House GOP Working on Requiring Social Media Vetting of Visa Applicants
By BENJAMIN SIEGEL
December 15, 2015, 4:26 AM
• 3 min read
-- The House Judiciary Committee announced Monday work on legislation that would tighten the screening process for visas, including the K-1 fiancé visa used by San Bernardino shooter Tashfeen Malik to enter the United States.
The proposal would require federal officials review "open source information" -- including social media accounts -- of any visa applicants. Work on the legislation was prompted in part by reporting from ABC News on a U.S. policy that blocked review of visa applicants' social media accounts, a committee aide said Monday.
In 2014, Homeland SecuritySecretary Jeh Johnson, fearing a civil liberties backlash, refused to end a secret government policy prohibiting immigration officials from reviewing social media messages of all foreign citizens applying for U.S. visas, according to a former senior department official.
"During that time period immigration officials were not allowed to use or review social media as part of the screening process," John Cohen, a former acting under-secretary at DHS for intelligence and analysis. Cohen is now a national security consultant for ABC News.
One current and one former senior counter-terrorism official confirmed Cohen's account about the refusal of DHS to change its policy about the public social media posts of all foreign applicants, which prevented review of Malik's purported radicalization on social media online.
“As more details have been learned about the two terrorists responsible for the horrific attack in San Bernardino, it is becoming more apparent that more could have been done to vet Tashfeen Malik," House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Virginia, wrote in a statement "She reportedly posted her radical views on social media prior to obtaining a visa, yet it seems that the Obama Administration’s policies may have prevented officials from reviewing her account."
The proposed bill, which has not yet been introduced, would also require relevant agencies check the employment and educational history of visa applicants, along with in-person interviews for the applicant and sponsor "at each step in the process," the panel said Monday.