(CN) - FBI Director James Comey said on Wednesday his agency has turned up no evidence the couple who massacred 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif., on Dec. 2 were part of an organized terror cell or had been in contact with jihadist militants overseas.
"What we saw in San Bernardino, as with Chattanooga, another act of terrorism we've dealt with in recent times, was people consuming poison on the Internet and radicalizing," Comey said during an appearance at police headquarters in New York City.
He said at this point in the investigation, the agency has determined that early on in their relationship -- when they were in contact only over the Internet and had not yet met in person -- Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik discussed their mutual support for jihad and martyrdom.
But why they held those beliefs is still unknown.
"In San Bernardino we see two people, Malik and Farook, who were radicalized before the emergence of ISIL, so untangling the motivations, [and] which particular terrorist propaganda motivated them and in what way, remains a challenge in these investigations."
Comey also dismissed widespread reports in the immediate aftermath of the couple's attack on the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino that Malik had posted statements of support for Islamic State terrorists on Facebook prior to the shootings.
Comey disavows those reports, calling them, "a garble."
He said Malik's statements were made to her husband, and in "direct, private messages" through social media to a small group of friends in her native Pakistan, the most recent having been sent in 2014.
In those messages, sent before she entered the United States in July 2014, she reportedly expressed support for Islamic Jihad and a desire to take part in it.
"The threat we face from foreign terrorist organizations is one we've been talking about for the last couple of years, at least," Comey said. "It has three dimensions to it. The first is ISIS is still endeavoring to attract people to travel to their so-called Caliphate; second they are endeavoring, through their very slick propaganda, to inspire those who would not travel, to kill in place; and third, they are increasingly attempting to send operatives out of Syria, from among their foreign fighters they've attracted there, to conduct attacks in Europe and, if they can, in their homeland.
"You saw that last dimension of the threat manifest in Paris; You saw the second dimension of the threat manifest in San Bernardino," he said.
The FBI director said his agency's focus right now is to determine what the couple did in the four hours between the attack on the Inland Regional Center and their own deaths; what other attacks they may have intended to carry out; and who, if anyone, helped them.
Asked about possible charges being filed against Farook's mother, Rafia Farook, who lived with the couple, Comey declined to comment.
"Whether someone, a relative, saw something and failed to report it, I'm not ready to go there yet," he said.
In the meantime, the baby daughter the couple left with Rafia Farook before departing on their rampage is now in the custody of San Bernardino County child protective services.
Saira Khan, the older sister of gunman Syed Farook, and her husband, Farhan Khan, are seeking custody of the six-month-old child.
A court hearing on the matter was held Monday, and another hearing has been scheduled for January.
A spokeswoman with San Bernardino County Children and Family Services declined to comment on the case.
In the meantime, Mostafa Mahboob, a family spokesman, and representative of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Los Angeles, issued a statement saying, "The family is naturally distraught at the separation and are eagerly awaiting to obtain custody of the six-month-old girl.
"CAIR-LA is working to make sure that the baby is placed with a Muslim foster family while she remains in the custody of San Bernardino County Child Protective Services. It is also working with the family to ensure that the child is swiftly reunited with her family," the statement said.
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