Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ordered U.S. embassies around the world to screen social media of any visa applicant to the U.S. who has ever spent time in territory controlled by the Islamic State, Reuters reports.
Social media is rarely screened by U.S. consular officials when considering visas, and could lengthen the processing time in Middle Eastern embassies. Tillerson’s social media guidance was accompanied by another to order to form working groups to “develop a list of criteria identifying sets of post applicant populations warranting increased scrutiny.”
The new screening procedures fit with President Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric promising “extreme vetting” of new visa applicants, and his ill-fated executive orders attempting to temporarily suspend travel from terror rife countries.
Some of Tillerson’s stricter guidance was revised after Trump’s travel executive order was struck down in mid March. The guidance would have specifically targeted citizens from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen to disclose all their social media handles, and list travel for the last 15 years.
Social media screening became a major issue in the 2016 campaign after reports emerged that San Bernadino shooter Tashfin Malik made public extremist statements before she arrived in the U.S. Malik made an anti-american comment on Facebook on the 10th anniversary of the 2001 9/11 attacks before her visa application process began.
Malik passed three separate background checks before her spousal visa was approved, all of which did not find her past support of violent jihad. The background checks instead ran her name through criminal databases, fingerprinting, and additional security checks once inside the U.S.
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