(CNSNews.com) – The application form that San Bernardino terrorist Tashfeen Malik would have used to apply for her visa to enter the United States asks such questions as, “Do you seek to engage in terrorist activities while in the United States or have you ever engaged in terrorist activities?”
“Are you a member or representative of a terrorist organization,” asks another question, to which the Pakistani citizen would have been required to check a “yes” or “no” box.
“Have you ever or do you intend to provide financial assistance or other support to terrorists or terrorist organizations?” asks a third, along with similar questions relating to espionage, human trafficking, money laundering, prostitution and other offenses.
According to the State Department Malik, who with her U.S.-born husband Syed Farook killed 14 people in last Tuesday’s attack at a social services center in San Bernardino, entered the U.S. in July 2014 on a K-1 fiancé(e) visa.
President Obama said in his Oval Office address on Sunday night that he has ordered a review into the visa program which had allowed Malik to enter the U.S.
(Obama mistakenly referred to “the visa waiver program,” but the White House corrected the transcript, striking through the word “waiver.” The visa waiver program applies to 38 specified countries – most of them in Europe, plus Australia, New Zealand, Chile, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Brunei and Singapore.)
State Department spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday that Secretary of State John Kerry wants the review to be done “as aggressively and openly and transparently as possible.”
“We take this very, very seriously,” he said. “Nothing is more important to Secretary Kerry than the safety and security of the American people and making sure that if there are improvements and changes we need to make in this or any other program in which people are entering this country on a permanent or semi-permanent basis, if there’s anything that we need to do to improve that, we’re going to do that.”
When Farook wanted to bring Malik to the U.S., he would have been required to submit a petition to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a component of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
In his application form (I-129F) he would be asked about his own background, including questions on criminal offenses. He would not have had to answer questions on the form about his fiancée’s background beyond biographical data, but would have had to explain how the two met, and whether they had “meet and seen” each other during the preceding two years.
Once his application was approved by DHS, the National Visa Center would have sent the petition to the relevant U.S. Embassy or Consulate – Islamabad in Malik’s case.
According to the laid-down procedures, Malik would then have undergone a face-to-face interview with a consular officer at the U.S. mission. She would have filled out nonimmigrant visa application form D-160, which contains the questions about terrorism etc.
She would also have had to bring to the interview her travel itinerary if she had one, details of any previous trips to the U.S., and a resume. She would have undergone a medical check.
‘We stand behind our screening process for visas’
The State Department will not discuss Malik’s visa application specifically, on the grounds that visa records are confidential under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
But at last Friday’s daily briefing – before Obama said he had instructed the State Department and DHS to investigate the visa program – spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau did speak about the process in general terms.
“All of our visa screening process go through multiple layers of security, including fingerprints, face-to-face interviews, the full assortment of background screenings,” she said.
Asked whether she was satisfied that Malik’s application process would have followed the proper protocols she replied in the affirmative.
“How can you say that with such assurance?” a reporter asked.
“Because we stand behind our screening process for visas. What I will say is that the State Department remains committed to the security of the homeland. We – our process we continue to revise. We continue to look at this. But these are process that happens around the world every day in our U.S. embassies,” Trudeau said.
“And while we won’t get ahead of this investigation, the process that visa applicants go through continues to be improved,” she added. “It was improved after 9/11 – something that we look at every day.”
Asked whether she could “say with absolute confidence that no one dropped the ball in this case,” Trudeau replied, “At this stage I have no information that indicates that.”
Under the INA, applicants can be deemed ineligible for a number of reasons, such as overstaying a previous visa or submitting fraudulent documents.
Other grounds for ineligibility include having engaged in, incited, endorsed, espoused or funded terrorist activity or persuaded others to do so; having been a member of a designated foreign terrorist organization, or having received military-type training from such an organization.
Once the application was approved, Malik would have been issued with a K-1 visa, allowing her to apply for a single admission to a U.S. port-of-entry within six months. Once she entered the U.S., she and Farook would have had to marry within 90 days.