"Are you a terrorist?" on USA visa application. Why?

If you go to the USA from Europe (and presumably other countries) you have to fill out a form to get a tourist visa which you usually do on the plane.

One of the question is: “Are you a terrorist?”.

Now this question is so obviously dumb that I find it hard to believe that they are doing this in hope the terrorists are totally honest. So I wonder if there is some legal or other good reason why they ask that. I have various wags:

  • To cover the airline company. They can’t legally carry terrorists so they need to make it clear they were officially unaware of the evil intentions;

  • To supply an additional crime, namely perjury, to charge the terrorists with;

  • To give someone who is perhaps having second thoughts the final nudge to fess up.

None of these have me totally convinced, though, so I’m hoping someone knows the actual reason.

To supply an addition crime. I suspect that lying on the form is a more serious crime than mere perjury.

How does supplying an additional crime help? I mean, the only way you could prove they were lying on the form is if you proved they actually were a terrorist, and I doubt lying on the form would add anything to the sentence.

My understanding of these questions (there are other ones about drugs and similar) is that it facilitates deportation - if you lied on your entry form it’s easier to kick you out of the country than if you commit a “regular” crime and have to go through a lengthy legal procedure.

But surely it’s a question of semantics: I don’t think many people would describe themselves as “terrorists” - they’d say, “I didn’t lie, I’m a freedom fighter” or whatever. How do you prove somebody is a terrorist, unless they have committed a terrorist act, in which case they are presumably up for more serious charges than lying on question 3.4 on form I-95732-12 part II.

The question makes absolutely as much sense as the one on my medical license renewals that asks “Do you use illegal drugs?”.

You guys are all addicted to the legal ones, right?

You’ve sworn under penalty of perjury that what you’re attesting to is true. The basic tenet applies to taxes, tourism and medical licenses equally well.

It’s like the seemingly absurd question on tax returns about profits or losses from illegal gambling. The IRS is one group that **really **gets annoyed when you lie to them. Tax perjury is a felony with penalties up to $100,000 fine and three years in prison, and the IRS will happily wait to toss your butt into prison for lying about illegal gambling once the FBI is done with you.

With Customs or ICE or whatever they’re calling hemselves now, it’s similar. A material misrepresentation (ie: a lie) on the visa is grounds for immediate expulsion and being barred from the USA permanently.

AFAIK the UK doesn’t ask Americans similar questions.

Dont overlook the obivous advantage that it also is useful in weeding out the really stupid terrorists.

A false statement on a visa application would render the visa holder an “illegal alien”, giving authorities an immediate justification for deporting the individual, with no due process or diplomatic complications. So if a person presumed to be a terrorist said No, that would render the visa invalid.

Even if you arrive at a border with a visa, you are still admitted only at the discretion of the immigration officer on duty at the time and place of your entry, who always has the right to refuse to admit you, visa or no.

But if the US could prove you were a terrorist, wouldn’t they want to put you on trial?

If the idea is to deny a medical license or hospital privileges to a doc who uses illegal drugs, you could bounce him/her out when you find out about his/her drug habit, just as easily as you could for lying about it on the application. I believe you have to go through disciplinary procedures in either case.

I doubt that someone who’s willing to conceal their drug use in order to practice as a physician will be deterred by a possible perjury penalty. The application question may be a form of CYA for the medical board or hospital (“see, we asked him about it and he lied to us. What else could we have done?”).

I used to process application forms for work passes for the UK central government’s buildings. There’s a question on there asking pretty much the same thing ‘are you a terrorist?’

I actually had someone answer ‘yes’ once as well.

Not really the point of the topic, but what happened to that person?

Does anyone remember, in the TV show Taxi, when Latka is drafted by Baschi to fight the rebels? Or join the rebels and fight the imperialist stooges (no one is quite sure which)? It’s all in the definition.


They can do profiling like Saturday Night Live:

If the return address on your mail reads “A Cave”… you just might be a terrorist.

If you have just renewed your subscription to a magazine called “Nerve Gas Weekly”, you just might be a terrorist.

If you have a bumper sticker that says “My Child Is An Honor Student At Osama bin Laden’s Terroist Training Camp”, well there exists the outside chance that you might a terrorist!

If you have a really long beard, and hang out in the desert, and are not ZZ Top… you just might be a terrorist.

Think Guantanamo…

The problem is, some acts were committed in foreign counries against foreigners, and the actions were planned overseas. What US laws have they broken, as long as it did not involve piracy on the high seas or action against a USA-flagged vessel?

At the very least, it gives you grounds to deny entry if they say “yes” or lie. I think Gyrate has it right - they simply put you right back on a plane to somewhere rather than going through pesky hearings and appeals.

A terrorist is defined in the dictionary as:

a person, usually a member of a group, who uses or advocates terrorism.

Which is, in turn , defined as:

the* use of **violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for **political purposes. ***

Did the government of the USA, and an overwhelming majority of the citizens, advocate violence and threats to coerce, for political purposes, well, Al Qaeda, for example? That makes virtually every American a terrorist, who would be swearing to a false statement if they said “No, I do not advocate the use of violence and threats to politically coerce anybody”.

If they found out you were a member of a group deemed to be a terrorist group, would this give them an easy way to kick you out without you actually committing a terrorist act?