Mudd, Paul Cruickshank.

Paul, we just heard Mary Ellen say that it's so rare for a mass shooter to be a female, usually if not entirely they're male. Is that also true with terrorism? Are they almost always male or are there females as well?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, there's certainly been female terrorists, black widows in Russia and al Qaeda and Iraq basically ISIS a few years ago when they didn't have as many men as they have now they used dozens and dozens of female suicide bombers. In Iraq, one of them was a Belgian Catholic convert Muriel Degauque who blew herself up the same day as her husband in Iraq in November 2005.

We've seen husband-wife teams before when it comes to Islamist terrorism. There was a couple back in 2004, about 2004 in Holland that set out to try and assassinate a Dutch legislator. He had a machine gun, she tailed along. And just earlier this year, we saw Hayat Boumeddiene, remember all those pictures of her with the crossbows all dressed in black with Amedy Coulibaly.- TAPPER: Right.

CRUICKSHANK: That couple, well, she kind of fled to ISIS land around the same time as her husband carried out that attack on the kosher market. So, we've seen it before. It's fairly rare though.

TAPPER: It is rare. When you were at the CIA and the FBI for that matter and you would get briefings on all the terrorists, this constant deluge, do you remember women terrorists being amongst those names?

PHIL MUDD, FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR, CIA COUNTERTERRORISM CENTER: I don't remember. I mean, there's so many characteristics here that explain why trying to come up with a profile of this which is what the American people want in the next few days is difficult. We sat down every night at the agency at 5:00. I don't remember a single female's name. Every night, that's 1,000 briefings over the course of three or four years, I don't -- not a single female's name.

You would not have had individuals who didn't have connectivity with the central organization, that is al Qaeda.

[16:20:02] They brought them in for training. You would not have had individual who is chose a target that didn't have some symbolic significance, like the trade center, like the metro -- or in the subway in London in 2005.

So the characteristics over the course of just 14 years have changed so substantially. If you're asking for an answer, how do you find these folks? I'm looking at this and saying, don't expect a good answer because I don't see one and I've been doing this forever.

TAPPER: Yes, Mary Ellen, when we saw when Victor brought us the scenes from inside the terrorist couple's apartment, obviously all the evidence has been taken. The FBI has said that in terms of the bombs and stockpiled ammunition and other weapons.

What strikes you is that you look and you see there's a crib, there are some children's books, there are some children's toys. As much as you can bring us inside the mind of this woman who six months ago had a baby girl and then goes out on this horrific mission.

MARY ELLEN O'TOOLE, FORMER SENIOR FBI PROFILER: Well, I think we need to be really careful about that and look at all the behavior. And what we see is somebody that participated in strategic planning that went on for a very long period of time. And the importance of maintaining a facade of normalcy seemed to be very important so that ultimately they could carry out this attack.

So, I would suggest that we have to consider after something as horrible as this there was no way they could go back to life as normal. If they had another plan, another hit planned they could never go back to normal. But I would suggest that it was so important to have this facade of normalcy that baby may have been a prop. And I know that will be offensive to a lot of people, especially women with strong maternal instincts, but the baby may have been a prop. CRUICKSHANK: Yes. These extremists they believe not just they

are going to go to paradise for carrying out these terrorist acts. They believe their close family members will also get that reward.

So they would have been hard wired to believe that their baby because of what they did would also go to paradise. So that would be the way they would justify it to themselves. It's a very important thing for us to realize that that is the way these people are hard wired. It's that belief they will be rewarded in the afterlife. That is why all of them, all of them, are doing what they're doing.

MUDD: Let me take this a step further, Jake. Again, this is going to be hard to believe, but the emotional and religious commitment is so strong among these folks that I think their commitment to the cause is greater than their commitment to the child.

The example I'd use is one of the first al Qaeda members we took down at the CIA back in the '02-'03 timeframe after we started capturing the leadership of the organization, sat down with an interrogator at one point said I regret now that I will never get out and had a child because if I had a son I could indoctrinate him so he could be the next generation -- incredible commitment to the cause. It's hard for us in the West to understand, but we see it all the time in these cases.

TAPPER: It's so bizarre, and, Phil, you were saying during the commercial break, one of the things that still strikes you as so odd about this incredibly horrific and bizarre story is the target they chose.

MUDD: Sure.

TAPPER: It's still stymies law enforcement.

MUDD: That's right. I don't think we'll come up with simple answers, because if you look at terrorism the intent is to send a signal to a government. For example, don't intervene in Iraq, don't intervene in Afghanistan. So, we're going to attack the Pentagon, we're going to attack the White House, we're going to attack subways, which are a symbol of economic power, attack a cafe in Paris or rock show, symbol of French culture.

So you have a direct connectivity between radicalization and the target that's chosen as a way of protest by the person conducting the attack. You tell me what the symbolic significance politically is of the workplace? I think we're going to find a mix here.

O'TOOLE: It could have been serving a dual purpose really, because they did not just choose that venue at the last minute. This was a much too controlled crime.

CRUICKSHANK: And ISIS saying attack anybody anywhere. That's their message. They're responding to it, it would appear.

TAPPER: All right. Paul Cruickshank, Phil Mudd, Mary Ellen O'Toole -- thanks to all of you for your insight. How did the killers plot their attack? A member of the House

Intelligence Committee will join us next. He'll tell us what he has learned about the two shooters and their possible links to a specific terrorist group. That story next.


[16:28:39] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. We're staying with our national lead.

We may have just seen the first large-scale ISIS inspired attack in the United States.

Joining me now to talk more about this with more insight, California Congressman Eric Swalwell. He's a member of the House Intelligence Committee and, of course, also from California where this horrific attack took place.

Congressman, you've been briefed twice on this act of terrorism in San Bernardino. What do you know about any contact that these killers might have had with any of these terrorist organizations abroad, ISIS or al Qaeda or someone else?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Thanks, Jake. And we're still running it to the ground, but what we know is there's been prior communication to suspected terrorists. There's been foreign travel. There's a cachet of weapons and, of course, the message posted on Facebook.

All of those alone don't necessarily point to terrorism, but put together circumstantially, all of the arrows point to terrorism.

TAPPER: Do you have any information on how these two may have been radicalized? Was it abroad in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia? Or could it have been here in the United States in front of their laptop computer?

SWALWELL: I know the FBI is exploring that intensely right now. But the big concern is that ISIS no longer has to simply order attacks. They have become so influential that their success is inspiring attacks.