Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly says the U.S. needs to “do a better job to vet” residents of seven majority-Muslim countries that the Trump administration has temporarily banned from entering the U.S.
In an interview with Morning Edition host Rachel Martin, the retired Marine Corps general said the ban, which has been blocked by a district court order that is now being reviewed by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, “is not based on religion in any way.”
He said the seven countries — Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya and Yemen — are unable to vet their citizens and “provide us with information that we’re comfortable with.”
Kelly said the administration is considering requiring residents of the seven countries to provide lists of the websites they’ve visited and their passwords, to enable officials “to get on those websites to see what they’re looking at.”
Kelly said some of the other “ballpark things” that his department is considering include looking at applicants’ social media use “to see what they tweet,” as well as financial information and cellphone contacts so that officials can check the numbers against databases kept by the U.S. and the European Union.
Kelly took the blame for the rocky rollout of the travel ban, and as he said in a hearing on Tuesday, he admitted he should have prepared congressional leaders ahead of the policy’s implementation. He told NPR that in the future he will tell administration officials, “OK, give that to me and I will roll it out and I will tell you how I’m going to do it.” Kelly said the rollout will include notification to select members of Congress and the press.