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Agency Stands by Vetting |of San Bernardino Shooter

(CN) - Homeland Security officials are standing by their decision to grant San Bernardino shooter Tashfeen Malik into the country following the release of her visa application by the House Judiciary Committee.

After the release of the 21-page document on Tuesday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., lambasted immigration officials who, he said, "did not thoroughly vet her application.

"In order to obtain a fiancée visa, it is required to demonstrate proof that the U.S. citizen and foreign national have met in person," Goodlatte said. "However, Malik's immigration file does not show sufficient evidence for this requirement.

"What's worse, the immigration official reviewing Malik's application requested more evidence to ensure the two met in person, but it was never provided and her visa was approved anyway," the committee chairman said.

But immigration officials rejected those assertions, stating that Malik had undergone numerous background checks "at all stages," that these checks did not reveal any "derogatory" information about her, and that her immigration file had contained "sufficient evidence" that she and Mr. Farook had met and spent time together in Saudi Arabia before her petition for a visa was filed.

"This and other evidence provided was legally sufficient to establish that Malik was eligible for a fiancée petition and issuance of a visa to travel to the United States," Joseph Holstead, a spokesman for United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, said in a statement released Tuesday.

Malik and her husband, Syed Rizwan Farook, carried out the terrorist attack on county health department workers in San Bernardino, Calif. Dec. 2 that left 14 dead and 21 wounded.

The couple was killed in a shootout with police hours later, but they left no note or other communication to explain their motivation, or even, anything about themselves. The release of Malik's visa application, then, is the first time any aspect of their story has been told in their own words.

What was already known about Farook is that in the years before he began his effort to get Malik into the country, he signed himself up on several matrimonial websites, seeking a devout Islamic mate.

In the visa application, Farook says he and Malik met through one of those websites and finally met in person when he and his parents travelled to Mecca, Saudi Arabia for the annual pilgrimage known as the hajj in October 2013.

The couple's first face-to-face meeting occurred in the presence of her family, at the home of one of her relatives not far from the Ajyad Hotel in Mecca, where the Farooks were staying.

"To whom it may concern," Farook wrote on Jan 20, 2014. "My fiancé and I met through an online website. After several weeks of emailing, we decided to meet each other. My fiancé's parents reside in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and she was visiting them during the month of October.

"During this same month, my parents and I decided to perform the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca," he said.

The couple -- and their respective family members -- met on Oct. 3, 2013.

"My fiancé and her family drove from Riyadh to Mecca so that we could meet and it is on this day that we got engaged," Farook said.

He attached copies of both his and Malik's passport to corroborate his account and show they were both in Saudi Arabia in October 2013.

My fiancé and I intend to marry within the first month of arriving in the U.S.," Farook wrote.

In the application, Farook gave Malik's place of birth as Dera Ghazi Khan, Pakistan, and her date of birth as July 13, 1986. (Farook was almost exactly a year younger that his intended, having been born on June 14, 1987.) When they met, she was living in Multan in southern Pakistan, where she had studied at a conservative religious school for women, Farook said.

Holstead said the existing process for K-1 visa security vetting relies on a combination of security and background checks against law enforcement and national security databases, as well as interviews in certain case, including Malik's.

These background checks include results of biographic and biometric holdings maintained by DHS and the FBI to determine any criminal, fraud, or national security concerns related to the applicant.

"All required procedures were followed in the processing of Tashfeen Malik's immigration file before the case was referred to the U.S. Embassy for visa processing," Holstead's statement continued.

"Tashfeen Malik's immigration file contained sufficient evidence to establish that she intended to marry Syed Farook and that the two were together in Saudi Arabia before the fiancée petition was filed. The file, for example, contained an affidavit of their courtship and intent to marry, copies of passport stamps, biographic data, and translated Saudi visas submitted in response to USCIS's request for further evidence," he said.

Goodlatte maintains that an analysis of the passport stamps on the photocopied documents by a contractor with the Congressional Research Service casts doubt on Farook version of events.

He says the analysis shows that Malik arrived in Saudi Arabia on June 4, 2014, and that her visa for entry into that country was good for only 60 days. Farook's visa shows he arrived in Saudi Arabia on Oct. 1, 2013, and left on Oct. 20, 2013.

Further, the statement released by Goodlatte's office says even if the couple were in Saudi Arabia at the same time, there is no conclusive proof the two met in person there, and even if they did, immigration officials did not have sufficient information in the file to make that determination.

Goodlatte previously said the judiciary committee is working on legislation to reform the visa security processing, and, among other things, ensure that open source information -- like postings on social media websites -- is reviewed as part of the background check for visa applicants.

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