ABC: US deliberately ignoring social-media posts in visa vetting

Want to guess why five government agencies missed Tashfeen Malik’s social-media postings that declared her intent to conduct violent jihad on behalf of radical Islam? It turns out that they didn’t miss it at all. The Department of Homeland Security has a deliberate policy of not checking social media when vetting visa applications, ABC News reported this morning.

Want to guess why that policy exists? Again, three guesses and the first two don’t count:

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.

One current and one former senior counter-terrorism official confirmed Cohen’s account about the refusal of DHS to change its policy about the public social media posts of all foreign applicants.

While ABC names Johnson as the man who perpetuated this policy, it didn’t start with him, and Malik came in before this decision. The policy in place at that time would have been set by Janet Napolitano, who should not escape scrutiny for this nonsensical approach to national security. This failure might come as a big surprise to Congress, members of which have already begun to ask to expand vetting to social media after the terror attack in San Bernardino:

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., demanded Sunday that the U.S. immediately initiate a program that would check the social media sites of those admitted on visas.”

“Had they checked out Tashfeen Malik,” the senator said, “maybe those people in San Bernardino would be alive.”

Maybe so, but then DHS might have experienced “bad public relations.” When people say that political correctness kills, this is exactly the kind of consequence they mean.

The notion that this would be a civil-liberties issue is equally absurd. The Constitution does not cover visa applications from foreigners; there is no right to a visa. Furthermore, social media statements are public in nature, not private, so reading them and considering them in terms of security concerns for entry into the US has no civil-liberties involvement either. Public declarations of support for jihad should be not just acceptable criteria for vetting, it should be a no-brainer as an automatic denial of the visa application in an age of global Islamist terrorism.

This demonstrates a shocking lack of seriousness about the war on terror by the Obama administration, albeit part of an overall pattern. They are literally more concerned about public relations than security in the visa application process, according to ABC’s report. It comes as Barack Obama and the Democrats have attempted to change the subject to gun control in the wake of the San Bernardino attack, and to climate change when it comes to the spread of ISIS. This administration clearly has its own priorities, and getting serious about national security ranks lower than their need to engage in political correctness.