This Week's Security Horror Story : The US refuses to allow a nine year old boy to travel to Disney World in FL with his English parents. His parents are allowed to come, but strangely, their interest in going to Disney is somewhat diminished when they're told they must leave their son at home in England.
Has the US Customs and Immigration Department taken complete leave of their senses? The parents are okay, but their nine year old son is not? Details here.
Here's a more difficult story, however. An apparent US permanent resident, a 19 year old boy, went out of the US in March 2009 and has been out of the country ever since, ostensibly to learn Arabic and visit family. Now, on attempting to return home to the US (from Kuwait), he discovered he was now on the No-fly list and wasn't able to board the plane. Apparently there may have been some torture at the hands of the Kuwaiti authorities as a result of this as well.
Now you don't have to read between the lines of the story too carefully to understand the concern at a person named Gulet Mohamed who had been visiting Yemen and Somalia. But what should make us uncomfortable is the lack of due process. The youth isn't accused of any crimes, much less convicted of any malfeasance. But, without accusation and without trial or conviction, he has been sentenced, in absentia and in camera, to a massive penalty – no longer being able to return home to the US.
Shouldn't there be some way this youth can experience some sort of formal proceedings prior to being banned from flying to the US? And what say he took a boat, or flew to Canada then drove down – is he still allowed back into the country?
A Justice Department statement says (you can probably guess already) that it wouldn't comment on any specific allegations, but that it was 'working to bring Mohamed back to the US'.
I wonder exactly what sort of 'work' this is, and how long it will take?
Suggestion to Mr Mohamed. Fly to Mexico. Walk across the border. It's much easier.
Perhaps it was just as well Mr Mohamed he wasn't also taking pictures at the airport, or that might have finished him off entirely. A gentleman, Mr Oluwole Aboyade, was taking pictures at Miami Airport, was arrested, then found to be an illegal immigrant. Ooops. Details here.
Actually, I think a cousin of his wrote to me one time, offering me umpty ump million dollars if I'd just help him transfer some money from his Nigerian bank account.
The selective new hypersensitivity to offensive language is resulting in, alas, not greater politeness and sensitivity, but instead, the crash of jackboots smashing down citizens' doors and the unchallenged abuse of police powers.
In a manner reminiscent of the 'you mustn't make jokes about bombs at the airport' an Arlington (near Boston) man wrote a blog post that was wrly/dryly sarcastic in its commentary on the AZ shooting. As a result, local police seized all his weapons and ammunition (the universal phrase was of course used to describe whatever collection he had as 'a large amount of weapons and ammunition' – why do we never read of police seizing a single gun and handful of bullets?) and they are now studying what they believe to be a credible threat from the blogger – a threat they say is and will remain treated as credible until they prove otherwise.
In doing this, we've seen the police ride roughshod over the first, second and fourth amendments (oh, and possibly the fifth, sixth and even eighth amendments too), plus also flip the 'innocent until proven guilty' maxim on its head because they are now treating this person as guilty and are administering their own punishment until such time as they – the police – might deem to consider him innocent.
The blogger has not been arrested or charged with any crimes.
I'll definitely agree that what the person wrote was stupid. But simply and politely asking him for an apology or explanation that this was not a literal statement on his part would have been a more appropriate response (as might have been ignoring it entirely).
Remember, our freedoms include the freedom to be stupid and asinine and objectionable. This is one of the most important freedoms, because when we relinquish that, we make ourselves answerable to and subservient to the fickle notions of fickle people as to what behavior is and is not acceptable, and may find such standards increasingly tightly defined.