Law & the Courts

FBI director: Feds Missed Signs San Bernardino Shooter Was Jihadist During Visa Screening

FBI director Comey on Capitol Hill in March 2015 (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty)

One of the San Bernardino shooters came to the United States with the intention of carrying out a terrorist attack, FBI director James Comey told Congress on Wednesday.

Comey said he doesn’t know if a terrorist group arranged the marriage between the two attackers, but said that Tashfeen Malik had jihadist goals as early as 2013. “The intelligence indicates that she was [radicalized] before she connected with the other killer and came here,” he said during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing this morning.

Comey’s revelation comes in the midst of a debate over President Obama’s pledge to bring 10,000 Syrian refugees to the United States, as lawmakers and governors question the efficacy of Department of Homeland Security screening procedures. It rattled even Democratic lawmakers on the committee who have defended Obama’s policies.

“After this hearing today, every American is going to be asking the question: How did this woman come in on a visa . . . if she was talking publicly (again, we’ll get into ‘privately’ in the classified briefing) about jihad?” said New York senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader-in-waiting. “Shouldn’t that be somehow tied into our visa program?”

#share#After clarifying that Schumer was asking about the visa-vetting process, Comey demurred. “I don’t know enough to say, because I don’t know exactly what investment would have to be made to do that work and what the payoff would be on the other side,” he said.

Senator Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) raised a similar question about the screening process after Comey told him that Malik had jihadist sympathies even “prior to the rise of ISIL.”

#related#“Do you see any weakness in our system when it comes to visas or fiancée visas that that sort of information was not known to us before she was granted access to America?” Durbin asked.

“I don’t know enough to say,” Comey replied.

His testimony plays into the hands of conservatives such as Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas), who cited the Malik case to justify his proposals to suspend the resttlement of refugees from Syria and other countries with significant jihadist movements. “The vetting for the fiancée visa was the very same vetting that President Obama tells us will keep us safe from ISIS terrorists coming from Syria,” the GOP presidential hopeful told reporters Tuesday.

— Joel Gehrke is a political reporter for National Review.

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