Missed connections

San Bernardino shooter’s talk of jihad on social media eluded background checks

In a handout photo provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Tashfeen Malik and Syed Rizwan Farook, the couple who massacred 14 people in San Bernardino on Dec. 2, 2015, at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, July 27, 2014. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection via The New York Times)

Authorities are learning more about Tashfeen Malik, the woman who police say carried out a terrorist attack along with her husband Syed Rizwan Farook that killed 14 and injured 20 in San Bernardino, Calif., earlier this month. Investigators say Malik, long before she came to the U.S., openly discussed on social media her support for violent jihad and martyrdom — and her ambition to take part in it. Officials said they made the discovery as they are probing how Malik and Farook pulled off the deadliest terror attack on U.S. soil since 9/11. The social media posts were public and, had they been discovered while Malik was applying for entry into the country, likely would’ve been grounds to keep her out of the U.S. Instead, Malik was subjected to three background checks, and passed all of them with flying colors. Why? ABC News reports the culprit is a secret U.S. policy that prohibits immigration officials from scrutinizing social media accounts during the screening process of all foreign citizens applying for U.S. visas, according to a former Department of Homeland Security employee. John Cohen, who formerly worked as an undersecretary at DHS, told ABC News that officials inside the department asked for the policy to be reversed, but DHS director Jeh Johnson declined to change the policy over concerns that the public would perceive the move as an affront to people’s civil liberties and “bad public relations” for the Obama administration. The DHS now says the policy is under review, and that within the last year, it has launched three pilot programs aimed at vetting the social media accounts of those applying for visas.

Read the full story at The New York Times.

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