Monday, February 23, 2009

Visa Waiver Worries

FBI Director Mueller, in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, acknowledges that visa-waiver countries are a terrorism risk:

Today, we still face threats from al Qaeda. But we must also focus on less well-known terrorist groups, as well as homegrown terrorists. And we must consider extremists from visa-waiver countries, who are merely an e-ticket away from the United States.

Lots of us agree. But Andrew Cochran goes off the deep end when he says that we should get rid of the VWP entirely.

Now if Director Mueller would only go further by admitting that the only "good" Visa Waiver Program is a "dead" Visa Waiver Program.
Since Andrew's advisors left government, we've done a lot to improve security in the VWP, and once the airlines do their part by implementing two-way communications with DHS, we will be able to use ESTA to vet VWP travelers before they can even get on the plane. If we did away with the program, tourism would tank, and we'd get two, count 'em, two additional security measures: we would have fingerprints before the traveler got on the plane instead of right after the traveler gets off the plane; and we'd be required by law to interview every single traveler.

If the first measure is really that useful, we could require that travelers provide their prints before getting on board. Frankly, I'm a bit skeptical, but there's no need to get rid of the program just to collect prints. As for the interviews -- we'd have lines around the block in Paris and London, or a radical drop in tourism, or both. And how much do you think we'd learn by interviewing millions under such pressure? Again, I'm skeptical. Now that we have ESTA, we can pick out the people we really want to interview and tell them to get a visa. Makes for better interviews and fewer hassles. Why the determination to kill the program when it's clearly salvageable?


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