At Chattanooga Memorial, Biden Calls Shooter 'Perverted Jihadist' But Carter Says Motive 'Unclear'

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said at a memorial service Saturday for the five service members killed by 24-year-old Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez, who raved about jihad on his blog and downloaded messages of late AQAP cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, that the shooter's "meaning... is yet unclear."

Vice President Joe Biden, however, had a descriptor ready for Abdulazeez: "When this perverted jihadist struck" two military installations in the city in July "everyone responded."

Biden added "a message for the perverted cowards... America never yields, never bends, never cowers."

Killed in the shooting spree were Marine Sgt. Carson Holmquist, 25, Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, 40, Lance Cpl. Squire "Skip" Wells, 21, Staff Sgt. David Wyatt, 35, and Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith, 26.

Federal officials haven't attributed the slayings to jihad, which puts in limbo the Purple Hearts for those wounded in domestic terror attacks -- something Texas lawmakers fought for years to bring to the survivors of the Fort Hood massacre. If the feds rule that Abdulazeez didn't have contact with terrorist groups -- and he has traveled to the Middle East, though online contacts should also count -- then survivors won't get the benefits under the 2015 defense bill language.

Speaking at the ceremony, Carter said of the victims, "The meaning of their lives is crystal clear and we will forever be proud of them."

"The meaning of their killing is yet unclear, and what combination of disturbed mind, violent extremism, and hateful ideology was at work, we don't know. Perhaps it will never be fully known, let alone fathomable, by all who have the decency and conscience to value their fellow human beings," the Defense secretary continued.

"...We are the many, the just, the noble, and that the few who threaten or incite harm to Americans violent extremists or terrorists, wherever they are will surely, very surely, no matter how long it takes, come to feel the long arm and the hard fist of justice. And we know that those who attempt to inspire fear or terror will find no satisfaction, have no success, in the United States of America."

Biden said that the "perverse ideologues...may be able to inspire a single lone wolf, but they can never, never threaten who we are."