After his immigration executive order, President Donald Trump wants to ask foreign nationals to disclose their cellphone contacts and any social media or websites they visit frequently. Trump’s cellphone consideration falls in line with his proposed “extreme vetting” of people originating from Muslim majority countries.
According to CNN, White House policy director Stephen Miller spoke with the State Department, Customs and Border Control, and the Department of Homeland Security and relayed the message that Trump was considering expanding background checks for visitors to the United States. Miller said foreign visitors would be asked to reveal their cellphone contacts, social media pages, and websites they visit. If the visitor refuses to disclose that information, they could be denied entry to the United States.
Trump’s suggestion for encroaching on a visitor’s contacts and social media profiles was partially influenced by the San Bernadino attacks in December of 2015. Tashfeen Malik and Syed Rizwan Farook killed 14 people in San Bernadino, California, after Malik called for jihad on social media. There has been some evidence that ISIS and other extremist groups have been able to radicalize members through Twitter and other social media platforms.
According to the New York Times, social media has been used as a recruiting tool for ISIS.
“If you want to talk to a terrorist, you don’t need to send an email to anybody,” said FBI director James Comey shortly after the Paris terrorist attacks in 2015. “You just need to follow that terrorist on Twitter, and then maybe engage in Twitter direct messaging with that terrorist.” He added, “it works as a way to crowdsource terrorism, to sell murder.”
Although social media has been used by ISIS in the past, there is no reason to believe that investigating foreign visitors would stymie terrorism. According to policy director Miller, the idea to check people’s cellphones is still in the preliminary discussion level, but there have been reports of green card holders being detained at airports after Trump signed an executive order on Friday banning emigres from Muslim majority countries. In addition to being held at airports, people have already had their phones confiscated and their social media pages checked.
I want to repeat: Green card holders were handcuffed, their social media was reviewed, and they were asked their views on Trump#MuslimBan
— Trita Parsi (@tparsi) January 28, 2017
Trump’s background check expansion comes after the president signed an executive order on Friday which barred people from seven Muslim majority countries, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, and Sudan, from entering the United states for 90 days. Trump also banned Syrian refugees refugees from entering the United States for the foreseeable future.
The executive action went into effect immediately, throwing airports into disarray. People originating from the banned Muslim majority countries were detained at airports for long stretches of time or were sent back to their origin point. Domestic backlash has been swift to Trump’s executive order and prompted hundreds of people to protest outside the John F. Kennedy International Airport where foreign nationals were being detained.
Numerous airport protests have cropped up across the United States, and Trump’s action has garnered international condemnation. In response to Trump’s ban, Iran declared that it would also bar U.S. citizen from entering the middle eastern country. Other countries are expected to retaliate against Trump’s immigrant ban and what the Iran Foreign Ministry called an “obvious insult to the Islamic world.”
The backlash against Trump’s executive order isn’t limited to Iran and the other six countries named. Many middle eastern countries, except for the ones Trump has business ties to, are speaking out against the action. In Baghdad, influential Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr said American nationals should leave Iraq.
“It would be arrogance for you to enter freely Iraq and other countries while barring to them the entrance to your country… and therefore you should get your nationals out,” he said on his website.
Trump’s focus on national security has already begun alienating the United States from the rest of the world. If the Trump White House is investigating personal information and social media accounts for visiting foreign nationals, the intrusive nature of the Trump regime could very easily expand to all American citizens. Right now, Trump is sticking to what he said on the campaign trail, enacting, what is in effect, a Muslim ban.
[Featured Image by Reed Saxon/AP Images]