Thursday, June 15, 2006

I Visited Extremist Islamic Madrasas And All I Got Questioned About is a Lousy T-Shirt

While Canada is successfully rolling up actual terrorist cells and plots (see previous post), here's what the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security is busy with...
[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 Marriot'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.

Sounds like a well-oiled machine doing exactly what it should right? Picking out the high-risk passenger for extra scrutiny? Finding out what he's been up to in the farthest recesses of the fundamentalist Islamic world?

Not quite. They grabbed him and questioned him about his history selling bootleg Celtics and "Yankees Suck" T-shirts, then let him go without a single question about his travels. Because the DHS agents wanted to catch the Mets game.

Better search through my emails and phone records again guys. Keystone Stasi indeed.

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