The claim Homeland Security failed to share with Immigration the social media posts of Tashfeen Malik prior to approving her visa does not hold up under scrutiny.
The official excuse is the government feared a civil liberties backlash and “bad public relations” and because of this refused to end a secret policy prohibiting immigration officials from reviewing social media messages of foreigners applying for visas.
We are told the reason for widespread surveillance is to detect and prevent terrorism. If this was indeed true, the information on Malik would have been shared with Immigration. The bad PR and supposed sensitivity to civil liberties excuse offered by the government is betrayed by its widely documented behavior.
National Security State Tracks Social Media
In 2013 former NSA contractor Edward Snowden disclosed how the agency mines Facebook and Twitter to create social connection maps.
“Since 2010, the National Security Agency has been exploiting its huge collections of data to create sophisticated graphs of some Americans’ social connections that can identify their associates, their locations at certain times, their traveling companions and other personal information,” The New York Times reported.
The maps are specifically used to “discover and track” the connections between intelligence targets. Social media data is used to augment a wide variety of material from other sources, including data from public, commercial and other sources, and includes bank codes, insurance information, passenger manifests, voter registration rolls and GPS location information, as well as property records and unspecified tax data, according to the Times report.
The NSA has used XKeyscore, a program described as covering “nearly everything a typical user does on the internet,” for real-time surveillance since 2008.
According to the journalist Glenn Greenwald the program is used by the NSA to surveil “whatever emails they want, whatever telephone calls, browsing histories, Microsoft Word documents. And it’s all done with no need to go to a court, with no need to even get supervisor approval on the part of the analyst.”
Since at least 2010 data collected by the NSA has been shared with the Department of Homeland Security.
“Domestic Surveillance is a team sport. Our success depends upon our partnership with other federal, state, and local agencies,” the NSA explains on its Domestic Surveillance Directorate web page. Citing the USA PATRIOT Act, the NSA says its “partners transmit a steady flow of intelligence information 24-hours a day from across the nation. The incoming data is indexed, stored, and shared throughout the Intelligence Community on our massive cloud computing network.”
The DHS explanation as to why it failed to share with other government agencies the messages of Malik and presumably those of other would-be terrorists is simply not believable. The agency has faced criticism and lawsuits accusing it of routinely violating the civil liberties of citizens and non-citizens alike.
Is it possible the government is in fact allowing would-be terrorists into the country?
CIA Visa Program
Lost in the discussion is the fact the CIA has used visa programs to facilitate the movement of terrorists in and out of the United States.
Michael Springmann, a high level State Department official, revealed details on the process years ago.
“In Saudi Arabia I was repeatedly ordered by high level State Dept officials to issue visas to unqualified applicants,” Springmann told the BBC prior to the 9/11 attack. “These were, essentially, people who had no ties either to Saudi Arabia or to their own country. I complained bitterly at the time there. I returned to the US, I complained to the State Dept here, to the General Accounting Office, to the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and to the Inspector General’s office. I was met with silence.”
Thirteen of the fifteen supposed Saudi hijackers were issued visas to the United States, 10 of them at the US Consulate in Jeddah, US officials told The Boston Globe in March, 2002.
The op was run by the CIA and Springmann was told “If you want a job in the State Department in future, you will change your mind” about refusing to issue visas to terrorists.