Ali’s blog

Mostly quant stuff with occasional digressions

Bush orders clampdown on flights to US

Posted by alifinmath on February 11, 2008

In The Guardian today:

QUOTE

The US administration is pressing the 27 governments of the European Union to sign up for a range of new security measures for transatlantic travel, including allowing armed guards on all flights from Europe to America by US airlines.

The demand to put armed air marshals on to the flights is part of a travel clampdown by the Bush administration that officials in Brussels described as “blackmail” and “troublesome”, and could see west Europeans and Britons required to have US visas if their governments balk at Washington’s requirements.

According to a US document being circulated for signature in European capitals, EU states would also need to supply personal data on all air passengers overflying but not landing in the US in order to gain or retain visa-free travel to America, senior EU officials said.

And within months the US department of homeland security is to impose a new permit system for Europeans flying to the US, compelling all travellers to apply online for permission to enter the country before booking or buying a ticket, a procedure that will take several days.

The data from the US’s new electronic transport authorisation system is to be combined with extensive personal passenger details already being provided by EU countries to the US for the “profiling” of potential terrorists and assessment of other security risks.

To European ears, the US demands sound draconian. 

UNQUOTE

It’s not clear to me whether these measures are really designed to mitigate terrorist threats (if indeed they exist) or whether the authorities are using such a threat to construct a paranoid, fortress-like national security state. These proposed measures should be troubling to any thinking American.

An atmosphere of paranoia is being fostered and it remains unclear to what extent this tackles authentic terrorist threats. In US airports one is subjected to innumerable announcements of “The security alert is now yellow (or orange). If you see any suspicious activity, please report it.” But would any self-respecting terrorist draw any obvious attention to himself in a public place? Are we any safer as a result from genuine terrorist threats from these asinine announcements or is this just Department of Homeland Security bureaucrats and national politicians covering their worthless backsides?

The USA is far from being “the land of the free and the home of the brave” today. And it’s a national tragedy that people who could steer it in the right direction — a Ron Paul or a Pat Buchanan — have nary a chance of prevailing in “free and fair” elections.

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