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Trump's Travel Ban Is Security Theater

Intent on blocking visitors from Muslim-majority countries, the president confuses political incorrectness with seriousness.

Donald Trump is starting to sound like a critic of his own administration. "The Justice Dept. should have stayed with the original Travel Ban, not the watered down, politically correct version they submitted to S.C.," he tweeted on Monday, referring to the executive order currently before the Supreme Court.

It was Trump, not the Justice Department, who decided to issue that revised order, based on the reasonable expectation that it would be easier to defend in court. And contrary to Trump's claim that his "smart, vigilant and tough" policy provides "an extra level of safety," there is little reason to think either version of the travel ban would reduce the average American's already tiny risk of being killed by a terrorist.

Trump's original order, issued on January 27, imposed a 90-day ban on travel to the United States by citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. It suspended admission of refugees for 120 days, indefinitely for Syrians.

The revised order, issued on March 6 after the first version was blocked by the courts, removed Iraq from the list of targeted countries and eliminated the distinction between Syrians and other refugees. Two other changes were more legally significant.

The revised order clarified that the travel ban does not apply to lawful permanent residents, who according to the Supreme Court have a right to due process when the government tries to exclude them, or current visa holders, whose American hosts might have standing to sue. Trump's lawyers also excised a preference for refugees from religious minorities (typically Christians), which critics cited as evidence of unconstitutional anti-Muslim bias.

Trump, who approved those changes, now says they were a mistake. "The Justice Dept. should ask for an expedited hearing of the watered down Travel Ban before the Supreme Court," he tweeted on Monday, "& seek much tougher version!"

That comment misconstrues the roles of the Justice Department, which is defending Trump's order, not rewriting it, and the Supreme Court, which can only review the order as it stands. And if Trump plans to revive the original ban after the second one passes muster, he will only prolong the litigation he claims is endangering national security.

That claim is highly implausible. Trump says he picked the seven (now six) countries covered by the travel ban because they were on a list of nations excluded from the visa waiver program as sponsors of terrorism or havens for terrorists. But people from those countries seem to pose a much smaller terrorist threat than people from countries that were omitted from the order.

Based on his count of domestic plots and attacks by foreign-born terrorists from 1975 through 2015, Cato Institute immigration analyst Alex Nowrasteh reports that 19 perpetrators came from Saudi Arabia, 14 from Pakistan, 11 from Egypt, and 11 from Cuba. Their combined death toll was 2,537.

During the same period, Nowrasteh found, six foreign-born terrorists came from Iran, six from Sudan, two from Somalia, and one from Yemen. None came from Libya or Syria. The combined death toll for terrorists from those six countries was zero.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill sociologist Charles Kurzman compiled information on Muslims who carried out or were accused of planning domestic attacks last year. Most (12 out of 23) were American-born converts. Just two, both Somalis who were shot and killed during nonfatal knife attacks, came from a country on Trump's list or had parents who did.

Even if the list made sense, it is hard to imagine how the "extreme vetting" Trump promises could identify future terrorists. As an internal Department of Homeland Security report noted last March, "most foreign-born, US-based violent extremists likely radicalized several years after their entry to the United States, limiting the ability of screening and vetting officials to prevent their entry."

The travel ban is security theater, designed to look tough on terrorism without doing much about it. Trump confuses political incorrectness with seriousness.

© Copyright 2017 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  • Free radical||

    The guy was elected to the presidency by speaking so-called "politically incorrectly" so what does that you tell you about that language? It ain't politically incorrect it's politically correct. The language of fascism very much appeals to Republican voters. Trump isn't so rebel. He's a poltically correct Republican.

  • Free radical||

    The whole idea of something being poltically incorrect is that the language is not popular. The definition of political correctness depends upon the opinions of the voting public so if the language gets you elected then by definition the language is politically correct.

  • mortiscrum||

    That's a definition I haven't heard before. I don't think it's quite right either.

    From Google -
    "the avoidance, often considered as taken to extremes, of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against."

    To expound on that point, someone can think something is astute or accurate and also find it to be rude and crass. Comedians for example commonly operate in that space. I don't think popularity has much if anything to do with it.

  • Free radical||

    My description and understanding of the term politically correct may not conform strictly to the google definition but it describes how the term is understood many times in practice. It's the expression a truth that is poltically and culturally unpopular. As in "we can't speak the truth because we will be condemned". That is exactly how the who people claim victimhood of political correctness describe the situation. They're prevented from telling some truth.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    But Trump didn't win the popular vote. Advantage: Trump.

  • Whorton||

    But he won the electoral college. Perhaps you should review WHY the founders put that provision in place. . .

  • loveconstitution1789||

    I wonder what the red fascists are up to today? There has to be some TDS protest somewhere.

  • Agammamon||

    The language of fascism very much appeals to Republican voters. Trump isn't so rebel. He's a poltically correct Republican.

    YEAH! Because the 'language of fascism' doesn't appeal at all to Democratic voters. Or Green Voters. Or the American Solidarity Party, or the Communist Party USA, or the National Socialist Movement, or the Prohibition Party, or the Socialist Equality Party, or the Workers World Party.

    Just the Republicans.

  • Free radical||

    It isn't only Republicans but from among their political base you will find those who conform most closely with fascist ideology. It's just the way it is. Fascism is a right wing ideology.

  • Whorton||

    Typical propaganda from the left. They should review current definations of the word FASCISM.

    Merriam-Webster defines the word "fascism" as "a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition." The secondary definition is "a tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control."

    And from Dictionary.com:

    1. (sometimes initial capital letter) a governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.

    2. (sometimes initial capital letter) the philosophy, principles, or methods of fascism.

    3. (initial capital letter) a political movement that employs the principles and methods of fascism, especially the one established by Mussolini in Italy 1922–43.

    Needless to say, the left seems to feel that their actions exactly fit these definitions. Especially groups of paid face masking Antifa twits, trying to intimidate anyone who has the audacity to disagree with them.

  • Lester224||

    Those who tend to vote Republican (libertarians which are a minority of Republican voters exempted) have "authoritarian" tendencies. I think that's a better description then "Fascist" tendencies.

    authoritarian: favoring or enforcing strict obedience to authority, especially that of the government, at the expense of personal freedom.

    That's why those who are very pro-police-state and anti-personal-freedom (e.g. anti legalization of drugs, pro forced-birth) tend to vote Republican.

  • Whorton||

    Lets consider a few things Free radical. . .

    Its not the language of fascism that appeals to republican voters. It is a return to the values that most americans hold. Remember Obama said he would "fundamentally transform America?" People are responding to that, and the exceedingly poor candidate that the democratic party put forth.

    Americans are tired of being pontificated to by an arrogant and condescending leftist, who only moved one piece of legislation, and that was becasue the democrats held both the house and Senate. It cost the democrats control of the house at the midterm, and the Senate after that. The world saw abject weakness in Barry Sotero. Sorry, that is the reality. Obama bowed to the Saudi KIng and did not even meet him when he deplaned Air Force I. Contrast that with how Trump was treated.

    You would not know a fascist if you saw one. Nor do you have a cogent understanding of the effect on the world that the United States has had.

  • Fascist loofa-faced shitgibbon||

    I need a legal scholar's help here.

    When Trump's travel bans are challenged (let's say by the Washington State governor), and the applicable District Court rules against Trump, does that mean that decision is then binding nationwide, ie., it is "the" precedent setting ruling on the issue?

  • damikesc||

    It used to not be the case. That has changed under Trump. I bet this won't lead to problems down the line, but dammit, we have Trump to fight!!!

  • Whorton||

    Sure, disregard all of the voters that DID vote for Trump. Lets change the United States into a banana republic like Venezuela, where true fascists disregard the will of the voter. Who needs all that crap about the peaceful transition of power.

    You better think carefully about what you are asking for. Once the precedent is set, it will be bad news for all.

    We survived Obama, those of you who insist we have "Trump to fight" will survive as well, provided this does not escalate into a massive civil war of the Left against the Right.

  • PurityDiluting||

    I thought TSA stood for Theatre of Security Appearances

  • Cynical Asshole||

    I thought it was Touching Sensitive Areas.

  • NYC2AZ||

    I thought it was Tough Shit America.

  • Rhywun||

    The obvious takeaway is we need a longer list. No?

  • B.P.||

    I tend to agree with the article, but can we knock it off with the evergreen link to that stupid piece about how one runs a greater risk of falling down the stairs, etc., than being killed by a terrorist? It's not helping.

  • BigT||

    The travel ban should be on anyone who VISITED those countries in the past 5 yrs without US govt authorization, including US citizens. That would focus on the core problem - training and radicalization.

  • Zeb||

    Unless there is probable cause enough to lock them up, I'd be pretty uncomfortable with restricting travel of citizens like that. Is there any precedent for not allowing citizens back into the country like that?

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Is there any precedent for not allowing citizens back into the country like that?

    I don't know if it ever actually happened, but maybe if a citizen had renounced their citizenship and emigrated to a country we were actively at war with it would be justifiable to bar them from entering the country. So if a German-American had renounced their citizenship and emigrated to Nazi Germany during WW2, I could see not allowing them to re-enter the country.

    Unfortunately, since we're not at war with Pakistan or Syria or any of the other 3rd world shit holes people go to for terrorist training, I don't see any way of barring citizens who travel to those countries from re-entering without massively violating their right to due process. Unless there's actual evidence that they traveled there specifically for the purpose of receiving terrorist training with the intention of carrying out a terrorist attack when they get back here. In that case, you would probably have enough evidence to arrest them once they get back, so the better option would be to have the cops waiting for them when they get off the plane. That way you can throw them in prison (after a trial, natch) instead of just letting them loose on the rest of the world to do their jihad shit.

  • Zeb||

    I think that you can lose citizenship if you join the military or government of an enemy country. Or if you official renounce your citizenship. And I don't have a big problem with that. But restricting a citizen's reentry into the country simply because they traveled to a particular place seems like quite a different situation.

  • Whorton||

    Your right and everyone knows that Syria, Libya and Afghanistan are well known for their "Healthful waters."

  • BYODB||

    Restricting the travel of citizens is, at the very least, an affront to natural rights if nothing else. Thus it's against the very bedrock of our nation, however eroded it might have become.

  • BigT||

    No, going to a warring territory can be criminal and prosecuted. The process is part of the punishment.

  • Whorton||

    So how do you feel about parole of violent criminals? You OK with those convicted of violent crimes being free to acquire firearms? You better check the recidivism rate before answering.

  • Dan S.||

    There are lots of reasons someone might visit one of those countries. Archeological digs, maybe? Or just wanting to see such ancient sites? Or perhaps visiting the town that a grandparent came from? Should government permission be needed for these things, just because there also happen to be jihadi training camps in the same country? It's hard to tell if this is serious or satirical.

  • BigT||

    Sure. Get clearance. Otherwise go to jail.

  • CE||

    Except under the 9th Amendment, the US government is prohibited from infringing your right to travel abroad.

  • BigT||

    BS

  • BigT||

    But you don't have the right to return unhindered after colluding with the enemy.

  • Whorton||

    However, under 10 U.S. Code § 904 - Art. 104:

    Any person who—
    (1) aids, or attempts to aid, the enemy with arms, ammunition, supplies, money, or other things; or
    (2) without proper authority, knowingly harbors or protects or gives intelligence to, or communicates or corresponds with or holds any intercourse with the enemy, either directly or indirectly;
    shall suffer death or such other punishment as a court-martial or military commission may direct. This section does not apply to a military commission established under chapter 47A of this title.
    (Aug. 10, 1956, ch. 1041, 70A Stat. 70; Pub. L. 109–366, § 4(a)(2), Oct. 17, 2006, 120 Stat. 2631.)

    That includes traveling for the cause of obtaining training as a terrorist.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "Even if the list made sense, it is hard to imagine how the "extreme vetting" Trump promises could identify future terrorists. As an internal Department of Homeland Security report noted last March, "most foreign-born, US-based violent extremists likely radicalized several years after their entry to the United States, limiting the ability of screening and vetting officials to prevent their entry."

    The biggest threat seems to come from the children of immigrants, not the immigrants themselves.

    And there is a way to prevent immigrants from coming here and having children--but we libertarians might not like it much. We should be aware of the implications of our arguments, though.

    Telling people that we can't keep out terrorists through profiling because of the First Amendment won't make them embrace open borders. It just makes them resent the First Amendment. And making distinctions between various countries or the immigration status of children born to immigrants isn't about to make people embrace open borders either. It just makes them want to ban immigration from even more countries--so they can't come here and start families.

  • CE||

    What if we tried, oh I don't know, withdrawing our troops from around the world and not drone bombing people anymore?

  • SIV||

    TSA is vastly expensive security theater that inconveniences air travelers while violating their rights. The travel ban keeps refugees off the dole.

  • BYODB||

    Everyone knows that if you stop taking in people from countries that are known hotbeds of terrorist activity that it won't stop the terrorists from those countries from coming here anyway, right?


    That is what we're saying here, is it not?


    And for the record, it isn't a 'Muslim Ban' in any way, shape, or form.


    Those things being said, I have no idea how actually effective it might be for the United States to use such a policy but I would wager no one really knows. Is that a plus or a minus for the temporary travel ban? Probably a minus. Truthfully there is no way to 'vette' people from those countries since the 'authorities' themselves are probably not that trustworthy and even if they were I doubt they keep satisfactory records for the United States.


    The only true solution to the terrorist threat is a well armed populace, full stop. The left would have you believe a police state will protect us, but Britain shows that as the falsehood it is.

  • Zeb||

    While I agree that that is the best way to limit damage by terrorists, I'm not sure there is a complete solution. There will always be ways for sufficiently motivated potential terrorists to cause some havoc. If they get shot before it goes very far, that's great, but it doesn't solve the problem or eliminate the general threat.

  • BYODB||

    That's because there is no perfect solution, only imperfect solutions that rely on each citizen to 'do their part' in an independent decentralized method. More centralization won't do shit, less can actually be somewhat effective.

    That's just my opinion though. The police simply can not be everywhere, nor would I want them to try to be. Britain has tried very hard to be everywhere, and they are still the victims of terrorist attacks almost monthly at this point. That says a lot, and their citizens are effectively neutered at defending themselves.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Everyone knows that if you stop taking in people from countries that are known hotbeds of terrorist activity that it won't stop the terrorists from those countries from coming here anyway, right?

    Actually I'd say that's pretty accurate. If some terrorist wants to get into the country they can find a way, I'm sure. Just off the top of my head, they could get a hold of a forged passport showing them to be a citizen of some other country. They could bribe customs officials (might not work on American customs agents as easily as it will the corrupt officials in their country of origin). Or some combination of both: bribe the customs officials to get out of their home country to some other 3rd world shithole that's not on the travel ban, then get falsified papers showing them to be a citizen of that country instead of wherever they're really from. Then on to the United States to wage Jihad.

    And that's not even bringing up the possibility of traveling to Mexico or Canada and then sneaking across the border.

  • Rhywun||

    get a hold of a forged passport showing them to be a citizen of some other country

    Popular with "refugees" in Europe.

  • BYODB||

    It could be somewhat effective, it could not be that effective. I can't say either way on that front, but I know the only real defense against this type of thing is decentralization and a well-armed citizenry. Guerilla/terror tactics on the part of your enemy demands this response, period.

  • Whorton||

    There is another alternative, which countries in Europe are going to ultimately embrace. The expulsion of islamic adherents from their country. I would recommend anyone who is going to insist this is a human rights violation of some sort should review the Moorish invasion of Spain and France. More specifically Charles Martel and the battle of Tours.

    Muslims were not kicked out of Spain for being good citizens.

    Then as now, they intend to conquer, to convert all to Islam. Don't believe me? Read the Qu'ran, the hadith and the Sira. Muslims are commanded to fight until "All are for Allah."

    The alternative? Modern day middle east.

  • Lester224||

    If they are being consistent about limiting travel from countries that are known hotbeds of terrorist activities, they would stop travel from Saudia Arabia too. That's where all the 9/11 terrorists came from, and it's still where radical Islam is preached by Imams left and right. But, that would a big purchaser of U.S. military contractors and a place where we have lots of economic entanglements.

  • Rich||

  • pan fried wylie||

    1uf limit, must be fitted with TSA approved short.

    I think you could actually charge a capacitor by taking it up a couple thousand feet, if one end was still grounded.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Pretty much everything the government has done to "keep us safe" over the last, oh, 20 years at least can probably be described as security theater. Maybe there's been a couple of things that have actually worked, but I highly doubt it.

  • CE||

    Cockpit doors.

  • CE||

    Obviously Trump's not "intent on blocking visitors from Muslim-majority countries". There are several Muslim-majority countries that aren't impacted at all. The countries selected came from Obama's terror watch list.

  • BigT||

    Apparently you don't read the NYT or WaPo.

  • Eman||

    Terrorism might actually be something we do just have to live with, to the extent the world is getting smaller and explosives get better and cheaper and easier to make. We probably ought not to be kicking the hornets nest of terrorism, but there's always gonna be some tiny amount of people who would be happy to die if they can cause enough destruction in the process, and some will always manage to get around law enforcement cuz they have all the initiative. I dont know enough about 3d printing to have any idea how outlandish printing a bomb sounds, but getting your hands on something youm can kill a lot of people with is only going to get easier.

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