Islamic State terrorists have "found a back door" into the United States through the fiancée visa program that the woman who carried out the San Bernardino massacre with her husband used to enter the country legally last year, Sen. James Risch said Friday.
"It's frightening because it doesn't take a large leap of the imagination to think that it's possible that ISIS found a back door in using the type of visa that she used," Risch, the Idaho Republican who serves on the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, told Wolf Blitzer on CNN.
He was referring to Tashfeen Malik, 27, a Pakistani citizen who pledged allegiance to ISIS and its leader under an alias on Facebook on Wednesday just moments before she and her husband, Syed Farook, 28, opened fire on a Christmas celebration for his co-workers at the Inland Regional Center.
They killed 14 people and wounded 21 others. The couple was later shot to death outside their home in suburban Redlands in a gun battle with police.
"You had a man here, who by all accounts, had spent almost three decades here without getting into any trouble — without being radicalized and without visiting sites that are radical sites," Risch said. "Then, all of a sudden, he hooks up with this woman, who more and more is looking like a black widow, and who comes here.
"And a year and four months later, they have a house full of bombs and ammunition and rifles," he added. "The circumstances are very, very suspicious."
Malik, who had been living with her family in both Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, had passed several Department of Homeland Security background checks and entered the United States in July 2014 on a K-1 visa.
The visa allowed her to travel to the country and get married within 90 days of arrival. Otherwise, she would have had to leave the United States.
According to U.S. officials, Malik was subjected to a vetting process that was described as vigorous. It included in-person interviews, fingerprints, checks against U.S. terrorists watch lists — as well as reviews of her family members, travel history and places where she lived and worked.
The process began when she applied for a visa to move to the United States and marry Farook, a Pakistani-American restaurant health inspector for San Bernardino County who was raised in Southern California.
The couple married on Aug. 16, 2014, and held their wedding reception at the Islamic Center of Riverside, according to Mustafa Kuko, the center's director.
Kuko said he never met Malik because the party was divided into separate spaces for women and men.
"She never came to our mosque except once when they had their reception, and that night there were so many people around, my wife doesn't recall exactly how she looks or who she is," Kuko said. "We never saw her again."
At the mosque in Redlands, no record existed of Malik attending services or enrolling in programs for Muslim women.
"We really don't know anything about that sister," said Khaled Zaidan, chairman of the board of the Islamic Community Center of Redlands. "It really is a mystery what happened on Wednesday, how a woman could drop off a 6-month-old and commit a horrific crime killing all those innocent people."
Hours before the shooting, Farook and Malik dropped off their daughter at the child's grandmother's house in Redlands. They said they had a doctor's appointment.
Risch, who is in his second term in the Senate, told Blitzer that none of these circumstances was not beyond "the stretch of the imagination."
"It's relatively easy to get a fiancée visa to get into the country," he said. "That's exactly what happened here. It just strikes me that this thing, the way this happened, it just came together so neatly once they came to America back in July of 2014."
"It just came together so easily that there had to have been some prior thought on this."
"This business of being workplace violence is just nonsense," the senator continued. "You don't leave the workplace after an argument with somebody and go home and say, 'honey, put on your assault clothes and grab a few bombs and some assault rifles.'"
"This was thought out and planned — and obviously they had somebody else who was advising them, inspiring them at the very least, if not directing them on the dark web as to when and how to do this."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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