Times have changed

I've just been reading the experiences of a UK journalist detained at LA airport, courtesy of a link from Alec's blog. She was visiting the US and didn't realise that she couldn't do so on under the normal visa waiver scheme. I can easily understand how it happened, I've filled in a fair number of the green forms myself and I can't ever recollect seeing any questions about being a journalist - and I've always wondered what 'moral turpitude' was.

My own experience reflects hers on a thankfully far less extreme level. Pre 9/11 the immigration guys at SFO were always polite - at the top of the internet boom one of them even asked me for stock tips when he learned I worked for Sun. On my last trip I got a slightly unpleasant grilling from the officer, despite the fact that my passport has a whole crop of SFO stamps in it. At one point he even asked me "So why did you have to come to the US? Couldn't you have used the phone instead?". I'm not exactly sure at which point the US immigration service started having a say in Sun travel policy, but it's obvious that they now feel they do.

It seems that paranoia about the rest of the world is fast becoming one of the defining US national characteristics. That's a dangerous state of mind to be in, as it rapidly leads to the assumption that you can justify doing whatever it takes to defend your interests - witness Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. Ironically over the weekend the TV here in the UK has been dominated by the D-Day 60th anniversary. Hey guys, we are on your side, remember? Or at least we used to be...

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Ooof, I've been TimBrayed...

Tim Bray mentioned my post with the pictures of the bluebells over on his blog, and my number of visitors have shot through the roof, more than twice what I normally get and the day isn't even finished yet - a kind of one-man slashdot effect :-)

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Categories : Tech, Work