MALAYSIA and the United States will step up the exchange of information and intelligence to combat violent extremism, threats on cyber security and transborder crime.
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said cooperation in this area was the focus of his discussions with the main intelligence agencies in the United States.
Dr Ahmad Zahid, who is also Home Minister, met CIA director John O. Brennan and FBI deputy director Mark F. Guilano on Wednesday afternoon, the first day of his official visit to Washington DC.
Bilateral cooperation is set to move up several notches after Dr Ahmad Zahid and US Secretary of State John Kerry signed the Homeland Security Presidential Directive No. 6 (HSPD-6) at 4.30pm Thursday (4.30am today Malaysian time).
The agreement is critical for the two countries as it involves the exchange of information on terrorists and suspected terrorists, especially in the fight against the threat of Islamic State (IS).
HSPD-6, which seeks to integrate information and intelligence for use against terrorism, is also one of the five criteria Malaysia needs to comply with to qualify for the Visa Waiver Programme (VWP).
At the meeting with the CIA and FBI, Dr Ahmad Zahid asked for training to be provided to Malaysian law enforcement agencies in intelligence gathering and cyber security.
He also invited the CIA and FBI to Malaysia to attend the Putrajaya International Security Dialogue on Oct 21 and 22 and the International Conference on Deradicalisation on Jan 25 and 26 next year.
Dr Ahmad Zahid informed the agencies that amendments will be made to existing laws to monitor cyberspace and social media.
Speaking to Malaysian journalists after arriving at the Four Seasons Hotel here, he said his third trip to Washington DC since September last year was at the invitation of the US Government to follow up on measures taken by Malaysia towards its visa-waiver goal.
To qualify for the VWP, Malaysia needs to fulfil conditions, including issuing e-passports in line with International Civil Aviation Organisation standards; reporting the loss of passports to Interpol within 24 hours; and finalising the exchange of terrorism intelligence and serious criminal offences agreements.
Malaysia must also ensure that the rejection rate for US visa applications by Malaysians globally does not exceed 3% annually.
“This 3% is our last hurdle. At the moment, our rejection rate is 4.2%. But this is mainly due to technical errors and not security issues,” said Dr Ahmad Zahid.
Measures have been taken to rectify the technical issues with the help of the US Embassy in Malaysia.
Special sessions will be held with tour agents and student agencies to highlight the issues and minimise the rejections due to errors on the application forms.
On whether the visa waiver was only for those entering the United States for tourism and business, he said once approved, it would cut across all categories, as was the case for Americans coming to Malaysia.