US To Scrutinise Social Media In Visa Application Reviews

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The US Department of Homeland Security is preparing a plan to scrutinise visa applicants’ social media presence before allowing them into the country, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The move comes as part of a new strategy focused on social networking following the San Bernardino, California shooting in December.

The DHS currently only looks at social media postings sporadically, as part of three pilot programmes that were launched at the beginning of last year.

Details on the new programme are sparse, and it is as yet unclear how quickly it could be implemented.

There has been criticism sounded for missing the radicalisation of Tashfeen Malik, who carried out the massacre in San Bernardino together with her husband, Syed Rizwan Farook. Ms Malik was vocal in her support for armed jihad on social media, evidence the US security apparatus failed to uncover in time.

Were the authorities sufficiently vigilant, the biggest terrorist attack on American soil since 11 September, 2001 could have been prevented.

When piecing together the profiles of the perpetrators, federal officials uncovered private conversations about jihad between Ms Malik and Mr Farook on an online messaging platform, emails, and messages on a dating site, but not on Facebook or other traditional social media.

These sites, which are generally public or semi-public, pose a logistical problem for immigration officials, and they generally don’t conduct routine social media searches during the visa application process.

This must now change. Open source intelligence can no longer be something that security agencies ignore. Luckily, it seems they are taking note.

“The department is actively considering additional ways to incorporate the use of social media review in its various vetting programs”, DHS spokeswoman Marsha Catron said.