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National

FBI Says San Bernardino, Calif., Shooters Were Radicalized

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

When President Obama addressed the nation last night and talked about the San Bernardino attackers, he said something that stood out.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BARACK OBAMA: It is clear that the two of them had gone down the dark path of radicalization, embracing a perverted interpretation of Islam that calls for war against America and the West.

MCEVERS: The president didn't say how he knew that, but today, a fuller picture is developing not just about the shooters but what happened leading up to the attack. NPR's counterterrorism correspondent Dina Temple-Raston is with us now. And Dina, the FBI had a press conference in San Bernardino this afternoon and provided some new details. What else have we learned?

DINA TEMPLE-RASTON, BYLINE: Well, officials said they have evidence that both Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik had been radicalized for some time. They didn't say how long or by who. They said they have evidence that both Farook and his wife went to shooting ranges a number of times, the latest being just days before the attacks. And they said that the guns used in the attacks were purchased legally. The FBI said Farook bought two pistols and a rifle which authorities found in their apartment. And then there were two assault rifles that were used in the attack that were purchased by a childhood friend of his. Officials say they're still trying to understand how Farook ended up with those guns.

MCEVERS: There've been a lot of questions about whether Tashfeen Malik radicalized her husband or was even maybe in charge of this operation. Did investigators talk about that?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, the FBI said that it doesn't have a sense of who was in control of the attack. They're working on extracting information from some cell phones and a hard drive that they found in their house, and they're hoping that that will help them understand why this happened. They also have a reconstruction team that went to the conference center where this happened, and they're trying to put together a timeline. But they aren't releasing that yet.

MCEVERS: And the investigation has been going on for five days now. Has the FBI ruled anything out at this point?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, they said they don't see anything that suggests a plot coming from outside the U.S. But law enforcement sources told NPR that one of the investigative avenues they're pursuing is whether Malik may have come to the U.S. with the intention to attack, as some sort of honeypot. The question they're trying to answer is whether she purposely trolled matchmaking sites on the web to find up lovelorn American so she could get into the U.S. and do something like what happened last week.

Now, I should stress that investigators haven't found anything that suggests this is the case, but again, they want to rule that out. Online matchmaking, if you're a devout Muslim in this country, is really common, so authorities are trying to make sure that this wasn't sort of an organized effort to take advantage of that. So that's one of the lines of investigation.

MCEVERS: Does the FBI believed the couple acted alone or that anyone else helped them?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, they haven't discovered a conspiracy, they said, and President Obama suggested as much last night as well. But the FBI's focusing now on two other people. The first is a childhood friend of Farook's who went to high school with him, and they used to fix cars together. And the two assault rifles were used in the attack - that were used in the attack belong to him.

And authorities are questioning Farook's mother as well. She lived in the same house with Farook and Malik and their 6-month-old daughter. So authorities say it's hard to believe that she couldn't have known what was going on given the amount of ammunition and explosives that were in the house. But we don't have details on that yet.

MCEVERS: There was early reports that this might have been some kind of workplace incident. Have authorities ruled that out?

TEMPLE-RASTON: No. I mean, that's what makes this case so complicated, is that authorities can't get away from the fact that there's a deeply personal dimension to this, some sort of vengeance. That's why authorities have been interviewing his coworkers to try to find out if there was some sort of problem at work that might not necessarily have motivated the attack itself, but moved these two to target this meeting instead of something else.

MCEVERS: That's NPR's counterterrorism correspondent Dina Temple-Raston. Dina, thank you so much.

TEMPLE-RASTON: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.