National Security

Putin critic cleared to travel to US

The Department of Homeland Security says a critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin can travel to the United States following outcry over the revelation that his travel privileges had been revoked.

Bill Browder, a British financier and advocate for the Magnitsky Act, said earlier that he had temporarily been blocked from traveling to the U.S. after Russia added his name to the Interpol wanted list.

Browder told The Hill that he discovered last week that his status on Homeland Security’s Global Entry program and his privileges to enter the U.S. as a citizen of Great Britain had been revoked.

{mosads}A spokesperson at Customs and Border Protection (CBP) told The Hill late Monday afternoon that Browder had been cleared for travel to the U.S., indicating that the department had initiated a manual review of his application last week, which would result in it being placed in a “pending status.”

Browder’s entry into the U.S. is covered through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), which allows him to travel under the Visa Waiver Program as a citizen of Great Britain.

“U.S. Customs and Border Protection regularly screens law enforcement systems in order to determine if any travelers present a security or law enforcement risk,” the CBP spokesperson said. “This vetting is done on a recurrent basis and decisions on travel are made on the latest information available.”

“The decision to approve or deny an ESTA application is made on a case-by-case basis on the totality of the circumstances,” the spokesperson said. “When possible matches to derogatory information are found, applications will be vetted through normal CBP procedures which include a manual review by a CBP analyst and a supervisor prior to a determination being made.

“Applications being manually reviewed may temporarily be placed in a pending status until a final determination is made.”

Browder’s application was manually approved by a CBP agent on Oct. 18, the spokesperson said, and he is now cleared for travel to the U.S. The spokesperson did not dispute Browder’s account that he was unable to travel to the U.S. for a period of time.

However, Browder told The Hill that he was initially notified by CBP via email that his status on the Global Entry program had been changed on Oct. 19, one day after Homeland Security says his application had been manually approved. That email notification set off the chain of events resulting in Browder discovering that his travel privileges had been suspended.

Browder’s account triggered alarm on Capitol Hill, with Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) urging Homeland Security to immediately review the decision to revoke his travel privileges.

“It would be unfortunate if the U.S. decided to bar him based on a decision by those same Russian officials who have been targeted by this important legislation,” the lawmakers said in a statement.

Browder is a proponent of the Magnitsky Act, which was signed into law in 2012 to punish human rights abusers in Russia. The law is named for Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer who died under suspicious circumstances in a prison in Russia after uncovering a fraud scheme. 

Tags Ben Cardin John McCain Magnitsky Act Russia

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