San Bernardino shooter Tashfeen Malik denied having any militant sympathies or intentions when she was asked in an application form for a U.S. visa two years ago, documents described to Reuters on Tuesday showed.
Information in the documents could bolster complaints of critics in Congress who said flaws in the immigration system meant Malik was not thoroughly investigated, but the papers also showed that statements by Malik and her husband and fellow shooter Syed Rizwan Farook, did not raise any alarms among authorities that they were potential Islamic State militants.
U.S.-born Farook said they first met in person and became engaged during the October 2013 Haj pilgrimage to Mecca with their respective families, according to other documents released by a congressman on Tuesday.
They showed precisely what Malik and Farook stated to immigration officials when Malik went to the United States in December 2013, two years before their deadly shooting rampage in California that killed 14 people and wounded 21 at a municipal holiday party.
In one part of Malik's immigration file, described to Reuters by congressional sources, Malik answered "no" to questions about her background and activities, including whether she had ever used or sold weapons or engaged in "terrorist activity."
The questions were included as part of a permanent residence application, a Form I-485 used by the Department of Homeland Security's immigration unit. The process began in January 2014 and it was approved on July 27 the same year.
Officials familiar with the investigation have said that it was discovered after the Dec. 2 shootings that Malik began sending private messages by social media expressing sympathy for Islamist militancy before her U.S. visa was granted. Farook, 28, and Malik, 29, parents of a six-month-old child, were killed in a shootout with police after their attack.
Malik's initial visa application, posted on the Internet by U.S. Representative Bob Goodlatte on Tuesday, was part of a form Malik submitted to U.S. authorities to obtain a K-1 visa allowing her to enter the country as Farook's fiancee. According to an accompanying statement Farook filed, the couple met through an online website and decided to meet in person, along with their families, during the October 2013 Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca.
In the application Malik said the couple first met over the Internet on a "a matrimonial website."
Goodlatte, head of the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement that the record alone was not strong enough to establish that Farook and Malik had met in person before seeking the fiancee visa. In a statement, Goodlatte indicated there were questions about dates of entry to Saudi Arabia and other aspects of the application that should have raised questions with immigration authorities.
"Visa security is critical to national security, and it’s unacceptable that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services did not fully vet Malik’s application and instead sloppily approved her visa," Goodlatte said.
The administration of President Barack Obama has not made the documents public. The initial visa application released by Goodlatte includes a two-paragraph narrative "Intention to Marry Statement" in which Farook describes how he, a U.S. native, and Malik, a native of Pakistan, first met in 2013.
"My fiancée and I met thru an online website," Farook wrote. "After several weeks of emailing, we decided to meet each other."
"My fiancee’s parents reside in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and she was visiting them during the month of October (2013). During the same month, my parents and I decided to perform the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca Saudi Arabia.
"We decided to have both of our families meet on Thursday October 3, 2013 at the house of my fiancee’s relative who lives not too far from the Ajyad Hotel in Mecca. My fiancee and her family drove from Riyadh to Mecca so we could meet and it is on this day that we got engaged,” Farook added.
To support this narrative, Farook told U.S. authorities that he had included a copy of his Haj visa to show that he was in Saudi Arabia in October 2013 and that he also included copies of his fiancee’s passport pages to show she was also there that month.
"My fiancee and I intend to marry within the first month of her arriving in the United states," Farook's statement said.
The file, described to Reuters but not made public by Goodlatte, contains a marriage license issued to Farook and Malik in Riverside, California, dated Sept. 8, 2014.
Reuters reported last week that U.S. consular authorities in Pakistan could have sought, but did not seek, a more thorough background investigation of Malik before granting her an initial visa to enter the United States as Farook's fiancee.
Also in the material made available to Reuters was a standard questionnaire completed by Malik, which asked her numerous potentially revealing questions about her background and intentions. Asked what organizations she belonged to, Malik replied, "none."
Malik also answered "no" on the form when asked if she had ever belonged to a military unit or rebel or vigilante group, or whether she had ever used or sold weapons, and whether she had ever undergone paramilitary training. Altogether, Malik answered "no" to more than a dozen additional questions about her background, including whether she sought to overthrow the U.S. government.