U.S. may begin reviewing social media posts as part of immigrant security screening

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration is reviewing procedures for vetting would-be immigrants, with an eye toward examining applicants' online presence, to close security gaps in the U.S.

See Full Article

visa system, the White House said Monday.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the Homeland Security and State departments have been asked to review the process for screening people who apply for visas and to return with specific recommendations.

The Homeland Security Department said it is specifically reviewing policies on when authorities at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services can look at social media posts as part of the vetting process for would-be immigrants applying for certain visas.

"I think the president's top priority here is the national security and safety of the American people," Earnest said. "And that will continue to be the case with ensuring that this K-1 visa program is effectively implemented."

Tashfeen Malik, a Pakistani woman who the FBI says carried out an attack with her husband in San Bernardino, California, that killed 14 people earlier this month, came to the United States in 2014 on a K-1, or fiance, visa.

Earnest did not provide specifics of the security review for visas, but said one consideration going forward is resources.

The government approved more than 9.9 million visa applications during the 2014 budget year.

The department said three pilot programs to specifically incorporate "appropriate" social media reviews into its vetting process were launched in the last year and the department is looking at other ways to use social media posts.

Malik's background check included at least one in-person interview in Pakistan and another after marrying Syed Farook, who was born in Illinois. She also had to provide fingerprints and a variety of background information. Authorities also vetted her using intelligence and law enforcement databases.

The day after the attack, Facebook found a post on a page maintained by Malik pledging her and Farook's allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State group. The page was under an alias.

Authorities have said Malik and Farook exchanged messages about jihad and martyrdom online before they were married and while she was living in Pakistan.

The history of Malik's radicalization and her apparent online discussions about jihad have raised concerns about how she was able to pass a background check that the government has described as rigorous.

Sen. Richard Burr, a Republican who heads the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday that Farook was radicalized as early as 2010 and Malik as far back as 2012, which would have been years before her visa was processed.

"We want to look at how our immigration process for a visa for a spouse broke down, that they didn't notice the radicalization," Burr said.

Certain DHS officials are currently allowed to look at social media posts as part of law enforcement investigations. The possible policy changes are being considered at USCIS, the DHS agency in charge of managing immigration benefits cases and interviewing green card applicants.

Malik was interviewed by USCIS after marrying Farook.

The FBI has said the couple was not on its radar until after the attacks and the shootout with police hours later that ended in their death.

"I don't think there are any indications that there was public use of social media that was missed, and we are looking into other questions about how they may have communicated to each other that avoided our detection," said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, after being briefed by law enforcement late last week.

Allowing visa vetters to review social media postings is no guarantee that a would-be immigrant who has radicalized views will be discovered. Facebook and Twitter users can make their pages private and aliases are routinely employed.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Smiling Trump, grim Pope: Awkward photo mocked online

    World News CTV News
    U.S. President Donald Trump and Pope Francis met for the first time at the Vatican on Wednesday. Trump appeared upbeat and smiling for the cameras throughout most of the 30-minute get-together that was also attended by his wife, first lady Melania Trump, as well his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner. Source
  • 6-year-old pricked by used needle while playing in local park

    Canada News CTV News
    A London, Ont. family is anxiously awaiting the results of medical tests after their six-year-old son pricked himself with a used needle while playing in a local park. On Monday night, Ocean Renouf and her son Nathaniel went to Constitution Park for some pre-dinner playtime. Source
  • Grieving 80-year-old widow victimized by cemetery purse snatcher

    World News Toronto Sun
    LAWRENCE, Mass. — Police in Massachusetts say a man snatched an 80-year-old woman’s purse as she was visiting her husband’s grave. Lawrence police say the widow placed her purse on the ground at St. Mary-Immaculate Conception Cemetery as she was cleaning the gravesite late Tuesday morning when a man came up behind her, grabbed the purse and ran away. Source
  • San Antonio police officer accused of punching 8th grade girl after video emerges on social media

    World News Toronto Sun
    SAN ANTONIO — The San Antonio Police Department is reviewing body camera footage after a bystander posted video online that appears to show an officer punching an eighth-grade girl three or four times outside of a birthday party last weekend. Source
  • Uncertain outlook keeps Bank of Canada firmly on the sidelines for now

    Canada News CBC News
    The Bank of Canada kept its benchmark interest rate steady on Wednesday, but signalled that could change once the weak U.S. economy starts to rebound as expected through the latter part of the year. Canada's central bank kept its target for the overnight rate steady at 0.5 per cent on Wednesday, the same level it's been at since the middle of 2015, because the economy isn't showing any signs of needing any more or any less stimulus. Source
  • Father of alleged Manchester bomber Salman Abedi declares son innocent: ‘We don’t believe in killing’ [Photos]

    World News Toronto Sun
    MANCHESTER, England — An apparent suicide bomber attacked an Ariana Grande concert as it ended Monday night, killing 22 people among a panicked crowd of young concertgoers, some still wearing the star’s trademark kitten ears and holding pink balloons as they fled. Source
  • Gay couple accuses Southwest Airlines of discrimination after being denied pre-boarding

    World News Toronto Sun
    NAPLES, Fla. — A Florida man says a Southwest Airlines employee refused to let him board a flight as a family with his husband, their three children and a grandparent. Grant Morse tells USA Today he was in the family boarding area at the gate at the Buffalo, New York, airport on Saturday when a gate agent told them the area is for family boarding. Source
  • 4 bodies found in tent at Mount Everest's highest camp

    World News CBC News
    Almost every year, the reports filter down from the highest mountain in the world, and talk among the climbing teams at Everest Base Camp turns to the latest person to die. On Everest, tragedy is almost normal. Source
  • 4 bodies found in Everest base camp tent

    World News CBC News
    Almost every year, the reports filter down from the highest mountain in the world, and talk among the climbing teams at Everest Base Camp turns to the latest person to die. On Everest, tragedy is almost normal. Source
  • Dog found beaten, buried alive in Quebec

    Canada News CTV News
    WARNING: Some readers may find details in the following story to be distressing A dog is in critical condition after it was found beaten, strangled, wrapped in a sheet and buried alive in a field east of Montreal. Source