The U.S. is looking to scrutinize the social media accounts of foreign nationals applying for U.S. visas in an attempt to prevent terrorists from entering the country. ABC News says that a policy of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) prohibits immigration authorities from reviewing the applicants’ social media accounts. Many claim that this is one of the main reasons why the San Bernardino terrorist Tashfeen Malik was issued a U.S. visa despite sharing messages about jihad and martyrdom on social media. Malik and her husband, Syed Farook, killed 14 people in the San Bernardino terrorist attack. Malik, who had lived most of her life in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, came here on a K-1 fiancé(e) visa.
According to the FBI, most of the social media posts of Malik were about jihad and martyrdom. She has used a pseudonym in her social media messages. She had pledged allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), on the day of the shooting. Many claim that her support to terrorist groups would have become known, if the immigration authorities had checked her online activities.
The K-1 fiancee visa screening process has now come under scrutiny after the San Bernardino incident. Malik had posted messages on social media about radicalization long before she applied for and got her K-1 U.S. visa. According to Republican Senator Richard Burr, evidence from social media shows that Malik, a Pakistani national, had been a strong supporter of “Islamic jihad” for a very long time.
Earlier this year, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) implemented three pilot programs to include social media in the vetting process for a U.S. visa. DHS only looks at the applicants’ social media posts occasionally as a part of those pilot programs. The agency is now looking to implement a new process that will let the immigration authorities to review the social media profiles of visa applicants and identify potential threats. Senate Democrats and Republicans have also asked the DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson to conduct social media background checks as part of the visa application process.