Published: Sat, March 25, 2017
USA | By Cassandra Hanson

Tillerson Will Go to Rescheduled NATO Meeting After Criticism

Tillerson Will Go to Rescheduled NATO Meeting After Criticism

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will meet with members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation alliance next week, after initially planning to skip ministerial talks, a spokesman said Friday. That order temporarily barred citizens from six majority-Muslim countries from entering the US - adopting a slightly narrower scope than his first travel ban, which had been put on hold in federal court.

Even as it fends off a flurry of legal challenges against the travel ban, the Trump administration isn't letting up on its plans to implement "extreme vetting" of newcomers to the United States.

Trump has said enhanced screening of foreigners is necessary to protect the country against terrorist attacks.

Among the instructions rescinded by Tillerson were a set of specific questions for applicants from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, the countries targeted by Trump's March 6 executive order, as well as members of populations identified as security risks.

The visa applicants hoping to enter the United States, for family, tourism and business reasons, must apply for a visa and the US Embassy officials have the right to deny visas for anyone suspected of being a security threat, conducting fraud or planning to stay longer than allowed.

In 2016, the State Department issued more than 10 million non-immigrant visas and more than 617,000 immigrant visas. Advocates also worry that people will be profiled for additional security screenings due to their name or nationality.

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Tillerson's talks in Ankara come as the US -led coalition escalates its military campaign against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) forces in Raqqa, Syria, Reuters said.

The cable sent on March 15th, based on seven pages, Tillerson was provided to The New York Times, made it clear that the process of getting entry visa is about to get tougher at diplomatic posts around the globe. Those applicants are mentioned separately in a paragraph titled "Mandatory Social Media Check for Applicants Present in a territory at the time it was controlled by ISIS", and must undergo a social media review as well.

"All visa decisions are national security decisions", Tillerson wrote.

While none of the memos delves deeply into detail on procedures, they are already receiving pushback from advocacy groups.

He has also ordered a "mandatory social media check" for all applicants who have ever been present in territory controlled by the Islamic State, in what two former US officials said would be a broad, labor-intensive expansion of such screening.

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