Friday, June 30, 2006

Terrorism is a bootleg T-shirt

We can get an idea of the first priority of Homeland Security in the U.S. from this story in the LA Times:

Arriving at JFK from Dubai recently, I was stopped at customs by an officer from the Department of Homeland Security and directed to a drab backroom filled with Arabs, South Asians and Africans. I wasn't surprised, really, having just spent six months working and traveling in the Islamic world — Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt and Pakistan. If ever there were a DHS red-flag candidate, I was it, and I assumed this was just protocol.

Four of those months were in Pakistan, and I had just spent a week with a journalist friend going to different madrasas, including one Islamic school visited by one of the bombers in the July 2005 attacks in London. Possibly I caught their attention by poking around the Karachi Marriott's parking lot, across from the U.S. consulate, where a suicide bomber's attack had killed a U.S. diplomat just two months before.

How about the hundreds of phone calls I made from Pakistan to friends and family back home that inevitably mentioned the Taliban's resurgence and criticized President Bush. Was I wiretapped? Certainly Homeland Security, whose stated mission is to "lead the unified national effort to secure America … prevent and deter terrorist attacks and protect against and respond to threats and hazards to the nation," had detained me for such a reason.

Or maybe officers had questions about the Jamaat-ud-Dawa rally I'd witnessed in Kashmir. The group was protesting against the United States because it recently had been added to the State Department's list of groups designated as terrorist organizations. Then there was Lebanon, where I'd traveled deep into the Hezbollah-held south.

If only.

No, these frontline warriors in the global war on terrorism at Homeland Security had far more pressing issues to question me about. "Why did you infringe on the Boston Celtics' copyright in Boston in 2003?" asked my case officer...

The full story is here.

Some people see this as a story of Homeland Security's incompetence. It is not. They picked up the author of the story didn't they? They knew who he was, and they wanted to talk to him.

No, this isn't a story about incompetence. This is a story about priorities. Homeland Security isn't about protecting citizens from terrorists, although they may pick up the odd terrorist here and there. Homeland Security is about business. The U.S. government, which claims to stand for "small government", has created a $40 billion a year monster bureaucracy whose first priority is to arrest people returning from terrorist hotspots for copyright infringement.

The corporations whistle, and the government jumps.

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