US travel diaries: Lessons not learnt for Americans

Published: April 23, 2011

As the tenth anniversary of Sept 11 draws near, one can still only wonder how badly the incident affected US thinking.

HAWAII: 

At one of our high level briefings, a senior official told us that the world had changed for the United States after September 11. “No president,” he said “would want a repeat of such an incident on his watch, and will do anything in his power to prevent it from happening. No matter how heavy the means.”

The event shook not only the US, but the world, and as its tenth anniversary draws near, one can still only wonder how badly the incident affected American thinking. And more importantly, how far the US will now go to justify incidents that it feels are necessary to prevent something similar from happening again.

The best comparison we are given is with the attack on Pearl Harbour in the lead up to World War II. On our visit to the memorial of the Japanese attack in Hawaii, we are told by Paul Heintz, who is the education director at the facility, that both incidents have led to some unfortunate reactions.

In the case of Pearl Harbour, it was the internment of hundreds of people of Japanese origin in camps in California. These were people who in some cases did not even speak Japanese and were threatened with deportation to Japan following the war with the land of the rising sun.

Today, things are different – but two issues still worry me. First is the treatment of Muslims in the US and the second is the curtailment of personal freedoms of most Americans and how they are reacting.

I was told by Mo Razvi of the Council for Peoples Organizations (COPO) in New York that hundreds of people were visited in their homes by the FBI and the immigration service and many of those, even some who had valid immigration status, were deported to Pakistan after being harassed. Mo said that 13,000 Pakistanis were wrongly detained and deported. He has a register at his office in which some of those incidents are chronicled. Hundreds did not go home for days in fear of being picked up.

The FBI is unrepentant. They say it was done because they were “following all leads.”

Yet, what I find surprising is that, despite the fact that Mo and his team of dedicated volunteers have been fighting for many of these victims, there was and is no pressure on them to quit or even keep quiet.

That is the beauty of the American system. At the same time, what is worrisome is that the harassment continues to this day. It is far from over. That is the ugliness of the new state of affairs.

The American public seems to be taking this in its stride. Even issues that affect personal safety have been set aside for the common good of national security. I am not sure where this may be leading.

If the Transport Security Agency (TSA) is an example of how things are going to be, then I worry. The TSA is the equivalent of our Airport Security Force (ASF). To give it credit, it has improved its screening of airline passengers so that not only Muslims or Pakistanis are targeted. Now everyone is screened.

But the TSA insists that all suitcases that are checked in are not locked. This is fine except that, in my case, despite my suitcase not being locked, the combination lock was forcibly broken because the suitcase needed to be checked. I got a note to that effect in the luggage when it finally made it to the belt. My suitcase is destroyed.

This in a country where personal freedom is taken so seriously. I am filing a claim for compensation but am told not to expect much.

This month, Americans remember the incidents of Waco, Texas and the death of David Koresh and his followers. They wanted less interference from the US government. Seems Koresh died in vain.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 23rd, 2011.

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Reader Comments (13)

  • Cautious
    Apr 23, 2011 - 7:54AM

    Pathetic journalism – lots of innuendo and not any facts. Suggest you do some fact checking on your 13,000 wrongfully deported Pakistani’s – that’s blatantly false and easy to verify.Recommend

  • John
    Apr 23, 2011 - 9:45AM

    The TSA is learning as much as everyone in this new world on terror. There are TSA approved locks for the suitcases for which they have master key. The airline and TSA advice passengers to leave the check in baggage opened, but most lock it, usually the tourists. If the TSA opens the suitcases they always leave a note inside and it is done under the camera to document and to prevent theft.

    Suitcase damages are filed under the airline and they have to pay it, by IATA regulations. All airlines do pay or fix it. Airport security is not liable, all over the world.

    As far as PAK citizens being targeted, it is usually immigration violation and there is no selectivity. All communities are targeted for illegal immigration, some gets priority given, all the roads of terrorists, domestic and foreign, leading to PAK.

    Bottom line. If you have nothing to hide, nothing to fear. Civil liberties are avidly protected, that includes the argument of Gitmo camp closing. Obama wanted it, but the reality does not allow it.

    Americans are still learning as PAK is learning now. The world has changed since 9/11 and PAK only has to look at the suicide bombers in her soil.

    The beginning of 9/11 was Indian airlines high jacking, from Katmandu. Indians were screaming about these groups but the world ignored these idiots.

    Given the present state of suicide bombings in PAK, can PAK afford not to do body pat down in airport security? In America it is only random now, but I am afraid it may also be coming soon for everyone until the full body scanners are installed in every airport.Recommend

  • amjad akhtar
    Apr 23, 2011 - 1:06PM

    muslims are being treated a million times better than how we treat non-muslims in our land.
    we consider them ‘napaak’,we don’t eat in any of their plates ,we dont drink from a cup if a non-muslim has drunk from it.we think that we are superior & better than non-muslims just because we were born into islam.

    it’s time we got out of our delusions & did self examination,we have made sure our discrimination of any one non-muslim is enshrined into the law & constitution to the extent that now a non-muslim is not allowed to become the president or prime minister of this country.This is blatant religious bigotry & intolerance.

    india has a sikh pm & had a muslim president,when will we have a hindu primeminister & a christian or ahmadi president???

    instead of crying about america we should take a look at the disgusting & humiliating treatment we dish out to our non-muslims.Recommend

  • tanvir ikhlaq
    Apr 23, 2011 - 1:12PM

    jinnah had made the ‘republic of pakistan’ ,the religious parties blackmailed the govt into changing it into ‘the ISLAMIC republic of pakistan’ & ever since that we have had to suffer from the festering wound of religious terrorism.
    change the name back to the original name that our founder jinnah had named ,not what the mullahs wanted to name.Recommend

  • Reader
    Apr 23, 2011 - 1:23PM

    Man the TSA Opened my bag for checking never put back the lock. It cost me $4.00 dollars

    i need it back !!Recommend

  • Ravi
    Apr 23, 2011 - 5:54PM

    @author
    If you don’t like america and the rule of land just avoid going there !!!!!!!!!!
    That’s It………..Recommend

  • yousafhyat
    Apr 23, 2011 - 6:04PM

    The TSA staff at Dullas in Virginia is mostly ,Indian,Pakistani,Hispanic or West African….They are very incompetent and rude – under -educated to the extent of being duds they know nothing about the values of this Great Nation…

    I think they are a bigger threat to the airlines than the terrorists because of their ability to access secure areas ….I would fire the whole lot as another Bush Era expense but alas if only President Obama would step forward and do something …anything ..

    Yayah.Recommend

  • Adnan
    Apr 23, 2011 - 7:06PM

    A pointless and boring article.Recommend

  • Avanti
    Apr 23, 2011 - 7:22PM

    When I look back at how peaceful life was 20-30 years ago, I just feel so sad. You could just walk into a plane. No metal detectors in any shopping malls. No discrimination at the airports as far as security was concerned. Your being a muslim made no difference. And people didn’t die because of suicide bombers.

    Look now what has happened. Any rational, sensible person can easily calculate that all the planes and building blown away, innocent human beings killed have produced absolutely nothing of substance. The Americans are still there. So are the Israelies. J&K still belongs to India.

    So, after all these years, if you have to find one who started all this and has suffered the most, who will that be? And we all wonder, when will he learn the lesson that even a 3rd grader kid knows?Recommend

  • Ravi
    Apr 23, 2011 - 8:55PM

    @Avanti:
    Telling pakistanis to stop terrorism is like bashing one’s sane head against wall……………Recommend

  • Singh
    Apr 24, 2011 - 2:53AM

    no name but Special Correspondent. Preach what you practice. Start cleaning your home first.Recommend

  • Fisher1949
    Apr 24, 2011 - 7:10AM

    In the past six months 19 TSA employees have been arrested or convicted of serious crimes. TSA is currently on a pace to have 35-40 employees arrested by the end of the year. No other Federal agency, many of which are far larger, come close to this level of criminal conduct. Nor do similarly sized private sector companies have this level of criminal arrests among their employees. Have you heard of any Microsoft employees being arrested for job related crimes this year?

    It is apparent that TSA is hiring from the bottom of the barrel and inadequately investigating these employees prior to placing them into intimate contact with traveling adults and children. If this many arrests are making it into the national news how many crimes go undetected? It is much like the reports of abusive groping, theft and other misconduct, for every one that makes news there are likely ten or more that will never be reported.

    TSA is a criminal organization and is only interested in expanding its budget at the expense of passenger safety and dignity.I would advise against travel to or in the US.Recommend

  • ba ha
    Apr 24, 2011 - 7:54AM

    believe this article must be very old. The Branch Dravidian compound was attacked in waco texas a long long long long long long long long time ago(sorry Sam). The Branch Dravidian are as wacko as the place they chose to settle. sorry for punRecommend

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