The article originally appeared on India Today.
Here it is modified and extended.
That may be the case if the US puts into place one of many ideas that the Donald Trump administration is working on to introduce the extreme vetting measures for visiting foreign nationals as Donald Trump had promised during his presidential campaign.
According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, that has widely echoed in the US media and has started a debate, the Trump administration is considering, among many other things, to ask the travellers to hand over their mobile phones and the passwords of their social media accounts to see who they are ‘communicating with’ and if they are following an ideology that is hostile to the US interests.
How seriously the Trump administration is thinking about implementing these harsh vetting measures can be gauged from the fact that the US Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly talked about it during a Congressional hearing in February. “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”, the Wall Street Journal report quoted him saying. Mr. Kelly added, “If they don’t want to give us that information then they don’t come’, a favourite campaign promise of Donald Trump.
The extreme vetting process that the Trump administration is working on is going to be designed to start at the application level where one would be asked to share one’s phone contacts so that it can be probed against the information available in the US database and the changes are expected to apply even to people from friendly countries and allies like Japan, the UK, France and Australia, the report says.
Thorough vetting on airports is common, especially on the US airports after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, at times it raises controversies when some important person of a country is detained on the US airports merely on the suspicion raised by his name, like it happened with Shahrukh Khan.
Extreme vetting that is Donald Trump’s favourite phrase, intends to take the existing vetting process to the extreme level. He always uses it to convey his viewpoint on how to regulate entry of foreigners in the United States. During an interview last year, he had said that he didn’t care what people called it but, if elected, he would see to it that people from suspicious territories are subjected to ‘deep scrutiny’.
An NBC News report quoted Donald Trump saying, “We’re going to have a thing called ‘extreme vetting.’ And if people want to come in, there’s going to be extreme vetting. We’re going to have extreme vetting. They’re going to come in and we’re going to know where they came from and who they are.” He reiterated this in his speeches and tweets.
After becoming the US president, he introduced his highly controversial immigration and travel ban plan targeting people from some Muslim majority countries. In defense, he tweeted that the US needed ‘strong borders and extreme vetting.
Donald J. TrumpVerified account
Our country needs strong borders and extreme vetting, NOW. Look what is happening all over Europe and, indeed, the world – a horrible mess!
6:38 PM – 29 Jan 2017
The US courts found both the versions of his travel ban discriminatory and in bad taste and blocked them. But extreme vetting was part of Trump’s executive order on travel ban that the court didn’t put a hold on.
The proposed move has already created a big debate in the US with civil society groups and advocacy groups raising their concerns. One of their main logics is what if other countries decide to do the same with the US citizens. Also, the concern is about its effectiveness. Terrorists who are plotting something against the US will try to enter the US with a clean slate to thwart these extreme vetting measures. And then the all encompassing issue of the ‘right to privacy’, that may again take the whole extreme vetting issue to the courts.