NYT Tacks Editor’s Note Onto San Bernardino Story Challenged By FBI

New York Times headquarters
December 18, 2015 10:10 a.m.

The New York Times added a three-paragraph editor’s note late Thursday to its story about the social media use of one of the San Bernardino attackers. The addition came a day after the FBI refuted the newspaper’s claim that shooter Tashfeen Malik “talked openly on social media” about her commitment to waging jihad.

According to FBI Director James Comey, Malik and her husband Syed Rizwan Farook discussed their plans to commit terrorism in “direct, private messages” that would not have been accessible to law enforcement.

The editor’s note states that the Times’ initial reporting was “based on accounts from law enforcement officials” which were then superseded by Comey’s statement.

Key details of the story have been changed to reflect the latest information from the FBI. The headline was altered from “Visa Screening Missed an Attacker’s Zealotry on Social Media” to “U.S. Visa Process Missed San Bernardino Wife’s Online Zealotry.”

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The article’s lede, which previously stated that Malik “talked openly on social media about her views on violent jihad,” was also altered. It now states that U.S. background checks did not catch “what Ms. Malik had said online about her views on violent jihad.”

Malik came to the U.S. from Pakistan in 2014 on a K-1 fiancée visa, which requires multiple levels of background checks and screenings.

Several presidential candidates alleged that the government failed to catch Malik’s public posts about jihad during Tuesday’s Republican debate in Las Vegas. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) chastised federal authorities for not stopping the shooting, saying Malik “made a public call to jihad and they didn’t target it.”

Read the editor’s note below:

The original version of this article, based on accounts from law enforcement officials, reported that Tashfeen Malik had “talked openly on social media” about her support for violent jihad.

On Wednesday, however, the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, said that online communications about jihad by Ms. Malik and her husband, Syed Rizwan Farook, involved “direct, private messages.” His remarks indicated that the comments about jihad were not made in widely accessible social media posts.

Law enforcement officials subsequently told The Times that Ms. Malik communicated with her husband in emails and private messages, and on a dating site. Ms. Malik’s comments to Mr. Farookabout violent jihad were made on a messaging platform, officials said. Neither Mr. Comey nor other officials identified the specific platforms that were used. (This article and headline have been revised to reflect the new information.)

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