Speaking to the New York Police Department Wednesday, FBI Director James Comey took issue with a New York Times report which suggested San Bernardino attacker Tashfeen Malik had posted material on social media praising jihad.
“So far in this investigation, we have found no evidence of posting on social media by either of them, at that period of time and thereafter, reflecting their commitment to jihad or to martydom,” Comey said. He added, “I’ve seen some reporting on that and that’s a garble.”
The “garble” in question is a NY Times story published on page A1 Sunday, which opened [emphasis added]:
Tashfeen Malik, who with her husband carried out the massacre in San Bernardino, Calif., passed three background checks by American immigration officials as she moved to the United States from Pakistan. None uncovered what Ms. Malik had made little effort to hide — that she talked openly on social media about her views on violent jihad.
In fact, Malik and her soon-to-be husband did discuss jihad online but, according to Director Comey, only in the form of “direct, private messages.”
The NY Times pointed to a policy at the Department of Homeland Security against examining the social media postings of people applying for visas to enter the country. The Times wrote, “Had the authorities found the posts years ago, they might have kept her out of the country.”
While that’s strictly true, the fact that the messages were private means even a thorough search of public social media postings would not have turned up any evidence that could be used to keep Malik out of the country.
The Times did note later in the story that Malik’s sister had “posted a remark on Facebook beside a photo of a plane crashing into the World Trade Center that could be interpreted as anti-American.” Perhaps a review would have uncovered that public posting and led to more detailed questions about Malik’s own views, but it seems her own feelings on the matter were hidden.
Recently, DHS changed its policy. It now looks at the social media postings of people applying for visas to enter the country.