Should social media scrubbing be part of visa screening process?

Photo: CBS News

WASHINGTON — The White House announced Monday it is reviewing how immigrants are screened.

One of the terrorists who killed 14 in San Bernardino, California wrote online two years ago of her desire to be a part of jihad. Then she got an American visa.

When Tashfeen Malik applied for a fiancé visa in 2014, she had her name and face checked against terror watch lists. But whether she posted radical views on social media was not checked.

Alberto Fernandez ran the State Department’s program to counter ISIS online until recently. He says perhaps the government should be doing more.

“This is the crazy thing about this debate. You would think that people who are trying to come to the United States, to live in the Untied States — a privilege that most people don’t have — would have that scrutiny,” said Fernandez.

The Department of Homeland Security says it began three pilot programs in 2014 to examine whether screening social media was consistent with current laws and privacy protections.

On Monday, government officials dismissed allegations Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson delayed the implementation of new rules because of public relations concerns. A review of the policy is underway.

Since the San Bernardino attack, some members of Congress have been demanding changes to the visa screening system.

“Had they checked out Tashfeen Malik a little bit more maybe she wouldn’t have gotten a visa,” said Senator Charles Schumer.

Even one of the country’s largest Muslim organizations is not against increased social media scrutiny. Ibrahim Cooper is with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

“We are not opposed to any measure that makes our nation more secure, but measures that target only one faith group, only one ethnic goup of people a certain national origin, that raises concerns and it is also counterproductive to our nation’s security,” Cooper explained.

Last year there were more than 460,000 visas issued. There are concerns that adding a layer of social media scrutiny would delay the screening process, hurting tourism and business.

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