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As San Bernardino Recovers, FBI Delves Into Digital Footprints Of Shooters

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We start today’s show with the San Bernardino shootings. Earlier today, President Obama found his role reversed when he got a phone call from French President Francois Hollande offering condolences. The leaders agreed to work together to fight terrorism abroad and at home. And in his weekly address, President Obama suggested there may be a link between terrorism and the attack that left 14 people dead.


BARACK OBAMA: It is entirely possible that these two attackers were radicalized to commit this act of terror. And if so, it would underscore a threat we’ve been focused on for years.

NEARY: NPR’s Nathan Rott has been covering the story in San Bernardino. He joins us now. Hi, Nathan.


NEARY: Now, I understand that you are near the Inland Regional Center, where the mass shooting took place on Wednesday. What’s happening there today?

ROTT: Yeah, I’m standing on the corner just across the way from where the shooting occurred. And there’s a makeshift memorial for the 14 victims just down the street with flowers and American flags and people walking by and paying their respects. There’s also a small procession of cars. The FBI is allowing people to come get their cars that were left in the parking lot here since the shooting occurred on Wednesday. They’re being escorted by police and all that. The parking lot and building itself, though, are still both technically closed and under federal control since they’re investigating this as an act of terror.

NEARY: What’s going on with the investigation right now?

ROTT: Well, the FBI says that the bulk of the investigating now will be focused on tracing the digital fingerprints of the two shooters – Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik. What that means is they’re going to try to find out who Farook and Malik were interacting with online and on two smashed cell phones police found at the scene. The FBI says they believe Malik had pledged her allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State on social media around the time of the attack. And in a radio bulletin, the Islamic State says that the two shooters were, quote, “supporters”. But they did not claim to have planned or ordered those attacks. And the FBI has been very clear in saying that they have no proof that either Farook or Malik had any contact with terrorist groups or extremist cells before the attack. They do say, though, that their investigation is showing signs of radicalization.

NEARY: And how is the community dealing with all of this at this point?

ROTT: Well, it’s hard to get a sense of how everyone’s handling it. It’s a big and diverse city. But earlier this morning, I went to a couple of different shopping centers and it looked like any normal day. One woman I talked to, Karol Sudol, has two adult sons who are disabled and go to the Inland Regional Center, where the shooting occurred. And she says they’re both nervous about going back. But when I asked her if she was nervous, as a mother, I got this response.


ROTT: Why?

SUDOL: Because I’m not going to let terrorism take me over. I live in America. I live in the land of the free – so no, I won’t stop my life. I’ll grieve for the people that are lost. I’ll probably always remember this day. But nope, they’re not going to stop me. And I think that most people that I have spoken to all have said the same thing. They’re not going to stop us.

NEARY: Pretty strong stuff.

ROTT: Yeah.

NEARY: Nathan, thanks so much for joining us.

ROTT: Thank you.

NEARY: NPR’s Nathan Rott, who is in San Bernardino.

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