Obama Made an Error in Oval Office Speech

He misspoke on how San Bernardino shooting suspect entered the US
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 7, 2015 5:03 AM CST
Obama Made an Error in Oval Office Speech
President Barack Obama addresses the nation from the Oval Office at the White House in Washington Sunday night.   (Saul Loeb/Pool Photo via AP)

In his Sunday night Oval Office address, President Obama may not have covered much new ground on overcoming terrorism, but he did note that he's seeking answers about how San Bernardino shooting suspect Tashfeen Malik ended up in the US. "I've ordered the departments of State and Homeland Security to review the visa waiver program under which the female terrorist in San Bernardino originally came to this country," he said, per Politico. Except one word in that statement—"waiver"—rendered it inaccurate, as Malik came into the country on a fiance visa, not through a federal program that waives visas. A confirmation from the White House noted Obama's mistake, and the official transcript of the speech has corrected the error.

As explained on the State Department website, the Visa Waiver Program allows eligible travelers from one of 38 participating countries to come to the US for up to 90 days without a visa. Malik had lived in both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia before her arrival in the States, and neither country is one of the 38 covered under that waiver program. Instead, Malik came in through what the Los Angeles Times refers to as the "previously obscure" K-1 fiance visa program, which requires the newcomer to marry his or her US sponsor within 90 days of arrival. That program includes a reportedly comprehensive counterterrorism screening—including the use of fingerprint checks and facial recognition software—as well as other paperwork and interviews to prove that a couple is indeed planning on marriage. (The Los Angeles Times offers a primer on the K-1 visa.)

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