At House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing last week, Michele Thoren Bond, Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Consular Affairs, admitted that the federal government has no idea of the whereabouts 9,500 foreign nationals whose visas have been revoked since 2001 because of suspected ties to terrorist organizations. When asked by Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) if federal authorities know where these potentially dangerous people are, Bond replied simply, “I don’t know.”
That revelation is startling for two reasons: First, obviously, the government doesn’t know if people it considers a threat to national security have actually left the country. And, second, it raises serious questions about how and why they were ever issued visas in the first place. If the government failed to identify 9,500 potentially dangerous individuals before granting them visas, then clearly we have some serious problems with our screening process.
But that was not the only disturbing revelation to come out of last week’s hearing. In the aftermath of the San Bernardino terrorist attack, it was discovered that Tafsheen Malik’s jihadist postings on social media were not flagged because the government does not look at these postings as part of its security review. Nevertheless, Leon Rodriguez, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, could not say how or if his agency would review such postings in the future.
Astoundingly, Rodriguez cited difficulties in reviewing social media posts in foreign languages using different alphabets. Rodriguez’s statement would seem to indicate that the screening process is being carried out by DHS personnel who are not fluent in the languages of the people they are screening.
These explanations did not sit well even with committee Democrats. Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) asked rhetorically, “If half the employers are doing it in the United States of America, if colleges are doing it for students, why wouldn’t Homeland Security do it?” Lynch added metaphorically, “We don’t even look at their public stuff, that’s what kills me.”
Actually, it killed 14 people in San Bernardino earlier this month.