from the processing-the-fuck-out-of-immigrants-and-visitors dept
Last summer, the DHS started asking visitors to the US to supply their social media handles. It was all on a strictly voluntary basis, of course. But that doesn't mean some immigrants and visa seekers didn't do exactly as they were asked, either due to a language barrier or figuring that turning down this request might harm their chances of entering the country.
Six months later, the DHS made it more official, unofficially. An "optional" section in the DHS's online visa application process asked for account info for multiple social media platforms, including (strangely) Github and JustPasteIt. Again, officials assured everyone this was optional and the information was to be used to assess the threat levels of incoming foreigners. Again, the DHS probably harvested a fair amount of information despite the optional nature of the request. Like any cop asking if you'd "mind if they look around the car a little bit," the request carried unspoken threats that things might be a bit more difficult if the request was denied.
Now, news comes that the DHS is planning on going even further. Say goodbye to optional social media account disclosure. The DHS wants to be inside travelers' [social media accounts], according to this report from Federal Computer Week.
John Kelly, the new secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, testified that foreign travelers coming to the United States could be required to give up social media passwords to border officials as a condition of entry.
"We want to say, for instance, which websites do you visit, and give us your passwords, so we can see what they do on the internet," he said at a Feb. 7 House Homeland Security hearing, his first congressional hearing since his Senate confirmation. "If they don't want to give us that information, they don't come in."
Thanks, Trump. Kelly noted that the recent, not-even-fully-legal-yet travel ban has given the DHS the perfect excuse to start behaving in a more totalitarian fashion.
[H]e added that President Donald Trump's freeze on entry to the U.S. by citizens of seven countries, "is giving us an opportunity… to get more serious than we have been about how we look at people coming into the United States."
Perhaps this will be deployed the way the DHS's other attempts to peer into travelers' social media accounts has: to make it "optional," with the implicit threat that rejecting the agency's advances will result in zero forward progress beyond the nation's borders.
DHS Secretary Kelly isn't much for implicit threats. He prefers his threats (at least those he makes) to be explicit.
[I]f they truly want to come into America, then they'll cooperate. If not, you know, next in line.
Kelly also shouldered some of the blame for the disastrous travel ban roll out. In a too little, far too late mea culpa, Kelly suggested it might have been better to consult with Congress first. Kelly did not offer further details as to whether this would have just been a token gesture or whether the administration could have been talked out of the unpopular, possibly-illegal travel ban by legislators.
Fifteen years ago, a terrorist attack was exploited to expand government power -- especially in the intelligence and law enforcement arenas. Fifteen years later, fear-mongering politicians and officials are still dining out on that attack, selling fear and buying government power real estate while using War on Terror eminent domain "orders" to carve holes in civil liberties. The Trump Administration has already made it clear it won't extend any of our rights to citizens of other nations. The president's new DHS head is right on top of ensuring visitors and immigrants are welcomed with maximum intrusiveness.