Posted by on February 22, 2017 12:10 am
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Categories: Center for Democracy and Technology Computer security Cryptography Cybercrime Department of Homeland Security Digital media Economy House Homeland Security Committee Identity documents Internet privacy Medical privacy national security NBC Password Politics Prevention safety Secure communication Security Security engineering Social Issues Vetting

During the 2016 campaigning cycle, then presidential candidate Trump coined the term “extreme vetting” to suggest that additional measures should be taken to vet refugees and immigrants coming from volatile areas of the world that have a history of harboring and funding terrorist organizations.  Not surprisingly, the liberal media latched onto the term and exploited it to paint Trump as an unhinged candidate that would undoubtedly look to waterboard every British citizen making a 2-day business trip across the pond.

Then, a few weeks ago during a Congressional hearing, Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly provided a glimpse of what “extreme vetting” may look like.  Among other things, Kelly suggested that refugees and visa applicants may be required to hand over social media passwords before being allowed into the country.  Per NBC, here are some of Kelly’s exact quotes:

“We want to get on their social media, with passwords: What do you do, what do you say?” he told the House Homeland Security Committee. “If they don’t want to cooperate then you don’t come in.”

“When someone says, ‘I’m from this town and this was my occupation,’ [officials] essentially have to take the word of the individual,” he said. “I frankly don’t think that’s enough, certainly President Trump doesn’t think that’s enough. So we’ve got to maybe add some additional layers.”

As well as asking people for their passwords, Kelly said he was looking at trying to obtain people’s financial records.

“We can follow the money, so to speak. How are you living, who’s sending you money?” he said. “It applies under certain circumstances, to individuals who may be involved in on the payroll of terrorist organizations.”


But apparently the mere suggestion that DHS would take the “extreme” precaution of reviewing a refugee’s social media content, which is mostly public anyway mind you, was just enough to “trigger” liberal civil liberties lawyers all around the country. 

Now, the Center for Democracy and Technology, a self-described champion of global online civil liberties and human rights, has formed a coalition of over 150 “human rights and civil liberties organizations, trade associations, and experts in security, technology, and the law” which have drafted a letter blasting Kelly’s social media vetting proposal.

The undersigned coalition of human rights and civil liberties organizations, trade associations, and experts in security, technology, and the law expresses deep concern about the comments made by Secretary John Kelly at the House Homeland Security Committee hearing on February 7th, 2017, suggesting the Department of Homeland Security could require non-citizens to provide the passwords to their social media accounts as a condition of entering the country.

Demands from U.S. border officials for passwords to social media accounts will also set a precedent that may ultimately affect all travelers around the world. This demand is likely to be mirrored by foreign governments, which will demand passwords from U.S. citizens when they seek entry to foreign countries. This would compromise U.S. economic security, cybersecurity, and national security, as well as damage the U.S.’s relationships with foreign governments and their citizenry.

Policies to demand passwords as a condition of travel, as well as more general efforts to force individuals to disclose their online activity, including potentially years’ worth of private and public communications, create an intense chilling effect on individuals. Freedom of expression and press rights, access to information, rights of association, and religious liberty are all put at risk by these policies.

The first rule of online security is simple: Do not share your passwords. No government agency should undermine security, privacy, and other rights with a blanket policy of demanding passwords from individuals.

Who knew that asking refugees and visa applicants to turn over mostly public information could result in so much international destruction…Ironically, it didn’t seem like that big of a deal when Obama did it…

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