Homeland Secure From Aussie Editors, at Least

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LAX is not resting on its laurels as the most hard-nosed American airport in keeping out those dangerous allied-country journalists. The latest rebuffed hack is the wonderfully named Australian Sue Smethurst, who works for a magazine called New Idea. Smethurst was here for an exclusive interview with Olivia Newton-John, but authorities saw right through that ruse.

"I was marched through the airport with my hands handcuffed behind my back," she told Channel Nine news.

"I was body searched, I've had every part of me groped beyond belief.

"(I was) shocked more than anything, disbelief, total sense of disbelief, humiliated." [?]

[S]ecurity staff withheld clearance and kept her for four hours and took her fingerprints and mug shots before leaving her in detention for a further 11 hours.

She was even accompanied by an armed guard when she went to the toilet.

She was released after the Australian consul intervened and helped win her freedom.

Smethurst became the latest to learn a valuable post-Sept. 11 lesson: Fail to use a previously unenforced and logically idiotic Journalistic Visa, and those cavities are getting probed.

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  1. Well, I for one feel much safer!

    However, my girlfriend feels quite different.

  2. So, DHS changed a policy, and now foreign reporters are held in compliance to an old and stupid law, which they had previously avoided. What, exactly, is the complaint?

    Everybody is subject to some class of idiotic laws. Adapt.

  3. I have no experience with visas and such, but don’t travelers to the US need to have a visa before they enter? If so, shouldn’t the consulate in Australia have warned her that she needed a journalist visa?

  4. Matt: The rules seem pretty stupid, a point you have made twice before. Your direct personal interest might be better served by telling us how to overturn the rule, or making fresh legal/philosophical/practical arguments against it.

    I’m opposed to pretty much every idiotic law, so help me help you.

  5. I’ll tell you my complaint. I fly to Europe every year; this December will be no exception. Every year, I do some amount of reporting while I’m there. If the French decide to treat me like the Americans are now treating the French (and the Aussies, and the Brits, and the Germans), I will be probed at Charles de Gaulle for 15 hours, then sent back on the next plane to LAX.

    Yeah, I could “adapt” to those new rules, but honestly I’d rather prevent them from happening in the first place. The long-existing and rarely enforced Journalist Visa rule, coupled with the long-existing and always-enforced Visa Waiver program, combine to create a situation where PR people can fly here and do work, but not journalists. This strikes me as totally fucking pointless, especially vis-a-vis the War on Terror, which is the excuse given for the new enforcement.

    So, we’re randomly screwing over non-terrorist journalists from friendly countries that didn’t get the New Enforcement memo, doing nothing that I can see by that action to prevent another real terrorist from blowing up our cities, and because of this apparently pointless activity I may eventually be inconvenienced, and prevented from free travel and work to allied countries.

    If you can think of a reason why this makes sense to you, I’d love to hear it. “They’ll have to adapt to it,” or some variation thereof, seems to me to fall pretty damned short.

  6. Maybe if she would’ve acted like a grown up instead of throwing her sandwich and stuff she might’ve gotten treated a bit better. It’s kind of hard to get treated with respect if you don’t treat others with respect.

    So, now she’ll just have to wait a few weeks to interview Olivia when she gets back to Australia. Sure doesn’t seem like a world crisis to me. I just hope she doesn’t treat Olivia the way the reports say she treated the people at the airport.

  7. Mari Abern,

    Where did you read that she threw her sandwich?

  8. I love her, I honestly love her.

  9. Jason — It is *not* a widely known requirement, which is why people are genuinely shocked to discover it.

    Mari — It is *not* a “world crisis,” and in fact nobody I’m aware of said it was. Disproportionate enforcement of stupid, counter-productive laws can be relatively trivial, yet still worthy of rebuke.

    Mark — Other arguments against it: 1) It generates intense (if comparatively) negative publicity about the United States, while providing no off-setting benefits that I’m aware. Since “improving America’s image abroad” is a stated strategic goal of this government, and in fact is an effort that soaks up tens of millions in taxpayer dollars, these incidents obviously run counter to those efforts — again, for no good purpose. 2) Journalists who travel here tend to write about America. Publicity is generally useful for American residents, companies, and events (like E3, the huge computer-game expo which a half-dozen Euro journalists weren’t able to attend). Blocking journalists who travel here — again, for no good purpose — means that instead of publicizing American residents, businesses, and events, they instead will publicize American new hostility toward foreigners.

    3) (This is the one that may affect you all the most): Entry requirements for Americans to the rest of the world’s countries are generally impossible to decipher with 100% accuracy. I remember when the Czechs used to have a rule that you were supposed to demonstrate that you spent 2,000 crowns a day, or something like that. In most all of those cases, you just blow off the obscure requirement, figuring they won’t enforce it. Well now, countries like the Czech Republic are pissed off at our new visa enforcement & policies, and are actively considering retaliatory steps. If other countries start enforcing their rules the way LAX officials are apparently enforcing ours, Americans will be significantly less free to travel.

    So no, Mari, it’s not a world crisis. But if your cavities get probed in Paris after a 12-hour flight, and then you are sent back home because you failed to show proof of hotel accommodation (or whatever arcane rule that they usually don’t enforce), I will still consider that to be a totally pointless, and eminently avoidable, outrage.

  10. Looks to me like another authority seeking group is trying to ‘make an example’ out of someone, as usual someone who is not one of the problematic offenders, is not a threat to the general public, and would probably have complied with the rule if they’d known about it, as ticky-tack or serious as it may be. It’s only pointless if you’re actually thinking in some clear way. But if you’re one of these (two-bit) groups that are trying to show you’re the big dog, you’ve gotta hassle people with the minor violations, so that others get the message but you don’t really have to go after the big violators. So now I’ll add this group to the list that includes the TSA (hassling grandmothers), the NCAA, the RIAA, local school systems…

  11. She was clearly a radical lefty journalist and deserved everything she got for her biased, anti-American reporting about ONJ.

  12. Not being a journalist, I am having a bit of trouble with the nature of the complaint.

    Before everyone jumps all over me, I am not saying that the cavity search, cuffs, and humiliation are warranted AT ALL. What I am trying to figure out is the visa and entry angle.

    If I go to a foreign country and lie to get a visa, I shouldn’t really be surprised if they send me back home. There is a waiver program that allows me in, but not to work. Okay. I don’t really understand or agree with this requirement, but it is widely known.

    Shouldn’t journalists have an inkling that an administration recently subject to a humongous terrorist attack is going to be under pressure to enforce visa requirements?

    The answer may be to get rid of the I-visa requirements, or to allow work on a waiver program for a period of time, but it really can’t be to allow anyone posing as a freelance journalist to circumvent existing visa regs.

  13. Todd Fletcher,

    Depends on who you are; for example, Canadians don’t need visas to enter the US, they don’t even need a passport – at least if their stay is not for an extended period of time. Of course this is nothing like the freedom of travel one enjoys in the EU these days, which is more like flying from California to New York than it is flying from New York to Ontario.

    Mark Fox,

    I think the complaint is that their treatment of her was excessive; or at least that appears to be one of the complaints.

  14. This reminds me of the news story about Al Gore being searched at the airport.

    Al Gore, while certainly a threat to American security, probably isn’t going to blow up a 747.

    And then there was the fellow who was stopped because airport security didn’t want him to carry a sharp object onto the airplane — the sharp object being a Congressional Medal of Honor.

    And then there was my buddy who was harassed about spent shell casings in his _checked_ luggage on his return trip home from his father’s military funeral.

    All of these are symptoms of two out-of-control pheonomena:

    1. Political correctness.
    2. Undue focus on terrorism.

    PC needs to be stopped. We all need to wake up and say “Maybe this is one case where racial profiling is reasonable.”

    The undue focus on terrorism is reducing our productivity, raising our costs of doing business, lowering our competitiveness, and harming our economy in general.

    We need to take the war to the terrorist — not to reporters, Congressional Medal of Honor recipients, Al Gore, or Aussie bimbos.

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    IP: 62.213.67.122
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