Thursday, July 8

I Feel so Patriotic

Brought to my attention by Digby.

When writer Elena Lappin flew to LA, she dreamed of a sunkissed, laid-back city. But that was before airport officials decided to detain her as a threat to security
Saturday June 5, 2004
The Guardian
As it turned out, I was to spend 26 hours in detention. My crime: I had flown in earlier that day to research an innocuous freelance assignment for the Guardian, but did not have a journalist's visa.

Yes folks-this is our new America. This is not the first time I have read this story. A few months ago it was an Austrailian Journalist describing a similar scenario.
Three journalists from Australia were recently detained at American airports and sent back home for not having an I-visa, a requirement for journalists entering the U.S. Angered by what it says is the government's heavy-handed approach to immigration laws, the ASNE is sending letters to the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees to call on Congress to extend the nation's visa waiver program to members of the foreign press.

While looking around I came up with this ,
Last year, at least 13 foreign journalists were detained and deported at U.S. airports -- most in Los Angeles -- according to the advocacy group Reporters Without Borders. At least one more journalist was similarly turned away this year after being detained, interrogated and strip-searched.
and this,
In recent months, journalists from France, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Japan, Austria and elsewhere have been detained at US airports, handcuffed and expelled from the country for not having visas. Customs officials had routinely waived the visa requirement in the past, but that changed with the September 11 terrorist attacks.
So we're not talking about isolated occurances. Back to Elena's tale of intrigue.
Since September 11 2001, any traveller to the US is treated as a potential security risk. The Patriot Act, introduced 45 days after 9/11, contains a chapter on Protecting The Border, with a detailed section on Enhanced Immigration Provision, in which the paragraph on Visa Security And Integrity follows those relating to protection against terrorism. In this spirit, the immigration and naturalisation service has been placed, since March 2003, under the jurisdiction of the new department of homeland security. One of its innovations was to revive a law that had been dormant since 1952, requiring journalists to apply for a special visa, known as I-visa, when visiting the US for professional reasons. Somewhere along the way, in the process of trying to develop a foolproof system of protecting itself against genuine threats, the US has lost the ability to distinguish between friend and foe. The price this powerful country is paying for living in fear is the price of its civil liberties.
Thank you Mr. Asscroft
At this moment, the absurd but almost friendly banter between these men and myself underwent a sudden transformation. Their tone hardened as they said that their "rules" demanded that they now search my luggage. Before I could approach to observe them doing this, the officer who had originally referred me to his supervisor was unzipping my suitcase and rummaging inside. For the first time, I raised my voice: "How dare you touch my private things?"

"How dare you treat an American officer with disrespect?" he shouted back, indignantly. "Believe me, we have treated you with much more respect than other people. You should go to places like Iran, you'd see a big difference." The irony is that it is only "countries like Iran" (for example, Cuba, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe) that have a visa requirement for journalists. It is unheard of in open societies, and, in spite of now being enforced in the US, is still so obscure that most journalists are not familiar with it. Thirteen foreign journalists were detained and deported from the US last year, 12 of them from LAX.
The unmitigated gall to treat this mini potentate with anything less than glowing respect. "you should be lucky we don't have a hood and pyramid waiting for you" the jackass might as well have said.

After my luggage search, the officer took some mugshots of me, then proceeded to fingerprint me. In the middle of this, my husband rang from London; he had somehow managed to locate my whereabouts, and I was allowed briefly to wipe the ink off my hands to take the call. Hearing his voice was a reminder of the real world I was beginning to feel cut off from.

Three female officers arrived to do a body search. As they slipped on rubber gloves, I blenched: what were they going to do, and could I resist? They were armed, they claimed to have the law on their side. I was an anonymous foreigner who had committed a felony, and "those were the rules". So I was groped, unpleasantly, though not as intimately as I had feared. Then came the next shock: two bulky, uniformed and armed security men handcuffed me, which they explained was the "rule when transporting detainees through the airport". I was marched between the two giants through an empty terminal to a detention room, where I sat in the company of two other detainees (we were not allowed to communicate) and eight sleepy guards, all men.
Body cavity searches of female Jounalists (at least by females), 2 year old kids on No-Fly lists, It is clear that Homeland Insecurity is working to keep us safe.
During my surreal interlude at LAX, I told the officer taking my fingerprints that I would be writing about it all. "No doubt," he snorted. "And anything you'll write won't be the truth."
Why does this not suprise me? Oh yeah shes a journalist, Rush says they're are all Liberals and therefor liers, So It would be impossible that she could tell the truth.