California shooter was not fully investigated before US visa was issued

23 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Before Issuing More Visas, Lawmaker Demands U.S. Government Screen Social Media.

Migrants wanted to come to the UK will undergo background checks that will include monitoring whether they have demonstrated fanatical support or activity.

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. visa system, the White House said Monday.Technology company employees are skeptical that government pilot programs to scrutinize visa applicants’ social media activity will be effective at rooting out potential terrorists or terrorist sympathizers.Fearing the U.S. is losing the battle against the Islamic State terrorist network in cyberspace, those on all sides of the political spectrum demanded Tuesday that the administration immediate begin screening social media profiles of all visitors and enlist tech companies in the battle to shut down radical Islam’s presence online.A House Republican is asking the U.S. government to begin immediately screening the social media posts of those who wish to obtain a visa to enter the country.An influential House committee is preparing legislation to tighten potential loopholes in the vetting of foreigners coming into the United States — following reports that the Obama administration may have been barred from reviewing the pro-jihad online postings of one of the San Bernardino shooters.

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. Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill said Homeland Security’s fears of invading privacy may have kept it from spotting social media red flags on Tashfeen Malik, whom authorities granted a fiancee visa. She would travel to the U.S. to marry Syed Rizwan Farook in 2014, and they launched a lone-wolf attack this month in San Bernardino, California, killing 14 people and wounding 22. “Ignoring the online statements of those terrorists trying to enter our country puts us at risk,” said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Edward R. In the UK, the counter-extremism strategy said: “We will make it more explicit that the criteria for exclusion on the grounds of unacceptable behaviour include past or current extremist activity, either here or overseas. “We will ensure that more information on an individual’s extremist behaviour is available to the officers making these visa decisions, through better data-sharing and casework interviews where needed.” The American Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said that his department had been consulting social media as part immigration checks since early this year.

Johnson declined to answer whether he was concerned that Malik was reportedly able to clear three background checks during her visa application process, citing the pending FBI investigation. Malik used a pseudonym and strict privacy settings, according to U.S. law enforcement, so her activity would not have been found under the new pilot programs. House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said he was GOP also planning “additional actions” to tighten the visa security process. “It is time this administration stopped worrying about the privacy of foreigners more than the security of Americans,” McCaul said in a statement Monday. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been criticised over reports it did not routinely consult social media during the vetting process for visa applications, and has not been doing enough to weed out potential attackers. A spokeswoman for the House Judiciary Committee declined to comment on Buchanan’s proposal, but in a press release regarding the committee’s plans, Goodlatte also called for more stringent social media screening.

Laying out her own homeland security policy, Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton joined the call for companies to work with authorities to combat terrorist messages online. 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. In an effort to be transparent, these companies in recent years have listed the number of information requests from government agencies that they receive. 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. One tech company employee based in Washington, D.C., who requested anonymity, says it’s unlikely that DHS will gain much headway in the fight against terrorism by analyzing tweets and Facebook posts. “The idea that every single visa applicant would have a social media history scrubbed by DHS or the U.S.

Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that approved benefit applications, is funded by fees, so its operations aren’t depending on Congress finding more money. State Department in any language is unrealistic,” the person said, adding that Congress has floated many ideas in the wake of the attack—and not all of them are practical. The possible policy changes are being considered at USCIS, the DHS agency in charge of managing immigration benefits cases and interviewing applicants for a green card granting permanent residency status. ”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. The employee cited the example of an individual from the Netherlands applying for a visa. “Imagine that this person had 8,000 protected posts on a locked Twitter account, and many thousands more messages on Facebook.

The Washington Times reported last year that the agency didn’t generally scrutinize social media before approving applications — despite a proposal by the chief of its fraud unit to begin those checks. That person would need to read through thousands of tweets and posts to make a determination.” But others say that DHS could leverage cutting-edge technology to analyze these posts. “DHS needs a machine learning technology, supervised by humans, that takes inputs and determines whether a person is espousing messages of violence and should be flagged,” says Sean Gourley, a data scientist who has worked with various government agencies, including the Pentagon.

Obama, speaking at a naturalization ceremony at the National Archives, warned Americans not to forsake the open immigration policies he said are a part of the nation’s fabric. Richard Burr introduced legislation last week that would require social media companies to report to law enforcement any ”terrorist activity” they became aware of – for example, attack planning, recruiting or the distribution of terrorist material. A Facebook spokesperson stresses that the company has “zero tolerance” for terrorists or terror propaganda. “This is an ever-evolving landscape, and we will continue to engage regularly with NGOs, industry partners, academics, and government officials on how to keep Facebook, and other Internet services, free of terrorists or terror–promoting material,” the spokesperson says. He compared today’s climate of fear over immigration and terrorism to what he called some of the darkest days of the country’s history on immigration, such as when black Africans were brought into the U.S. during the slave trade, when Irish and Chinese laborers faced discrimination, and when Japanese-Americans were pushed into internment camps during World War II. “We succumbed to fear. We betrayed not only our fellow Americans but our deepest values,” he said. “We need to resolve never to repeat mistakes like that ever again.”

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