US Customs To Solve Terrorism by Asking Tourists for Their Social Media Accounts

Image Courtesy of Edward Snowden

The United States government seems to have a real thing for social media and terrorism, stoutly believing if only they could “take out” Twitter the global jihadi movement would collapse. Or something like that. Maybe it’s Instagram?

Social Media vs. Jihad

But while Trump talks the talk, Obama walked the walk.

You may not know it, but since December the United States quietly changed the standard online entry form (ESTA) used by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a part of your neighborhood Department of Homeland Security.

The question added is “Please enter information associated with your online presence – Provider/Platform – Social media identifier.” The question is for all foreign travelers’ who use the visa waiver (visa-free) system for admission into the US The form is not used for American citizens.

The form also asks for info on citizenship, passport data, and contact information in the US, along with hilarious questions inquiring if the traveler is coming to the US to commit espionage, sabotage or terrorism (seriously; see here). Not so many people answer Yes.

The entry process for all foreigners already includes fingerprinting, photographing, an in-person interview, and numerous database checks.

The US government had 77.5 million foreign visitors in 2015. Collecting social media accounts for all visitors is producing one of the largest government-controlled databases of its kind.

And even though the social media question is voluntary, apparently most travelers have been filling in the blank out of fear of calling attention to themselves and prompting further attention at the border.

As a reminder to all those who bark fascism at every turn: this change went into effect by order of the Obama administration, not Trump’s.

And who is having their social media examined? Citizens from the visa-waiver countries. No, no, not those naughty people from the Seven Banned Muslims nations, but American allies like Japan, the UK, Germany and the like. And guess what? There’s not been a word of protest, not a single court challenge. It’s almost as if people paid no attention to any of this before Trump came long.

Mohammed Atta on Twitter?

According to the rules, the new info “will be an optional data field to request social media identifiers to be used for vetting purposes, as well as applicant contact information. Collecting social media data will enhance the existing investigative process and provide DHS greater clarity and visibility to possible nefarious activity and connections by providing an additional tool set which analysts and investigators may use to better analyze and investigate the case.”

So the concept is that Mohammed Atta (for example) rolls up to the Customs checkpoint at the airport, and jots down his Twitter handle as @terrorist911 and then enters the US to resume his flight lessons. Someone from Customs later trolls Atta’s account to discover “Shout out to all the brothers, gonna lay down some whoop ass on Septemb–” Ah poo, only 140 characters, now we’ll never know.

Peter Van Buren blew the whistle on State Department waste and mismanagement during Iraqi reconstruction in his first book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. His latest book is Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99 Percent. Reprinted from the his blog with permission.

11 thoughts on “US Customs To Solve Terrorism by Asking Tourists for Their Social Media Accounts”

  1. This is stupid. How are they going to know if they have one or not? They could have one for the US government and one for ISIS. Only an idiot would give their social media accounts to them. This is about boiling the frog in the New World Order like Orwell predicted.

    1. Interesting supposition you make there, on behalf of others. I, as a Canadian would choose to not travel to the US if my social media account was required.
      And I don’t consider myself an idiot but producing that which they asked me for would depend on how badly I wanted to enter the US.

      If it concerns foreigners, there’s little doubt that Trump’s ignorant followers would be all for it. The only Americans who wouldn’t be all for it are those that are smart enough to understand how damaging the move would be. In the age of Trump, those few would be ignored.

      Very similar to Trump’s wall he pretends he’s going to build. So damaging to his own country’s agriculture and industries that the end result would be to lessen employment of Americans, as opposed to creating more jobs.

      1. How would they know if you use disqus? Is your Canadian ISP going to rat on you? No. I wouldn’t be surprised if other countries start asking for social media accounts.

        The wall is psychological. There will be tunnels! If it is done nicely it might become a tourist attraction like the Great Wall of China.

        1. You’re pretty naive aren’t you. Trust me, US customs knows everything about me they need to know. Read a book on Snowden.
          I wouldn’t try to mislead customs and for that reason I prefer to not put myself in a position in which I would feel uncomfortable about not telling them everything they want to know.

          My ISP has long ago allowed US government agencies to have access to my account. That doesn’t mean they have taken the time to look at it, just that they likely would if I was to cross the border. They would have all my information within less than a minute.

          I’m not particularly annoyed about that. I have the right to deal with it accordingly.

        2. “I wouldn’t be surprised if other countries start asking for social media accounts.”

          They do. Israel, Turkey, etc. The right kind of example.

      2. You seem to forget that this is an Obama order.
        You also seem very ignorant about the US: the Dims are just as moronic as the Pukes, over here.

  2. I guess it didn’t occur that for an ACTUAL terrorist it wouldn’t take very much effort to produce a social media account with a strong pro-US orientation, specifically for giving the authorities? This kind of thing would only be useful at all if people were limited to a single account.

  3. Q: “Please enter information associated with your online presence – Provider/Platform – Social media identifier.”

    A: “None”

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