Former 9/11 Commission counsel recommends ways to improve travel ban executive order
Janice Kephart of Identity Strategy Partners, LLP released a statement regarding President Donald Trump’s “Executive Order: Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States” (Jan. 27, 2017), as well as offered some recommendations as to how to improve on the plan.
President Trump’s executive order temporarily prohibits nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the country, along with calling for the expedited development of a national biometric ID program for non-citizens entering and leaving the U.S.
In her statement, the former 9/11 Commission border counsel and Special Counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee speaks out against the executive order.
“As President Trump’s ‘travel ban’ executive order gains more notoriety and the 9th Circuit has now essentially banned the travel ban, it is important that our national discourse regain a level of objectivity about whether the order is worth fixing, and if so, how,” said Kephart. “I believe that while the ‘travel ban’ section of the order is completely unnecessary and discriminatory, the Order’s underlying goal to prevent terrorist entry by properly establishing identity, retains value.
“First, the President gets right that identity is critical to national and border security, and assuring that an identity is not affiliated with terrorism is equally important. But let’s be clear: as a nation we can never be 100 percent sure we have determined who intends to do us harm, and who does not. The question really is ‘how do we minimize the risk of terrorist entry?’ Not ‘how do we stop terrorist entry?’ The former question is about accepting the real risk of terrorist entry, while the second is a fantasy that terrorist entry can be 100 percent stopped.”
Kephart goes on to state that the “President’s use of the 9/11 Commission’s phrase ‘assuring that people are who they say they are,’ is useful, but unfortunately misconstrued.”
According to Kephart, the executive order justifies the temporary ‘travel ban’ by erroneously implying that someone may be a terrorist if they are of Muslim religion from one of these listed countries, and therefore prohibiting that person from entering the country until it is proven that they are not a threat.
She says it is “fully impractical” to expect foreign nationals or even the U.S. government to prove that an individual is not a terrorist because “identity is a positive attribute”.
This can only be established through means of biometrics affiliated with biographic information taken from the person’s ID such as a passport, but it is impossible for Customs and Border Protection to “assure who they are not, i.e. a terrorist,” Kephart says.
She states that the “President’s temporary travel ban focusing on specific countries may have been relevant 20 years ago when terrorist activity was more defined and confined, it is not justified when terrorist activity is often internet-grown, defuse and as worldwide as it is today.”
Kephart makes several recommendations for improving the plan, stating that the President’s order should be “laser-focused on continued improvement of objective, across-the-board, standard vetting processes that are designed to facilitate legitimate travel while stopping those that pose a risk.”
These enhancements include merging biometrics into watchlisting and sharing such lists appropriately among the military, FBI, intelligence, homeland security communities and appropriate allies; biometric exit implementation at U.S. ports of entry; appropriate interviews for visas and admissions; requiring all visa waiver countries – and eventually the world – to adopt U.S. biometric pre-clearance, pre-boarding admissions procedures; and international support for counterfeit-resistant travel documents, including passports, and increased support for INTERPOL’s lost and stolen passport database”.
Earlier this month, Mark Crego and Janice Kephart formed a new independent identity strategy consultancy firm called Identity Strategy Partners, LLP (IdSP), which is designed to provide technical and policy expertise in the identity market.