Questionable Circumstances, Dubious Reports, and Specious Rewards Surround the San Bernardino Terror Attack

By Dan Cadman on June 30, 2016

In the weeks following the horrific Islamic terror massacre in San Bernardino committed by Syed Farook, a citizen of Pakistani origins, and his Pakistani fiancée, Tashfeen Malik, leaks of investigative information came out in a constant drip.

First came news that Malik had made social media postings of her radical views and allegiance to ISIS before immigrating, which was not known to the government due to a policy by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) precluding officers from looking into such information, allegedly to protect the "privacy" of applicants. It's just one of many such faux privacy-rights policies issued by DHS and its subordinate agencies for foreign individuals who don't, in fact, have any legal basis on which to claim those rights.

All such policies undermine the public's right to know what is happening inside taxpayer-funded federal agencies and, more importantly, compromise the vetting process that is supposed to ensure the public safety and national security (allegedly DHS's foremost mission).

Next came news of the involvement of one of Farook's best friends, Enrique Marquez, in a marriage fraud. Marquez was also the one who purchased the weapons used in the attack.

Later yet came news that in the immediate hours following the shooting, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents attached to the local joint terrorism task force were dispatched to an immigration benefits office run by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a DHS subordinate agency, based on information that the shooters might be there for an interview — and that the agents were denied access to the building by the USCIS supervisor in charge, Irene Martin.

Quite some time thereafter, the DHS Office of Inspector General (DHS OIG) issued a report of its findings about that incident. The OIG absolved DHS and USCIS of any responsibility for the policy establishing the refusal to grant entry, citing a number of arcane laws and rules permitting law enforcement to enter government buildings in pursuit of their responsibilities, particularly during emergencies. Blame was laid squarely on the shoulders of that supervisor, whom the report stops just short of accusing of fabricating her assertion that it was USCIS policy not to permit entry of ICE agents.

To me the report came off as a whitewash. Whether or not there was a written policy, I am convinced that, however mistaken and stupid her actions were, she was truthful in saying she was following policy.

I don't believe this simply because I'm preternaturally suspicious of the collective political leadership in those agencies, although I am and with good reason. There are three other cogent reasons for arriving at this conclusion.

First, the recitation of various rules promulgated by the General Services Administration having to do with government buildings as proof that there could be no such USCIS policy sounds like a dodge. It isn't the kind of information at the fingertips of people who concern themselves with adjudicating immigration benefits all day. The fact that the supervisor was the "designated officer" for the building is also neither here nor there. Those are the kinds of collateral duties heaped liberally onto the shoulders of most field supervisors all through government which there is little time to get to know or fulfill, and even less money or effort spent to ensure that they can be handled competently. Keep in mind, too, that these weren't just any law enforcement officers at the door, they were ICE agents whose job is to arrest aliens. They have nearly become the "enemy" to many USCIS officers, who have been inculcated in the most liberal attitudes toward granting of benefits, not taking them away and locking aliens up.

Second, and more persuasive, I find it curious that a USCIS fraud detection supervisor who was interviewed during the OIG inquiry — an officer who is not collocated with the supervisor, and who would not routinely interact with that supervisor — made the same assertion to the on-site ICE agents, though he denied making it when asked by OIG officers:

During this exchange, the agents also spoke by phone with the Acting Chief, Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS), USCIS, Los Angeles. According to the HSI agents, he told the agents that it was USCIS policy not to arrest, detain, or interview on USCIS property.

Third, and most persuasive to me at least, I had been told by a serving ICE agent, long before the San Bernardino attack, that this was the policy at USCIS, and that it had been done with the express purpose of ensuring that USCIS offices were a safe zone for aliens seeking benefits (I suppose a kind of bureaucratic equivalent of the "safe spaces" that have become all the rage on liberal college campuses these days). That agent had no reason to lie to me in the context of our discussion.

I think the chances are that the policy was never reduced to writing, but was articulated and reiterated orally and repeatedly at official gatherings of supervisors and managers — one of those "no fingerprints" policies of devious political appointees who know that if things head south fast (as they did in this case), it is unlikely that the trail will lead to their doorstep. Such things do happen, and they are not all that uncommon. What is more, such a "safe harbor" policy would be entirely in keeping with the other fake rights that this administration has claimed on behalf of aliens, such as privacy (which it has carried to such an extreme that it refuses even to provide file information to Senate staff investigating the links between immigrants and terror .

I am also troubled that, according to the report, ICE managers went to agents who received an executive summary of the events surrounding denial of entry at the USCIS office to ask who they sent it to. Such questions aren't asked for general principles. OIG claims to have found no evidence of retribution for whistleblowing. (Senators received the report and presumably were the ones who triggered the request to OIG to investigate.) But such retribution can be subtle and slow-moving: promotions don't come through, lateral transfers are denied, etc. That the issue arose at all seems to suggest that DHS leaders were, in fact, irate that the matter came to light because they understood all too well how it would look, and put pressure on ICE managers to dig to the bottom and find out who had spilled the beans.

I don't want to leave the impression that I view Martin as a "victim" — to the contrary, her reactions to the situation were callous, arrogant, and completely out of touch with the seriousness of the situation. She made the agents wait an inordinate period of time, despite having been told they were there, and why; she denied them access to Malik's file information; and she denied access to the premises until overruled. In sum, she is exactly the kind of person USCIS has hired, groomed, and promoted since its inception: a true believer in the rightness of her cause in "getting to the yes" for all benefits seekers, and in the importance of holding the jack-booted minions of ICE at bay rather than letting them sully her office. Bad as it was before, this attitude that has been elevated to the status of a litmus test for individuals in any kind of position of authority in USCIS during the Obama administration despite its disastrous consequences for national security or public safety, as has been proven again and again. Imagine her surprise when the agency left her on the ropes for doing as she had been told to do; a position with which she was philosophically in tune in every respect.

But now there comes this rather curious postscript to the story: The supervisor who was on the bad end of the beating stick in that OIG report — the one who screwed up so royally and then misrepresented it, if the official version is to be believed — has been nominated to receive an award for valor. Curiously, nobody at DHS or USCIS will explain why, although one would think it's an excellent opportunity to tout the glories of working for the department or the agency.

This should be public information since such nominations always come by way of a written summary of events that reflect the basis for an award, and there is no reasonable basis under the Freedom of Information Act to withhold it. The timing smacks of a hush payment for keeping her mouth shut and taking the hit like the loyal guard dog she proved herself to be.

Is there more here than meets the eye? You make the call. To me, it looks like one more link in the causal chain showing that there is no length to which DHS and its leaders will not stoop under this White House.