(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

"Extreme vetting": Tillerson memos say U.S. wants to identify people who'd need "increased scrutiny"

The Secretary of State has issued an order that would double down on the president's extreme vetting promises

Matthew Rozsa
March 23, 2017 8:40PM (UTC)

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who through the early weeks of President Donald Trump's administration had kept a low-key profile, is reportedly responsible for an extreme vetting procedure that would target specific populations and more heavily monitor social media outlets.

Tillerson's four memos, issued over the last two weeks, included an order for American diplomatic missions to single out "populations warranting increased scrutiny" for extreme vetting, according to diplomatic documents viewed by Reuters. In addition, Tillerson is requiring a "mandatory social media check" for anyone applying to enter the United States who has either lived in or visited a nation controlled by ISIS. Two former American officials told Reuters that social media checks are currently quite rare and that expanding the process would compel a significant increase in labor.


These policies were all intended to help President Trump implement his second Muslim travel ban, which was overturned in court earlier this month.

The last cable that Reuters viewed, which was dated March 17, ordered consular chiefs in each diplomatic post to work with law enforcement and intelligence officials to "develop a list of criteria identifying sets of post applicant populations warranting increased scrutiny."

Jay Gairson, a Seattle-based immigration attorney, told Reuters that "what this language effectively does is give the consular posts permission to step away from the focused factors they have spent years developing and revising, and instead broaden the search to large groups based on gross factors such as nationality and religion."


Tillerson has been out of contact with the media for most of his tenure as Secretary of State, but drew criticism earlier this week when his first published interview included a comment about how "we’ve got a lot going on inside the State Department, and we’re not talking about it until we’re ready, and that’s driving a lot of people nuts."

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a breaking news writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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