Bent Out Of Shape

People are all bent up about the 90-day by-country bar on entry in Trump's immigration Executive Order. The only thing it was meant to accomplish was to give the various agencies involved time to come up with a better method of vetting those who wanted to enter the United States from seven terror-prone regions -- I say "regions" and not "countries" as parts of some of them are effectively ungoverned. The bar was never meant to be in place for more than 90 days, it was just meant to buy time for study.

When the AP trumpets this leaked report, they see a pungent criticism of the Trump administration's order.
A draft document obtained by The Associated Press concludes that citizenship is an "unlikely indicator" of terrorism threats to the United States and that few people from the countries Trump listed in his travel ban have carried out attacks or been involved in terrorism-related activities in the U.S. since Syria's civil war started in 2011.... The three-page report challenges Trump's core claims. It said that of 82 people the government determined were inspired by a foreign terrorist group to carry out or try to carry out an attack in the United States, just over half were U.S. citizens born in the United States. The others were from 26 countries, led by Pakistan, Somalia, Bangladesh, Cuba, Ethiopia, Iraq and Uzbekistan. Of these, only Somalia and Iraq were among the seven nations included in the ban.
I don't know that it's right to say that the document "challenges Trump's core claims," since his core claim was that he wanted his agencies to study the issue during the 90 days and come up with a better system. That sounds like what they're trying to do.

It's interesting that one of the early conclusions is that the list of seven "countries" -- which, we all know, was generated by the Obama administration -- was itself faulty in excluding many of the worst offenders. Note that Saudi Arabia didn't make this list either, which is interesting given that the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis.

So: if the list of nations wasn't solid, and citizenship is a poor indicator anyway, what's better? That's the thing that we really need an answer to, and it's work like this that is going to help us get there. Rather than proving that Trump is a fool (quod erat demonstrandum for the media these days), this seems to prove that his people are taking the task seriously and trying to sort out a good answer to that question.


Anonymous said...

It's somewhat interesting that they limit themselves to terrorist attacks in the U.S. I haven't been following Europe, Africa, Syria, etc. closely enough to know where their terrorists are self importing from. I would expect that a travel ban, to be correctly pro-active, would need to cover where we expect trouble from, not necessarily where it came from in the past.

-Stc Michael

Grim said...

Good point.

james said...

Perhaps to be good neighbors to the rest of the world we should refrain from exporting terrorists--and IIRC 1st and 2nd generation Somalis are one of the groups providing a disproportionate number of US jihadists overseas.

Tom said...

Stc Michael points out something we've talked about here before, the strange limits on such studies. Limiting attacks to the US means we aren't looking at Europe or other regions where these demographics may be committing terrorism. Limiting them to first generation immigrants ignores the fact that terrorism by US citizens often means the children of immigrants from these places. Notice this study also limits it by time, "since 2011." This all strikes me as a kind of cherry-picking the data.

jaed said...

My understanding is that the list wasn't supposed to be a list of especially-terrorist-prone nations, but a list of countries whose visitors and immigrants would be hard or impossible to vet thoroughly—see Trump's "extreme vetting"—because we can't get information from their governments (due to incapacity of that government in the case of six of the countries, and the seventh is Iran which is probably self-explanatory).

So pointing to other countries with a higher rate of terrorists (such as Saudi Arabia) is likely missing the point of the list.

Grim said...

The Obama administration's purpose in constructing the list was that it was a list of countries whose members 'require special scrutiny.' Trump repurposed it from 'require special scrutiny' to 'forbid until we've figured out a better way to vet.'

What I think is most important isn't the legitimacy of that move, or even of the original list. It's that this was a pure stopgap measure, and what's really important is what comes after the 90 days. The public debate on this has sounded as if the bar was meant to be a permanent first step, rather than a temporary measure to buy space to think of something better.

jaed said...

Well, if I hadn't been paying pretty close attention to the story, I would have had no idea that it wasn't intended to be permanent. Many stories seemed to not bother to mention that part. So I suspect the public debate sounds that way because a lot of participants don't actually know that it was short-term.

douglas said...

Syria is on that list because ISIS came into possession of genuine government passport making equipment. A by all appearances 'authentic' Syrian passport may in fact have been produced by ISIS and may be held by someone who is in fact not a Syrian national or native at all. The point is that you cannot vet those passports till Syria completely changes how they issue passports. The other countries all possess similar problems such as the ease with which one can bribe someone for an authentic passport, or that the government (Iran) might provide false verification for a plant.

But, it doesn't matter, the left and the press won that round in their usual fashion. I think Trump should let it work up in the courts just to prove a point.

Of course, maybe it was intended to be an inoculation against being able to be held responsible if we get attacked by a mole with a bad passport.