If any citizen of the seven Muslim-majority countries identified by US President Donald Trump is planning to visit and enter the United States anytime soon, he or she must also be ready to reveal the passwords to his or her social media accounts, whether it be Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. That is if the measure passes through Congress soon.
John Kelly, Secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security said that the proposal to require visitors to hand over the passwords to their social media accounts is part of the enhanced security checks which the country as part of the promise made by President Donald Trump when he assumed office on January 20.
Kelly told the US Congress that the measure was one of the several ideas being considered to vet refugees and visa applicants from seven Muslim-majority countries.
He explained that if the foreigners do not cooperate, the Department of Homeland Security would not allow them to enter the country, reports NBC News.
Part of the vetting process
Kelly’s statements came the same day judges heard arguments over President Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily barring entry to most refugees and travelers from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, and Yemen.
Secretary Kelly stressed that asking for people’s passwords was just one of the things that they are thinking about and that none of the suggestions were concrete.
Under the existing vetting process, according to Kelly, officials don’t have a lot to work with, relying on the applicant’s documentation and asking them questions about their background.
He said it was even more problematic when dealing with so-called failed states such as Syria or Somalia, where infrastructure and record-keeping have been degraded by conflict.
Kelly explained that when someone says he is from this town and this was his occupation, US immigration officials essentially have to take the word of the individual for it. He said that it is not enough because President Trump doesn’t think that’s enough.
That is when they thought of adding additional layers including the possibility of prying into the foreigners’ social media accounts and have a look-see at his or her personality. Although social media accounts are not a determining factor of an individual’s personality because there is also the so-called fake social media accounts.
Going the extra mile
In addition to asking people for their passwords to their social media accounts, Kelly said he was looking at trying to obtain people’s financial records as well, which is really going the extra mile for the Department of Homeland Security.
He pointed out that they can follow the money, so to speak, in order to know how the visitor is living and who is giving him or her money. Kelly added that it applies under certain circumstances, to individuals who may be involved in on the payroll of terrorist organizations.
While some critics of Trump believe that the idea is kind of overkill, it should be noted that obtaining visitors’ passwords for their social media accounts was considered by top officials at the Department of Homeland Security under the Obama administration. But the policy was never adopted.
The idea was actually a reaction of the Homeland Security department to vet people coming from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, and Yemen, the citizens of which were barred from entering the US by President Trump’s recent executive order.
That order, however, remains in legal limbo after a federal judge blocked its enforcement. The Trump administration urged a federal appeals court early this month to overturn the lower court’s ruling.
The Obama administration had considered demanding social media passwords from visitors entering the US.
However, the Obama administration did adopt a plan to ask the millions of tourists entering the country each year to reveal their online presence, such as social media identities.