- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Obama administration expanded the reach of the new anti-terrorist travel restrictions Thursday, saying that those wanting to visit the U.S. who have recently been to Libya, Somalia or Yemen must go through the regular visa process and cannot use the waiver program.

Those three countries join Iran, Iraq, Syria and Sudan on the list of nations that have such deep connections with terrorist activities that travelers require full scrutiny.

Homeland Security announced the new additions to the list, saying it was evidence President Obama is taking the threat of terrorism seriously.

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The moves were designed to tighten the rules on who is eligible to travel to the U.S. visa-free. Under the Visa Waiver Program, citizens of nearly 40 countries are able to enter the U.S. for months-long trips without having to submit biometric information and face an in-person interview.

But after last year’s terror attacks in France, perpetrated in part by those with passports from European countries eligible for the visa waiver, Congress passed legislation requiring those who would normally be visa-free, but who have traveled to terror-connected countries, to have to go through the regular visa process. They are not barred from travel, but must undergo the more rigorous checks.

Mr. Obama has carved out an exception for business travelers who visit Iran — a concession to the nuclear deal he reached with the Islamic Republic’s government. The administration says it’s using a national security loophole Congress wrote into the law.

That special treatment has enraged Republicans on Capitol Hill, who say they specifically considered and rejected a business exemption from the new rules.

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