Recently in Travel Restrictions Category
Within about 15 hours I had landed in Munich, ridden a train, napped on the conference organizer's futon, and found myself touring the Museum of National Socialism in Nuremberg. The excursion wasn't my idea -- I actually really didn't know where I was going, but took a fellow presenter up on the idea of sight seeing. Soon we were immersed in the ascent and horrors of the Nazi era.
Jet lagged and deflated by the specter of a second Bush term, I wandered through exhibits that provided a visceral understanding of how the National Socialists gradually seized power, arrogated rights, and eventually created a continent-wide horror show. The beginnings of the exhibit felt unnervingly familiar. For the first time ever, in that bizarre post-election continent-jumping jumble, I believed that "It Could Happen" in the U.S.
Before then, the Bush/Hitler rhetoric seemed like much of the reactionary Left propaganda. What I had been exposed to was, actually, because it hadn't been tied to any thorough or legitimate critique. It took walking through the history stage by stage to understand how the U.S. population could become vulnerable. I wouldn't use the word fascism to describe what was happening in the U.S. for another three years, but somewhere I knew that there were seeds of it in the post-9/11 Bush presidency's bulging PR budget, "with us or against us" domestic and international rhetoric, and Patriot Act excesses.
Little did I know at the time that most of the people in my life were government or private intelligence operatives and that someone had been assigned to befriend me at the conference and completely scrutinize the trip. Do many grad students take time off from work to fly to Germany to present at a conference? If you feel like you need to compensate for years of career indecision by presenting as much as possible to get into the PhD program of your choice, you do. Maybe you do even if you just love to travel.
The fascism I was already living with would eventually be administered by unsupervised private contractors who clearly needed to come up with some sinister alternate narrative to make up for the fact that they had spent millions of dollars creating a Truman Show-like existence for an innocent person. Trips like mine remain suspect years after the fact, fodder for elicitation (Why was the tile guy assigned to elicit about it as recently as August? What was I supposed to have been cooking up in Nuremberg?).
This cowboy "intelligence" community allows sociopath contractors free reign to project all of their fears and hatreds in the name of patriotism. It allows those working at the behest of corporations to have access to your government file, to all of your medical and other records so that they can wreak havoc in your life to protect their profits. It allows them to manipulate the prejudices of Good Americans who will gladly elicit information, plant substances, or sabotage work if they are convinced that the object of their derision is a terrorist or an enemy of God. In America, this is what fascism looks like. Neither the contractors nor the hapless everyday joes they manipulate see themselves as fascist collaborators, but part of the gang, foot soldiers for God, good citizens. Or they just don't care because the money's good.
Here we are four years later. Tonight it's hard to imagine flitting off to Germany. I continue leading a largely sequestered existence, most recently to avoid the locals who have been trained to see me as an enemy of Christ or communist/terrorist and have so far failed in their attempts at vigilante justice. In this context, I wept for joy at Obama's victory. As we look toward this transition, there is no vague feeling of dread -- dread has constituted most days for the last 1.5 years. Rather, I look forward with the stark consciousness of having faced banal evil day after day. I know what it looks like, what it does to a community and to a life.
I hope and pray that we can reverse much of the radical change of the last eight years, that the rule of law can be restored, that we all say "It Can't Keep Happening Here." The price of liberty, after all, is eternal vigilance. I didn't learn as much in the Nuremberg museum; it took a homegrown campaign of terror to teach me what liberty is all about.
If you're trying to convince Europeans to create an international fingerprint and personal-data screening database, it's international. If you want to persuade a domestic audience to nationally standardize drivers licenses, it's domestic.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said this two weeks ago when addressing a European audience about the ways they would need to give up their anonymity when traveling to the United States:
Now Reuters reports in a story entitled U.S. Says Homegrown Attack Poses Biggest Risk:
The United States faces a lower risk of homegrown terrorism than Europe and should concentrate efforts on developing a global system of anti-terrorist screening at airports and borders, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Thursday.
When asked whether the United States considered a homegrown attack likely — the prevailing pattern in Britain, where legally-residing extremists have plotted or committed a string of attacks since 2005 — Chertoff said America needed to make screening of international travelers its most logical priority.
"We have less of a problem with homegrown terrorism than in Europe. That's not to say we don't have a problem," he said, noting arrests in May of six foreign-born U.S. residents on suspicion of plotting to attack the Fort Dix army base.
"So I don't mean to suggest that the exclusive remedy is preventing bad people from getting into the United States ... but that is the point of their greatest vulnerability," he said.
The United States faces a heightened threat of terrorist attack "for the foreseeable future" but any attack will likely be homegrown, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said on Wednesday...
"There's probably a greater risk in terms of likelihood from a homegrown attack than from a massive international attack," he added.
Chertoff described that sort of "homegrown" attack as a single person or small group of people living in the United States who were "recruited" on the Internet and had pledged allegiance to al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.
So, what's going on? Why the different assessments? Could Chertoff's domestic rhetoric have anything to do with the likely soon-to-be-debated Homegrown Terrorism Bill?
Australian-born U.S. citizen Anne Summers recently had trouble entering and leaving the U.S.:
Summers was detained by armed agents for FIVE HOURS each way in LAX on her way to and from the annual meeting of the board of Greenpeace International in Mexico, and her green card was taken away from her. `I want to call a lawyer', she told TSA agents. `Ma'am, you do not have a right to call an attorney,' they replied. `You have not entered the United States.'What?? Who approved this? Is there a list of regions in the U.S. where the law doesn't apply so, you know, we can avoid them if we want to?
Apparently a section of LAX just beyond the security line is asserted to be `not in the United States' -- though it is squarely inside the airport -- so the laws of the US do not apply.