Phone numbers, browser histories, and social media posts are all examples of the sort of data that could be mined from those entering the US under Trump’s “extreme vetting” policy, Department of Homeland Security secretary John Kelly said today.
As Talking Points Memo reported, Kelly held a press conference this afternoon to discuss the president’s new (and massively unpopular) travel ban. When pressed to explain what the “extreme vetting” part of the order could involve, Kelly answered, “It might be certainly an accounting of what websites they visit.” He stressed, however, that the new rules—whatever form they may take—are still “under development.”
“It might be telephone contact information [and] social media,” he continued. “We have to be convinced that people that come here, there’s a reasonable expectation that we don’t know who they are and what they’re coming here for and what their backgrounds are.”
Trump’s travel ban, it should be noted, was ruled unlawful. It also led the President to dismiss acting Attorney General Sally Yates after she reportedly told the Justice Department not to defend the policy, saying she had “betrayed” her post and calling her policies “weak.”
CNN previously reported that such rules were being discussed, but Kelly’s comments marked an official acknowledgement of that fact.
This weekend, reports emerged that detainees in US airports, many of whom held green cards, were already having their phones confiscated and their social media profiles reviewed by US Customs and Border Protection. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has condemned this behavior by CBP as “unconstitutional.”
We’ve reached out to Facebook, Twitter, and Google for a statement. Facebook assured us we’d receive one later today. Twitter pointed us to a non-specific blog post from October which limply affirms the company’s commitments to “protesters and activists,” while giving no indication of how they plan to keep their product from being used to oppress immigrants. Google has yet to respond, but we’ll update if and when we hear back.