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president’s E.O., because my intent was to address the order’s

objectives rather than the more controversial implementation

methods. Many in the State Department rightfully focused on

the ideal of fairness; my approach was to propose solutions

based on best practices to achieve the order’s stated aims.

The E.O. vs. Current Practices

The language of the executive order directly reflects the mis-

sion statement of the Diplomatic Security Overseas Criminal

Investigation program (OCI). For instance, the E.O. states its

purpose thus: “to identify

individuals seeking to

enter the United States on

a fraudulent basis with the

intent to cause harm, or

who are at risk of caus-

ing harm subsequent

to their admission.” The

order further speaks to the

importance of in-person interviews and databases of identity

documents, along with the problems of duplicated documents,

evaluating criminal intent and similar issues.

The DS Visa and Passport Security Strategic Plan presented

to Congress in 2006 called for the aggressive expansion of this

OCI initiative to meet three specific, strategic goals: defend-

ing the homeland and foreign partners from terrorist attack

through aggressive and coordinated international law enforce-

ment action; detecting terrorist activity, methods and trends

that exploit international travel vulnerabilities; and disrupting

terrorist efforts to use fraudulent documents by strengthening

the capacities of foreign partners.

OCI has already laid the foundation to achieve and produce

much of the desired information and capabilities outlined in the

E.O. via the overseas Assistant Regional Security Office for Inves-

tigations (ARSO-I) program, which is embedded in consular sec-

tions worldwide. OCI has also made significant contributions to

other White House priorities, such as the disruption of transna-

tional criminal organizations involved in human trafficking and

smuggling of people, including special-interest aliens.


My Dissent Channel message contained a number of recom-

mendations: setting up a Visa Security Task Force Pilot Program,

led by DS, with established reporting requirements to identify

country-specific threats to visa security; mandating and sup-

porting the establishment of ARSO-I—vetted host-nation law

enforcement units in strategic locations; increasing the amount

of fraudulent document identification and impostor detection

training and providing an independent (non-Leahy) funding

source for document inspection equipment that can be easily

donated to host-nation officials; re-negotiating existing agree-

ments with other U.S. law enforcement agencies to increase the

amount of law enforcement information shared with consular

officers for use in the adjudication process; and expanding DS

headquarters’ analytical support for the ARSO-I program to

cover open source analysis and social media exploitation of

specified applicants.

Pres. Trump’s executive

order stated his desire to

increase the U.S. govern-

ment’s ability to apply

additional screening to

visa applicants by using

information known to the

respective host country

to assess an applicant’s intent. However, the majority of these

countries do not track or cannot produce records in a suitable

format. In addition, identifying an individual’s intent is compli-

cated by cultural differences and a lack of context. Moreover, the

lack of automation and advanced internet services throughout

most of the world, including the countries identified in the

order, is exactly why the State Department needs to leverage and

promote the expertise of DS—specifically its implementation of

vetted host-nation units—as a matter of policy.

The Department Response

The Diplomatic Security Bureau’s leadership used some of

these recommendations as talking points during working group

sessions with the Bureau of Consular Affairs. DS also used some

of them when meeting with officials from the National Security

Council to discuss future visa security initiatives.

The State Department’s response was DS-centric rather

than department-centric, and was in line with requirements

outlined in the Foreign Affairs Manual. It also directly or indi-

rectly addressed the majority of topics I raised in my cable. The

department acknowledged that DS plays a leading role in the

State Department in implementing visa security initiatives, and

outlined the many proactive steps DS is taking to increase its

international footprint and law enforcement actions under the

ARSO-I program. The department also agreed that it may be time

to update the 2006 Visa and Passport Security Strategic Plan.

The department did not, however, address the underlying

The State Department agreed

that it may be time to update

the 2006Visa and Passport

Security Strategic Plan.