Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Security rants for the New Year

I was listening to a story on PBS radio the other day – it’s usually on in my car so that I can think about things and yell at the idiocies without disturbing my workmates – about a man that intentionally breaks the rules. (oh my, intentionally) This individual is very incensed about the current rule in this land that you have to show a photo ID when flying. His opinion is that having to show an ID is one step from the government fully keeping track of where you go and want you do (as if they don’t already).

But perhaps he’s giving the government too much credit. Other stories abound about keeping track of visitors. It seems the government is very good at recording who enters the country, and evaluating their dangerousness, and trying to keep out those on it’s ‘keep out’ list. Unfortunately they are incapable of tracking when people leave, so if you come in on a two week visitors visa and end up staying for seventeen years they have no idea that you didn’t go back home. After three years and several billion dollars the Department of Homeland Security is still unable to keep track of departures.

Back to the first individual – he flies a lot for business, and as his protest he refuses to show ID at the airport. But rather than stand on principle and refuse to show, he just uses the excuse that he lost his wallet. Poor excuse for a protestor in my mind.

At our airports when going to board a plane you usually first go through a security line to advance to the gates where the planes are located. At the start of the line is an individual that looks at your tickets and ID, then directs you to a line where you can wait for up to an hour, depending on the crowd and the airport, to go through a metal detector and pass your belongings through the X-ray machine. When he presents his ticket he says ‘no id’ and is then directed around the line to a full security screening, where they look at him and talk to him and wand him and X-ray his stuff, then send him on his way. He says that despite the intense screening he usually gets through security in about a quarter of the time than if he just acted normally. So it again doesn’t sound to me like he’s protesting anything, he just figured out a way to speed up the system.

In a related part of the story was an individual that is suing the government about the same ID rule. He asked to see the law that required an individual to show their identification when flying. He was told that the law was a ‘secret law’ that made itself hidden so that no one could know what was in it. His first response: if the law’s a secret, how can I know when I’m breaking it and what I have to do to obey it? His second response: file a lawsuit to open the law and make it’s provisions known. The government’s response: if the terrorists knew what was in the law they would know how to get around it. We will probably end up hearing the Supreme Court’s response in a few years.

Sounds to me like the dean’s double super secret probation in Animal House. So secret nobody knows about it.

I think the Bush 2 years will go down for me as the time we lost (mostly willingly) our civil liberties. Lots of political cartoons about it (in those pinko commie rags) (wait, not commie any more; terrorist lovers?). Have to take your shoes off? Take away your toothpaste? No Ipod? (wait – changed their mind on that one). Have your phone tapped without a warrant? Get arrested, declared an enemy combatant, and locked up in solitary without access to a lawyer or the outside world for two years? Throw hundreds behind chain-link in Guantanamo with no end projected?

And the fear and paranoia indoctrinated into the population by all the White House stories. Down here they are building a bridge across the Colorado River about a half-mile south of the big dam: right now the road drives right across the river on top of the dam. The reason for the bridge? A truck might bring a bomb on to the dam and blow it up. So trucks are now forbidden, causing a fifty-mile detour for them, and causing all cars to be searched before crossing in fear that there will be a bomb in your trunk. Right, one that will do anything to that amount of concrete. And last week a letter to the editor in our paper, about forbidding trucks from crossing on the bypass bridge when it’s done, because after all terrorists might put a nuclear missile on one of those trucks and stop on the bridge and shoot it right at the dam and blow it up.

On CNN a few weeks ago – a small road in Ohio closed because somebody saw a box next to an overpass: terrorists might have planted a bomb to blow up the bridge. Right, I can just see Bin Laden in his cave with a road map of the US, saying “OK, this little bitty two lane road here in nowhere Ohio – let’s blow up that bridge and bring terror into the hearts of the infidels!” Right. Turned out to be a box of trash blown off a garbage truck. But it destroyed some poor commuter’s morning, trying to get to work.

Here in Vegas – have your car searched in order to pull into a casino parking garage on the strip. What the heck are they looking for?

Poor stupid Jose Padilla. After four years plus in prison he is close to a trial. The government’s original story had him meeting with Bin Laden himself and planning a dirty bomb in a populated area. Hauled off and locked in solitary, with no windows, radio, mirror, mattress, reading material or human contact outside of his guards for two years. When he was moved from his cell he was blindfolded with muffs on his ears so he couldn’t hear anything. He was strung up and interrogated, not permitted to sleep, beaten and tortured (oh, sorry, we don’t torture – it’s “intensive interrogation techniques”. A lawyer finally got the Supreme Court to intervene and require a trial. Two years later, not there yet. The government now switches it’s story again and says Padilla was part of a plot to put bombs someplace in Russia. (WTF? We’re prosecuting him for bombs in Russia?) The judge was outraged, and it looked like the Supreme Court had another shot, but again a change in the accusations and finally a move to the civilian court system. He finally talked to a defense lawyer, who has a problem because Jose thinks his lawyers are part of the government interrogation team. His lawyers want the judge to throw out the case, because of the severe government conduct up until now. The government’s response: well, the torture allegations are irrelevant because they are not using anything they learned from the interrogations in the trial. In other words, it’s OK for them to do anything they want to you in jail, as long as it does not become part of the evidence against you. The judge ordered some further psychiatric evaluation and might just put Padilla into a prison mental ward. In other words, the government gets what it wants; Jose ends up being locked up for life. So being a US citizen arrested in the US does not mean the constitution applies to you.

And let’s not get into the billions and billions of dollars and thousands of lives being thrown away overseas. Debts for my granddaughter to keep paying on. And the new Democratic congress? They’ll still pass the funding resolutions – can’t let our boys down now, can we? Come on, we elected a new group to change things, not to continue.


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