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August 10th, 2006

TSA Insanity

The news coming out of England this morning is depressing, and the reactions to it scary. I am glad that Parris returned home from Ireland on Monday, else she might be caught up in the madness at Heathrow. I am of course pleased that the British caught a bunch of terrorists, and look forward to seeing them tried, and the evidence of their plots (these liquid explosives and electronic triggers) brought forward in a court of law, but I am aghast at the "security" measures that are now being taken in the wake of those arrests.

I have always hated airline "security." Step by step, year by year, the TSA and its predecessors have taken away more and more of our freedoms, subjecting millions of perfectly innocent travellers to searches and interrogations and other hassles in the vague hopes of catching hijackers (in the old days) and terrorists (these days). Even if it worked, the price would be too high, but of course it does not work. It has never worked. All of the 9/11 killers strolled through airport "security" without a problem, yet little old ladies in wheelchairs are pulled from line and patted down, people who have never committeed a crime in their life are being forced to remove their shoes and belts and empty their pockets, and cigarette lighters and toy guns and Swiss army knives are being confiscated and sold (yes, that's what they do with those lighters they take from people, they SELL them and keep the bucks).

And now, in the wake of the arrests in England, a new wave of rules and prohibitions are about to be foisted on us by TSA -- no liquids or gels in carry on, no electronic devices of any kind, no ipods, no cell-phones, no cameras (some reports are even claiming that books are being banned, though that makes no sense whatsoever to me). You are supposed to put your electronics in your checked baggage, they say. Your UNLOCKED checked baggage, another infuriating rule foisted on us by the TSA. And of course what happens if your electronics are damaged and stolen en route? Why, nothing... the airlines take no responsibility, and TSA won't either. Will TSA start confiscating iPods and cellphones and laptops at the security gates now? Hey, those will certainly bring in a lot more dosh than lighters when they're sold.

I wonder how long this prohibition on electronics will last, and how far it will extend? If this truly includes ALL electronics, it will effectively end my own ability to travel by air. Forget about book tours in the future, forget about seeing me at any con that I cannot drive to. Right now, I am even worried about how I am going to get to worldcon... though LA is close enough so that, if worse comes to worst, I will be able to drive. Obviously, that won't apply next year for Yokahama, if these new rules become permanent.

What's next, I wonder? Anal probes, x-rays, body cavity searches? Have we become such a nation of sheep that we will line up and swallow all this meekly? If so, let's change the words in our national anthem. Instead of "land of the free and home of the brave," maybe "land of the safe and home of the scared" would do.

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George R.R. Martin
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