This is only a test.
Some of us paranoid types believe that much of the Muslim-related brouhaha that happens on airliners (e.g., the six imams, “Flying While Still Remembering 9/11,” or the Muslim passengers testing how easy it is to sneak simulated bomb parts on board “'I'd Like an Aisle Seat. And Could You Hold the Cheese?'”), are not chance events that are taken up as causes by offended religious leaders, but orchestrated incidents intended to draw negative publicity to government antiterror measures. The object is to pressure officials or weak-minded politicians to loosen security standards.
Last week Detroit News Islamic Affairs Correspondent, Gregg Krupa ran a piece about Imam Mohammad Ali Elahi, and how he had his laptop examined by border officials when he was returning to the US from Iran. (“Airport laptop seizures anger Muslims”).
Elahi is the founder of Dearborn Heights’ Islamic House of Wisdom, and a familiar, nay, ubiquitous sight in and around Dearborn. He also has a regular column in the Detroit News’s op-ed page, where he regularly attacks Israel, American anti-terrorism policy, and sings the praises of Palestinians, Hezbollah, and the Iranian-Syrian interference in Lebanon.
According to Krupa’s article, Elahi:
was not prepared for what happened to him on Oct. 22 as he returned to Detroit Metropolitan Airport from an extended trip to his native Iran. After searching his luggage, customs personnel wanted to see more.
"They said, 'Well, we need to check your computer,' " Elahi recalled. "They said they had to go to an office and check it. They came back and said, 'Well, do the password.' ... He took it back, and it took another 20 minutes. And then he came back and said, 'Well, you know, unfortunately, the computer died as I was looking at it.'
Elahi was confronted with what many local Muslims and residents of Arab descent say are increased searches and seizures of laptops at airports and border crossings without warrant or warning.
Which would be shocking, shocking, if the practice were not completely normal, legal, and a longstanding and recognized practice of border security. As is to be expected from these Krupa exposés, there’s not a shred of evidence that these types of searches are increasing, that they target Muslims, nor that they’re unlawful. But that’s not the point.
The point is to use a compliant media to spread lies about how these things work.
Krupa's article is the kind of misreporting of facts that so clouded and weakened American efforts to monitor electronic communications between terrorists, which the Left falsely painted as both “illegal,” (it’s not), and “domestic spying” (it’s not).
In this case, Krupa and the civil right poseurs are framing the issue to imply that it’s normal for border agents to only search laptops after first getting a search warrant, thus implying that Elahi is being singled out for special abuse. Since that would be yet one more example of rampant Islamophobic civil rights abuse, the only solution would be anti-profiling laws that make it illegal to search passengers dressed in distinctively Muslim gear. Or, to forbid searching laptops without first obtaining a court order.
Read Krupa's article, and you see there isn't any there, there. If anything, the news is that TSA actually rousted a guy with a turban, instead of following protocol and letting him skate. So what’s behind this?
I think what brought this on are two recent things that brought laptop searches to public attention. In July the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, that very same Left-coast bastion of jurisimprudence, got something right and recognized the broad authority of customs officials to search laptops of international travelers. In fact, they said that “reasonable suspicion is not needed to search a laptop or other personal electronic storage devices at the border.”
Then in August the Washington Post reported that:
Federal agents may take a traveler's laptop or other electronic device to an off-site location for an unspecified period of time without any suspicion of wrongdoing, as part of border search policies the Department of Homeland Security recently disclosed.
Also, officials may share copies of the laptop's contents with other agencies and private entities for language translation, data decryption or other reasons, according to the policies, dated July 16 and issued by two DHS agencies, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. . . .
DHS officials said that the newly disclosed policies -- which apply to anyone entering the country, including U.S. citizens -- are reasonable and necessary to prevent terrorism. Officials said such procedures have long been in place but were disclosed last month because of public interest in the matter. ("Travelers' Laptops May Be Detained At Border").
True to form, Krupa reports how, in part because of similar stories to Imam Elahi’s, "U.S. Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., and U.S. Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., introduced bills last month that would allow searches and seizures with a warrant.”
400 million passengers entering the country every year, and Feingold wants TSA officers to go to court to get a warrant before taking a closer look at someone’s laptop.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff wrote in an opinion piece in July that
"as a practical matter, travelers only go to secondary [for a more thorough examination] when there is some level of suspicion. Yet legislation locking in a particular standard for searches would have a dangerous, chilling effect as officers' often split-second assessments are second-guessed."
And another DHS official, Jayson P. Ahern, said to Feingold on the subject in a hearing in June:
that the executive branch has long had "plenary authority to conduct routine searches and seizures at the border without probable cause or a warrant" to prevent drugs and other contraband from entering the country.”
ACLU's highly-paid lawyers know this. (Okay, maybe they aren't highly paid, except in reefers and all the Ché t-shirts they can use.) But that doesn't keep Krupa from quoting them saying things like this:
"The Bush Administration has sought to undo 20 years of legal protections by searching personal electronics without probable cause," said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the legislative office of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Except we've seen this is not a new Bush policy. In fact, the search and seizure policy is as old as the United States. The only difference, if I had to guess, is that the Ninth Circuit’s decision in July deflated the hopes of the Muslim/ACLU axis to ease restrictions on bad guys transporting trouble electronically into the country.
So I'm surmising Elahi decided to use his recent visit with the Ayatollah as an opportunity to make a scene over his laptop.