WASHINGTON — The two San Bernardino shooters were radicalized at least two years ago and had discussed jihad and martyrdom as early as 2013, FBI Director James Comey said Wednesday.
Comey told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that investigators believe that Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, were radicalized even before they began their online relationship and that Malik held extremist views before she arrived in the U.S. last year.
Comey’s comment means that Malik’s radicalization had already begun when she applied for a visa to come to the U.S. to get married, and that the government’s vetting process apparently failed to detect it.
Malik moved from Pakistan to the U.S. in July 2014 and married Farook the following month. Farook was born in Chicago in 1987 and raised in southern California.
FBI officials had previously said that the couple had been radicalized for “quite some time,” but the disclosure Wednesday was the most specific yet about the timeline of their relationship and progression toward extremism.
Comey said the couple was clearly inspired by a foreign terror organization, but that investigators did not yet know whether their online courtship was arranged by such a group or developed naturally on its own.
“It would be a very, very important thing to know,” he said.