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DHS Policy Prohibits Looking at Visa Applicant Social Media Posts

DHS Policy Prohibits Looking at Visa Applicant Social Media Posts

Yes, really

Daesh (ISIS) is waging digital war and the Department of Homeland Security refuses to look at an applicant’s digital footprint. That seems smart.

But that’s not even the worst part. DHS kept the no social media policy in place for fear of “bad public relations.”

Terrorist attacks on the homeland? Meh. We can’t peruse a Mrs. San Bernardino Terrorist’s Twitter feed because that might look bad!


ABC News reported on this latest Obama administration fail:

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.

Secret policy.” Not any more!

Amazingly, it’s Sen. Schumer (D-NY) making a fuss over DHS’s “secret policy.”

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.”

Despite agency support for checking social media accounts, there’s still no policy in place:

Former DHS under-secretary Cohen said he and others pressed hard for just such a policy change in 2014 that would allow a review of publicly-posted social media messages as terror group followers increasingly used Twitter and Facebook to show their allegiance to a variety of jihadist groups.

Cohen said officials from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) both pressed for a change in policy.

“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,” said Cohen, who left DHS in June 2014.

Cohen said he and others were deeply disappointed that the senior leadership would not approve a review of what were publicly-posted online messages.

“There is no excuse for not using every resource at our disposal to fully vet individuals before they come to the United States,” Cohen said.

After getting busted by ABC News, DHS says they’re reviewing policy that would include social media vetting. Which is bureaucratic speak for, “Crap, what should we do?! I know, let’s say we’re currently reviewing policy.”

A spokesperson for the DHS, Marsha Catron, told ABC News that months after Cohen left, in the fall of 2014, the Department began three pilot programs to include social media in vetting, but current officials say that it is still not a widespread policy. A review of the broader policy is already underway, the DHS said.

It’s unclear exactly when the “no social media viewing” policy began.

Not mentioned in the ABC News report (from which other reports on this subject are derived) is what this policy might look like and how it could change the role of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

USCIS adjudicates petitions based on information included in a filing. Electronic name match systems, the FBI, and other biometric match systems are used to cross-check applying foreign nationals. Presumably, a social media check would involve creating a new screening entity that the certifying USCIS agent can kick information to.

Counter-terrorism specialists are as flabbergasted as the rest of us:

A former senior counter-terrorism official, who participated in the 2014 discussion, said, “Why the State Department and Homeland Security Department have not leveraged the power of social media is beyond me.”

“They felt looking at public postings [of foreign U.S. visa applicants] was an invasion of their privacy,” the official told ABC News. “The arguments being made were, and are still, in bad faith.”

And all because DHS was afraid of bad publicity. The irony here is not lost on me.

Follow Kemberlee on Twitter @kemberleekaye


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Like I’ve said…

We don’t need to ban all Muslims.

We DO need to ban PC.

We need to embrace reality, and find ways to effectively deal with it as Americans.

    Gremlin1974 in reply to Ragspierre. | December 14, 2015 at 5:46 pm

    Yea, remember when the truth was evil or bigoted it was just the truth?

    Heck, I even remember when profiling was a fully accepted method to combat crime.

There’s no point in having a DHS with policies like that. Do they try hard to be that stupid or does it come naturally?

“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”


Oh wait! The DHS is waging war against climate change. They don’t have time for useful information that might stop killers. Even black-trasngendered-marginalized lives don’t matter. The climate will kill us all in twenty millenia from now.


Calling all social media informants. Don’t waste your time calling 911. The DHS won’t take your call.

Well, it sounds as if this is no longer the official policy. It also sounds like Johnson did not initiate this policy, but merely refused to end it. And that the career DHS staff, who are of course heavily stocked with Democrat partisans, wanted to end it. The big question is whose bright idea this was in the first place.

    So, we can’t look at a public Twitter account, but we must allow compromised encryption on our phones for everyone? Brought to us by the folks who couldn’t followup a tip by the Russians on the Boston Bombers. As Casey asked, does anyone here know how to play this game?

I suspect this PC argument is a lie. They want radicalized anyone and everyone in the country. Immigrants, refugees, criminals, academics, diplomats, Saudi playboy tourists, etc. They WANT them to have zero limitations to entry. The PC arguments are a ruse and a dumb one at that.

Well now, this might be the case when it comes to protecting the “homeland” from visitors or new arrivals, yet will bet a whole bunch of $$$$ (Ok, maybe $0.05, tops!) that DHS will use social media when it comes to protecting itself from conservative critics!

After all, it’s only conservatives who engage in hateful speech.

JimMtnViewCaUSA | December 14, 2015 at 3:43 pm

What is the chance that when they are checking on Tea Party Americans, that they avoid scrutinizing social media?

State also stopped requiring an in-person interview, at least for marital visas, in 2009.

To be this inept take real effort. It cannot be merely stupid. There has to be a great level of malice involved.

According to this administration, it’s okay to put someone on the terrorist watch list or the no fly list and they’d love to use that as a criteria to strip citizens and legal residents of 2nd amendment protections but they can’t look at a facebook page that’s accessible to billions of people worldwide?

Yep, and these are in the same company of morons who thought that they could run healthcare better than the people in healthcare.

…but what is wrong with checking public social media? This is just incredible!
I have a liberal co-workers who often tries to chide me because I’m a 2A advocate. From the San Bernardino killings to Sandy Hook he never misses an opportunity to jump on the media anti-gun bandwagon. We are both the same age (over 55), and I finally put him in his place by saying this,
“How many school shootings, drug overdoses, unwed mothers, and terrorist killings does he remember going through school as well as college? Crickets…

Is it just me, or does that woman have a flat head?

Norway found pictures of ISIS atrocities on their phones beheadings etc. . i would bet our screeners never look at their phones for some BS reason.