WASHINGTON -- Greece should be kept off a list of nations whose citizens do not need visas to visit the United States, and instead designated as ''not cooperating fully'' against terrorism, a government commission contends.
Greece -- a NATO ally -- ''has been disturbingly passive in response to terrorist activities,'' according to the National Commission on Terrorism, a panel of private experts and former federal officials.
The commission was created by Congress two years ago after bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa. It was submitting its report to lawmakers today.
Pakistan, which the panel said provides ''safe haven, transit and moral, political and diplomatic support to several groups engaged in terrorism,'' should be added along with Greece to countries ''not cooperating fully,'' the commission said.
In Moscow, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said Sunday that she hadn't seen the report but that the government is looking at ''what the appropriate means are to deal with this.''
Currently, the United States permits citizens of certain countries to visit for three months without a visa. But Congress should ban countries in the ''not cooperating fully'' category from the visa-waiver program, the report said.
Greece was just approved for the program. U.S. officials said in February, however, that they would continue to exclude the country until it tightens its passport procedures against fraud.
Pakistan is not in the visa-waiver program and Afghanistan is the only country now in the ''not cooperating fully'' category.
The House voted in April to permanently extend the visa-waiver program, which began in 1986 among the United States and mostly European countries. The Senate has yet to consider the bill.
Other suggestions from the commission include:
--Tracking foreign students in America. The government should keep tabs on such things as changes in students' study plans -- a switch from an English literature major to nuclear physics might arouse suspicion, for example.
--Allowing the military to lead the response to any major terrorist attack on U.S. soil, as opposed to the FBI or the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
--Loosening restrictions on the FBI and CIA in opening investigations of terrorist suspects or using informants who may have unsavory backgrounds.
The recommendations have their opponents.
''If implemented, these recommendations would severely damage civil liberties and facilitate abusing behavior by the government, without necessarily producing any increase in security,'' said Hala Maksoud, president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.
The CIA also says its restrictions -- started after the agency admitted close ties to Guatemalan military officers who had committed human rights abuses -- have not hindered its intelligence-gathering operations.
''Overall, we just don't believe we face inhibitions related to restrictions,'' CIA spokesman Bill Harlow said.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.