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MUNICH – President Donald Trump is working on a "streamlined" version of his executive order banning travel from seven predominantly Muslim nations to iron out the difficulties that landed his first order in the courts, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said Saturday.
Speaking on a panel about combating terrorism at the Munich Security Conference, Kelly said Trump's original order was designed as a "temporary pause" to allow him to "see where our immigration and vetting system has gaps — and gaps it has — that could be exploited."
He said the Trump administration was surprised when U.S. courts blocked it from implementing the executive order and now "the president is contemplating releasing a tighter, more streamlined version" of the travel ban.
Kelly said this next time he will be able to "make sure that there's no one caught in the system of moving from overseas to our airports."
Asked whether that meant Trump's new executive order would allow people with green cards and visas to come into the United States, Kelly said "it's a good assumption."
But he went on to say that only people with visas who were already in transit would be allowed in. For others, he said, "we will have a short phase-in period to make sure that people on the other end don't get on airplanes."
He did not elaborate on whether this would apply to green card holders as well.
Among the security challenges, Kelly said, was that the U.S. does not have "strong counter-terrorism partnerships" with the countries in question or "robust information on individuals traveling from these countries" to be able to make a good risk assessments before their citizens traveled to the United States.
The nations affected by the original ban were Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Kelly mentioned "seven nations" again on Saturday, leading to speculation they will all be included in Trump's next executive order.
The U.S. needs to "find ways to vet in a more reliable way to satisfy us that the people that are coming to the United States are, in fact, coming for the right reasons," he said.
Asked about the effectiveness of a blanket ban on seven countries, fellow panelist Thomas de Maiziere, Germany's top security official, suggested it could be counter-productive.
"To ban whole countries perhaps could create more collateral damage, and perhaps does not produce more security," he said. "The more precise you do it, the more effective you are."