Monday, August 22, 2005

Homeland Security--Incompetence, or something worse?

Admit the obvious. The administration's supposed terror-fighting efforts are a joke at home as well as in Iraq.

Yellow, orange, red alert levels--who knows what they mean or on what they are based? Who pays any attention to them? How can one change one's daily behavior in response to a color? Why does our government think we are simpletons to whom a color will provide any comfort?

But I digress. My intended example for the utter incompetence of the security apparatus, and the reason I am not surprised that our government failed to do anything about the 9/11 conspirators despite having advance knowledge of their activities, is right in front of you.

It's me.

Yes, folks, I am on the TSA's watch list. I cannot get a boarding pass over the internet and I cannot use a check-in kiosk. When I do make it to the front of the baggage check line--in which I must patiently stand even though I am not checking any bags--the airline representative has to call some secret number and tell the mysterious person on the other end that yes, the representative is looking me in the eye and has my California Driver's License No. xxxxxx. Only then am I allowed to get on the plane.

If you believe the TSA's web site, it only places names on the watch list "based on recommendations and information received from Federal agencies, including intelligence and law enforcement agencies." [source: Customer Service (can you believe they call it "customer service?!)] The watch lists--again according to the TSA--"consist of persons who pose, or are suspected of posing, a threat to civil aviation or national security." [source: What is the difference between the No-Fly and Selectee Lists (see answer to question no. 10)].

Those of you who know me might ask: what in my past, or in my personal characteristics, has landed me on this list of persons posing a threat to national security? Is it my suspiciously Arabic-sounding name? (How did the feds discover that the Hughes clan arrived in the U.S. not by way of Ireland and Scotland, as many assume, but actually by way of Baghdad, and were originally named el-Hughesawi?) Is it my Middle Eastern appearance (I am 6-3, clean-shaven, with short gray hair, yuppie frameless glasses, and am frequently seen in tailored suits and snappy ties)? Perhaps it is that I attended that bastion of Islamic fundamentalist education and radicalism, Harvard University? (If so, John Roberts may find his confirmation to be rougher than he expected--will he be asked about his being in the same college class, residence house, and law school class as a certain person who is deemed to be a threat to national security?) Maybe it's due to my living in Piedmont, California, a burg well-known for its extremist sects and disaffected, poverty-stricken immigrants--along with bird-calling contests, highly-ranked school districts, outrageously expensive houses, and SUVs? Wait, could it be the fact that I've been a member of the State Bar of California for 26 years and am admitted to practice law, among other places, before the Supreme Court of the United States?

Now that's a sleeper cell!

Or, am I considered a threat because I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, am a registered Democrat, and have become increasingly vocal about my dismay at the policies of the current administration?

I hate to sound like one of those paranoids I used to make fun of, but . . . which explanation seems more likely? Please vote in our friendly poll (or add a comment with another reason):

Why is Jim H on the TSA watch list?
Due to his suspiciously radical and subversive personal characteristics and background
Because of where he lives, which political party he belongs to, and his daring to criticize the President
Complete and utter incompetence of the Homeland Security apparatus
He is insufficiently religious
They just want to play with his mind
Cosmic karma
1984 is in our future


Blogger Cat said...

I don't know you but I feel for you. I think I'm on the list too. Everytime I go to the airport I get that extra security thing. Yeah.. like a girl who goes to the airport with pink slippers and oversized pillows is really gonna bomb anyone. >_<

August 22, 2005 2:40 PM  
Blogger Jim H said...

Fortunately, the White House has already come up with the solution to my problem:

Patriotic Tatoo

August 25, 2005 6:48 PM  
Blogger Richard Wolfe said...

Four years ago, the Bush Administration set its new Homeland Security apparatus in motion. The results? (1) a system of gathering information about US citizens which, at the Administration's whim, classified JIM H as a threat to national security, and (2) a New Orleans evacuation order with zero provision for evacuating anybody. THE CRIMINAL MIND AT WORK.

September 04, 2005 7:21 AM  
Blogger Richard Wolfe said...

In an October 20-26 business trip to the Middle East, I was not hassled at all by TIA, either coming or going. (In Dubai, my briefcase was given a cursory scan and my passport was eyeballed, but the UAE website's visa requirements were simply skipped.) My brother's theory is that the true test will be the next time I travel stateside, when it will be on my record that I've been in (or near) a hotspot. He may have a point, but if TSA's computers are updated nightly (probably too much to assume), then I should have been hassled when I got back to JFK. Could I, should I, possibly make note of not being hassled as a point in TSA's favor???

October 31, 2005 8:26 AM  
Blogger Jim H said...

They probably think you might be helpful to Halliburton as an analyst . . . . and haven't read your comments here or elsewhere.

October 31, 2005 9:06 AM  
Blogger Richard Wolfe said...

BUT: That means they haven't been reading your comments either, and that, in turn, puts the whole thing back into the "incompetence" category, right?

October 31, 2005 9:27 AM  
Blogger Richard Wolfe said...

Aha! So THAT'S why they single you out, you must be on their frequent-flyer list for expedited treatment.

May 21, 2006 8:39 AM  

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