Tuesday, May 13, 2008

“I have determined that you pose a security threat.”

There's an odd and scary article in today's NY Times. Briefly, about 5000 students who have applied for "a Transportation Worker Identification Credential, an ID card meant to guard against acts of terrorism," have been rejected with a form letter containing the sentence in the title of this post. The authoritarianism inherent in this statement gets weirder and more unsettling the more you think about it.

A British student at M.I.T. who was rejected, Sophie Clayton, 28, said that at first she was amused at what appeared to be a bureaucratic absurdity. But as she pondered the designation, Ms. Clayton said she grew worried. “The two words ‘security threat’ are now in the files next to my name, my photograph and my fingerprints,” she said.

The article claims that most foreigners, and those with criminal records, are rejected.

Another recipient of this letter is a German grad student in oceanography. The ID is required to work around ships and docks. No big deal, though- as long as he is accompanied by someone else with the ID, he can still access these areas. What if his chaperone has to go pee? Is he still OK, or will he be subject to detention as an illegal enemy combatant? Not clear.

Now obviously, the previous is hyperbole (I do tend to exaggerate). I have a number of friends who are foreign graduate students. I can't comprehend why simply being a foreigner constitutes a "security threat." What in God's name have we come to?

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