A secret U.S. policy that prohibits immigration officials from reviewing the social media messages of foreign citizens applying for U.S. visas was reportedly kept in place over fears of a civil liberties backlash and “bad public relations.”
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson refused in early 2014 to end the policy, even though several other officials in the organization pressed for such a policy change, ABC News reported Monday.
John Cohen, a former acting under-secretary at the Department of Homeland Security and currently a national security consultant for ABC News, said he pushed for a change in 2014 that would allow a review of social media messages posted publically as terror group followers increasingly turned to Twitter and Facebook.
“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,” Cohen, who left DHS in June 2014, told ABC News.
Cohen’s account comes as members of Congress question why U.S. officials failed to review the social media posts of San Bernardino terrorist Tashfeen Malik. (Read more from “Agents Reportedly Blocked by Secret US Policy from Looking at Social Media of Visa Applicants” HERE)