Back in early 2014, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson decided against ending a secret U.S. policy that prohibits immigration officials from reviewing social media posts of foreigners applying for U.S. visas, according to a report by ABC News. John Cohen, a former acting undersecretary at the Department of Homeland Security for intelligence and analysis said “During that time period immigration officials were not allowed to use or review social media as part of the screening process.” In the Fall of 2014, DHS began three pilot programs to include social media in vetting, but officials say it’s still not a widespread policy and a review is underway.
The policy comes under increased scrutiny after U.S. officials learned that Tashfeen Malik, one of the San Bernardino shooters, posted a message on Facebook declaring allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y) demanded Sunday that the U.S. immediately start a program to review social media sites of those admitted on visas. He also stated, “Had they checked out Tashfeen Malik…maybe those people in San Bernardino would be alive.” According to former DHS undersecretary Cohen, the primary resistance to the program came from the DHS’s Office of Civil Liberties and the Office of Privacy, as the issue of invasion of privacy was a concern.
Clearly now after this missed piece of key intelligence surfaced in regards to the San Bernardino shooter’s facebook post, Social Media vetting needs to be implemented at least partially to screen for certain types of “Red Flag” posts.