US visitors may have to hand over social media passwords: DHS

People who want to visit the United States could be asked to hand over their social-media passwords to officials as part of enhanced security checks, the country's top domestic security chief said.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly told Congress on Tuesday the measure was one of several being considered to vet refugees and visa applicants from seven Muslim-majority countries.

"We want to get on their social media, with passwords: What do you do, what do you say?" he told the House Homeland Security Committee. "If they don't want to cooperate then you don't come in."

His comments came the same day judges heard arguments over President Donald Trump's executive order temporarily barring entry to most refugees and travelers from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Libya and Yemen.

Kelly, a Trump appointee, stressed that asking for people's passwords was just one of "the things that we're thinking about" and that none of the suggestions were concrete.

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Hossein Khoshbakhty wipes tears from his eyes while speaking during an interview about his Iranian brother, a U.S. Green Card holder effected by the travel ban at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon
Homa Homaei, a U.S. Citizen from Iran, is embraced by a lawyer working to help her Iranian family members effected by the travel ban at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon
Port Authority Police Department block an entrance as protesters gather outside Terminal 4 at JFK airport in opposition to U.S. president Donald Trump's proposed ban on immigration in Queens, New York City, U.S., January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Stephen Yang
Attorney Talia Inlender, (C), works on paperwork with lawyers for family members of passengers effected by the travel ban outside of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon
Lawyers work on paperwork to help family members of passengers effected by the travel ban outside of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon
Demonstrators gather outside of John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) airport to protest U.S. President Donald Trump's executive order blocking visitors from seven predominantly Muslim nations in New York, U.S., on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017. Friday's executive order suspending refugee resettlements and barring entry to people from seven Middle East nations, is 'not a Muslim ban,' President Trump said. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Lawyers work on paperwork for family members of passengers effected by the travel ban outside of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon
Sarah Saedian speaks with an attorney about her Iranian relatives as lawyers work to help family members of passengers effected by the travel ban at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon
Hossein Khoshbakhty speaks during an interview about his Iranian brother, a U.S. Green Card holder effected by the travel ban at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon
Hossein Khoshbakhty, (L), speaks with attorney Talia Inlender about his Iranian family members effected by the travel ban as Homa Homaei, (2nd L), looks on outside the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon
Sarah Saedian holds a bouquet of roses as she speaks with attorneys about her Iranian relatives working to help her family members effected by the travel ban at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon
Hossein Khoshbakhty speaks during an interview about his Iranian brother, a U.S. Green Card holder effected by the travel ban at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon
Attorney Talia Inlender, (R), speaks with Hossein Khoshbakhty, (L), and Homa Homaei, family members of Iranian passengers effected by the travel ban at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon
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Under the existing vetting process, according to Kelly, officials "don't have a lot to work with," relying on the applicant's documentation and asking them questions about their background.

He said this was even more problematic when dealing with so-called "failed states" such as Syria or Somalia, where infrastructure and record-keeping has been degraded by conflict.

"When someone says, 'I'm from this town and this was my occupation,' [officials] essentially have to take the word of the individual," he said. "I frankly don't think that's enough, certainly President Trump doesn't think that's enough. So we've got to maybe add some additional layers."

As well as asking people for their passwords, Kelly said he was looking at trying to obtain people's financial records.

"We can follow the money, so to speak. How are you living, who's sending you money?" he said. "It applies under certain circumstances, to individuals who may be involved in on the payroll of terrorist organizations."

Obtaining visitors' passwords was considered by top officials at the Department of Homeland Security under the Obama administration, but the policy was never adopted, according to an internal department memo obtained by MSNBC in 2015.

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The 16 busiest airports in the world
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The 16 busiest airports in the world

No. 16. Singapore Changi Airport (SIN): 55,449,000 passengers in 2015

(Photo credit ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images)

No. 15. John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK): 56,827,154 passengers in 2015

(REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)

No. 14. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS): 58,284,864 passengers in 2015

(Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

No. 13. Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG): 60,053,387 passengers in 2015

(Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

No. 12. Frankfurt Airport (FRA): 61,032,022 passengers in 2015

(REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski)

No. 11. Istanbul Ataturk Airport (IST): 61,836,781 passengers in 2015

(REUTERS/Murad Sezer)

No. 10. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW): 64,072,468 passengers in 2015

(Photo by Stewart F. House/Getty Images)

No. 9. Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG): 65,766,986 passengers in 2015

(REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen)

No. 8. Hong Kong International Airport (HKG): 68,283,407 passengers in 2015

(Photo credit PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

No. 7. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX): 74,937,004 passengers in 2015

(Photo by FG/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)

No. 6. Heathrow Airport (LHR): 74,989,795 passengers in 2015

(Photo by Dominic Dudley/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

No. 5. Tokyo International Airport (HND): 75,316,718 passengers in 2015

(Photo credit KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images)

No. 4. Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD): 76,949,504 passengers in 2015

(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

No. 3. Dubai International Airport (DXB): 78,010,265 passengers in 2015

(Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

No. 2. Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK): 89,938,628 passengers in 2015

(Photo credit GOH CHAI HIN/AFP/Getty Images)

No. 1. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL): 101,491,106 passengers in 2015

(Photo credit Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)

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