A German graduate student in oceanography at M.I.T. applied to the Transportation Security Administration for a new ID card allowing him to work around ships and docks.
What the student, Wilken-Jon von Appen, received in return was a letter that not only turned him down but added an ominous warning from John M. Busch, a security administration official: “I have determined that you pose a security threat.”
Similar letters have gone to 5,000 applicants across the country who have at least initially been turned down for a Transportation Worker Identification Credential, an ID card meant to guard against acts of terrorism, agency officials said Monday.
Mr. von Appen, 23, one of at least four oceanography students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who received identical letters, said he was stunned by its language.
“I was pretty much speechless and quite intimidated,” said Mr. von Appen, whose research is supported by a $65,000-a-year grant from the National Science Foundation.
A British student at M.I.T. who was rejected, Sophie Clayton, 28, said that at first she was amused at what appeared to be a bureaucratic absurdity. But as she pondered the designation, Ms. Clayton said she grew worried. “The two words ‘security threat’ are now in the files next to my name, my photograph and my fingerprints,” she said.
The Transportation Worker Identification Credential requirement is being phased in starting Oct. 15. The cards cost the applicant $132.50 and have been issued to 275,000 people so far of 1.2 million people expected to receive the credential, officials said.
What’s next? Food Worker Indentification Credential? Interstate Traveller Identification Credential? DHS minders for foreign tourists, to keep them away from sensitive areas?
Reminds me of various articles I’ve been reading about the experiences of foreigners attempting to visit America, and most recently this Washington Post article by Zeit writer Josef Joffe (linked by Bruce Schneier):
Fear, in other words, is a tax, and al-Qaeda and its ilk have done better at extracting it from Americans than the Internal Revenue Service. Think about the extra half-hour millions of airline passengers waste standing in security lines; the annual cost in lost work hours runs into the billions. Add to that the freight delays at borders, ports and airports, the cost of checking money transfers as well as goods in transit, the wages for beefed-up security forces around the world. […]
The new fear tax falls most heavily on the United States. Last November, the Commerce Department reported a 17 percent decline in overseas travel to the United States between Sept. 11, 2001, and 2006. (There are no firm figures for 2007 yet, but there seems to have been an uptick.) That slump has cost the country $94 billion in lost tourist spending, nearly 200,000 jobs and $16 billion in forgone tax revenue – and all while the dollar has kept dropping.
Why? The journal Tourism Economics gives the predictable answer: “The perception that U.S. visa and entry policies do not welcome international visitors is the largest factor in the decline of overseas travelers.” Two-thirds of survey respondents worried about being detained for hours because of a misstatement to immigration officials. And here is the ultimate irony: “More respondents were worried about U.S. immigration officials (70 percent) than about crime or terrorism (54 percent) when considering a trip to the country.”
That’s a good article and a real concern. I know of several peopel who’ve changed their holiday plans or declined trips due to concerns over US officials… whereas hopping on a plane and visiting london or Madrid hours after the bombings was of no concern.
Hell, visiting London in the 80’s sometimes meant a change of travel or accomodation when the IRA blew up the underground station you were supposed to use daily… but it never led to us considering staying home for safety reasons.
Egypt after the last bombings were considered unsafe for a while… and then quickly picked up as a holiday destination again. Egypt is certainly no western democracy, yet they treat visitors nicely.
So congratulations on your “safe” borders. I sure hope it was worth it.
Yet more of Bush’s clumsy, inefficient brand of Homeland Security. Our attention and resources are currently busied with The Grand Experiment™ in Iraq, so who has time for refurbishing and reinvigorating the bureacracies at home (which, as we all know, are hopelessly broken anyway—why even try)? Why buy new locks for a door when you can wall the entire damn thing in? C’mon you hippy leftist liberals, WE HAVE FREE TRADE, do you really need the free flow of people, expertise, and ideas as well?
You know, we euros dont think about you crazy americuns every minute. I you dont want us to make holidays in the us shrugs fine! Holidays in france are more awesome anyway.
If you want to travel to us, fine too! as the last americun who wanted to bust something here in germany was sated 1945. As a little side blow we made the euro a cough little cough bit costlier than before…
Well, I can’t get out of the Good Ol’ US of A so don’t worry too much.
Due to a stolen/lost wallet years ago I have no Social Security card. As well I let my state Non-Driver’s ID expire. Now I need a SS card to get a new state ID OR a state ID to get a new SS card. But can not get either.
This being so, I can not get a passport.
What I can get though is much exercise doing the runaround between the two agencies.
Florida beaches? cheap dollar? those cheap dollars are eaten on the flight to florida… and if you need the point that its been years since the last german tourist was killed, forget it, we euros are a peaceful people anyway and our beaches are safe… with exception from italy perhaps where you will loose your wallet in no time ;)
Well, usually a birth certificate will do in one of those cases, I would guess. Also, I’m not sure how sympathetic we’re supposed to be when you admitted this happen because you didn’t act before your state ID expired.
Ugh. When I talk to people here in the Netherlands I’m always encouraging them to visit the States. I’ve heard from very many folks who’ve already been that they like the U.S. and have a higher regard for Americans in general after they’ve visited. But more and more people bring up the travel restrictions to me, and I have no answer for them. It’s fucking embarrassing.
The U.S. government has injected hundreds of foreigners it has deported with dangerous psychotropic drugs against their will to keep them sedated during the trip back to their home country, according to medical records, internal documents and interviews with people who have been drugged.
The government’s forced use of antipsychotic drugs, in people who have no history of mental illness, includes dozens of cases in which the “pre-flight cocktail,” as a document calls it, had such a potent effect that federal guards needed a wheelchair to move the slumped deportee onto an airplane.
For a passport he has to prove that he is in fact the person named on the birth certificate, which can be done by having someone go with him to the passport place and sign a document stating that he is who he says he is. Getting the birth certificate can be a pain in some states, though.
The bureaucratic jungle can be impenetrable sometimes.