More "War on the Unexpected"

The “War on the Unexpected” is being fought everywhere.

In Australia:

Bouncers kicked a Melbourne man out of a Cairns pub after paranoid patrons complained that he was reading a book called The Unknown Terrorist.

At the U.S. border with Canada:

A Canadian firetruck responding with lights and sirens to a weekend fire in Rouses Point, New York, was stopped at the U.S. border for about eight minutes, U.S. border officials said Tuesday.


The Canadian firefighters “were asked for IDs,” Trombley said. “I believe they even ran the license plate on the truck to make sure it was legal.”

In the UK:

A man who had gone into a diabetic coma on a bus in Leeds was shot twice with a Taser gun by police who feared he may have been a security threat.

In Maine:

A powdered substance that led to a baggage claim being shut down for nearly six hours at the Portland International Jetport was a mixture of flour and sugar, airport officials said Thursday.

Fear is winning. Refuse to be terrorized, people.

Posted on November 21, 2007 at 6:39 AM72 Comments


RC November 21, 2007 7:15 AM

When terrorism finally ends, some people are going to be very disappointed. They will no longer have an excuse for expressing the distrust of others that they had all along.

Alan November 21, 2007 7:19 AM

I love the police excuse for tasering the diabetic man, “he looked Egyptian”. He looks like what he is a pasty faced Englishman from Leeds. Why does none of this make me feel secure.

Jurgen Voorneveld November 21, 2007 9:04 AM

I think all of this is a direct result of the system that has been set up. Security personel are only punished for their false negatives and never for their false positives. Obviously they will react in a way that creates less false negatives, that false positives go up as a result is ignored.

Jurgen Voorneveld November 21, 2007 9:06 AM

I forgot to add this little quote from the article:
“the Crown Prosecution Service ruled no officers involved should be charged with any criminal offences.”

Angel one November 21, 2007 9:16 AM

While most of those are examples of the absurd, I can see why someone might not want to let every emergency vehicle through a checkpoint without at least a quick examination. (Although there should clearly be a special process put in place for emergency vehicles which allows them to expedite the process). In Israel the Palestinians on several occasions smuggled explosives into Israel inside ambulances. Israel now inspects ambulances at border crossings.

Angel one November 21, 2007 9:25 AM

So I realize I didn’t quite make my point above and I don’t want to get accused of fear mongering 🙂 so allow me to elaborate further. While 8 minutes is clearly too long to make an emergency vehicle wait in an emergency, simply waiving through anything that looks like an emergency vehicle is a disaster waiting to happen. Any time you selectively profile it makes it easier for anyone who wants to slip through to simply ensure they fall into the “don’t profile” group. The article did mention that emergency vehicles used to get through in about 30 seconds – I think that’s clearly the right approach.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden November 21, 2007 9:35 AM

“In Israel the Palestinians on several occasions smuggled explosives into Israel inside ambulances. Israel now inspects ambulances at border crossings.”

I’m sure that’s true, but its pertinence to whether it’s reasonable for US authorities to hold up Canadian ambulances is less clear. Exactly how many Canadian terrorist attacks on the United States have been accomplished with emergency vehicles?

Patrick Nielsen Hayden November 21, 2007 9:37 AM

In other words, why is “simply waiving through anything that looks like an emergency vehicle” particularly a “disaster waiting to happen”? Please explain, with examples drawn from the last 100 years of history along the US-Canada border.

UNTER November 21, 2007 9:48 AM

RC: “When terrorism finally ends, some people are going to be very disappointed. They will no longer have an excuse for expressing the distrust of others that they had all along.”

Oh ye of little faith. We are perfectly capable of drumming up some barely founded fear and turn it into an excuse to abuse our fellow men. We had the commies, before that the anarchist and the Chinese, before that it was the Blacks (and an imminent “Race War”), before that Eastern European immigrants, before that Southern European immigrants, before that Catholic immigrants, and before that the Masons.

The war on the unexpected isn’t new, at least here in the US – it ebbs and flows with the regularity of the tides. Unfortunately, it’s usually also associated with mass arrests and mob justice.

Bryan Feir November 21, 2007 9:50 AM

@Angel one:

There IS a process in place to expedite the process. In the ambulance at Windsor case Skip mentioned above, the vehicle had been pre-cleared with the organization that operates the tunnel across the border, and had a police escort as well.

Given that they had cleared it all in advance, the police vouched for them, and they were led into a particular lane for this, there was no excuse for the customs officer to decide to throw his personal weight around. And it’s hardly like this has been the first time, either…

Josh O November 21, 2007 9:58 AM

Bruce, the fire-truck thing is interesting. Unless you think there should be no checking at the Canadian border (which doesn’t seem that unreasonable), then the border guards did the right thing. You’ve spoken before about the dangers of using a simple badge or uniform as clearance to bypass security. Well the fire-truck and uniforms are the same thing, right?

MikeA November 21, 2007 10:16 AM

@Josh: “Well the fire-truck and uniforms are the same thing, right?”

My daughter could make a plausible police uniform in under a weekend. A fire truck would probably take her all summer. 🙂

(Yes, I know the firetruck could also be stolen, but they are not usually left parked unattended at the mall, etc.)

MyCat November 21, 2007 10:27 AM

By the time the Canadian firefighters had reached the burning building it had already burned to the ground. If terrorists had set the fire they would have won.

John November 21, 2007 10:51 AM

A lot of points on both sides are correct. It shouldn’t take long, and there should be a protocol in place to rapidly put emergency vehicles through. No question.

On the other hand, you can’t create a known way around security either. (Notice, i’m not saying border security in its current form is adequate.)

Bruce wrote about this when talking about airline security. He said when you try to classify people as trustworthy or not trustworthy, you create a dangerous class–untrustworthy people you have no reason to distrust. Then they get to bypass security. Same with the ambulances–if they are waved through without security, they are a hole.

I don’t think airlines do a great job screening. But I respectfully disagree with those who think exempting non-threats like 90 year old grandmothers is a good idea. If you create a hole like that, even an otherwise harmless person can be manipulated, tricked, or threatened into assisting a dangerous person. We had an incident in my home town where a pistol was in a grandmother’s purse at an airport. Not an exact parrellel to ambulances, but even a legitimate ambulance can be misused.

Interesting this happened at the Windor border. I cross there about 6 times a year. In fact, I’ll be crossing there tomorrow. I’ll definitely be thinking about this as I go through security.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

ook November 21, 2007 10:56 AM

While those are all disgraceful stories, it’s worth mentioning that the UK one took place 2.5 years ago. IMO, it doesn’t belong in this list.

Mirar November 21, 2007 10:58 AM

The powder sounds like powdered gruel for children.

Some relatives of mine went from Sweden to Florida with portion-sized plastic bags of that stuff; they had some trouble explaining what it was, lacking the english vocabulary for it…

Dave November 21, 2007 11:14 AM

@Patrick Nielsen Hayden:

“I’m sure that’s true, but its pertinence to whether it’s reasonable for US authorities to hold up Canadian ambulances is less clear. Exactly how many Canadian terrorist attacks on the United States have been accomplished with emergency vehicles?”

We aren’t protecting against the past. We’re protecting against what might happen in the future. If the only gap in America’s defenses is crossing the Canadian border in an ambulance then that’s precisely where breaches will happen.

Obviously the process should be prioritised for ambulances and be as quick as possible but you shouldn’t drop security just because nobody has attacked this particular way before.

John Levine November 21, 2007 11:17 AM

The area around Rouses Point is quite rural, and there can’t be very many departments in the mutual aid agreement. The story said that there’s a mutual aid call about once a week, so the border patrol already knows all the trucks and probably all the firemen that are likely to cross the border.

The CNN story said that they suspected that one of the firemen was inadmissible, and quoted a border offiicial as saying their job is to “protect the homeland.” Evidently that means that keeping out a Canadian with an old drug possession rap is more important than keeping our houses from burning down. Glad they have their priorities straight.

Anonymous November 21, 2007 11:17 AM

“In other words, why is “simply waiving through anything that looks like an emergency vehicle” particularly a “disaster waiting to happen”? Please explain, with examples drawn from the last 100 years of history along the US-Canada border.”

If all emergency vehicles were just waved through, it would have made an excellent way for Ahmed Ressam to smuggle explosives into the United States for the planned 2000 attack on LAX.

partdavid November 21, 2007 11:27 AM

It would be a problem to simply wave through “fire trucks” or “ambulances” or “emergency vehicles.” A “fire truck” is just a red pickup with a light bar, an ambulance is just a van. Or rather, it would be if the point of the checkpoint is a security one.

If you want to get technical, there have been a few people with “terrorist plans” coming into the U.S. from Canada.

A better question is, what is the function of the checkpoint? If it’s to prevent undeclared goods from coming into the U.S. in violation of import restrictions, or to prevent illegal immigration, then it’s fine to wave through everything that looks like an ambulance or fire truck. No one’s going to make much money that way–by the time you made a business out of it, the customs people are going to notice the “two fires a day” schedule.

The question is whether some national security function is being carried out. I submit that none is necessary here, and the problem is on the part of the public and their masters (and the customs officials, and their masters) who think that one is required.

Reusing or redefining a mechanism that counters one kind of threat, to “defend” against another, is a general sort of failure mode. One that we’ve seen a whole lot in this “war on terror” (the misuse of the military, the misuse of customs and trade mechanism, the misuse of law enforcement, etc.).

Anonymous November 21, 2007 11:56 AM

Why does “protection of the homeland” sound so much like a slogan of a totaltalitarian regime?

Anyway, the thing about stopping ambulances/firetrucks etc at a border crossing is a decision that needs to consider the likelihood of there actualy being some sort of emergency verses an elaborate terrorist trick. If it were terrorists, why not choose another method of smuggling whatever into the United States?

Nothing will change until someone dies because of this nonsense.

Dougie November 21, 2007 11:57 AM

When you get to the point of discussing how to properly identify emergency vehicles to make sure they’re not terrorists, then it’s too late – the terrorists have already won.

Why can’t they simply drive straight up to the border point in a car bomb, blow the whole lot to bits, and then the other 10,000 of them can simply drive through unimpeded?

John November 21, 2007 12:13 PM

Anonymous: Why does “protection of the homeland” sound so much like a slogan of a totaltalitarian regime?

It doesn’t.

js November 21, 2007 12:27 PM

How about this (I don’t know if this is already in place, let alone feasible): the 911 dispatcher should know that units need to cross the border, as well as the identification of said units, so they should be able to inform the border guards at the crossing point the crew is intending to use. Thus, the border guards know to be prepared.

John November 21, 2007 12:33 PM

@another anonymous: “Guess they’ve already laundered your synapses.”

They haven’t laundered anything. I guess you think no intelligent person could every have an opinion the differs from yours, so there must be something else at work. Since when did that become an open-minded, rational position?

If this were a totalitarian government, we wouldn’t be able to get away with what we say about them here. It’s as simple as that. I don’t always agree with them, I criticize them a lot. But totalitarian they aren’t.

Petréa Mitchell November 21, 2007 12:34 PM

Here’s one that was reported in my local paper recently, but unfortunately has cycled into the non-free archive already: A guy with moderate autism, whose parents specifically warned the airline that he had moderate autism, was pulled from a flight because other passengers were nervous about him. The reasoning appears to have been that he was dark-skinned and knew too much about airplanes. (To combat the anxiety that people with autism feel about unfamiliar situations, he had read extensively about airplanes, and was explaining to his seatmate what the different engine noises meant.)

I suppose he was also acting “hinky”. If it’s true that 1 in 150 people in the US have some form of autism, that’s an awful lot of potential false positives for “terrorist” behavior out there.

UNTER November 21, 2007 12:36 PM

Anonymous: Why does “protection of the homeland” sound so much like a slogan of a totaltalitarian regime?

Maybe because of this:

Or this:

Or this:

Just google any language with a combination of mother/father/homeland and the language name and you immediately come up with the name of a nationalist left or right wing party that either uses violence to advance it’s goal or is clearly authoritarian.

But of course, you can always go with Know-nothing John and just say “Na-Na Boo Boo, I don’t hear you!”

Nationalism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.

guvn'r November 21, 2007 12:48 PM
is a link to a GAO report to Congress, 9/27/2007, titled “BORDER SECURITY
Security Vulnerabilities at Unmanned and
Unmonitored U.S. Border

some interesting snippets:
“We found state roads close to the U.S.–Canada border in several states. Many of the roads we found appeared to be unmanned and unmonitored, allowing us to simulate the cross-border movement of radioactive materials or other contraband from Canada into the United States.”

“On November 15, 2006, our investigators visited an area in this state where state roads ended at the U.S.–Canada border. […] There did not appear to be any monitoring or intrusion alarm system in place at this location, and there was no U.S. Border Patrol response to our border crossing.”

“We identified several ports of entry with posted daytime hours in a state on the northern border. During the daytime these ports of entry are staffed by CBP officers. During the night, CBP told us that it relies on surveillance systems to monitor, respond to, and attempt to interdict illegal border crossing activity. On November 14, 2006, at about 11:00 p.m., our investigators arrived on the U.S. side of one port of entry that had closed for the night. Investigators observed that surveillance equipment was in operation but that the only visible preventive measure to stop an individual from entering the United States was a barrier across the road that could be driven around. Investigators stayed at the port of entry for approximately 12 minutes to see whether the U.S. Border Patrol would respond. During this time, the investigators walked around the port of entry area and took photographs.”

Sounds like any terrorists who so desired could just drive a rental car across the border without needing to complicate their plans by pretending to be emergency services folks.

Meanwhile we have guys at the manned checkpoints insisting that cardiac patients in an ambulance with police escort identify themselves. Wouldn’t it suffice to authenticate the cops and let them vouch for the patient?


js November 21, 2007 12:52 PM

Regarding the UK case, when I see a nonresponsive person slumped over their backpack, or in whatever position that doesn’t look right, my first reaction is to call an ambulance, not the police. In fact, in these parts if the police encounter a nonresponsive person (slumped or not), they usually first call an ambulance, not use an incapacitant weapon on a person who is already incapacitated – how stupid is that?

Bryan Feir November 21, 2007 12:57 PM


As was mentioned before, the ambulance at Windsor WAS pre-cleared. There’s a specific agreement in place at the Detroit-Windsor tunnel to handle this sort of thing; and the ambulance had not only gone through all the proper clearances already but was being escorted by the police to the border, and the organization that operates the tunnel to Customs. This should have all gone through cleanly.

dragonfrog November 21, 2007 1:10 PM

@ several posters above

The Canada-US border has the longest unguarded stretch of border in the world. There are huge areas where the only way to know where the border is, is to look for the long wire fence with holes in it where pickup trucks have driven through.

Stealing an ambulance sounds like just about the most complicated, difficult, and unnecessarily heat-scorey way of getting a bomb/load of drugs/ninja pedophile zombie terrorist into the US (or into Canada – I’d have to look up the net zombie-terrorist migration rates between the two countries, as I don’t have that handy now).

At least in the Canadian media, the representation we get is that the major flows across these borders are marijuana and heroin going South, in exchange for cocaine and guns coming North, with the occasional robot-pirate-mafia don.

Laurie D. T. Mann November 21, 2007 1:30 PM

The firetruck stop at the border of the US/Canada is quite bizarre.

I’ve spent an awful lot of time up in northern Vermont, which is an area of small towns. Ditto southern Canada. People KNOW EACH OTHER. At least, they used to. Are all border security people just so new that they can’t figure out a local from a terrorist??

Even crossing the border outside of Buffalo wasn’t that bad in 2003. Heck, that border guard took a 2-second look at our passport and sent us through.

Thinker November 21, 2007 1:31 PM

It’s far easier to slip your terrorists in via China in the form of lead paint laden toys and drug-mixed chemicals in the plastic of the vast variety of products we import daily.

ARM November 21, 2007 1:51 PM

“Protection of the homeland” sounds so much like a slogan of a totalitarian regime, because totalitarian regimes have tended to use that as a slogan.

But it’s important to understand that there’s no law against an anarchist commune using the same language. Just because “Nationalism is the last refuge of the scoundrel,” doesn’t mean that only scoundrels take refuge in nationalism.

Fear motivates people. When I get a mailing from some progressive movement or another, they appeal to fear just as much as the conservatives do – they just appear to a fear of different forces, organizations, or outcomes. People who hit me up for money for breast cancer research by saying it could be my mother, my sister, my wife, or my daughter who is next diagnosed with the disease are appealing to my fear of losing a loved one.

That’s why it’s important to understand the complete contexts of such statements, and the circumstances behind them.

Anonymous November 21, 2007 1:59 PM

@Angel One
Both emergency vehicles involved in the delays at the US bprder had already been pre-cleared.

And if I really want to smuggle people or things into the US, there are a lot easier ways and places to do so than at the border check-points with sirens and lights flashing…

UNTER November 21, 2007 2:12 PM

ARM: “But it’s important to understand that there’s no law against an anarchist commune using the same language.”

Unlikely. The only thing that comes even comes close are the Spanish phalangists who were a combination of syndicalism and nationalism – nationalist anarchists. The were folded into the semi-fascist Francoist state. So when anarchists use that language, they quickly cease to be anarchists at all.

Context matters, but you can quickly get a taste for a movement by the kind of fear they like to evoke. Fear of foreigners is tied very closely with totalitarian states, while fear of the state itself is more likely to be part of a retro-feudal kind of idea. You can see the transition of the Soviet Union from a communist revolutionary state to plain old-fashioned totalitarianism by the rejection of internationalism and it’s replacement with nationalist xenophobia, for example. Today we have a combo of the two trying to make way in the US and the English speaking world in general – more retro-feudal in the US, more totalitarian in England.

Petréa Mitchell November 21, 2007 3:06 PM


“In Dr. Johnson’s famous dictionary patriotism is defined as the last resort of a scoundrel. With all due respect to an enlightened but inferior lexicographer, I beg to submit that it is the first.” — Ambrose Bierce, “The Devil’s Dictionary”

Filias Cupio November 21, 2007 3:21 PM

Automatically waving through emergency vehicles without authentication creates a security hole. On the other hand, if it is more trouble for an attacker to obtain a convincing emergency vehicle than to evade detection in some other way (e.g. drive an SUV off-road over the border somewhere) then waving them through is a sensible security trade-off.

In this case, it sounds like* there already were reasonable security precautions to prevent abuse of quick-transit provisions for emergency vehicles. In this case, the border guards responsible should be fired, and in the case of the ambulance, possibly prosecuted for endangering life.

  • I’m only going on other people’s comments for this.

BMurray November 21, 2007 3:37 PM

I’m not sure I understand what exactly it is that terrorists would want to have in the USA that they can’t already get, probably more easily, in the USA. Isn’t the Canada-US border kind of a non-issue with respect to terrorism as long as the only commodity worth smuggling is people, and people cross that border trivially anyway?

On the other hand, a pre-cleared fire truck could hold a lot of pot. Certainly I know of a case where beer was smuggled into the US in mortar tubes (also a part of pre-cleared traffic).

Matt, Groaning November 21, 2007 5:22 PM

…Homer comes down to get a clean shirt, to find that they’re all… pink?

Aagh! Pink? Marge, I can’t wear a pink shirt to work. Everybody wears white shirts. I’m not popular enough to be different…

Burns: Why is that man in pink!
Smithers: Oh, that’s Homer Simpson, sir. He’s one of your boobs from Sector 7-G.
Burns: Simpson, eh?
Burns: Well, judging by his outlandish attire, he’s some sort of free-thinking anarchist.
Smithers: I’ll call security, sir.
Burns: Excellent. Yes, these color monitors have already paid for themselves…

Straight Shooter November 21, 2007 5:30 PM

what exactly it is that terrorists would
want to have in the USA that they can’t
already get, probably more easily, in
the USA.

Prescription medicine?

Bob McKenzie November 21, 2007 5:39 PM

Isn’t the Canada-US border kind of a
non-issue with respect to terrorism

Whoa, there.

Those draft-dodging peace-mongering enviro-wacko liberal Canadians are the worst kind of terrorists.

To measure how bad Al Canada is, you need to take the current orange security alert, double it, and add 30, eh.

Pseudonym November 21, 2007 6:49 PM

I found this amusing. The bag in question was “mixture of sugar, flour and organic materials”, and yet it tested “negative for a biological substance”.

Frances November 21, 2007 9:37 PM

I can see stopping an ambulance at Detroit. This is an large urban area and stealing or simulating an ambulance is as good a way as any to enter the U.S. Except, that in this case, the ambulance clearance had been pre-arranged.

As for Rouses Point, to use a fire truck to sneak into the U.S. you would have to first train to be a fireman or woman and then wait for a fire to happen in Rouses Point. It does seem rather inefficient.

Anonymous November 22, 2007 12:33 AM

The silly thing is that yes, fire trucks get stolen occasionally. What makes the story utterly stupid is that unlike a sedan, fire trucks aren’t tough to pick out of a crowd: in fact, you might describe them as “intentionally conspicuous.” So John Q Joyrider snatches an engine that’s idling outside the local sandwich shop… how long before this gets noticed? Maybe half the amount of time it takes to get to a border crossing? And wouldn’t the guy at the border have sufficient cause for concern if the engine were being staffed by only one person, without the usual turnout gear on?

averros November 22, 2007 2:17 AM

As nice the “refuse to be terrorised” slogan sounds, it totally and utterly misses the point.

It is not people which are terrorised. Or can refuse to be subjected the totalitarian power trips.

It is the government which is making all of us the proposal we cannot refuse.

For an average government security bureaucrat there’s little to no downside in security theater – it is safe, creates illusion of “doing something”, and makes the marks more pliable to the demans for more funds. The problem, of course, is that these funds are then extracted from these marks by the threats. The “terrists” are nothing but the smokescreen for the escalating extortion by the local ruling mafia.

The only solution is, of course, to get the government out of the security business. For private security companies there’s a strong downside on waste of resources and harrasment of their employer’s customers. They don’t have a captive audience.

So the right slogan should be “refuse to believe that the government cares about your security”.

csrster November 22, 2007 2:57 AM

I can only assume that the reason Bruce hasn’t posted on the British child-support database case is that the horror of it has simply caused his brain to explode.

Andrew November 22, 2007 3:54 AM

California has several subtle security measures in effect with respect to our many state and local fire departments, police agencies and ambulance services. I train my security guards on how to read the markings on standard emergency vehicles, with which to improve their reports and hold the occupant(s) accountable for their actions. Not accidental that these can be read from the air.

Has thought been given to what would happen if such a vehicle were rigged and/or used as a Trojan Horse? Yes, and not just in movies such as “The Kingdom” (ambulance) and “Die Hard” (also ambulance, come to think of it).

I see no practical obstacle to border guards knowing their pre-cleared emergency vehicles and having SOP to get them through quickly. We do it all the time, and in much more secure settings. Even Gitmo (thanks again for the link, Bruce) has plans for emergency vehicle access.

More security theater at risk of other people’s lives. Yay.

greg November 22, 2007 8:44 AM

I keep reading these stories and I wonder when it all started. I mean come on, the whole communist thing during the cold war was no different. I have heard of equally dumb things done by the dumb cops in the UK back in the 90’s with regard to the IRA etc etc.

Perhaps there is a increase in these crazy stories. But then again perhaps the internet and the like have just increased the likelihood we hear about them when they happen.

Robert Beverly November 22, 2007 10:02 AM

Just have to say, I got a laugh out of this:

“It went off like clockwork. It was impressive to watch,” said Jeff Monroe, the city’s transportation director.

Sort of an ironic laugh.

Timbo November 22, 2007 11:30 AM

“It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen. The smallest thing could give you away. A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself — anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide. In any case, to wear an improper expression on your face… was itself a punishable offense.”

George Orwell, “1984”

Anonymous November 22, 2007 5:18 PM

Pay attention to the discussion… it wasn’t simply a lone ambulance showing up unannounced. It was pre-cleared through the correect channels and protocols AND HAD A POLICE ESCORT.
And these aren’t private ambulance companies — ambulance services in Canada are run by the respective provincial (and in some case municipal) governments. It’s not a van from Joe’s Local Ambulance Service and Pizza Delivery showing up unannounced.

Frances November 22, 2007 9:53 PM

I know that it wasn’t a lone ambulance just showing up. I think I mentioned that in my posting. But even if it was pre-arranged, I think that a little caution is in order. There is no reason why an ambulance run by a govt. body couldn’t have been faked. They didn’t stop it for long, after all. The situation was quite different from the Rouses Point situation.

Btw, I am a Canadian. And one of the things that bother me about this is why a heart attack victim had to be taken to a Detroit hospital. There are situations where people need to go to the U.S. for treatment but usually it is more complicated than this.

Crossing the border these days is no fun and the officials seem to go out of their way to make things as unpleasant as possible. A year ago, my husband and I entered the U.S. at Port Huron, MI with our travel trailer. We were required to allow someone to enter the trailer without one of us being there too. Um, what were they up to? I was born in the U.S. and on another occasion I was asked what hospital I was born in. At the time, I was a little too young to notice! But I did know.

Christophe Thill November 23, 2007 3:49 AM

Oh… so the poor diabetic guy on the bus in Leeds “looked Egyptian”?

He can be thankful he doesn’t look Brazilian, or else he’d already be dead!

lee November 24, 2007 3:26 PM

Can we have a contest? The theme would be a broadway show song…
“Anything you can do, I can do dumber.
I can do anything dumber than you”

Yea, I know I reworded the lyrics.
The question is what would the prize be?

Just when I think they could not possibly do any worse, they succeed.

I have a sense of humor, which means I have to restrain myself going through the airport. Stupid questions, “What is this? It’s a notebook computer.
Did you pack this yourself? No, my wife packed it. Is this computer for work or personal? Work. They don’t open it and look for pictures. Personal, they look about as efficiently as a five year old. I don’t help them, it’s their problem not mine. I really don’t care for the commentary on my vacation pictures to disneyland.

If they drop it, I don’t dare say what I think. Take the form and fill it out. I have hated flying for years, treating us like cattle and now they can arrest you if you pi** them off or at least make you miss your flight. I don’t dare speak hebrew or read something in hebrew. Some idiot might cause problems for everyone by being uncomfortable or panic without knowledge but they have authority. If they ruined my notebook, I have backups, get a new one up and running in 2 days (delivery). If they confiscate it, good luck, it’s encrypted. I don’t have anything wrong on it, but it’s none of their business if I read fark and this blog. We have a right to privacy and to be secure in our papers as the framers intended. BTW, I have raised some eyebrows by carrying “Applied Cryptography” through the line. I have some t-shirts I want to wear in the airport, but don’t dare. I would love to wear my cypherpunk shirt or other geek shirt such as the wifi shirt (that would be fun!!), but it just doesn’t seem worth the trouble. Personally, I think we have a right to a sense of humor to ridicule anyone in authority. Hillary’s campaign slogan should be “it take a village to spend your paycheck”.

o.k. deep breath, sorry.

Can we please have a contest. Maybe we can shame them with a sense of humor????
Kind of like the “pork” awards for congress. Just my two cents

Winter November 26, 2007 1:52 AM

Two points.

1 As I understood, the 911 terrorists were legal immigrants that succeeded because the USA did not check inland flights. From beyond the border, the whole “check every foreign traveller” looked very much like a way to put the blame on other governments. Anyhow, isn’t the first rule of real crime, and terrorism, fighting not that criminals don’t look like criminals unless they want too?

2 Is the current problem not that the whole homeland thing is window dressing? Having undertrained and underpaid guards seriously implementing symbolic policies seems to be a recipe for a planned disaster.

For instance, I have still not seen a good reason to ban liquids and toothpaste from airlines. Just keeping an eye on the on-board loo would prevent more acetone peroxide production at a much lesser cost. So what IS the reason to ban liquids? Fear mongering?


peri November 26, 2007 2:49 AM

One of these is not like the other! In the past you have made fun of people being dressed in “official” uniforms get to pass security checkpoints as being bad. Do you really want people dressed as firemen able to drive a heavy truck through the US border without further authentication?

greg November 27, 2007 9:44 AM


Yes. It won’t make anyone unsafer. After all why they hell would they bother to dress up in the first place when you can just WALK OR DRIVE OVER THE BOARDER ANYWHERE!

I would conclude that they are either firemen or are going to a fancy dress party.

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Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.