Senate Dems: Visa background checks should include social media

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Senate Democrats want the administration to hand over details of its background check process for visas to enter the U.S., suggesting that applicants' use of social media should be scrutinized as a routine part of vetting. 

Twenty-five senators sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson on Tuesday, saying they have "deep concern" that social media accounts have largely been left out of the visa screening process and asserting that this could lead to the failure to identify "critical background information."  
 
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"We believe these checks, focused on possible connections to terrorist activity, should be incorporated into DHS’s vetting process for visa determinations, and that this policy should be implemented as soon as possible," the senators wrote. 
 
ABC News reported earlier this month that Johnson decided against ending a policy blocking officials from reviewing social media accounts for visa applicants. An official told ABC News that while the department had started pilot programs on including social media in vetting, the programs were not widespread. 
 
The senators are asking Johnson to hand over any plans to include social media in the vetting process for all visas, and also to clarify whether there are any technological barriers to including social media in vetting. They also want to know whether the administration currently checks social media accounts for any of its visa applications. 
 
State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters that department officials, who help screen visa applicants along with DHS, occasionally reviews applicants’ social media accounts. 
 
Lawmakers have honed in on the visa process, including a separate Visa Waiver Program, in the wake of recent terrorist attacks in Paris and California.
 
U.S. officials said that Tashfeen Malik, one of the shooters in San Bernardino, Calif., posted a message on Facebook declaring allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) before carrying out the attack. Malik also reportedly had a longer history of posting messages under a pseudonym that expressed support for waging jihad.
 
The letter, which was spearheaded by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen Jeanne ShaheenTaxpayers should be wary of false sugar reform proposals 10 things candidates need to know about women entrepreneurs Dem senators to GOP: Dump Trump MORE (D-N.H.), was signed by Democratic Sens. Tammy BaldwinTammy BaldwinCommunity development can help close the opportunity divide Overnight Healthcare: Major insurer expands ObamaCare presence | Charges dropped for Planned Parenthood videomakers FDA explores changes to blood donation for gay men MORE (Wis.), Michael BennetMichael BennetThe Trail 2016: The Battle for Blue Poll: Grassley, Bennet holding off challengers in Iowa, Colorado McAuliffe: I wouldn't want a 'caretaker' in Kaine's Senate seat MORE (Colo.), Richard BlumenthalRichard Blumenthal'Power problem' grounds southern Florida flights Dem senator's daughter could face Congress over EpiPen price hike Airlines brace for boost in travel volumes over Labor Day MORE (Conn.), Cory Booker (N.J.), Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerDem senator pushes EPA on asbestos regulations Trump was wrong: Kaine is a liberal in a moderate's clothing Feds weigh whether carbon pollution should be measured in highway performance MORE (Calif.), Sherrod BrownSherrod BrownLame duck TPP vote could be disastrous for Dems—and America The Trail 2016: Her big night Kaine as Clinton's VP pick sells out progressive wing of party MORE (Ohio), Tom CarperTom CarperCarper pushes DHS for elections to be classified critical infrastructure US Postal Service posts .57 billion loss Centrist Dems wary of public option push MORE (Del.), Bob CaseyBob CaseyPennsylvania holds keys in Clinton-Trump tilt 'Americans' spies set to visit White House Anti-abortion group pressuring Kaine MORE (Pa.), Joe DonnellyJoe DonnellyOvernight Finance: Senate punts on Zika funding | House panel clears final spending bill | Biz groups press Treasury on tax rules | Obama trade rep confident Pacific deal passes this year Overnight Healthcare: Lawmakers leave for summer without approving new Zika funds Dems block defense spending bill for second time MORE (Ind.), Dianne FeinsteinDianne FeinsteinCelebrating the contributions of the National Park Service at its centennial France, Germany push for encryption limits Lochte apologizes for behavior in Rio MORE (Calif.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandMoving beyond minimal: Fighting for paid family and medical leave McAuliffe: I wouldn't want a 'caretaker' in Kaine's Senate seat Tim Kaine backs call to boost funding for Israeli missile defense MORE (N.Y.), Martin HeinrichMartin HeinrichDem senators back Navajo lawsuit against EPA Research: Infrastructure systems easy to hack, a little slow to patch Week ahead: Republicans dig into FCC agenda MORE (N.M.), Heidi HeitkampHeidi HeitkampFeds weigh minimum train crew sizes Senate Dems push Obama for more Iran transparency Emerging technology-based consensus may help clear the air MORE (N.D.), Mazie HironoMazie HironoObama creates world's largest ocean reserve off Hawaiian coast Dem senator's name misspelled on convention screen Overnight Finance: Senate sends Puerto Rico bill to Obama | Treasury, lawmakers to meet on tax rules | Obama hits Trump on NAFTA | Fed approves most banks' capital plans MORE (Hawaii), Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharCompetition is the cure for EpiPen’s price hike Grassley presses EpiPen maker on 400 percent price increase Clinton's court shortlist emerges MORE (Minn.), Joe ManchinJoe ManchinEpiPen maker defends price hike: ‘I’m running a business’ Senator responds to criticism of daughter's EpiPen company The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (W.Va.), Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleySanders, Merkley back McConnell decision to skip TPP vote GOP senator: Anti-fossil fuel candidates ‘not fit’ for federal office Dem anxiety hangs over Clinton MORE (Ore.), Barbara MikulskiBarbara MikulskiWomen's Equality Day and the last glass ceiling The Trail 2016: Her big night Clinton to cast election as ‘moment of reckoning’ MORE (Md.), Chris MurphyChris MurphyThe Trail 2016: Trump works to widen his appeal Lawmakers amplify criticism of US support for Saudi bombing campaign Congress must take action to block weapon sales to Saudi Arabia MORE (Conn.), Gary Peters (Mich.), Jack ReedJack ReedDems to GOP: Admit Trump is 'unfit' to be president Armed Services leaders encouraged after first conference meeting US urges China to be calm in wake of South China Sea ruling MORE (R.I.), Charles SchumerCharles SchumerDems' Florida Senate primary nears its bitter end Trump was wrong: Kaine is a liberal in a moderate's clothing Trump poised to betray primary supporters on immigration MORE (N.Y.), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseDem senator: Clinton may command 'majority of the Republican caucus' Banking association backs financial transparency bill Shift in care could reverse the opioid epidemic MORE (R.I.), and Independent Sen. Angus KingAngus KingObama creates new national monument in Maine Reid: Dems could force Senate vote on Garland Clinton touts slew of new GOP endorsements MORE (Maine). 
 
- This story was updated at 6:41 p.m.

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