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State Department Social Media Vetting for US Visas

About: Proposals by the U.S. State Department to increase vetting for temporary visas to inspect social media (among other items). These proposals follow the Trump administration’s request for tougher visa vetting which date from early 2017.

Note: this is an an archive posting in March of 2018 shared for historical reasons.
In detail: The U.S. State Department, as part of a new, to be proposed, set of enhanced visa vetting steps (among several other items) will want to enhance border protection with the analysis and checking of social media posts. According to the Washington Times “(..) The proposals are laid out in two documents slated to be published Friday, kicking off a comment period before the government finalizes the policies later this year (…) Travelers would also be asked to list previous phone numbers, email addresses and international travel during the previous five years, and to detail any immigration problems they’ve had, whether with the U.S. or elsewhere. They’ll also be asked about potential family connections to terrorism. (…)” **


These proposals follow the Trump administration’s request for tougher visa vetting which date from early 2017. It is only now (March 2018) that the proposed social media checks are bundled into a package which includes a warning to immigrants against female genital mutilation.
From 2017, in the StraitsTimes.com ,we read: “(…) A set of new questions would apply to visa applicants (…) Those applicants would be required to give all prior passport numbers, five years’ worth of social media handles, e-mail addresses and phone numbers as well as 15 years of biographical information when applying for a US visa. (…) Those applicants would be required to give all prior passport numbers, five years’ worth of social media handles, e-mail addresses and phone numbers as well as 15 years of biographical information when applying for a US visa (…)”.  See full article: US State Department seeks social media checks in tough new visa rules
** ABC7.com refers to this as: “There is now a 60-day window for public comments on the proposal that starts Friday and after which time, the rule could be implemented“.

HERE ARE THE SOURCES
Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration
FR Document:2018-06490 Citation: 83 FR 13806 PDF
Pages 13806-13807 (2 pages) Permalink
Application for Nonimmigrant Visa
FR Document: 2018-06496 Citation: 83 FR 13807 PDF
Pages 13807-13808 (2 pages) Permalink

U.S. Department of State:
Links in the two quoted PDF documents are added by your blogger. Green links go to external sources and red links to the official sites:

PDF > Border Security Program Resources < In this document we read about the INR – Intelligences Support Unit : “(…) The Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) works to identify individuals who pose potential threats to the United States in order to prevent their entry into the U.S. Funding will be used to operate the CA Watch which is staffed during non-duty hours by individuals with consular training and experience who are able to access consular databases. The CA Watch also act as a point of contact for the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) and the National Targeting Center (NTC) and recovered intelligence files for security advisory opinion (SAO) reviews. In FY 2009, the Department is shifting the NTC and port of entry support to the Operations Center S Bureau staff and the CA Watch will retain the intelligence interface and VO support. This operational change is reflected in the decrease of this line item and increase in American Salaries. (…)”. { PDF saved 56 times between May 30, 2009 and November 22, 2017 on archive.org. }

In a second PDF – with more cost breakdowns we read the definition of Automated Name Check Systems  “(…) The consular name check systems are one of the centerpieces of the border security program. The Consular Lookout and Support Systems (CLASS) are now on-line to all consular operations overseas. Maintaining and improving the CLASS infrastructure remains a priority. In FY 2013, CA will continue to review and strengthen hardware and software platforms, enhance user training, provide telecommunications and technical development resources, and continue management planning regarding name check processing within CA. By FY 2013, CA will have over 65 million entries provided by other agencies, requiring continuous attention to data management and connectivity with other agency systems. CA will continue to provide contingency planning and support for the two data centers, one in the Washington, DC area and the Alternate Processing Center at the Kentucky Consular Center (KCC), that handle CLASS. (…)”.
Then further down:  “(…) Passport Services will continue to expand access to and incorporate supplementary automated identity verification databases used during the adjudication processThese resources include increased access to commercial database services, incorporation of the National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (NLETS) (for driver’s licenses) and Electronic Verification of Vital Events (EVVE) System (for birth and death records) into the front-end processing, and real-time access to Social Security Administration (SSA) databases. In order to service the American public in a timely manner, Passport Services must continue to modernize its  systems, maintain accountability of its partners, and ensure standardization of processes and procedures across all agencies to the greatest extent possible. (…)” { PDF saved 37 times between April 13, 2012 and March 30, 2018 on archive.org }

From EFF:
New CBP Border Device Search Policy Still Permits Unconstitutional Searches
PDF which start with “… To be clear: no court has held that a border search of any kind requires probable cause and a warrant. Plaintiffs invite this Court to be the first.” … Civil Action Case 1:17-cv-11730-DJC Document 32 Filed 03/01/18
Senators Introduce New Bill to Protect Digital Privacy at the Border
Eleventh Circuit Judge Endorses Warrant for Border Device Searches
Index of articles by EFF about border searches
Pass the Protecting Data at the Border Act

From the ACLU:
Your Rights in the Border Zone
Know Your Rights: What to Do When Encountering Law Enforcement:Questioning
  1. Stops and Arrests
  2. Searches and Warrants
  3. Additional Information for Non-Citizens
  4. Charitable Donations and Religious Practices
  5. Referral Contact Information

Recent Bills in The 115th Congress:
S.823 – Protecting Data at the Border Act  “(…) To ensure the digital contents of electronic equipment and online accounts belonging to or in the possession of United States persons entering or exiting the United States are adequately protected at the border, and for other purposes. (….)”
H.R.1899 – Protecting Data at the Border Act “(….) To authorize the development of open-source software based on certain systems of the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State to facilitate the vetting of travelers against terrorist watchlists and law enforcement databases, enhance border management, and improve targeting and analysis, and for other purposes. (…) ”

Further reading:
Inside the U.S. vetting system Trump wants to replace
State Department tightens scrutiny for certain foreigners
There’s more than the CIA and FBI: The 17 agencies that make up the U.S. intelligence community
Inside the 2013 U.S. intelligence ‘black budget’
Homeland Security Department: FY2011 Appropriations
Inspection of the Bureau of Consular Affairs, Visa Services Directorate (2014). { PDF was saved 619 times between November 8, 2014 and March 30, 2018. }
Immigration Blog from the Center for Immigration Studies.
About Visas – The Basics (from travel.state.gov)
For International Visitors (from cbp.gov)
A Guide to Getting Past Customs With Your Digital Privacy Intact

This article is not aimed to be an all-inclusive information source on planned and current steps taken by the State Department and/or other United States border control agencies in their verification processes and counter-terrorism efforts.

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