Emily Feder's piece entitled "At JFK Airport, Denying Basic Rights Is Just Another Day at the Office" on Alternet is excellent in a bone-chilling way. Feder writes,
I was recently stopped by Homeland Security as I was returning from a trip to Syria. What I saw in the hours that followed shocked and disturbed me. She concludes, In the past five years I have worked for human rights and refugee advocacy organizations in Serbia, Russia and Croatia, including the International Rescue Committee and USAID. I have traveled to many different places, some supposedly repressive, and have never seen people treated with the kind of animosity that Homeland Security showed that night. In Syria, border control officers were stern but polite. At other borders there have been bureaucracies to contend with -- excruciating for both Americans and other foreign nationals. I've met Russian officials with dead, suspicious looks in their eyes and arms tired from stamping so many visas, but in America, the Homeland Security officials I encountered were very much alive -- like vultures waiting to eat.
Feder's observations accord with my own, far more limited travel experiences. Even the customs guards in Communist China were professional and polite (in a bored way) compared to almost every American security or customs official I've encountered. Travel agents up here (in Canada) say that one of the most common requests they hear is "How do I avoid making a connection in the U.S.?" Going through an American aiport is like being processed through a prison or an animal stockyard. And Feder is correct; one of the most unsettling aspects is that American guards are not just doing a job; they seem to be emotionally invested in it and swollen with an arrogant enjoyment of authority.
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