NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Vigilance, not panic, was the messaged FBI director James Comey emphasized while visiting New York City Wednesday, saying that while he understands that Americans are jittery amid terrorist attacks, citizens should try to channel their awareness.
Comey spoke at the NYPD Shield Conference with Commissioner William Bratton prior to a joint press conference to discuss terrorism.
Comey said the husband-and-wife team who killed 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif., communicated privately about jihad before they were married, but there is no evidence to suggest they posted publicly on social media about it.
"We can see from our investigation that in late 2013, before there is a physical meeting of these two people resulting in their engagement and then their journey to the United States, they're communicating online, showing signs in their communication of their joint commitment to jihad and to martyrdom," he said.
Comey said those messages between Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik were direct, private messages.
"So far, in this investigation we have found no evidence of posting on social media by either of them at that period in time and thereafter reflecting their commitment to jihad or to martyrdom," he said, referring to media reports suggesting that Malik had spoken openly on social media about jihad and that background checks had not detected those comments.
Comey also said the July 16 attack in two military sites in Chattanooga, during which five U.S. service members were killed, was "inspired and motivated by foreign terrorist propaganda." The FBI had previously hesitated to use the word terrorism in relation to the attack.
Comey said the threat from the Islamic State group has not changed, but that it is vastly different from how terror cells operated around the time of the September 11th attack.
"Your parents' al-Qaida is a very different model and was a very different threat that what we face today," he said.
The message is so much easier to receive now, he said. Islamic State operatives reach out via social media, and they want eager followers to join the fight at the Syria-Iraq border or kill where they are. And they use encrypted messaging programs that no one can access - not even the companies who make them.
Comey reiterated a push by many law enforcement agencies around the country to change how technology companies encrypt applications to make it easier for agents to access messages with a court order.
FBI director urges New Yorkers to be vigilant, but not panic in face of terror