2/12/2015, "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: "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.
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."...
Image caption: " Credit U.S. Customs and Border Protection" at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago in 2014.