US Considering New ‘Extreme Vetting’ of ALL Visitors – Turn Over Cell Phones, Facebook Passwords

The US is considering new rules that would require longer and more extensive interviews at embassies prior to travel, forcing foreigneers to hand over their phones and questioning about ideologies — and not just for Muslims, or travelers from Muslim majority countries either.

This would apply to travelers from Germany, France, Japan and Australia, too.

Foreigners who want to visit the U.S., even for a short trip, could be forced to disclose contacts on their mobile phones, social-media passwords and financial records, and to answer probing questions about their ideology, according to Trump administration officials conducting a review of vetting procedures.

Copyright: prestonia / 123RF Stock Photo

This is the plan for ‘extreme vetting’ that’s under development currently. While the administration’s travel ban executive order was enjoined by the judiciary, development of new strenuous travel procedures called for by the executive order continues. And new procedures may be extended even to travelers from Visa Waiver Program countries.

This would include “asking applicants to hand over their telephones so officials could examine their stored contacts and perhaps other information” and asking travelers “for their social-media handles and passwords so that officials could see information posted privately in addition to public posts.” Currently social media account information is a voluntary request, and there’s generally no request for passwords (so privately posted information isn’t available).

The goal is to “figure out who you are communicating with,” the senior DHS official said. “What you can get on the average person’s phone can be invaluable.”

…“We want to say for instance, ‘What sites do you visit? And give us your passwords,’ so that we can see what they do on the internet,” Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said at a congressional hearing in February. “If they don’t want to give us that information then they don’t come.”

Copyright: andreyuu / 123RF Stock Photo

According to the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General there hasn’t been much evaluation of whether the request for social media accounts has made any contribution to security especially since requesting the information may be changing the social media practices of anyone actually intending harm while imposing a burden on those who aren’t.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I’m not sure I dare make a comment about this should I wish to travel to the USA again. So much for free speech.

  2. Good thing he is putting all the coal miners back to work, because all the people in the tourism industry (55 times as large, even at coal’s peak recent employment, 100 times current coal employment) will need somewhere to work.

  3. This is so, so, so dumb. It would be so easy to get around this if you were nefarious. I know almost nothing about phone and internet security systems, but off the top of my head:

    1. Wipe your phone before you enter. Hand it over “clean”, except for a contact for Mom, of course. Then download your backup once you clear customs.

    2. No Facebook or Twitter accounts. Or “clean” accounts that only follow Fox News and post nothing.

    This is the epitome of security theater.

  4. You gotta admit it is slightly funny in a perverse way. Oh, restricting and vetting muslims is racist? Ok, we’ll restrict and vet everyone then. No more discrimination problem.

  5. I can’t wait for the reciprocal benefits a program like this will carry for US citizens abroad. SMH.

  6. Let me clarify; this applies to those planning short or long trips. the USA has no way to know what is a short trip because once in many would be illegals forget to leave.

  7. “1. Wipe your phone before you enter. Hand it over “clean”, except for a contact for Mom, of course. Then download your backup once you clear customs.
    2. No Facebook or Twitter accounts. Or “clean” accounts that only follow Fox News and post nothing.”

    I guarantee if you hand over a wiped phone or give them a password to a ‘clean’ social account (or claim you don’t have one) you will be sent back for ‘suspicious behavior’. Or maybe just put on the next plane to Guantanamo.

    I would say this idea is too stupid/unworkable to ever be put in place, but I hate to be wrong.

  8. Wow. The US will soon be the second “hermit” country behind North Korea. Nobody will be allowed in (or want to come) and a wall around the entire country will prevent people leaving. Except all the ones Trump and Bannon want out of course.

  9. I work for a German company. We already have people who are hesitant about coming over to visit for a business trip. I can’t imagine what this would do to people heading over for overseas assignments (we’re not large but there are at least 7 people I know who are on long term assignments). I didn’t go through this much trouble to work in China for two years.

  10. Even our own home-grown criminal gangs know how to set up a clean phone with clean accounts. Yet another example of poorly thought out policy implemented to please a domestic audience that prefers not to think.

  11. “The goal is to ‘figure out who you are communicating with,’ the senior DHS official said. ‘What you can get on the average person’s phone can be invaluable.'”

    So the “average” tourist is who we need to fear now? Is the new motto “terrorist until proven innocent’?

    Maybe the plan is to eliminate all the casual/average tourists. Then the only people left coming to the US will be terrorists. I guess there’s some logic in that, somewhere, maybe…

  12. @Brian

    Okay, so you figure out a middle ground. Wipe your phone a month before and only put in 25 contacts. Make a few calls. Use your social account lightly for a few months.

    The point is, I sit here and in 30 seconds figured out ways to get around this- things that were mentioned by security people in the WSJ article also. Truly nefarious types would be much more careful and use the time to figure out better ways.

    There are no quick fixes to terrorism. No technological magic bullets. The things that have worked are quality police and investigative work, and a populace willing to fight back. Everything else is incredibly wasteful security theater and fear used to win votes and funding.

  13. LOL @ all the biased commentary. Unless it actually happens (which IMHO it won’t) this is only conjecture on one possibility out of many. I see no one here has done a brainstorming session where even the most radical ideas get put on the whiteboard (i.e. “considered”) even though they have no chance to happen.

    Oh and I was right when I told you to wait on the facts on the electronics ban when you were all saying it was a farce (was based on real intelligence that even Dems supported).

  14. This should will be bad for US airlines (and US economy) and a boost for countries such as Mexico who will become the new hub to and across the americas. It is already a pain for people just transiting the US. Now there is a real incentive not to do so. As for visiting the US, Ha! So much for that. Isolation is not the solution.

  15. I think we were already seeing many international conferences choose to relocate outside the US. They have no choice when we do things like deny every single visa request from African nations for an African trade conference in California. If this goes into place, we’ll be telling the world that we’re closing up the gates. I can’t begin to comprehend the harm that will be done to our scientific, academic, and business leadership—not to mention the economy.

  16. Hmmm…
    “I don’t have any social media accounts. And I didn’t bring a phone.”

  17. Bye bye US tourism industry…. oh and the international market for the legacy carriers too. If this was instituted for, say, US passengers wanting to go to France, we’d just not go to France. I don’t know how they come up with this crap.

  18. I imagine they aren’t quite stupid enough to go through with this, but if they do, RIP US tourism industry.

  19. I can’t believe something this ineffective and counterproductive could ever happen. Then again, I couldn’t believe that Trump could ever be elected president…

  20. What on earth is wrong with people? WHAT IS THE THREAT? Why are we acting like we’re in World War II when we’re in a period of sustained peace whose minor disturbances are exacerbated by a news-hungry media?

  21. Outside third world countries you can find folks willing to sell you a clean visa documents package for $1k. Now they will be happy to sell you a phone and a clean list of social media history with passwords.

  22. We have a saying in Europe that America can always draw on the excuse that they are a young and immature country, so they should be cut some slack when they seem to act with stupidity. But the problem is that America has been using the same excuse for some 241 years …..

    I put this latest shock horror story in the same category as India’s attempt in 2015 to make all visas subject to a personal interview, and Egypt’s recent threat to raise tourist entry fees,. Both died a quick but publicly ignominious death….

  23. What I keep saying is this: FOLLOW THE MONEY! Nearly every one of these so called security measures eventually cost someone money somewhere, either in the form of fees, taxes, new purchases, government spending, etc. The trick is to see WHO PROFITS from the latest and greatest dumb idea. The travel ban? Well check the provisions of the added security and the airport expansions across the U.S. that would be required for all aspects of it to be implemented. I understand that the Muslim ban part was stopped by the courts, but what of the airport upgrades, new tech items that would have to be purchased etc? Usually these “security” measures are URGENT and can’t be bothered with bidding and legal contracts, it is under cover and billions of dollars later we will find out that Trump/Kushner profited along with other cronies off the so called protection clause. Same happened after 911…they stole BILLIONS in the name of national security, folks were scared and let them do whatever they wanted…and they did. Look at all the Billions of dollars Haliburton got in no bid deals and no one dared attempt to scrutinize the spending because they were called UNAmerican! There’s something they want from these deals and it has nothing to do with security, that’s just the smoke & mirrors part to distract us with….the real objective is to have us robbed blind by some corporations associated with the Administration. Follow the money.

  24. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

  25. Insanity. The administration is running amok, and when will Congress step up and say “Enough!” to the xenophobic security state some are trying to create? I thought this was an Onion parody at first, but it it looks like there really are people wanting to re-create this country as something vastly other than the land of the free and the home of the brave.

  26. If this madness does somehow go into effect, the reciprocity for our travelers is gonna be fun.

  27. You’re just provoking Trump Derangement Syndrome among those susceptible. The US travel industry has WAY too much clout for any of these theoretical ideas to ever be implemented. There will be more screening of people who probably need more screening, a few minor annoyances to others (like the “bottle search” at foreign airports before you board a flight to the USA), and that will be the end of it.

    The hysteria can then move to the next topic. Like perhaps how our newest Supreme Court justice is just so horrible.

  28. @iahphx Gorsuch will be terrific, precisely because he does clearly believe in individual freedoms as so eloquently detailed in the Bill of Rights. My hope and prediction is that the President will regret this court choice when Gorsuch forms part of a majority that blocks the administration’s efforts to grow the intrusiveness of the security state into the lives of us all on security grounds.

    The quotes in this article are Orwellian in their scope. Orwell’s Big Brother didn’t know the internet age and 1984 seems to have missed its target date by just a little over three decades. And as someone noted, if US agents can do all these invasive things to people entering our country – with no probable cause or search warrant – every agent in every other country will assume the same right to do these things to Americans.

  29. My question still is:
    What if you don’t have a social media account or didn’t bring your phone? They wouldn’t be able to prove it one way or another now would they?

  30. Let’s just remember how many people have died in the US from terrorism. And how many have died from our the hands of our own people that have nothing to do with terrorism. All common sense is out the window.

  31. No problem with that as long as the counties affected do request exactly the same from US citizen. If the US wants to isolate, the US shall be isolated.

  32. Funny, I use one of those old school $15 phones with $20 a month in service fees. Great for one handed use while traveling. How many thousands have you spent on your smart phone and service? They are called “smart” phones because your pocketbook smarts after you become hopelessly addicted to them. Old school trucks, smart phones sux!

    “Time to bring back the old school flip phones.”

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