cakes, prose, woes -- the photos, food & thoughts of a french-speaking seattle-native in brazil

In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it. -AB
In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Air Travel Security...Protection Against Who?

Americas greatest defense against itself No one likes the airport. Why is it that unanimously in travel it is always transportation that presents itself the greatest bane in the entire process. For Americans it isn't dealing with foreign languages and unfamiliar customs around the globe that is the greatest hurdle on a voyage; no that one would go to traveling through and getting out of their own country.

In this months National Geographics Traveler magazine columnist John Rosenthal dives into the pol-it-i-cal big brotherhood of yet more airport security programs by the US homeland security department. In short, get ready for yet even more difficulty at the airport. The TSA have found a second passion aside from protecting transportation against the irksome pests known as travelers and commuters--cattle ranching. Since January of 2007 Americans have been required to carry passports to the previous safe-spots, ok happy neighbors of Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. The next airport security jumble appears now to be the mandatory holding of a REAL ID card to travel in and outside of the counrty. Have you heard of Real ID? I hadn't. Why? Perhaps it is because our states are finally starting to fight back.

The Deparment of Homeland Security passed the REAL ID law in 2005 by an endorsement of the 9/11 Commision. The law went into affect May 2008. Haven't seen it in your state yet? Then chances are your state is one of the fifty that have "put it off" through requisition of extension. Fifty? Why yes fifty of the fifty. A national identity card? In the United States? Are Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry rolling in their graves? They've been rolling for almost eight years now as our states rights have been exponentially deteriorating, so maybe they'll start doing summersaults. Are there any states rights anymore? United States, states states states of America. Aiiiia. Major opposition to the REAL ID is played by States rights advocats and the American Civil Liberties Union with arguments nesting in high costs, loss of privacy, and the kicker: how the hell does this protect anything against terrorism?

Along with the REAL ID, the TSA has come up with yet another brilliant idea in protecting US citizens against themelves--Secure Flight program. Nothing new, Secure Flight is a Federal screening program that runs all passenger names against two No Fly lists before granting "permission" to fly about the country. Meaning in effect, that now all passengers in the US would be granted or denied permission by the Government each time they fly. Though with the institution of the Known Traveler Number, those who fly frequently and have proven not to be a security threat to our nation may avoid those "sticky" yet common "oops" of harrassment and boarding denial that occurs to thousands of innocents each year. Who is on the no-fly list anyways? Author Bruce Schneier puts it quite elegantly, "The no fly list is a list of people so dangerous they cannot be allowed to fly under any circumstance, yet so innocent we can't arrest them even under the Patriot Act." Even? Now that's saying something.

Are we safer in the airport? Are we just meant to feel safer? Why should an innocent citizen, for example, myself, feel absolutely paranoid and guilty for just trying to board a plane in or to her own country? US flights cannot be attempted or managed while sober at risk of nervous breakdown, while in contrast air travel in Europe is quite relaxing. Personal experience has provided me a great loathing of American air travel. Remember San Fransisco? Why do my 35 minute air time flights from Seattle to Spokane routinely take a head pounding 6-7 hours of my day? Is it really necessary to take flip flops off during boarding security? In Europe never are you asked to remove your shoes. Experience gave me the impression that travel and transportation in the European Union is there FOR the customers, for the travelers, while traveling in America one recieves the feeling of "how dare you be trying to travel you nameless cow" just one in the hurd of millions of numbered passengers awaiting government "permission" to use a service made for, paid by, and created by us, we, the people. Yes the people.

Since Spetember 11, airport security and federal control over the skies has grown astronomically in protection against terrorist threats. But there is a line between protection and power lust, also known as abuse. A law should be deamed usable only if that law actually proves useful to its end under its justification. Otherwise, it is what the English language denotes a smokescreen.

What needs to be changed--many things. But above all others is the need to abort the practice of treating individuals as criminals. Racial profiling is still if not more so a major practice at American airports.

Salty Cod anecdote: My return flight from Paris, looking a complete mess with shaky arms and ghost-tear stained cheecks, i crossed the French security checkpoint of Charles de Gaulle into the International wing. "Titre de Séjour s'il vous plait" the agent demanded. Hmmm, c'était epuissé au debut du mois, savez-vous ca? yes, I replied still sniffeling, but it's not my fault that my green card expired, you should ask your government why they would give me such a card. He turns to his buddy who shrugs, and he in turn shrugs and returns my card to me, "ok well have a nice flight, and don't be sad miss, you'll be back soon" Merci. I reply as I smile thinking if I were in the US with an expired green card there would be a SWAT team already pinning me to the ground with tasers.

Stumbling through the next security screening with my two laptops, carry on roller, and violin, I eventually crawl down the mile-long red carpeted hallway to my gate. May I help you carry some of that? I look up and a man is holding out his arm to relieve me of my laptops. Looking pathetic still I reply, Oh please thank you. He asks, Wow are you going on a long holiday? -No, I am coming back from a year long one. -Oh, how lucky for you. One life story later and I'm actaully laughing for the first time in the past 24 hours, my new friend A is detailing his month stay in Palestine visiting his parents, whom (as a permanent US citizen) he hadn't seen for nealy 6 years. Humans are wonderful company are they not? As we line up an hour later for US security boarding, we are let through like clockwork--the French travelers, the German travelers, oh but not the American citizen.

A was held aside from the rest and made to wait while the rest of the passengers went through. He offered to hand me my laptop over the railing so i could board without waiting for him. I refused, no i'll wait for you this is ridiculous. Twenty minutes more of security screening, phone calls, and then finally the "ok, you can board." I had never been more ashamed to be an American in my life. A merely shrugged, you get used to it, in the end they always let me board though! This is crime against himanity.
Something needs to change in how we move around in the United States. Power where it shouldn't be is as great an issue as possible threats are. America is protecting itself against its citizens. The world is getting smaller, but we are trying to make it bigger. Why, in a free country, do we not have the freedom to travel within it? To travel out of it, and back into it? Travel is our right as world citizens, to obstruct it should be a punishable crime. Headache, paranoya, harrassment; that's Americas invitation to take to the skies. Going to the airport? Bring a couple extra bucks, you'll need it in duty free. And good luck, particularly to those flying off to Maine and Coppenhagen in the next couple weeks. Are they trying to discourage us from travel? I will be flying out of the country again, I hope you will too.

A bientôt


Christy said...

Ouch. Even I'm appalled by what I just read. seems like they are proposing to hand over the whole nation to a bunch of power-starved people who have God Complexes; Oh wait!! That's them!!

But anyway, it's just ridiculous. And not to mention bad for the reputation of the US government, which, I have to agree, has also been exponentially deteriorating for the past 8 years. Oh, and please remind me to get a pedicure before visiting the States.

Good luck on your job search!!

Rachel said...

bravo! i agree, all of the post 9/11 security measures really are completely ridiculous. one time, i saw a security guard waving a metal detector wand over a three year old girl. GOOD JOB GUYS. I'm flying to Rio next week...and I am dreading the whole travel part.

Tartelette said...

You want to hear another crazy thing: my husband (American) lost his passport in England 15 years ago and although there has been a note included to his second one (14 years ago) that the first had never been retrieved, he still gets set aside when we re-enter the US from France. Good job guys...yes, abuse of power, because it seems to give intense pleasure to the security guys to tell him one more "are you aware your first passport has still a no show, thus we have to verify this is really you"...I hate to think I am paying taxes for their donuts and coffee

travel agent said...

As a home based travel agent in the travel agent business, I am glad to hear of such travel stories!