Return to Transcripts main page


Investigators Find ISIS Connection to Shooters; Community Mourns Victims of Shooting; No Warning Signs from Shooters. Aired 11- 11:30a ET

Aired December 4, 2015 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:00] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm John Berman.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thanks for joining us. We are following breaking news out of the massacre in San Bernardino, California.

Investigates have found a connection to ISIS. This is the first link we have heard of between the terror group and the shooting rampage that killed 14 people and wounded 21 others.

BERMAN: CNN's Chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, broke the story. He joins us now with details.

Jim, what have you learned?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: John, multiple U.S. officials telling me and my colleague, Pamela Brown, as the San Bernardino was under way, the wife of the shooter, Tashfeen Malik, she posted to Facebook a pledge of allegiance to the ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. She made a posting on social media declaring her allegiance. This leading investigators down the path this was an ISIS-inspired attack. They're saying inspiration at this point. They do not have evidence of direction, but inspiration.

We were told by one U.S. official this is looking more and more like self-radicalization. Other officials tell us they have not ruled out others may have influenced Farook and his wife along the way. That often happens with these cases. People get in touch with other ISIS sympathizers via social media forums, jihadi websites, et cetera.

Also this, because we've had a lot of discussion about this, Kate and John, as you know, about what contributed in terms of extremism as well as the possibility of workplace grievances. To be clear, investigators are looking at whether disputes or offense taken at the shooter's religion at the workplace may have contributed to this as well.

What is key here is the news of establishing this ISIS connection. I'll tell you, for weeks, for months, this is exactly the scenario that U.S. intelligence officials, U.S. counterterrorist officials, have told me and my colleagues that they're concerned about, ISIS would inspire someone on U.S. soil to do something, sadly, to what we say on the streets of Paris. Not the scale of that but similar, multiple shooters, multiple fatalities, multiple weapons, now a direct connection to ISIS here.


BERMAN: Just to be clear, while the shooting was under way, she posted something to Facebook?

SCIUTTO: That's right. There is precedence of that. ISIS will ask of followers to do that, make a posting on Facebook or Twitter while an attack is under way or just before, to post the pledge of allegiance to the group of the leader. We have seen that in previous attacks overseas. That's what investigators fear they've seen take place here.

BOLDUAN: A major development coming from your sources.

Jim, thanks so much. Jim Sciutto for us.

There's a lot to talk through now with this huge development and turn in this investigation. Let's bring in CNN counterterrorism analyst, Phil Mudd; CNN law enforcement, Harry Houck; as well as CNN terrorism analyst, Paul Cruickshank.

Phil, first to you.

As Jim said, this is something officials here and abroad -- especially here, have feared for a very long time would happen, an ISIS-inspired attack. Now we have 14 people killed in what looks to be a possibly ISIS-inspired attack.

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: That's right. This story is changing quickly. We transitioned this morning from speculation into what might have been the motivation for this attack. You have to have some sort of political motivation to consider an attack of terrorism. We didn't have that until this story started breaking, not only the direct connection for a pledge of support for al Baghdadi. The timing is significant, if you're posting that during an event, you're indicating that was at least some of your motivation for conducting the event. Early on you're saying how can that be linked to ISIS? Somehow, some way, clearly it does. This changes the game for me.

BERMAN: Harry, just to go to the investigation angle, again, this was perhaps gleaned from looking at the cell phones that were crushed. We know a hard drive was missing. What do investigators do now to continue to look at these threads? They're obviously yielding stunning information.

HARRY HOUCK, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Without a doubt. I'm sure the FBI has a computer team that is far above any on this earth. They can go through this hard drive and be able to pick out a little information. A lot of people think when you wipe a hard drive that all the information is gone. There is a file that stays there no matter how much deleting you do. The problem is how well destroyed was the hard drive. Are they able to retrieve the information on the hard drive? It looks like they probably have been able to do it. There's still information on there. It's a long task. You really need to be an expert to do this. Same thing with cell phones. The cell phone information, you can get a lot of that information from the phone company. If you don't get the text -- let's say everything is encrypted and you can't get the information. We have the numbers they called or maybe numbers that called them. These are very big leads and every one will be tracked down.

[11:05:31] BOLDUAN: As it all starts, and it's really just the beginning of something maybe adding up, Paul. You have this information of looking like self-radicalization, an is-inspired attack on U.S. soil. This arsenal they amassed over some pert of time. That's why it's surprising to so many people, and I want to get your take from your point of expertise, that the family, the family's attorney, they say that there were no red flags. There were no warning signs. They weren't on anyone's radar, even those closest to them. No one saw anything coming.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: We hear that time and time again in these cases. Often it's a family to find out the people self-radicalizing hid it from their families. They distance themselves from their family. Perhaps there was some instigation from is, Syria and Iraq in this attack? We've seen it earlier, Garland, Texas, in May of this year, that a British ISIS operative who has since been killed in a drone strike was encouraging over social media one of the attackers to launch some kind of attack in the United States. ISIS is trying to instigate these attacks in any way it can, through social media. One of their top leaders issued a fatwa, losing there's -- ISIS have also, as Jim was saying, they're also drilling into their followers, the idea you've got to claim it in some way for the so-called caliphate. There have been a number of instances where that has taken place, especially in Garland, Texas, shooting where they posted before opening up fire there. A case in Demark, posted a Facebook just a few minutes before. A couple of other examples as well. So this would allow ISIS to take ownership.

BOLDUAN: Doesn't it seem like some insult to injury that they would take time during this attack --


BERMAN: It could be between the shooting and while they were shot.


BERMAN: So, Phil, I want to follow up this right now just to review our news here. Jim Sciutto, our chief national security correspondent, reporting that the woman involved in this shooting made some post on Facebook as the shooting was underway, pledging allegiance to ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. We know they're investigating a possible link between the shooters and a terror suspect they had been before. Do you get from the shooting to the terror suspects? What are you doing now?

MUDD: You have to look at multiple layers of the investigation. Obviously, you're looking at old information federal officials might have looked at before between these individuals and other radicalized individuals in the United States. If those are closed investigations, I would want to reopen them. You've got to look at these conversations with the family, what they knew when. Those extend out to friends, to colleagues. Your first question is whether there was a conspiracy around this. Not necessarily just people providing weapons but people who were part of the conspiracy because they knew something was a foot. Second thing, did someone provide money? Did someone provide them weapons knowing something was happening? Did they communicate with someone a year ago when this radicalization process started? It's almost a ripple effect for the investigation. Finally, John, the question I would be having now, in the wake of the Paris plot, who were people in Syria who have transitioned over the past month or year in ISIS who have said we're not going to passively encourage people to strike Europe and the United States. We are going to train them and send them out. Because I'd be worried after Paris that ISIS is going to try to send people to New York or California.

[11:09:44] BOLDUAN: There have big questions how someone without any training could pull off these pipe bombs, amass the weapons. There's so many questions just now starting to get some of these details, a more horrific picture than it began as.

Phil, great to see you. Thank you.

Paul, thank you.

Harry, thank you so much.

Coming up, no warning signs, no red flags. The family members of these killers describe them as quiet and shy. New details on the shooters and the breaking news. We continue to cover this breaking news on this new-found ISIS connection ahead.

BERMAN: Plus, the smell of gunpowder was still in air. One of the first officers to arrive at the mass shooting described a surreal scene he called unspeakable. We'll hear from him.

Also, we're learning more about the victims. 14 lives cut short by this horror. There were mothers, a new father planning a trip to Disneyland, a young woman with a contagious smile. We'll have their stories straight ahead.


[11:15:23] BERMAN: Breaking news out of San Bernardino. Federal officials telling CNN they found a possible link between the shooters and ISIS. The female shooter apparently posted to Facebook using a different name, while the shooting was under way, pledging their allegiance to ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi.

BOLDUAN: Officials say it appears the attack was inspired by ISIS, but not necessarily ISIS-directed or ordered. All of this, though, is important. A very big development in this.

Let's bring back in Paul Cruickshank and continue this. Paul, what is the importance in that distinction, though, for our

viewers? ISIS-inspired versus ISIS-directed? Regardless, 14 people died.

CRUICKSHANK: The distinction has become a little muddied over time as ISIS is in touch with them from Syria and Iraq, the so-called caliphate, to the United States. There's a little muddying of the waters about this distinction which used to exist more between a directed terrorist talk and an inspired terrorist attack. Inspired terrorist attack means they haven't gone overseas to Syria or Iraq, or places like Libya to meet with senior ISIS figures who have given them training. And I think the nature of this attack, guns and pretty primitive bombs is consistent with more ISIS-inspired attacks. People who haven't got that training overseas because when they do, we see things like Paris where you have more than 150 people killed.

BERMAN: This is not just, inspired. As Kate said, ISIS wants these to spring up organically all over the world. They have called for just such thing.

CRUICKSHANK: They have called for just such thing. They say it's the religious duty of their followers. They have an all-out campaign, every hour of every day they promote the idea that western followers should launch attacks. When they do, they promote them big time and the issues of their English and French and other language magazines. There will be videotapes ISIS will put out. It's a big deal the ISIS can take claim of an attack against the United States. It was al Qaeda that could boast about that. Now ISIS will boast about this. Here's the context. This year, there have been a surge in the number of ISIS-inspired cases of terrorism in the United States. More than 50 arrests we've seen linked to these ISIS-inspired cases. A quarter of those have seen some kind of attack, plans or aspirations to launch attacks. Over 900 investigations of people believed inspired by ISIS across the U.S. There's more energy in the system. This declaration by the caliphate, by ISIS has energized these followers and they're increasingly angered by the U.S. strikes. The reality is the fact that ISIS holds territory in Syria, Iraq and also Libya, gives it so much more legitimacy. Really empowers it in the eyes of its supporters. And I think there needs to be an urgent discussion, especially after that attack, but after Paris, from all the various international powers about removing this territorial control that ISIS have in Syria, Iraq and Libya. And just a few hundred extra forces, frankly, is not going to change the dynamic quickly enough. I think we can see these horrible days like in Paris or California unless something is done urgently.

BERMAN: Sobering thought.

BOLDUAN: A sobering thought. And this tragedy in California has very quickly now become part of the broader conversation that has been going on for quite some time about how to take on ISIS.

Paul, stick around. We have more to discuss with you.

Want to get to this, new this morning. As investigators continue to search for more answers behind the motive of this attack and this tragedy in California, the San Bernardino community is trying to -- trying to mourn the victims of this massacre. 14 people were killed in the attack, 21 injured. All of them between the ages of 26 and 60 years old.

[11:20:12] BERMAN: This is what family members are now saying about their loved ones.


RYAN REYES, DANIEL KAUFMAN'S BOYFRIEND: I know it's very cliche and I know I've said this several times that, you know, people say, oh, somebody's smile could light up a room. This is actually true of Daniel. It's even been brought to my attention that I didn't even realize the impact that he had on some people's lives.

ARLEN VERDEHYOU, BENNATTA'S HUSBAND: Lovely wife, beautiful mother. Everything she touched, bloomed. Doing what she did for the county, not one person can say anything negative about her.


BERMAN: I want to bring in CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, you've been out there hearing to family members. What are you learning about the 14 victims?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: So many of the families want to talk, first of all. It's one of those things where I think they just want to talk. Maybe it's cathartic, share their stories, honor their loved ones. 14 people as you just mentioned.

Some of the stories, let me just tell you, Robert Adams, 40 years old, a real family man. He married his teenage sweetheart. And a daughter named Savannah. He always wanted to be a dad. Savannah is 20 months old.

Michael Wetzel is 37 years old. Six children, Michael Wetzel has. His wife described him as the most amazing person she knew. Best friends, she described him.

Yvette Velasco, 27 years old, sparkly eyes and a contagious smile, full of life. Loved by everyone that met her. Just amazing stories.

Again, you hear from the families. This is one of the communities where people just know each other. We know in the hospital where the E.R. staff was taking care of people, there were people who came in they knew as well. It's one of those types of communities. We're just trying to find out and hear more about these families' loved ones. They want to talk, they want to share.

BOLDUAN: There are still 21 people who were injured. Many still in the hospital. What can you tell us? Some of them suffering from horrific gunshot wounds. GUPTA: Yeah, no question. We know there's been a significant

improvement and some patients remember charged. Some patients' conditions were upgraded from critical to fair or stable. There's a little progress. Good news there.

There's a picture I wanted to point out to you of what the emergency room at Arrowhead Medical Center in moments before patients arrived. How they got ready, there were people who weren't on call, scheduled to work, who just came in. By the time patients started to arrive within that emergency room, there were four to five doctors who were there waiting. It gives you an idea of the extraordinary preparation. They do training and drills for things like this, but just the rush of personnel who came in to help. I think it made a big difference. At that hospital, Arrowhead, you had one patient who is now charged, five patients who still remain. When we talked to the chief of surgery yesterday, he said they were all stable. As you point out, these can be horrific injuries as a result of the types of weapons that were used. Despite that and I think in part because of very quick care, they're having some good results.

BOLDUAN: An amazing preparation, amazing training by those at the hospital.

Sanjay, thanks so much.

GUPTA: Thank you.

BERMAN: Our minds obviously with those victims and their families.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

BERMAN: Meanwhile, there is breaking news on the shootings. A pledge of allegiance to ISIS while the attack was under way. Our continuing coverage right after this.


[11:28:23] Breaking news. CNN learned investigators found a connection to ISIS in the San Bernardino shooting. U.S. officials say the female attacker pledged allegiance to the ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, on Facebook as the attack was under way. This comes as attorneys for the shooters' family tells CNN they saw no warning signs.

BOLDUAN: Those attorneys say the facts as they know them, they just don't add up. They say Syed Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, showed no indication they were stockpiling an arsenal of weapons, ammunition or pipe bombs or that they were planning this horrific attack.

Listen here to the family's attorney.


DAVID S. CHESLEY, SHOOTERS' FAMILY ATTORNEY: There's a lot of things that just don't make sense. No one seen Syed with any of the things that they -- with some of the things they found on the scene, they seen him with them.


BOLDUAN: Joining us now is Hussam Ayloush, the executive director for CAIR, the Council for American Islamic Relations in Los Angeles.

Thank you for joining us.

You spoke with --


BOLDUAN: Of course. You spoke with the brother-in-law just last night. We heard from their attorneys that they can't make sense of the facts as they're laid out. What did he tell you? How are they making sense of it, then?

AYLOUSH: They're not. They're just -- they're completely shocked. They're completely shaken by what happened. It completely took them by surprise because there were no signs, no warnings that Syed Farook and his wife were taking that path. There were absolutely no warnings for them. They acted normally. It seems like they had a double life or they were really good at hiding their -- you know, what seems to be their new ideology or their intentions.