Monday, January 30, 2012

Homeland Security: A Joke in and of Itself

Check this one out if you need any other reason at all to wonder what in the hell has happened to this country and the ridiculous security theater we have to deal with now.   The long and the short of it is a couple of young British (one is Irish, yet the article refers to them as British) tourists come to America on a long awaited trip, on the way making a few joking tweets about digging up Marilyn Monroe's body while here and coming to "destroy" (i.e. party like mad in) America.  In their infinite wisdom, the Department of Homeland Security detained these individuals, questioned them at length, refusing to believe the resaonable explanations to their innocuous statements, and then refused them entry into the country.  Feel safer do you?  Do you feel that your tax dollars are being spent wisely and efficently in an effort to maintain the security of the state?  Does any of that sound like America to you?

Here are my first questions:

Who or what identified these people as a threat that needed to be investigated? Was this a computer program that is trolling the entire internet for comments like this and cross referencing it with travel itinerary? Did keywords get kicked out into a report for a human being to read and then decide these people needed to be flagged for further investigation? Is this individual tasked only with investigating those who are possibly moronic terrorists and/or criminals who blatantly broadcast to the entire planet they are coming to destroy America?

Once in L.A., where they could be seen and examined in person by (supposedly) trained individuals whose intent it is to keep America scared safe, why did this take any more than 25 seconds to determine they were no threat at all? Hours and hours of manpower were spent on this, why? Was there really any reason for these people to have been questioned much less detained for hours, only to be sent back? Ponder the fact that a dollar figure attached to this fiasco would probably run into the low to mid thousands, at the very least. How many times a day does this sort of thing happen, that visitors have been flagged for further investigation because of some social media statement?

How far and deep does this power go? Twitter is a public forum, and it is disturbing enough that our government is trolling it looking for the boogie-man, but what about other forums? Do they read the email of people planning on coming to this country? One of my best friends in the world in English, and I hope that he makes his way back here sometime soon. If he were to do that I am quite sure that, given our previous history, there would be a generous application of alcohol and stupid antics would ensue (though we are not as young as we used to be). Now, if he sent me an email saying “prepare yourself, for I am coming back to lay waste to America” would that trigger some sort of snooping program? Would he be investigated, searched, detained and eventually denied access to the country?
Now, I am being somewhat critical of my government and their security practices; actually, belay that, I am calling them out for rank stupidity. They are doing stupid, stupid things that waste time, effort and resources and do not make us safer. In our haste to “feel” safer we have created this large, unwieldy bureaucracy that has entirely to much power and discretion, and we only learn about how far they have gone and how inane they can be after the fact. We need, as a nation, to start reexamining the size, scope, purpose and efficacy of this organization. America was based on principles of freedom and liberty first and foremost. If I was going to England, made an off the cuff tweet about how I was going to get drunk and dig up Lawrence Olivier, and they denied me entry into the country, Americans would think that stupid. Their first, base reaction, I hope, would be that someone making a joke like that should not be barred from travel. Yet they will probably sit back and not say much of anything about what happened to these individuals, because we have simply become attuned to this sort of thing. Instead of raging away and demanding that this agency have its rules rewritten from top to bottom, if not disbanded, we sit back and trust that we did not trade that much freedom, and that we won’t be losing any more as time goes by due to the inevitable bureaucratic creep that accompanies all government agencies. Trusting in government to make the right choice, especially when it comes to rights and liberties is always dangerous, usually fatal, and if anything is going to destroy America, it is not going to be loose lipped tourists and social media, it is going to be Americans not getting angry enough to act when minor depravations such as this occur.

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