Sunday, December 13, 2015

San Bernardino Islamic mass murderer passed 3 background checks and 2 in-person interviews, an 'example of trade-offs' US gov. makes to keep borders open for billions of trade and tourism dollars-NY Times

"The Department of Homeland Security has been trying to find the right balance between security and ease of movement-a balance that equates to billions of dollars in trade and tourism each year."...

12/12/15, "U.S. Visa Process Missed San Bernardino Wife’s Zealotry on Social Media," NY Times,

She said she supported it. And she said she wanted to be a part of it....Had the authorities found the posts years ago, they might have kept her out of the country. But immigration officials do not routinely review social media as part of their background checks, and there is a debate inside the Department of Homeland Security over whether it is even appropriate to do so.
The discovery of the old social media posts has exposed a significant-and perhaps inevitable-shortcoming in how foreigners are screened when they enter the United States, particularly as people everywhere disclose more about themselves online. Tens of millions of people are cleared each year to come to this country to work, visit or live. It is impossible to conduct an exhaustive investigation and scour the social media accounts of each of them, law enforcement officials say."...

[Ed. note: It's not "inevitable." The US became "who we are," ie, desired, by making its first priority the health and safety of its citizens. Until 1954, foreign visitors to the US stopped first at Ellis Island.]

(continuing): "In the aftermath of terrorist attacks in San Bernardino and Paris, this screening process has been singled out as a major vulnerability in the nation’s defense against terrorism. Lawmakers from both parties have endorsed making it harder for people to enter the United States if they have recently been in Iraq or Syria. Donald J. Trump, the Republican presidential candidate, has said there should be a temporary ban on Muslims’ entering the country.

While President Obama has cautioned against “a betrayal of our values” in the way the United States responds to threats, he has ordered a review of the K-1 visa program, which allows foreigners like Ms. Malik to move to the United States to marry Americans, putting them on a pathway to permanent residence and, ultimately, citizenship.

The Obama administration is trying to determine whether those background checks can be expanded without causing major delays in the popular program."...

[Ed. note: Dead Americans shouldn't delay "the popular program."]
(continuing): "In an attempt to ensure they did not miss threats from men and women who entered the country the same way Ms. Malik did, immigration officials are also reviewing all of about 90,000 K-1 visas issued in the past two years and are considering a moratorium on new ones while they determine whether changes should be made.

“Somebody entered the United States through the K-1 visa program and proceeded to carry out an act of terrorism on American soil,” the White House spokesman, Josh Earnest, said on Thursday. “That program is at a minimum worth a very close look.”

In an era when technology has given intelligence agencies seemingly limitless ability to collect information on people, it may seem surprising that a Facebook or Twitter post could go unnoticed in a background screening. But the screenings are an example of the trade-offs that security officials make as they try to mitigate the threat of terrorism while keeping borders open for business and travel....

Ms. Malik faced three extensive national security and criminal background screenings. First, Homeland Security officials checked her name against American law enforcement and national security databases. Then, her visa application went to the State Department, which checked her fingerprints against other databases. Finally, after coming to the United States and formally marrying Mr. Farook here, she applied for her green card and received another round of criminal and security checks.

Ms. Malik also had two in-person interviews, federal officials said, the first by a consular officer in Pakistan, and the second by an immigration officer in the United States when she applied for her green card.

All those reviews came back clear, and the F.B.I. has said it had no incriminating information about Ms. Malik or Mr. Farook in its databases. The State Department and the Department of Homeland Security have said they followed all policies and procedures. The departments declined to provide any documentation or specifics about the process, saying they cannot discuss the case because of the continuing investigation.

Meanwhile, a debate is underway at United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that approves visas and green cards, over whether officers conducting interviews should be allowed to routinely use material gathered from social media for interviews where they assess whether foreigners are credible or pose any security risk. With that issue unresolved, the agency has not regularly been using social media references, federal officials said.

After the terrorist attacks in Paris last month, a furor arose over whether the United States should accept Syrian refugees. Governors in more than two dozen states balked at accepting any. But the vetting for refugees is a separate, longer and more rigorous process than the checks for K-1 and most other immigrant visas. And there is an extra layer of scrutiny for Syrians, who are referred to a national security and fraud office at the Department of Homeland Security for a final look. In that last step, officers can include a social media search, federal officials said....

Since its inception in 2002, the Department of Homeland Security has been trying to find the right balance between security and ease of movement-a balance that equates to billions of dollars in trade and tourism each year."...

Image caption: "The San Bernardino attackers Tashfeen Malik and Syed Rizwan Farook at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago in 2014. Credit U.S. Customs and Border Protection"


Added: "Again and again, the American people are forced to confront the fact that its ruling class is not on its side."  

Oct. 20, 2011, "The Lost Decade," Angelo Codevilla (years 2001-2011)

(scroll to subhead) "Public Safety"

"Solidity of the home front, i.e., mutual trust between the people and their government, has to be statecraft's paramount priority. But the assumption on which our ruling class based its approach to internal security against terrorism-namely, that it is impossible to distinguish ordinary Americans from terrorists—negates the basis for mutual trust. Ordinary Americans, on whom the government imposed ever more intrusive security measures and whom it scolded for being "Islamophobes," reasonably felt that government might regard them as "violent extremists." Our rulers also went out of their way to appease the most unfriendly parts of America's tiny Islamic population, including seeking advice on the proper attitude to take toward Muslims from the transparently anti-American Council On American Islamic Relations. But this simply gave such people more power to further their agendas, while foisting upon the American people a dispiriting political correctness. How could anyone have imagined that any people would not lose confidence in elites that seemed arguably more solicitous of enemies than of fellow citizens?
What would have happened if, instead, our ruling class had approached the problem of internal security by reminding itself that the American people had secured American society very adequately during World War II and the Cold War, against enemies far more potent and who blended into American society more easily than contemporary terrorists ever could? Honesty would also have required admitting that the hijackers of 9/11 were able to succeed partly because the U.S. government had trained a generation of Americans not to interfere with hijackings....Our rulers might have paid attention to Alexis de Tocqueville's observation that America was much less policed than Europe, but suffered from less crime because ordinary citizens took public safety into their own hands.

Only with difficulty can we imagine post-9/11 America...minus the TSA screeners (whose uselessness is demonstrated by every "red team" test penetration). But we don't have to imagine that the passengers of Flight 93 took matters into their own hands the moment they realized that government rules were costing them their lives, and that, ever since, aircraft passengers have policed their flights with absolute efficiency. Nor do we have to imagine that ordinary Americans naturally recoil from and protect themselves against persons who display the kind of foreignness and animosity that Islamists and their sympathizers cannot hide. The 2006 case of "the flying Imams" showed the Imams' threatening behavior caused ordinary Americans to remove them from a flight and hence from the possibility of doing harm. Unfortunately, it also showed that the U.S. government came close to making the Americans' immunological behavior liable to civil penalties. 

Again and again, the American people are forced to confront the fact that its ruling class is not on its side.

After 9/11 President George W. Bush told the American people to go shopping and behave normally. In short: forget that you will never again be free to live as before. Think about money. This advice followed naturally from the government's decision to persist in its ways instead of lifting terrorism's burden from America....It sought to satisfy the American people with the pretend-safety of "homeland security," with images of U.S. troops in combat, and perhaps above all with domestic prosperity fueled by record-low interest rates and massive deficit-spending.

This pretend-prosperity aimed not only to anesthetize criticism of endless war, but also to feed both political parties' many constituencies—the ruling class's standard procedure. Both parties joined in expanding federal guarantees for sub-prime mortgages, subsidies for education, alternative fuels, and countless activities dear to well-connected players. Both parties congratulated themselves for establishing new entitlements for prescription drugs and for medical care for children. When the "great recession" began in 2007 Democrats blamed Republicans' excessive spending on "the wars," while Republicans blamed it on Democrats' excessive spending on everything else. Both are correct, and both are responsible.

Hard Choices

Ten years after 9/11, America is not at peace, is poorer, less civil, and less hopeful. But the experts are in charge as never before.

In the American political marketplace of 2012, the American ruling class's stock is at a historic low....For us to understand how these mostly intelligent people could have made errors so big for so long requires understanding the principles they violated, and the moral as well as the intellectual dimensions of their errors. More difficult yet, both intellectually and morally, is the essential task of explaining the hard choices that will be required to deal with the troubles bequeathed us by this decade of defeat."


Ellis Island

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