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THE SITUATION ROOM
Officials Believe Killer Pledged Allegiance to ISIS; Shooter's Family Attorney Holds News Conference; Landlord Invites Media into Killers' Home; Interview with Representative Andre Carson. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired December 4, 2015 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Act of terrorism. The investigation of the California shooting massacre ratchets up to a new level with new evidence of a possible ISIS connection. Officials say the female shooter pledged allegiance to ISIS just before she and her husband were gunned down by police. Were others involved?
[17:00:45] Inside their lair. A bizarre scene as the home of the married killers is opened up to reporters, who tour the townhouse on live television. We'll sort through the chaos, the clutter and the clues.
And lady killer. As we learn more about the mysterious woman behind the attack, ISIS is actively recruiting other women to join their jihad. Tonight, the mass shooting on U.S. soil is giving ISIS propaganda more ammunition.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Let's get to the breaking news tonight. New evidence that ISIS may have inspired the San Bernardino shooting massacre as the FBI is now revealing its investigation of the attack as an act of terrorism. It's investigating that attack.
Authorities now say the female shooter, Tashfeen Malik, pledged her allegiance to the ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Three U.S. officials now tell CNN she's believed to have posted the pledge on Facebook as the attack was happening before she and her husband, Syed Rizwan Farook, were killed by police.
Also breaking, a surreal first look inside the couple's rental home. Their landlord inviting CNN and other news outlets to enter the townhouse after it was searched by authorities. Reporters saw lists of items seized by the FBI, as well as the family's personal belongings, including toys for the couple's 6-month-old baby.
I'll ask Congressman Andre Carson what he's learning. He's a member of the house intelligence committee. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by to cover all the breaking news.
Up first, let's go to our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, for the very latest -- Jim.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, today the FBI said it has good reason to investigate this shooting as an act of terrorism. We learned new details today as to why that is.
CNN first to report that the female shooter posted a pledge of allegiance to the ISIS leader as the attack was underway. We learned earlier that the male shooter had been in contact with known terrorism suspects abroad. Both of those worrisome signs.
The FBI says it has no evidence yet that this attack was directed by international terror groups, but they are investigating it as being inspired by international terrorism.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): Tonight the FBI says it is investigating the San Bernardino shooting as an act of terrorism. If confirmed, it would make it the deadliest on U.S. soil since 9/11.
CNN was the first to report that, as the attack was happening, investigators say the female shooter, Tashfeen Malik, made a Facebook posting under a different name, pledging her allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: This is now a federal terrorism investigation led by the FBI. And the reason for that is that the investigation so far has developed indications of radicalization by the killers and of a potential inspiration by foreign terrorist organizations.
SCIUTTO: U.S. officials believe the attack may have been inspired by ISIS, but not directed or organized by the terror group. And today, many ISIS supporters have praised the shooting online, calling it a heroic lone-wolf attack.
Police found two smashed cell phones in a garbage can near one of the crime scenes. They also found a computer at the shooter's home with a missing hard drive. Investigators suspect it was removed and possibly destroyed.
DAVID BOWDICH, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, FBI LOS ANGELES OFFICE: We have retained those cell phones. And we do continue to exploit the data from those cell phones. We do hope that the digital fingerprints that were left by these two individuals will take us towards their motivation.
SCIUTTO: There is precedent for ISIS sympathizers pledging their allegiance to the terror group online during or before attacks in the past. When ISIS-inspired gunmen assaulted an event publicizing cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed in Garland, Texas, this may, one of the shooters, Elton Simpson, tweeted his pledge of allegiance to Amirul Mu'mineen, which means "the leader of the faithful" and refers to the ISIS leader al-Baghdadi.
[17:05:04] Tonight the sister of Syed Rizwan Farook still can't believe he's involved.
SAITA KHAN, SISTER OF SYED RIZWAN FAROOK: I asked myself, if I had called him that morning or the night before, asked him how he was doing, what he was up to, if I had any inclination, maybe I could have stopped it.
SCIUTTO: Today the FBI director, James Comey, says there is no evidence at this stage that this group was part of a larger cell. No evidence that it's part of a broader terrorist network.
And also, Wolf, no evidence of an additional attack under way. But that said, if this turns out to be a lone-wolf attack, that is exactly the problem, because often there is no warning in advance when these potential terrorists are operating on their own. They come up with the plans on their own. Extremely difficult to detect in advance and therefore prevent.
BLITZER: They keep saying, the FBI director and others at this time, key words.
Hold on for a moment. I want to go out to California right now. The attorney for the Farook family is speaking with reporters. Let's listen in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who's the brother-in-law?
DAVID CHESLEY, ATTORNEY FOR SHOOTER'S FAMILY: Tarhan (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get close to the mic, please.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How many brothers and sisters are there?
MOHAMMAD ABUERSHAID, ATTORNEY FOR SHOOTER'S FAMILY: There's two sisters. And there is one brother. Syed, yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it Sy-eed or Sy-ed?
ABUERSHAID: Sy-eed. Yes.
CHESLEY: So essentially the message that we want to give is that what we'd like to say on behalf of the families and the Muslim community in general is that, just as late as 1 p.m. today the FBI chief, James Comey, came out and said that there was no sign that the alleged shooters belonged to a larger organization, a larger organized terrorist group or terrorist cell.
So, I mean, they're trying to -- or 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.
They're pointing to things that they saw on Facebook under different account names in the case of Tashfeen Malik. She supposedly had a Facebook account set up under a different name that they say visited some -- some group that may have been -- had ties to, you know, to more...
ABUERSHAID: And as more information keeps coming out, we're going to be able to identify which facts are accurate and which facts are not. That is the whole point of us meeting with the FBI. We've been in open communication with the agents of the FBI. We've been at their offices in Riverside. We were there for about four hours yesterday. And we'll be finishing up on Monday, hopefully, with some of the other family members.
As more facts come out about the types of relationships that each individual family member had, we're going to be relating that to you guys, as well.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What can you say right now? What do you know about what inspired them?
CHESLEY: What we can say from -- from our four-hour interview or the investigation that took place with the FBI yesterday is that none of the family members had any idea that this was going to take place. They were totally shocked. That is Raheen, Syra and Iba (ph) -- that is the brothers and sisters of the alleged shooter -- had no idea to the point where, when they got word that there was an incident that had taken place, they were worried about the health and safety of Syed and Tashfeen, because they had so -- it was just -- there's never been any evidence that either of the two alleged shooters were aggressive, had extremist views. They were totally shocked that this could take place. As shocked as anybody else was.
ABUERSHAID: And the family members knew Tashfeen as a sister-in-law. That's what they knew her as. They had a basic relationship with her. It wasn't overly close, but it wasn't too distant.
So the information that we have right now was shocking and a surprise to the family when they found out the information that actually came out.
There's no official -- there's no official determination of what the reason was, when we actually were discussing everything with the FBI yesterday. And they're still going through their facts and their diligence, as we are, as well.
CHESLEY: If there's anything remarkable about the investigation that took place yesterday, it is that no ties could really be established, to the point of frustration on the part of the FBI.
I mean, you know if there's -- if the most evidence there is to any affiliation is a Facebook account under another person's name that supposedly just visited some site, then that -- then that's hardly anything at all.
And throughout the whole process of the investigation yesterday, it got to the point where the FBI actually said, "Look, let us explain ourselves. We're trying to find evidence or information that could cause us to believe that Syed Farook was in some way affiliated with this incident. Like something inspired him to be involved in this incident. And -- but the problem we're having is that we're not finding any evidence of any behavior that would -- that would show us that this would be the alleged shooter."
And so, you know, why is that happening? And we were all like, "Well, we don't have any explanation for you other than that there is no evidence." None of the family knew of him as being extreme or aggressive or -- or having any extreme religious views.
ABUERSHAID: And I think what the media should also be cautious about is just because he had a religion, that he was a Muslim, it had nothing to do with these acts. Islam does not agree, does not support any type of actions that occur like this. It does not support killing. It does not support murder of innocent individuals.
And the family would never support anything like this. And they're giving their hearts and their prayers and everything else that they can do to assist the victims who lost their life that day, as well.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the two of them indeed did not have any ties -- may have been sympathetic to (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The media's not making these allegations. It's the FBI who is.
ABUERSHAID: The FBI actually hasn't made -- the media is leading with just assuming that this is a terrorist situation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... the FBI is making is that there's an investigation into this as a possible terrorism...
ABUERSHAID: I think anything the FBI does when involving a Muslim will involve some type of terrorist investigation for it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) We're just relaying the information -- what do you think the motive is then for the shooting?
CHESLEY: I mean, there's -- there was -- there was information about the fact that his co-workers kind of -- has kind of made fun of him, for example, and his beard. He was a very isolated, introverted individual with really no friends that we could identify. Like maybe one friend or no friends.
And so I guess what we would say is that when an incident happens like this, when a Christian goes to shoot up a Planned Parenthood, or an extreme Catholic goes and bombs an abortion clinic, all the headlines don't say extremist radical Christian, Catholic, Christian, Catholic, Christian, Catholic, just like right now every headline is saying Muslim and attaching Muslim to it.
I just think there's a tendency to take a cookie-cutter version or a paradigm of a terrorist-type event and superimpose it on a situation just because that person is of Muslim belief or Muslim tradition. And I don't think we should jump to too many conclusions. In particular because we need to protect the Muslim community. And right now we're seeing a lot of infringements upon rights that are important to all of us.
By this I mean we're talking about political candidates that could very likely be our next president, who are saying things like we should register all Muslims and that mosques should be investigated and looked into, or that the families of terrorists should be killed without due process. Or the latest thing that was said was that it was known that it was going to -- that it was a terrorist act that was committed, simply because the person had an Islamic last name.
And I think any of us sitting here could say, look, if somebody said that they knew a heinous criminal act had been committed due to religion just because it was a person of a certain last name, and let's say, it was committed -- it was alleged to be committed on behalf of Christians and you had a Christian last name, or was alleged to be committed on behalf of Jews and you had a Jewish last name. And your faith was constantly being attacked. I mean, there is -- I have so many Muslim friends and so many people that I work with that are Muslim and no one -- every Muslim community around the world has been in a state of remorse and condemnation of these acts. No one supports it.
Just as I think no Christian or Catholic would say, "Oh, yes, that's a good Catholic that bombed that -- that abortion clinic or shot up that Planned Parenthood."
But it's not even -- we can't even use that example because, as of yet, like the FBI chief, James Comey, said, there has been no evidence that they found yet -- this is his words in "The L.A. Times" -- as of 1 p.m. today, that they are linked to a larger organized terrorist group or terrorist cell. All there is -- and this is much the frustration, I think, of the FBI and everyone, because we all want -- we all want an answer. We all -- we all are angry. We're all frustrated. We're all sad. We want justice. But unfortunately, some things in life aren't as clear cut as that.
[17:15:12] And all there is thus far is some nebulous thing that somebody looked at something on Facebook. I mean, any one of us may have looked at something on Facebook. It doesn't mean we believe in it. I've checked out a Britney Spears post, and I hate Britney Spears' music. It doesn't mean that you condone whatever you look at or read or you fully believe and you're acting on behalf of whatever you look at or read.
So we just have to be protective of religious freedom in our country, of our Fourth Amendment rights. You know, the -- just recently, the landlords let journalists into the apartment of Syed Farook...
ABUERSHAID: And there's media outlets going through there, taking pictures of people who were not, you know, either one of the suspects. They're invading their personal space. They're sending some inappropriate pictures, as well.
And I think this is the whole point of the FBI's investigation. It's to determine what level and what actually caused this. You know, as David said, "Los Angeles Times" has reported what James Comey has said. And we're just waiting to get more information, as well. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... what should people make of that?
CHESLEY: What do you mean by "favorable attitudes"?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, supposedly expressed sympathy towards ISIS.
CHESLEY: What evidence is there of that, I would ask. What are you pointing to? In what ways did they express sympathy?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The exact quote is the investigation so far has developed indications of radicalizations by the killer's potential inspiration by foreign terrorist organizations. He did say that there's no indication, part of a local cell or a bigger cell, but these are his words.
CHESLEY: He's trying to say it was inspired by. But what I've read so far, I mean, we're all learning, because the investigation's ongoing. We're the attorneys for the family, not the investigators. So none of us have all the information right now.
But from what I've read, all I've seen is that somebody looked at something on Facebook. There was another thing -- there was another article I read that said that the FBI had investigated people who Syed Farook allegedly spoke to. But even those people that the FBI had investigated, nothing came up for any of those people. And this is the danger we're getting into. I mean...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you saying that you do not believe that there will be any connection to a foreign terror organization?
ABUERSHAID: I think what we're saying is that we still have to wait for the investigation to be done before we make any type of determination.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, isn't that what the FBI is doing?
ABUERSHAID: I don't think that's what -- I think that the reports that are coming out now is that it's linked to a terrorist group or it's some type of...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're investigating.
ABUERSHAID: They're investigating it, but until an investigation is done, there cannot be made any type of determination if there was a group, if there was a connection to anybody. And the moment that we start doing that...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... we should not be pursuing these developments as they emerge, because the FBI is going through the process. And it is a process.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And as they get information and as they find out, we're reporting it. ABUERSHAID: I think -- I think the idea of terrorist has been
reported since this incident happened. So I think as the more information comes out then the media can start making reports. And as we get information...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shouldn't report this?
ABUERSHAID: No, I'm saying that you guys shouldn't be making reports or statements concerning that there's a connection to a terrorist group until there is a factual link.
CHESLEY: I mean, we're criminal defense attorneys. We look for actual evidence. So we can't jump to conclusions is what we believe. You know?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We listened to what the FBI says because the FBI is gathering evidence.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We consider the FBI a credible source.
CHESLEY: Right, yes. I mean, I just think that what we're looking at is there -- like I said, when the FBI chief has literally come out and said that they've found no link to a larger terrorist group or terrorist cell, I think people need to listen to that and consider that.
And every headline -- until there is absolute clear evidence, every headline doesn't have to say "Muslim massacre" or "Muslim shooters," because it's going to cause intolerance. And what we need right now is forgiveness. I think, although this is -- there were Muslim people and Muslim families involved in this incident, and as a -- as a primarily Christian nation, I think we're people of mercy and forgiveness.
And I think we need to avoid bigotry, stereotyping. Anything that we would be uncomfortable happening to us as Christians, we should try to avoid doing that to Muslims, as well.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... some of the reports you've heard that link these acts to terrorism prematurely.
ABUERSHAID: I don't think we're here to criticize.
CHESLEY: We're here to protect the clients. And they happen to be Muslim. And the Muslim community. And also to stand up for the victims and grieve the victims and to say we're remorseful for what took place. And the Muslim community doesn't support or condone what took place. No Muslim does nationwide. Every single Muslim leader has come out and said this is not a Muslim act.
[17:20:24] When someone goes crazy and commits an act that could totally be work-related, it doesn't make a statement on behalf of an entire religion. We're trying to protect people. And at the same time, we're still in mourning for both the family and the victims. And it was tragic. It's horrible. And -- and we're trying to heal the nation, I think, as a whole.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the family didn't see any evidence -- if the family didn't see any evidence of terrorist sympathies, did they see any evidence of disgruntlement in the workplace, of unhappiness in his life?
ABUERSHAID: There was -- there was a mention of where he got teased about his beard. But there was nothing else about that. He usually shrugged off any type of jokes that people that might have made about his facial hair or his appearance.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's what the family said. Not what you read.
ABUERSHAID: That's what the family said.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... did they mention at all, these two people ever discussed ISIS in just a general conversation?
CHESLEY: They never did. And that's -- you know, that's why we're just -- we're being -- we're just making sure that we're not overzealous in our characterization of these events one way or another until very -- until strong evidence comes out showing that this was indeed affiliated with something. And they're -- I mean, I guess the frustration comes from we sat through this four-hour interview with the FBI.
ABUERSHAID: And the investigation is not done yet. We still have more interviews that we will be conducting with the FBI. And that's why I do caution on making any type of judgment before everything is done.
CHESLEY: But also during that investigation, I would say, we as attorneys -- as criminal defense attorneys practicing for ten years, we're looking for evidence. We're looking for things of substance to substantiate a link or tie to something, just as the FBI was.
And when we sat there for four hours, being in that interview with the family members, no one could identify any links or any radical or extremist behavior, any attempt to be forceful or hostile or aggressive, in any way to force people to adhere to certain religious beliefs, any odd or strange or angry behavior before the time of the shooting on behalf of the alleged suspects. Nothing was there.
So it's not so much I'm siding with someone one way or the other, but I'm just objective -- being objective. That's been my job all these years. And I'm just reporting to you what I've seen during that investigation. There was -- there was no evidence of anything.
And then what we're hearing now from the media, I'm just saying, from an objective perspective, has been very tenuous. So I just -- that's my feeling. I don't feel like we ought to be overzealous in our characterization of the events until we have additional evidence.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These were family members who obviously were in the home presumably, a brother, a sister...
ABUERSHAID: In what home?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The suspect's.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did they ever see any evidence of what's been described by police? Bomb making, large caches of ammunition...
ABUERSHAID: No. The family members knew that Syed had two handguns and they knew that he kept them locked up. So they were aware of that, and they also knew he was licensed for them. The family members would have get-togethers on occasion, but they wouldn't be going through the rest of his house and inspecting the house. This was a brother that they had no idea something like this could happen.
CHESLEY: There was never anything like -- there was never any evidence of any of these pipe bombs that were seen around.
In addition, I would also just say, I mean, you know, it has been horrible. And, you know, as Americans we all want to protect one another, make sure we're living in a safe and secure society.
But, you know, statements made about, for example, the number of rounds that were there. As a gun owner myself, I myself probably have 4,000 or 5,000 rounds of bullets that I keep at home. And the reason why you buy them in bulk is because they're cheaper that way. And the government keeps on outlawing different -- different types of bullets and different types of guns at different times.
And then they'll be shortages of bullets that occur very commonly, where homeland security will order 2 million of a certain kind of bullet. And you can't get that bullet. It's not available for many months.
So especially if you're target shooting, it's not at all uncommon to own 2,000, 3,000, 4,000 rounds, to have with you. When you can get them at a cheap price, you stock up. And, you know, one of the main things I want to make sure happens is that not only is anyone discriminated against as a result of this incident, but that we continue to protect our freedom of religion and also our Second Amendment rights to bear arms.
[17:25:09] We can't have this announcement by the president every time there's an incident like this, that we need to ban all guns. Those rights are important to us as Americans. We died for those rights. And they shouldn't be denied.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does the family have anything to say about Tashfeen's education? Do they know anything about her education?
ABUERSHAID: All we know about Tashfeen's education is that she grew up in Pakistan. About the age of 18 or 20 years of age she moved to Saudi Arabia. She was educated, but there was nothing to show that -- I've read some reports that she was a V.P. or a pharmacist. There's nothing from the family other than education.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's not a pharmacist.
ABUERSHAID: She is not a pharmacist over here.
CHESLEY: I mean, she was...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She spoke English or anything like that?
CHESLEY: She was a housewife. She took care of the child. The mother lived with them at the house, so she was primarily a housewife. She had only come over here in 2014.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How would you characterize her as a mother?
CHESLEY: I'm not really one to be able to...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean from what the family. What did the family have to say?
ABUERSHAID: She's only been a mother for about six months. So the family just knew her as, you know, she was caring. She was soft- spoken, just very basic information what they've seen of her.
CHESLEY: She was like a typical housewife.
ABUERSHAID: She spoke English and she did speak Urdu, as well. It was broken English.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How was she assimilating into the country?
ABUERSHAID: Well, for the year she was here she was assimilating fine.
CHESLEY: She did -- she did maintain certain traditions from what I understand in terms of fasting and prayer five times a day. She chose not to drive voluntarily. But these are -- these are all benign. You know, this is -- these are things that, you know, many Muslims do. And it doesn't mean anything necessarily.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're just trying to get anything new about her from a good source, which is the family.
CHESLEY: I think what -- I think what we're seeing is like there's -- she was a very, very private person. She was -- she kept herself pretty well-isolated. She was very conservative.
And -- and I think one of the dangers, since everyone does know so little, is that she's easy to pin things to or stigmatize with. And she's been the one that the media has done a lot of that to, because there's no picture, and -- or there's not a lot of information about her. So I think we need to guard against that. But unfortunately I wish I could answer the question better. There's very -- there is very little information we have about her, other than the fact that she was a caring housewife.
ABUERSHAID: One of the things I can tell you guys I had discussed with the family about the housewife is that they're very traditional, in the sense that the family would go over to the house, they wouldn't all be together in the room. The women would sit with the women, and the men would sit with the men, but that is a very traditional way of acting. It wasn't anything that was different.
The men did not interact with her. And the brothers did not actually ever see her face. They've never seen her face, because she did wear a burka. So they just knew her. Yes, she was totally covered. So they just knew her as Syed's wife.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did she speak English?
ABUERSHAID: She did speak broken English, but her main language was Urdu.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Looking back at the explosive devices that took a long time to make those, planning to get whatever they were wearing, vests or whatever they were. Was there -- paint a picture for us for the family. Are they looking back and saying, you know, when they did "X," "Y" and "Z" that sort of now that makes sense? Now we know...
ABUERSHAID: No, the family was -- to be honest they thought Syed's hobbies, and which they still were, was building cars. You know, this was -- he liked to go in his garage, and he liked to work on things. They never used to invade his personal space. That was his man cave of sort. He used to go into the garage and work on things. He used to build shoe racks for his sister instead of making her buy one.
So the family was taken by shock. They're very remorseful. And this is something that took them and just hit them as hard as anybody else.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did the family ever go in the garage?
ABUERSHAID: The family would just go in there just to see some of the things that he might be working on, like his car. But one of the brothers even explained that he wouldn't really go in there, because when he would just go in there it would just be for play dates. His daughter and their daughter would be playing together, but that would be it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They never noticed any of the guns? Right?
ABUERSHAID: Well, they were aware of the guns that were at the house. But they were also aware that the guns were locked up in a case.
CHESLEY: I mean, when we talk about guns we're talking about, like, from what I understand there was two .9 millimeters and then there was two rifles. But that was -- what we know, that was for target shooting before then. But there was definitely never evidence of any of the other things.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Could you characterize the level of Syed's mechanical ability? I mean, he had this hobby that...
ABUERSHAID: It wasn't something that he had gone and gotten a formal education, but it was something that he had picked up by watching his father, reading books. He read books about, you know, cars, mechanics. It was mostly car books that he was reading. And he was learning as he went along.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said that he had been made fun of by someone at work about his beard. Is that something he talked about a lot. I know there was a man interviewed yesterday who have very strong religious beliefs, and his wife talked about that.
Did he say, "You know, there's a guy at work harassing me?"
ABUERSHAID: I think it was just a general conversation that he had with the family. When he explained somebody just made fun of my beard.
CHESLEY: But that's part of the concern, I think, is that we can't lead some intolerance to lead to further intolerance or in addition there's times when these things happen in all sets of American culture where someone is disgruntled or gets made fun of or is uncomfortable or is an antisocial person and they lash out and they do bizarre things like in Columbine or wherever, you know, in Colorado recently.
It's hard to attribute just to the religion of Islam or Muslim people ,and all Muslims, like I said, are condemning this act. And we're all praying on behalf of the victims. And we all feel terrible about what happened.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Also say this was a workplace type shooting. There's always some sort of sign leading up to it. You're saying the family did not see any sign whatsoever.
ABUERSHAID: The family just knew that he was made fun of the beard. You know, there wasn't anything else. He had just told the family, oh, somebody made fun of my facial hair. You know, in his job he had to keep his facial hair kind of trimmed up a little more because of the type of job that he had and the county. So that's why he had told the family about this situation. And mind you he was a pretty private person. So for him to share some information, you know, that's why the family had conveyed that to us of what actually happened at the workplace.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: There's been some conflicting information out there about how the couple met. Do you have any idea about their personal history?
ABUERSHAID: Yes, the couple met through an online dating Web site. It was actually a marriage Web site. They had met. They had interests that, you know, they matched up.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Was it a Muslim Web site or --
ABUERSHAID: Well, we don't actually know what kind of Web site. So we were actually trying to find more information about the Web site with the FBI as well. It's still ongoing. It was about 2013.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And so then how do you know about this?
ABUERSHAID: The family and us have talked about this as well as the FBI.
CHESLEY: In the investigation yesterday.
ABUERSHAID: Excuse me?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you know when they met in person? They met online some time in 2013.
ABUERSHAID: They probably met end of 2013 and they ended up getting married closer to the 2014 time period.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did they meet in person at any time before that or would that have been the first time?
ABUERSHAID: He had went out there for a Hajj and then they went ahead and they met and then they got married a short time after that.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: So that's two separate trips. Went there for the Hajj, and then came back a second time --
ABUERSHAID: That is our understanding. Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did he meet with her personally when he went to the Hajj?
ABUERSHAID: No. At that time I think she might have met with the family, is what we understand from the family members themselves.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: There has been a substantiated report that it was the wife who could have been radicalized and somehow involved the husband. It's unsubstantiated I know. But I'm wondering if any of the family members saw anything to suggest that she perhaps was more dominant than a submissive Muslim (INAUDIBLE).
ABUERSHAID: She was very soft spoken from the conversations that we've had with the family members. They explained that she was a very soft spoken individual. The women were the ones who were able to communicate with her since Syed did not want anybody else to talk to her because of the tradition that, you know, he was focusing on. So they said she was very soft spoken. She was nice. And mind you, they only knew her for about a year and a half or so.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What do you know of her?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Absolutely nothing at all? ABUERSHAID: Nothing. They live in Saudi Arabia, that's all we know.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are they concerned for the safety of the family? Do they have any threats? What are they --
ABUERSHAID: The family members in Saudi?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: No, no. I mean, the family here.
ABUERSHAID: Oh, yes. They've gotten threats. It's been a consistent kind of thing. They've gotten phone calls, they've gotten people threatening them through Facebook. They've deactivated everything. The brother was misidentified. Raheel was misidentified as Syed. And that's -- it's a really bad situation to be misidentified as an active shooter while he was working in L.A. County.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)
ABUERSHAID: Who's family?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Her family.
ABUERSHAID: Who? Pakistani. The Pakistani.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And they moves to Saudi Arabia.
CHESLEY: Yes. When she was 18 or 20, she went to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to get married with Syed.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did the family see them Wednesday morning when they dropped off the grandchild?
ABUERSHAID: I think there's been some confusion about what they did with the grandchild. The mother lived with Syed and his wife. So they were going off to a doctor's appointment and they left the child with her. They didn't actually drop off the child anywhere. Since the mother lived there, she was taking care of her grandchild at that time.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did they have any strange behaviors that morning?
ABUERSHAID: No, they actually had the stomach flu earlier. So he had told the mother they were going to go to a doctor's appointment and he was going to take his wife to the doctor's appointment.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: If the mother lived with them then she never noticed anything going on in the garage or anything at all?
CHESLEY: I guess what I would say is this is just so -- this is just the stereotypical situation of what takes place every time there is an event like this. Most of the time no one knows that much about the shooter. And the same thing was the case here. [17:35:06] The mother stayed to herself. I think she stayed upstairs.
And so she would have been separate and not really known much about what was taking place in the rest of the house. And everyone is always surprised by these incidents. And the same thing is true here. Everyone was in shock.
There was a tendency to look for a network, a religious affiliation, an imam, an extremist group, friends, lists of, you know, people that went to the wedding, anything that could be there to find some type of a terrorist network. And the FBI was doing their job. We're all angry. We all want answers. We all want security. We all want to be protected. But nothing came up. And that is what is so shocking about all of this and I guess I just feel the need to emphasize that so much because we just have a tendency to characterize it in that way.
And unfortunately it was just -- it was really bizarre to sit through the interviews for four hours and not find or see anything, but that's exactly what happened. There was nothing linking this to religion or terrorist related activity.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: They have their own investigation and they're not necessarily --
CHESLEY: But they're the FBI and they're damn good at getting this information and they asked everything they could. They had the mother under pressure for seven hours or so. They basically took her into custody. And at one point they had the mother in custody and they said we're not letting your mother go. They said this to Saira, the sister of Syed. We're not going to let your mother go until you and your brother and your sister Iva come in for questioning.
And I get the feeling that that was a really traumatic experience because her son had just died and not to mention she was totally distraught over how that happened and the victims. She's been crying all these past couple of days. She hates what happened. She's very mournful about over the victims. But I guess what I'm saying is that they're not new to this game. I mean, one of the FBI investigators we sat down with clearly looked like he would be a plant in a mosque.
He had a beard. He looked like he just walked right out of Pakistan or Saudi Arabia. And these are very shrewd, you know, smart individuals. And if there was any information there, they would have gotten it or found it. I mean, the entire world is digging for information. And the most we've gotten so far is somebody looked at something on Facebook.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: So that's all they're telling us.
CHESLEY: That's all we got so far. So far.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What about the information and the digital media that they destroyed?
CHESLEY: Yes, well, all we know -- what we know is that the sister Eva went back to pick up the mother and when she went back the computers in the house were unplugged, she had said. But I haven't read all about this digital information. Yes, I mean, there's a lot of -- yes, I won't go --
ABUERSHAID: There's more information that we're going to be getting once we go back on Monday to discuss the different media that they claim was destroyed as well. The family has been more than cooperative with giving up any of their sources or multimedia they might have to assist the FBI in the investigation.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What do the family think happened then? Do they have any theories?
ABUERSHAID: The family is in complete shock. They have no idea whatsoever. This was their brother by blood. But they weren't too close to him. Everybody had their own families. Everybody had their own children. Everybody had their own life. They weren't as close as they were when they were 15, 16 years of age.
The family's in complete shock. They're very sad for all the victims. They have two losses of their own as well.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you talk about the two AR-15 style rifles? It was reported that Syed did not own them, they belonged -- do you know anything about that?
ABUERSHAID: Well, that's an ongoing part of this investigation that we're finishing up with FBI. So once we finish that up we'll give you guys more details about that.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)
ABUERSHAID: We're not going to be able to discuss that either right now.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you tell us where the baby is now?
CHESLEY: It's in Child Protective Services from what we understand. And I guess -- we've been trying to get the baby back, but it looks like we're probably not going to be able to get the baby out until at least Monday.
ABUERSHAID: There is a hearing set for the child. And we've been in open communication with Child Protective Services to get this child released to one of the family members. And the FBI has been willing to release to one of the family members.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you know which family member is looking to raise the child?
ABUERSHAID: It's most likely his older sister.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Which one?
ABUERSHAID: His oldest sister.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: OK. What's her name? ABUERSHAID: Yes.
ABUERSHAID: Saira, yes.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: So basically what you're saying here today is whatever motive there was for this is very, very hidden.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: There was a motive, you just don't want people to jump to conclusions as to what that motive is.
[17:40:01] CHESLEY: It's been -- it's been very hidden. As you can see from the statement of the FBI chief, you know, that there isn't any connection. And I guess we're all wanting justice. And we're all wanting to make sure we find out anyone who may be affiliated with it. So we'll be protected in the future. But at the same time I guess we've just been saying that we all need to be protective and respectful of one another's religious freedoms and due process -- freedoms of due process.
And so that's what I would say about that. The motive -- the motive is very unclear. It could be a disgruntled worker. At this point --
ABUERSHAID: This investigation is ongoing, it could be disgruntled employee, it could be information that's coming out about their connections to different types of groups. We're still waiting. And until we make a determination, until we finish up with the FBI on Monday and Tuesday, that's when we're going to be able to really see what this is kind of painted as.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)
ABUERSHAID: We will be doing interviews on Monday and Tuesday with the FBI.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you know -- you said the wife was not allowed to practice --
ABUERSHAID: No, we didn't say she wasn't allowed to practice. We said she was not a pharmacist.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: OK. Did she get a degree while in Saudi Arabia?
ABUERSHAID: No, there's no type of degree in Saudi Arabia that she had received. OK. So we will be finishing this up addressing more questions on Monday once we finish up with -- on Monday and Tuesday with the FBI, OK, guys?
CHESLEY: Thank you very much, guys.
CHESLEY: David Chesley. D-A-V-I-D C-H-E-S-L-E-Y --
BLITZER: Pretty extraordinary news conference there. The two attorneys representing Syed Rizwan Farook's family. He was the husband, the male shooter, involved in the San Bernardino mass killing that resulted in 14 deaths, 21 people injured claiming that there's no evidence of any inspiration by ISIS or any other terrorist organization for what was going on even though the FBI today, the FBI director says this is now a formal terror investigation.
Lots to discuss. Jim Sciutto, you and I were listening very carefully to these two attorneys, David Chesley, Mohammad Abuershaid, making the case the family members of Farook were totally shocked. They had no idea. Totally surprised. Some co-worker had made fun of Farook's beard. That may have been some sort of incident.
We learned the mother actually lived -- the mother of Farook lived with this couple and the 6-month-old baby. It was very, very unusual to put it mildly.
SCIUTTO: Unusual particularly 48 hours after you had 14 people killed and 21 injured by this shooting. One thing they tried to do was to undermine the case that this was tied to terrorism. For instance, the lawyer Chesley was saying that all the FBI has presented is that he checked out a certain Web site. In fact as our reporting is, is that the wife made a posting pledging allegiance to the ISIS leader as this attack was unfolding.
So you have that. But it was a flip description of that because he said, well, just because I -- this is in the words of the lawyer -- check out a Britney Spears Web site doesn't mean that I'm loyal to her. An odd comparison to make 48 hours after a mass murder. You have that. But you have them in effect questioning that it's terrorism in addition to saying that the family had no idea that this was going on.
Now to be fair I know that my colleagues out in Los Angeles have heard at local mosques, for instance, and this is a broader view, that in the wake of an attack like this many Muslims feel and clearly his family feels as well that Muslims are being accused here. Muslims in general. As opposed to just the shooters. That's the way they were taking it there.
Listen, it was an odd tone, I think we can say at least so soon after all these killings.
BLITZER: They certainly were not denying that these two individuals had gone there and murdered 14 people and injured 21 others.
SCIUTTO: Well, the odd thing is that they didn't even talk about that. It was sort of like that was kind of kept over here and talking about these other things. They did say that, you know, the family is sorry and that -- you know, that their thoughts and prayers, you know, go out to the victims, et cetera. But that was a minor part of the conversation.
BLITZER: Yes. All right. Stand by, we're going to have much more information that's coming in, we're following the breaking news. Representative Andre Carson of the House Intelligence Committee, he listened to that news conference as well. He's standing by. We'll get the latest on what's going on when we come back.
BLITZER: Now let's go inside the shooters' home. It was a very strange scene today as journalists crowded into the townhouse at the invitation of the landlord and without any interference at all from either the FBI or local law enforcement.
CNN's Victor Blackwell was one of the reporters allowed inside. Victor's joining us now live.
Tell us about that experience, Victor?
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it certainly was an unexpected invitation inside the shooters' home. In larger part what we saw there was what you expect inside the home of a young family with a small child. But there was certainly evidence of that intense raid, the gashes in the walls, the broken glass, the beginning of what we now know is a terror investigation.
BLACKWELL (voice-over): As the door was pried open a dramatic scene as a crush of reporters and camera crews were allowed inside the townhouse rented by Syed Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik. They couple's landlord invites the media to look inside the home with no objection from the FBI.
[17:50:03] DAVID BOWDITCH, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, FBI, LOS ANGELES OFFICE: 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 are not in it anymore, we don't control it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When did you get notice that you can come back in here?
DOYLE MILLER, LANDLORD: Last night, about 8:00, 9:00. This is unreal.
BLACKWELL: Around the apartment, signs of life familiar to families everywhere -- clutter in the kitchen, toys belonging to the couple's 6-month-old daughter scattered on the floor. But it is 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 was 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 seen 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.
In a corner, the crib belonging to their 6-month-old baby girl left with her grandmother on the day of the shooting.
BLACKWELL: And after about an hour, the board was sealed again over that front door not by the FBI or by local police but by the owner's wife and a few friends -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Victor Blackwell, on the scene for us, thanks very much.
Joining us now a Democrat at the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Andre Carson of Indiana. He's also a former police officer.
Congressman, what did you make of that, the FBI local law enforcement actually allowed the media? They didn't do anything to prevent the media from going into that townhouse with all that stuff inside. How unusual was that?
REP. ANDRE CARSON (D), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, first of all, let me say that my heart and prayers go out to the victims and their families. I think that the FBI being the lead investigative agency on this has done a fantastic job and local law enforcement and we command the hard-working law enforcement officers for the thankless job that they are doing. Having said that, it is a bit unusual and curious but I think what's even most important is that is the time for us to very seriously think about strengthening our gun laws in this country and addressing the radicalization and extremism that is taking place in pockets of our society.
I think a great point was made earlier, Wolf, in that we've seen mass shootings almost it seems like weekly now for the past at least couple of weeks and we have to make sure that we are not demonizing one group, in this instance, particularly Muslims, but we know that there are scores of Muslims who are in our law enforcement agencies and intelligence communities, who are helping us solve crimes and prevent terrorist acts from happening.
But going forward, we just always want to make sure that we aren't exposing innocent people to discrimination and suspicion unnecessarily by showing family photos and those kinds of things but at the root of it, this lone wolf attack was simply unacceptable.
BLITZER: Certainly was unacceptable. 14 people were murdered and 21 people were injured. We just heard the lawyers for Farook's family, he's the husband, the male shooter, suggest that people were getting way ahead of themselves because these two individuals, the husband and wife, both Muslim. What do you make of that? And I ask you that question specifically in part because you're one of two Muslims in the U.S. Congress.
CARSON: Well, I think it's always challenging when you have these acts committed and these -- you know, the perpetrators of these crimes happen to be or at least claim to be Muslim and you have a whole group of people, or billions of people who are then tagged as being terrorists or having a faith that encourages terrorist activities. And for us, we want to make the distinction and Muslims have been very vocal condemning these actions. It is not representative of the religion of Islam.
And I think more has to be discussed about the current violent extremism, efforts that have been initiated by the administration and we have to bring in local law enforcement, we have to bring in federal agencies, we have to bring in the faith community, pastors, rabbis, imams and so on and so forth. We have to bring in mental health professionals. We have to bring in educators and have a holistic approach not only to report suspicious activity but to prevent these kinds of acts from happening and develop groups such as MPAC, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, that that are working on counter narrative strategies to push back on a lot of the online extremist rhetoric that we're seeing taking place right now.
[17:55:08] BLITZER: Have you seen evidence, Congressman -- and you're a member of the Intelligence Committee -- that the woman in this case, Tashfeen Malik, actually posted some sort of statement of allegiance as the event, the murders were going on, on Facebook, a statement of allegiance to the ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi?
CARSON: Well, I think Director Comey made a very powerful statement in saying that it doesn't seem as if a directive wasn't given from Daesh or ISIL to these folks. A growing problem that we're seeing, Wolf, is we're seeing people becoming more and more self-radicalized by looking at content online and folks who are already disillusioned, or even troubled for that matter mentally. Their thoughts and views have become concretized and solidified by what they're seeing online, and our hope is that our law enforcement community, the National Counterterrorism Training Center, Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, state and local law enforcement, as well as our fusion centers can work with mosques, churches, synagogues, so on and so forth, in having a village approach and ultimately eliminating the extremist threat that is internal to our country.
BLITZER: Congressman Andre Carson joining us from Indiana. He's a member of the Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, as usual, thanks very much.
CARSON: An honor. Thank you.
BLITZER: Coming up, the women of ISIS. Did the terrorist recruit the female shooter in California? Did she get radicalized on her own? Were she and her husband, were they inspired to go ahead and kill these people? We're digging into that story.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news, pledge to ISIS. Officials believe that the woman who went on the San Bernardino shooting rampage with her husband declared allegiance to the ISIS leader in an online post. The FBI now investigating the case as an act of terror and saying the assailants tried to erase their digital fingerprints. Were they trying to hide connections to other extremists?
Killers' home. The landlord lets the news media take a remarkable and chilling tour of the condo the couple shared with their infant daughter, where they plotted their attack and built their homes. Do their possessions shed any new light on what led them to mass murder?
The investigation, the FBI taking over the probe now in charge of multiple crime scene locations and trying to uncover connections between the two killers and other possible extremists.