State Dept. Cables Spell Out ‘Extreme Vetting’ Action Plan

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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has directed U.S. diplomatic missions to identify “populations warranting increased scrutiny” and toughen screening for visa applicants in those groups, according to diplomatic cables seen by Reuters. He has also ordered a “mandatory social media check” for all applicants who have ever been present in territory controlled by the Islamic State. Social media screening is now done fairly rarely by consular officials, and the new action plan would be a broad, labor-intensive expansion of such screening, officials said.

Four cables issued by Tillerson in March provide insight into how the U.S. government is implementing President Trump’s campaign promise of “extreme vetting” of foreigners entering the U.S. The cables also demonstrate the administrative and logistical hurdles the White House faces in executing its vision. They provided instructions for implementing Trump’s March 6 revised executive order temporarily barring visitors from six Muslim-majority countries and all refugees. The flurry of cables to U.S. missions abroad issued strict new guidelines then retracted some of them in response to court rulings. The final cable seen by Reuters, issued on March 17, leaves in place an instruction to consular chiefs to convene working groups of law enforcement and intelligence officials to “develop a list of criteria identifying sets of post applicant populations warranting increased scrutiny.”

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