More news continues to trickle out on the deceased San Bernardino shooters, the more unsettling the picture becomes. The newest revelation is that the female shooter, Tashfeen Malik, was very vocal and public about supporting attacks against “infidels” and achieving martyrdom in such attacks. When taken in its totality, the San Bernardino attacks represents an abject failure of every stage of our defenses.
Tashfeen Malik, who with her husband carried out the massacre in San Bernardino, Calif., passed three background checks by American immigration officials as she moved to the United States from Pakistan. None uncovered what Ms. Malik had made little effort to hide — that she talked openly on social media about her views on violent jihad.
She said she supported it. And she said she wanted to be a part of it.
American law enforcement officials said they recently discovered those old — and previously unreported — postings as they pieced together the lives of Ms. Malik and her husband, Syed Rizwan Farook, trying to understand how they pulled off the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil since Sept. 11, 2001.
Had the authorities found the posts years ago, they might have kept her out of the country. But immigration officials do not routinely review social media as part of their background checks, and there is a debate inside the Department of Homeland Security over whether it is even appropriate to do so.
Wait. Wait. There is a DEBATE over whether or not to use social media postings as part of a background screening. US employers do this all the time. Are we seriously saying that the “privacy” (I use the scare quote because something posted publicly on the internet under your own name is hardly private) of a visa applicant is more important than that of a US citizen looking for a job?
This also makes the story of the shuttering of an investigation into the mosque attended by Farook much more credible.
But let’s explore this story just a bit further:
Ms. Malik faced three extensive national security and criminal background screenings. First, Homeland Security officials checked her name against American law enforcement and national security databases. Then, her visa application went to the State Department, which checked her fingerprints against other databases. Finally, after coming to the United States and formally marrying Mr. Farook here, she applied for her green card and received another round of criminal and security checks.
Ms. Malik also had two in-person interviews, federal officials said, the first by a consular officer in Pakistan, and the second by an immigration officer in the United States when she applied for her green card.
All those reviews came back clear, and the F.B.I. has said it had no incriminating information about Ms. Malik or Mr. Farook in its databases. The State Department and the Department of Homeland Security have said they followed all policies and procedures. The departments declined to provide any documentation or specifics about the process, saying they cannot discuss the case because of the continuing investigation.
All of this and still Malik used a fake address to apply for a visa, the terrorist connections of her family didn’t pop, and no one saw her professed desire for martyrdom though it was in plain sight.
Now think about the screening that the proposed flock of Syrian refugees will have had.