U.S. asks nations to provide more traveler data or face sanctions

WASHINGTON,  (Reuters) – The U.S. State Department will require all nations to provide extensive data to help it vet visa applicants and determine whether a traveler poses a terrorist threat, according to a cable obtained by Reuters.

Countries that fail to comply with the new protocols or take steps to do so within 50 days could face travel sanctions.

The cable, sent to all U.S. diplomatic posts on Wednesday, is a summary of a worldwide review of vetting procedures that was required under U.S. President Donald Trump’s revised March 6 executive order that temporarily banned U.S. travel by most citizens from six predominantly Muslim countries.

The memo lays out a series of standards the United States will require of other countries, including that they issue, or have active plans to issue, electronic passports and regularly report lost and stolen passports to INTERPOL.

It also directs nations to provide “any other identity information” requested by Washington for U.S. visa applicants, including biometric or biographic details.

The cable sets out requirements for countries to provide data on individuals it knows or has grounds to believe are terrorists as well as criminal record information.

Further, countries are asked not to block the transfer of information about U.S.-bound travelers to the U.S. government and not to designate people for travel watchlists based solely on their political or religious beliefs.

“This is the first time that the U.S. Government is setting standards for the information that is required from all countries specifically in support of immigration and traveler vetting,” the cable said.

The cable can be read here: (http://reut.rs/2untHTl).

The new requirements are the latest in a series of steps the Trump administration says it is taking to better protect the United States from terrorist attack.

However, former officials said much of the information sought is routinely shared between countries, including examples of passports and additional details about particular travelers that may present security concerns.

Some U.S. allies may worry about privacy protections if Washington is seen as seeking information beyond what is already shared, said John Sandweg, a former senior Homeland Security Department official now with the firm Frontier Solutions.

“I don’t think you can ignore the political aspects of the unpopularity of the current administration. That puts political pressure to stand up to the administration,” he said.

The cable lays out risk factors the U.S. government will consider when evaluating a country. Some of these are controversial and could be difficult for countries to prove to U.S. satisfaction, including ensuring “that they are not and do not have the potential to become a terrorist safe haven.”

Countries are also expected to agree to take back citizens ordered removed from the United States.

If they do not provide the information requested, or come up with an adequate plan to, countries could end up on a list to be submitted to Trump for possible sanction, including barring “categories” of their citizens from entering the United States.

The real worries for countries may not come until the results of this review are known, said Leon Rodriguez, the former director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

“Once they start making decisions I think that is where there is going to be a lot of anxiety,” he said, saying delays in visa processing for nations that do not pose much of a threat could start to hurt “ordinary business and personal travel.”

The most controversial of Trump’s immigration-related moves are two executive orders, challenged in federal court, which impose a temporary ban on travel to the United States for most citizens from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

While the orders were initially blocked from being enforced, the Supreme Court on June 26 allowed the ban to go into effect for people from the six nations with no strong ties to the United States.

The cable requires countries to act quickly, but stressed that the United States would work with foreign nations to assess if they meet the standards and, if not, to come up with a plan to help them do so.

The cable asks that U.S. diplomats “underscore that while it is not our goal to impose a ban on immigration benefits, including visas, for citizens of any country, these standards are designed to mitigate risk, and failure to make progress could lead to security measures by the USG, including a presidential proclamation that would prohibit the entry of certain categories of foreign nationals of non-compliant countries.”

The cable says the U.S. government has made a preliminary determination that some countries do not meet the new standards and that others are “at risk” of not meeting them. It does not name these, listing them in a separate, classified cable.

The State Department declined comment on the cable, saying it would not discuss internal communications.

“The U.S. government’s national security screening and vetting procedures for visitors are constantly reviewed and refined to improve security and more effectively identify individuals who could pose a threat to the United States,” said a U.S. State Department official on condition of anonymity.

Comments  

Merkel fourth term in doubt as German coalition talks fail

BERLIN,  (Reuters) – Chancellor Angela Merkel’s efforts to form a three-way coalition government that would secure herself a fourth term hit a major setback after a would-be coalition partner unexpectedly pulled out of talks, thrusting Germany into a political crisis.

President Mugabe stuns Zimbabwe by defying pressure to resign

HARARE,  (Reuters) – President Robert Mugabe stunned Zimbabwe yesterday by making no mention of resignation in a television address, defying his own ZANU-PF party, which had sacked him hours earlier, and hundreds of thousands of protesters who had already hailed his downfall.

UK queen and husband Philip celebrate 70 years of marriage, quietly

LONDON, (Reuters) – Queen Elizabeth and husband Prince Philip mark their platinum wedding anniversary with a small family get-together on Monday, a far cry from the pomp and celebration which greeted their marriage 70 years ago.

Opioid crisis cost U.S. economy $504 billion in 2015: White House

WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – Opioid drug abuse, which has ravaged parts of the United States in recent years, cost the economy as much as $504 billion in 2015, White House economists said in a report made public yesterday.

Mexico, Canada shun NAFTA autos counteroffers -sources

MEXICO CITY,  (Reuters) – Divisions over updating the NAFTA trade deal showed no sign of easing yesterday as Mexico and Canada signaled they would not offer counterproposals to U.S.

Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly.

We built stabroeknews.com using new technology. This makes our website faster, more feature rich and easier to use for 95% of our readers.
Unfortunately, your browser does not support some of these technologies. Click the button below and choose a modern browser to receive our intended user experience.

Update my browser now

×