January 8, 2004

What if?

by Chris Feeney

What if the terrorists had bombed the American Civil Liberties Union headquarters instead of the World Trade Center? Do you think the ACLU would be clamoring about having to give up a few of our personal rights in order to insure national security? America is the land of the free. We bask in freedoms and privileges that citizens of other nations just dream about. But perhaps we are a bit spoiled.

How else could you explain people complaining about the extra time that it will now take to get through customs at the airport since all passport holders will now be digitally photographed and fingerprinted. Under the new US-VISIT program (United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology), any visitor that requires a visa while entering the United States must now be photographed and fingerprinted prior to being allowed to enter the country. Obviously this is an effort to make it more difficult for terrorists to enter the country.

Okay so the ACLU hasnít joined the charge against this ďterribleĒ infringement on privacy and other civil liberties (only because it doesnít effect Americans, as we do not require a visa to leave or enter our nation). But other international civil liberties groups are already complaining, saying long lines and other inconveniences are more important than screening guests of this country for possible security risks. Once the technicians become accustomed to the process, it is expected to take less than 15 seconds for the scanner to take an inkless, digital fingerprint of the traveler to be checked against an international database of suspected terrorists. If the news reported that an armed criminal was loose in your neighborhood wouldnít you lock your front door? Thatís all this initiative is attempting to do, keep our doors locked to terrorists.

I would understand if the International Group for Terrorists Rights were to boycott this process, but I honestly canít comprehend why any traveler would be opposed to giving up a few minutes to make sure they arenít setting on a plane in a seat beside the next shoe bomber. Itís not like theyíre setting up a camera at the water cooler to see if youíre lingering a little too long on your coffee breaks. The Homeland Security forces are simply trying to secure our nationís airports and seaports to prevent terrorists from entering the United States. Granted there inevitably will be a mix-up or two and an innocent traveler will wrongly be detained. Iím sure it will be a sad story, a person missing a funeral, a wedding or some other important family event because they were wrongly stopped at the airport as a possible terrorist. Sorry, Iím still sold on this greater good concept.

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