Sales: Flawed Visa Waiver Program Requires Reform

Washington stands to strike a blow against terrorist travel while strengthening its bonds with global allies, says Professor Nathan Sales, if it moves to effect reform of the badly flawed Visa Waiver Program (VWP).

Writing in the National Review Online, Sales points out major problems with the current VWP and cites cases in which reforms would work to help close the existing information gaps and strengthen exit controls. He argues, too, that the administration should apply new measures to current members as well as aspiring VWP nations.

Members Only, National Review Online, February 27, 2008. By Nathan A. Sales.

"The program screens for threats on a country-by-country basis, not a passenger-by-passenger basis. It assumes that citizens of non-members represent a greater security risk, and that citizens of members pose a lesser risk.

"Experience since 9/11 shows how wrong--and dangerous--those assumptions are. The terrorist threat from Europe is real, and it's worsening. As Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff recently warned, there's an alarming 'possibility of Europe becoming a platform for a threat against the United States.' And how. Convicted al-Qaeda member Zacarias Moussaoui is a citizen of France. Shoe-bomber Richard Reid is a Briton. The men who plotted to bomb planes flying between London's Heathrow airport and the United States held British passports. All of them were able to exploit the Visa Waiver Program to fly to this country with little, if any, advance scrutiny.

"The second major problem is that the VWP slights some of America's closest allies in the war on terrorism. Countries like the Czech Republic, Estonia, Poland, and South Korea have been steadfast partners in America's efforts to keep al-Qaeda at bay. Yet the program treats them like second-class citizens. By law, a country can't join unless it achieves an extremely low visa-refusal rate (a figure that measures the likelihood citizens from a particular country will overstay in the United States). Because some allies' rates are too high, they're unlikely to meet that standard any time soon."

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