Saturday, December 19, 2015

Virtual and real ambiguities

The botched New York Times story about San Bernadino shooter Tashfeen Malik's "social media" postings seems to be obscuring what should be a more troubling lack of certainty about when and for how long she was in Saudi Arabia during her life. The NYT covers some new information coming from Republican House member Robert Goodlatte --

She entered Saudi Arabia on “approximately” June 4, 2013, according to a Judiciary Committee news release, and he entered on Oct. 1, 2013, and left on “approximately” Oct. 20, 2013. But Ms. Malik’s passport does not have any legible stamp showing when she left Saudi Arabia, the committee said. The only other evidence in the file, Mr. Goodlatte said, was a statement by the couple that they had been together in Saudi Arabia.

Your pseudonymous blogger has direct experience of the Saudi Arabia visa and travel procedures, and there's no such thing as "approximately." Everyone who's not from the Gulf needs a visa and there are physical stamps and photo/biometrics on the way in and out. And the uncertainty about her time in Saudi Arabia extends not just to that visit, but a large proportion of her life. Something doesn't add up. One possibility is that she was entering and leaving on a second passport, perhaps as a dependent of her father and/or linked to whoever (the kafeel) was sponsoring his presence in Saudi Arabia.

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