U.S. CITIZENSHIP AND IMMIGRATION SERVICES’ EFFORT TO IDENTIFY TERRORISM THREATS: IS SOCIAL MEDIA INTELLIGENCE (SOCMINT) THE NEXT TOOL?
Thompson, Erik M.
Dahl, Erik J.
Peters, Lynda A.
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Terrorists use the internet to facilitate every aspect of their nefarious activity. This use creates a novel research question. To what degree can an open-source social media intelligence (SOCMINT) gathering and analysis capability assist U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in accomplishing its homeland security mission? The critics of SOCMINT argue it is an unnecessary, problematic, and ill-advised effort based on efficacy, data management, and constitutional grounds. Therefore, the thesis explores the past efforts, necessity, and efficacy of open-source SOCMINT in identifying potential fraud, public safety, and/or national security concerns (threats) from immigrants seeking immigration benefits. The research consists of qualitatively examining issue rhetoric—the debate and discussion—between the critics and supporters of SOCMINT. The Profiles of Individual Radicalization in the United States dataset provides a quantitative, evidence-grounded means to gain insight on radicalized immigrants’ use of the internet and social media in plotting attacks and the potential for threat detection. The research demonstrates threats among immigration benefit seekers exist, and that SOCMINT is a viable means to identify and mitigate the threats. The thesis concludes the propositions for SOCMINT are valid and the critics’ objections should not impede the effort. The thesis recommends USCIS continue SOCMINT, ensuring the endeavor observes a balance between security and liberty.
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