Patterico's Pontifications

12/14/2015

L.A. Times Buries Any Mention of DHS Policy of Not Reviewing Visa Applicants’ Social Media

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 7:25 pm

Richard Serrano reports in the L.A. Times:

San Bernardino shooter Tashfeen Malik sent at least two private messages on Facebook to a small group of Pakistani friends in 2012 and 2014, pledging her support for Islamic jihad and saying she hoped to join the fight one day, two top federal law enforcement officials said Monday.

The new details indicate U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies missed warnings on social media that Malik was a potential threat before she entered the United States on a K-1 fiancee visa in July 2014.

The phrase “missed warnings on social media” suggests that federal officials were empowered to search social media to screen visa applicants for suboptimal characteristics — such as, for example, expressing a desire to kill a lot of people in service of the cause of jihad.

But, as the blog you are reading noted this morning, according to ABC News, a former senior official from Homeland Security has made a rather serious allegation — namely, that Obama’s Homeland Security guy, Jeh Johnson, prohibited immigration officials from looking at visa applicants’ social media, for fear of bad P.R.

Fearing a civil liberties backlash and “bad public relations” for the Obama administration, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson refused in early 2014 to end a secret U.S. policy that prohibited immigration officials from reviewing the social media messages of all foreign citizens applying for U.S. visas, a former senior department official said.

“During that time period immigration officials were not allowed to use or review social media as part of the screening process,” John Cohen, a former acting under-secretary at DHS for intelligence and analysis. Cohen is now a national security consultant for ABC News.

The Hill reported just after 6 a.m. Pacific time this morning that Cohen’s allegation has been confirmed by other officials:

One current and one former senior counterterrorism official confirmed Cohen’s account to ABC.

A DHS spokesman told ABC News that in the fall of 2014 after Cohen left, the department 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.

Fall of 2014? Too late to catch Tashfeen Malik, who entered the country in July 2014.

Not only is there no hint of these revelations in Serrano’s story, but Serrano dutifully repeats the Administration’s line to the contrary:

John Kirby, a State Department spokesman, said officials are reviewing the K-1 visa screening process in light of the gap exposed in San Bernardino. Applicants must provide fingerprints and pass multiple checks of U.S. criminal, immigration and terrorism databases, as well as a consular interview, to get the visa approved.

The investigations don’t necessarily include every applicant’s social media history, however.

“If a consular officer … feels like it would be valuable or necessary to look at the social media presence of an individual, they can and do conduct those reviews,” Kirby told reporters Monday. “But it’s not absolute in every case. Each one is taken individually.”

That’s not what John Cohen says. Yet nowhere in Serrano’s mindless stenography is there even a hint that there was a deliberate policy, created by Obama’s hand-picked DHS guy for reasons of public relations, to prevent officials from reviewing social media.

Serrano’s article was first published at 3:47 p.m. today.

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 6.56.09 PM

I published my post regarding Cohen’s allegation at 7:39 a.m. today.

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 6.59.05 PM

Is it really possible that I was aware of this allegation more than eight hours before a Los Angeles Times reporter whose job it was to report on this issue?

Or did Serrano know, and just decide not to report it?

I don’t know the answer to that question for sure, but here’s a clue: the briefing cited by Serrano in which Kirby, the State Department spokesman, said that consular officers were allowed to look at social media. I found a transcript here — and guess what? In that briefing, someone asked about the very report I mentioned!

QUESTION: Okay. My last one here: There – obviously we know now that the DHS and the State Department has a policy which gives – affords them the right to do these background searches on social media. Was there a time in recent history, as has been reported, that they were prohibited from these types of searches for whatever reason?

MR KIRBY: I’m not aware of any prohibition in the past, as – I know you’re looking at press reports with respect to that.

So. The question remains: did Richard Serrano not know about this, even though it was reported by reputable news organizations early this morning, and brought up at the very briefing that he cites in his article? Or did he know about it, and decide not to tell his readers? (Or, did he try to tell readers, and have an editor chop the information out?)

I’m very curious to know the answer. Aren’t you?

If you want to ask him, he’s reachable by email at richard.serrano@latimes.com, or on Twitter at @rickserranoLAT

11 Responses to “L.A. Times Buries Any Mention of DHS Policy of Not Reviewing Visa Applicants’ Social Media”

  1. Ding.

    Patterico (86c8ed)

  2. I asked him in both places, by the way. But that doesn’t mean you can’t ask him too!

    Patterico (86c8ed)

  3. Unfortunately, most news outlets and blogs don’t answer the question we’re all asking; I had to turn to Wikipedia:

    Johnson’s first name (pronounced “Jay”) is taken from a Liberian chief, who reportedly saved his grandfather’s life while Dr. Johnson was on a League of Nations mission to Liberia in 1930

    CayleyGraph (353727)

  4. Would you say “Snowden”? Like I wrote in the other thread, “political correctness” or Obama’s constituency not wanting the government looking at their sexting and pot parties, while searching for people using the words “allahu akhbar pressure cooker tea party airplane”?

    nk (dbc370)

  5. yes, citizen snowden, probably had a little to do with it, h d they dealt with him, in Geneva,
    like they did with the Ghuardian reporter in the 3rd Bourne film,

    narciso (732bc0)

  6. If they consider NSA monitoring okay, then why would they not want to read posts on FB that are public, or at least obtainable with a warrant? And why does it take a year to “review” this? Can you imagine how long it’s going to take before they decide on using Google?

    Patricia (5fc097)

  7. because the results come after the election, if they wanted to enable the Salafi, would they do anything different,

    narciso (732bc0)

  8. The people the administration wants to get all file tax returns. No need for social media.

    BobStewartatHome (a52abe)

  9. Scum, treacherous anti-American scum, that’s what this Administration consists of. Refusing to fully investigate available information is evidence of criminal intent. This is nothing short of proof of treachery writ large. Heads would roll in any honest assessment of cause and effect.

    Clearly, the Department of Homeland Security is working against the security of the American homeland.

    ropelight (b1d3d2)

  10. Scum, treacherous anti-American scum, that’s what this Administration consists of. Refusing to fully investigate readily available information is evidence of criminal intent. This is nothing short of proof of Executive Branch treachery writ large. Heads would roll in any honest assessment of cause and effect.

    Clearly, the Department of Homeland Security is working against the security of the American homeland. The fox is not only guarding the hen house, he’s in charge of managing the farm.

    ropelight (b1d3d2)

  11. Serrano still hasn’t updated his twitter, but the paper is still making up stuff.

    narciso (732bc0)


Powered by WordPress.

Page loaded in: 0.6192 secs.