Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, speaks during the Faith and Freedom Coalition's "Road to Majority" legislative luncheon in Washington, D.C., June 18, 2015. 
Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty

Obama adminstration pressured to provide records of social media vetting policy


The chair of the Homeland Security Committee is pressing the Obama administration on why it declined to adopt an internal proposal to vet social media of visa applicants.

Ron Johnson, the Republican chair of the Homeland Security Committee, dialed up pressure on Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson in a new letter Friday, asking why his department declined to adopt social media vetting when an internal proposal was offered in 2011.

Ever since the advent of Facebook, we’ve been telling young people to be careful what they post because future employers will take notice,” the committee chairman told MSNBC on Friday. “Federal agencies, including DHS, should take notice, too.  My committee will determine why they have not.”

Homeland Security officials “reviewed a policy memorandum at some point in time that included changes to the vetting process for foreign visa applicants,” he wrote in the letter, and the changes would have authorized staff “to use social media to verify the applicants information.”

RELATED: Exclusive: Homeland Security passed on plan to vet visa applicants’ social media

“The memorandum was ultimately not adopted,” he added, citing a Thursday MSNBC investigative report that published the draft memo for the first time.

Johnson asked the Obama administration to provide his committee with all documents and communications about the issue, including an explanation for “why the Department prepared the policy memorandum” and why it “did not adopt” it. 

The committee head also delved into the department’s internal deliberative process, requesting a “timeline” of how the proposed policy was written, reviewed, and considered, and asking for a list of the parts of the bureaucracy or staff involved in the decision. The new letter proposes a deadline of January 4 , 2016, for the information.

The request, coming from the top Republican overseeing the Homeland Security Department, suggests that the debate over visa security is likely to continue, even as administration officials sought to address the issue at a House hearing Thursday, and as the president spoke about the balance between privacy and law enforcement in his year-end press conference Friday.