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DHS: Looking "very closely" at vaccine passports before backtracking again

(AP Photo/John Locher)

The gang that couldn’t shoot straight has morphed into the gang that can’t seem to get their stories straight. As you may recall, back on April 6, the subject of vaccination passports (or immunity passports) was brought up during a press briefing held by Jen Psaki. To my personal relief, her answer was short and unambiguous. The idea of having such passports was a hard nope for Joe Biden. (BBC)

Addressing reporters, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said there would be no “federal vaccinations database” or a “federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential”.

“The government is not now, nor will be, supporting a system that requires Americans to carry a credential,” she said. “Our interest is very simple from the federal government, which is Americans’ privacy and rights should be protected, and so that these systems are not used against people unfairly.”

Then, on Friday, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas went on Good Morning America and was asked about vaccine passports in light of a big anticipated spike in air travel over the summer. His answer didsn’t seem to match up with Psaki’s previous statements at all. In fact, he said that they were taking a “very close look” at vaccine passports and how they might be implemented. (The Hill)

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Friday that the U.S. is taking “a very close look” at vaccine passports for international travel.

Speaking on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Mayorkas was asked about the possibility of vaccine passports for traveling into or out of the U.S.

“We’re taking a very close look at that,” Mayorkas said. “You know one of our principles that has guided us throughout this pandemic is the value of diversity, equity and inclusion, and making sure that any passport that we provide for vaccinations is accessible to all and that no one is disenfranchised,” he said.

That situation lasted for a couple of hours before the administration had to once again trot someone out to “clarify” what Mayorkas had said. The task fell to an unnamed “DHS spokesperson.” The clarification was actually a complete rebuttal, but Axios was charitable enough not to bring up that inconvenient truth.

“We’ve always said we’re looking at how we can ensure Americans traveling abroad have a quick and easy way to enter other countries,” the spokesperson added.

“That’s what the Secretary was referring to; ensuring that all U.S. travelers will be able to easily meet any anticipated foreign country entry requirements.”

I’m sorry, but that wasn’t a “clarification.” That was a complete reversal of what the top person in the Department of Homeland Security has said only hours earlier. They’re trying to paint this in a slightly better light by saying that Mayorkas was “referring to” making sure Americans traveling abroad would have the ability to meet the vaccination requirements already being imposed by other countries hungering for American tourism dollars.

But the Biden administration (i.e. the federal government) isn’t going to be providing anyone with such a system. The closest they will come is continuing to hand out easily forged CDC cards showing that the bearer has been immunized. That will probably be good enough for most of the monitoring systems and allow you to make it onto the plane, whether you’ve actually been vaccinated or not.

The final answer is at least in keeping with what Psaki said originally, so that’s some good news. But perhaps the bigger story here is how this administration keeps shooting itself in the foot in this fashion. This is hardly the only time that it’s happened. We’ve seen the President himself saying things that his staff had to quickly “clarify” because he’d made a 180-degree reversal. People from the CDC and other cabinet departments have done the same. Perhaps Joe Biden isn’t actually having trouble with his memory after all. Maybe it’s just something in the water in Washington. But it’s pretty hard to make any plans based on the announced policy positions of this administration when this keeps happening.