California

Investigators looking into possibility Tashfeen Malik was ‘an operative’

Adam Housley reports

 

Officials investigating the San Bernardino, Calif. terror attack are looking very strongly into the possibility that Tashfeen Mailk, the wife accused in the shootings, was “an operative,” an official told Fox News on Tuesday.

A law enforcement official said authorities are certain Malik was radicalized before she came to the United States, and are looking very closely at her family overseas as also being radicalized.

Malik was one of just 519 Pakistanis allowed into the country last year specifically to marry a U.S. citizen. Her path to the United States has raised warning flags on the U.S. government's immigration vetting practices after she was identified as one of two attackers in California.

On Monday, the FBI said that Mailk and her American husband, Syed Rizwan Farook, had been radicalized “for quite some time.” That raised the prospect that Malik's anti-American sentiments could have surfaced before U.S. officials evaluated whether she should be allowed to move here.

A law enforcement official told Fox News on Tuesday that officials are looking “very closely” at Mailk’s family overseas as also being radicalized. An official said the “number one” way terrorist organizations are recruiting is through family, with the internet being second.

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The Obama administration is reviewing the program, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Monday. He did not say what changes were being considered.

The K-1 visa program is among the smallest visa categories managed by the government. Of more than 9.9 million visas issued in fiscal 2014, just 35,925 -- roughly 0.3 percent -- were fiance visas, according to State Department figures.

Much of the focus is on rooting out marriage fraud. A couple must prove they have physically seen each other within the past two years, unless meeting in person would violate "strict and long-established customs" or cause an "extreme hardship."

"This visa has been totally under the radar," said Marc Rosenblum, deputy director of the U.S. Immigration Policy Program at the Migration Policy Center told the Associated Press. "The issue of marriage fraud has definitely gotten a lot of attention, just not as a security vulnerability."

Applicants are subject to a vetting process that includes at least one in-person interview, fingerprints, checks against U.S. terrorist watch lists and reviews of family members, travel history and places where a person has lived and worked.
But checks for information about an applicant against entries in intelligence databases and criminal records can be hampered if the underlying information is incomplete.

DHS spokeswoman Marsha Catron said officials from DHS and the State Department are reviewing the fiance visa program "to assess possible program enhancements." The administration is also reviewing the Visa Waiver Program, which allows most citizens from 38 countries to travel to the United States without applying for a visa.

The FBI said on Monday that investigators are still trying to determine where, when and how the couple had been radicalized, and if anyone influenced them.

A law enforcement official told Fox News on Tuesday that Syed was in part radicalized in the U.S., and investigators are still “looking and investigating a number of individuals domestically.”

Fox News’ Adam Housley and the Associated Press contributed to this report