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Obama admin makes final push to dismantle program used to track mostly Muslim men
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Obama admin makes final push to dismantle program used to track mostly Muslim men

President Barack Obama's White House announced Thursday that the administration is making a final push to fully dismantle a program that was once used to track mostly men from Muslim-majority countries but has been dormant since 2011.

"The Department of Homeland Security is removing outdated regulations pertaining to the National Security Entry-Exit Registration Systems [NSEERS] program, with an immediate effective date," department spokesman Neema Hakim said in a statement.

As for why the Obama administration stopped using the controversial system in 2011, Hakim said the "intervening years have shown that NSEERS is not only obsolete, but that its use would divert limited personnel and resources from more effective measures."

When it was an active program, NSEERS applied only to people from 25 countries named by Homeland Security. Twenty-four of those nations were dominated by Muslims.

One half of the program was a domestic "call-in" registry that required men aged 16 and older living in the U.S. to report frequently to immigration officials. The other half was an entry-exit tracking system, which was active at airports, seaports and land borders, that required them to register prior to leaving and after entering.

The "call-in" system was disbanded in 2003, followed by the entry-exit system in 2011. Now, as the New York Times first reported, the White House wants the DHS program totally dissolved. The decision comes just weeks before President-elect Donald Trump, who campaigned for reinstating a domestic Muslim database, takes the oath of office.

However, former campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, who was named Thursday as a special counselor to the incoming president, said Trump does not plan to block immigration to the U.S. based solely on religion.

"You're going back to over a year ago in what he said about the [Muslim] ban versus what he said later about it, when he made it much more specific and talked about countries where we know that they've got a higher propensity of training and exporting terrorists," she said on CNN's "New Day."

While dismantling the program certainly does not eliminate the president-elect's ability to create a Muslim registry, should he change his mind on the subject once again, it does take away the immediate availability of such a system.

In a letter to Obama Wednesday, New York's attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, asked the president to fully eliminate NSEERS, which was created in response to the 9/11 terror attacks, before he left the White House on Jan. 20.

"We can't risk giving President-elect Trump the tools to create an unconstitutional religious registry," he said in a separate statement about the letter.

And on Thursday, Schneiderman praised the Obama administration for the announcement to scrub NSEERS, according to CNN.

"This is a win for civil rights and for smart, effective law enforcement, as well as for the strong coalition of advocacy organizations and others who fought to dismantle this discriminatory tool," he said. "My office will continue do everything it can to protect the rights of all New Yorkers, and ensure equal justice under the law for all, regardless of religion or national origin."

A 2012 report from the Homeland Security inspector general determined the program used glitchy technology, was built on databases that were unreliable and cost the federal government $10 million every year to operate. At the time, the inspector general recommended that the program be done away with, but the department ignored the recommendation.

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