Congressman Vern Buchanan

Representing the 16th District of Florida

Evidence Mounts on Need for Buchanan Plan to Screen Terrorists’ Social Media

Sep 26, 2016
Press Release
NY/NJ Bombing Suspect’s Social Media Unchecked

“It’s Right There In Front of Us and We Missed It”

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan today called on Congress to swiftly pass his bill mandating the screening of foreigners’ social media following a report that U.S. officials did not check Ahmad Rahami’s social media accounts, which included links to radical jihadist videos.

Ahmad Khan Rahami, the terror suspect in a series of blasts across New York and New Jersey last weekend, became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2011, according to an NBC News report. At the time, U.S. authorities did not check his social media accounts, but if they had, “they would have found multiple links to radical jihadi videos,” intelligence officials told NBC News.

The explosion in New York City left 31 people injured.

“Terrorists are using the digital battlefield to their advantage, and we’re one step behind,” Buchanan said. “Rahami’s activity on these social media sites could have alerted authorities five years ago. The government cannot afford to overlook any foreigners’ social media as ISIS hopes to carry out more violence across the U.S.”

Buchanan is the author of federal legislation to require social media screening for any foreigner who wants to enter America. His Social Media Screening for Terrorists Act directs the secretary of Homeland Security to vet all public records, including Facebook and other forms of social media, before admitting foreign travelers and visa applicants into the country.

The Congressman’s bill has the support of the chairmen of the House Homeland Security and Intelligence committees.

Rahami, Afghan-born, is said to have traveled to Syria in 2013 or 2014, in addition to visiting high-risk terror areas like Quetta, Pakistan. Not only did Rahami’s social media accounts include material produced by terror groups, but a journal found on Rahami includes writing praising Anwar al-Awlaki, a former top al-Qaeda leader, and referencing ISIS, the Boston Marathon bombings, the Fort Hood shooting and “Brother Osama Bin Laden,” according to press reports.

“It’s right there in front of us and we missed it,” Buchanan said. “Checking social media is standard practice for thousands of employers. We need to make sure the individuals entering the U.S. are not here to harm Americans.”

Buchanan was a strong opponent of the “lame” DHS proposal made public in June, which asks foreign travelers to voluntarily disclose their social media accounts on arrival and departure forms. The Congressman said the proposal would fail to make America safer as “the only people who will share that information are those with nothing to hide.”

Buchanan questioned why the administration proposed this weak, solely optional half-measure given that DHS argues that social media screening will “enhance the existing investigative process” and provide “greater clarity and visibility to possible nefarious activity and connections.”