A report from ABC News indicated that the Department of Homeland Security under the Obama administration has refused to examine the social media postings of visa applicants for possible links to terrorism.
A reporter with ABC News who used to work with DHS said that DHS chief Jeh Johnson thought checking the social media accounts of visa applicants violated civil liberties and could be “bad public relations.”
“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, said.
“There is no excuse for not using every resource at our disposal to fully vet individuals before they come to the United States.”
Another DHS employee confirmed the policy, saying that DHS “felt looking at public postings (of foreign U.S. visa applicants) was an invasion of their privacy.”
“The arguments being made were, and are still, in bad faith,” the employee added.
And according to Cohen it was done against the wishes of other intelligence agencies, which felt that examining public postings online was an important part of the vetting process.
“Immigration, security, law enforcement officials recognized at the time that it was important to more extensively review public social media postings because they offered potential insights into whether somebody was an extremist or potentially connected to a terrorist organization or a supporter of the movement,” Cohen said.
The policy, which was kept secret from the American public, could have helped weed out San Bernardino shooter Tashfeen Malik because of her posts dealing with jihad.