The Visa Wave
By James Jay Carafano Posted in Foreign Affairs — Comments (0) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »
LONDON -- The United States, Great Britain and about two dozen other countries participate in a visa-waiver program, allowing citizens to visit with only their passports for up to 90 days of tourist and business travel.
It might seem like not requiring visas in a post-9/11 world would increase the risk of terrorism, but the opposite is true. Some terrorists will almost certainly get visas, but so do tens-of-millions of other people.
Looking for terrorists by leafing through visas is like looking for a needle in a needle stack. The visa-waiver countries have a better idea. They focus on the investigative techniques that really catch bad guys, including sharing intelligence and terrorist watch lists, screening passenger lists for “high risk” travelers, employing air marshals, and tracking lost and stolen passports.
The United States and Great Britain would be safer if more, not less nations were added to the visa-waiver program. Last year, a bipartisan vote in Congress moved to reform and expand the program. Incredibly, opposition to this initiative is coming from the European Union -- the folks who are supposed to be helping us fight the terrorists.
Indeed, EU diplomats are pressing countries not to sign bilateral security agreements -- and threatening reprisals if they do. The reason they took this stand is simple. Brussels wants to dictate security negotiations with the United States -- undermining our sovereignty and those of individual European states. The EU is putting supranational politics ahead of security.
The U.S. (and European states that wanted to be added the visa-waiver program) should ignore EU histrionics. As my Heritage Foundation colleague Sally McNamara rightly wrote:
The key to protecting the homeland is targeting terrorists, not hassling genuine travelers. A new passenger screening system must strike a balance between information sharing and ease of travel. A workable and efficient system that disrupts terrorists from moving freely across international borders but allows the vast majority of genuine travelers to continue their business unhindered can be achieved by enhanced cooperation between allied countries such as Britain and America.
A reformed and expanded visa-waiver program fits the bill.
[The Heritage Foundation’s James Jay Carafano will be blogging on RedState about his trip to London to study counterterrorism measures.]