WASHINGTON TIMES — A third of the countries whose citizens can travel to the U.S. without a visa aren’t sharing critical terrorism or criminal record data with American authorities, creating a major security risk, the government’s chief watchdog said Monday.
There are 38 countries in the visa waiver program and each of them has agreed to grant the U.S. access to data on stolen or lost passports, on criminal history of would-be travelers, and on terrorism risks. But while all countries share passport data, a third don’t report criminal history and a third fail to share their terrorism and national security records, the Government Accountability Office said.
It’s a mortifying evaluation for a program already under scrutiny by lawmakers who say the visa waiver program provides an avenue for foreign fighters from Europe to get into the U.S.
Some of the countries do share information through other methods, but the GAO said that doesn’t cut it, and sharing the information through the proper channels is “essential for national security.”
“Because many VWP countries have not yet provided information through the agreements — possibly including information about known or suspected terrorists — agencies’ access to this critical information may be limited,” the report concluded.