The White house did not provide on its website the full text of its Executive order related to foreign terrorism, but they did share it with media outlets. The full text to Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States has been made available by the New York Times via the embedded link. Again, I will highlight portions that I think are worthy of discussion.
Section 1. Purpose. The visa issuance process plays a crucial role in detecting individuals with terrorist ties and stopping them from entering the United States. Perhaps in no instance was that more apparent than the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, when State Department policy prevented consular officers from properly scrutinizing the visa applications of several of the 19 foreign nationals who went on to murder nearly 3,000 Americans. While the visa issuance process was reviewed and amended after the September 11 attacks to better detect would-be terrorists from receiving visas, these measures did not stop attacks by foreign nationals who were admitted to the United States.
It’s true that there was a major failing with regard to the individuals involved in the 11 September 2001 terror attacks here in the US, as identified by the 9-11 Commission. The problems stemmed from inability to identify fraudulent documents to a lack of follow up when individuals violated the terms of their visas (such as enrolling in flight school while on a tourist visa) or overstayed their visas. Since then, there have been both policy modifications and technological innovations that make the visa process more secure.
Since the September 11 attacks, there have been no major terror incidents remotely approaching the magnitude of what transpired that day. Additionally, the overwhelming majority of thwarted and executed attacks have been due to radicalization that took place while the culprit was in the US, as opposed to entering with a clear intent to do harm. This opening identifies a real concern, but overstates the threat by implication through its lack of detail and context.
Numerous foreign-born individuals have been convicted or implicated in terrorism-related crimes since September 11, 2001, including foreign nationals who entered the United States after receiving visitor, student, or employment visas, or who entered through the United States refugee resettlement program. Deteriorating conditions in certain countries due to war, strife, disaster, and civil unrest increase the likelihood that terrorists will use any means possible to enter the United States. The United States must be vigilant during the visa-issuance process to ensure that those approved for admission do not intend to harm Americans and that they have no ties to terrorism.