Tougher airport security becomes embarrassingly intrusive

 “Why can’t they use intelligence to narrow down the people they insist on searching?”

 “has information been added to the immigration data base, which might impede my next attempt to travel abroad?”

Security at our airports has been stepped up after the failure of the Bollox Bomber to blow his miserable, medieval, Muslim self up over Detroit, but if my latest experience is anything to go by, the new policy is even more embarrassing and humiliating to us travellers than usual, and of course a total waste of time.

I travelled through Heathrow last Monday – Terminal 3 to Barcelona. I mistakenly left my mobile phone in my pocket (after remembering to remove my shoes, take off my belt, take my laptop out of its bag, take off my jacket, and put my liquids into a plastic bag).

The alarm went off as I moved through the detection screen. An operative moved to frisk me. So far, so usual, so pointless. But this time the frisk was much more intrusive than usual. The operative moved his hands uncomfortably close to my private parts, prompting me to protest. The operative seemed to be looking for trouble, and as I was travelling on someone else’s money, I told him to proceed, even as my trousers moved down revealing my own version of builder’s behind. Not a position I would choose to take in public. Not one I intend to let happen when I’m travelling on my own dime.

Next time this happens to me, and maybe you’ll want to do this also, I will simply say that if this type of frisking – perilously close to ones private parts – is necessary, I insist on having it done in a private room.

Why can’t these people use intelligence, in both senses of the word, to narrow down the people they insist on searching? Surely it wouldn’t have taken much brainpower to figure out that I was not a likely Muslim suicide bomber.

And the attitude of these officials is becoming ever more arrogant and pointless, as they collectively seem to have forgotten who pays their wages. As I returned from my trip to Barcelona Tuesday, the immigration clerk asked me where I’d come from. I replied that this was clearly not of any interest to her. What difference would it make if I was returning from Buenos Aires, New York, Moscow or Barcelona? Even if it was Islamabad, I clearly was not an Islamic terrorist. I had the right to return to my own country. Nothing concerning my trip should have been of the slightest interest to the immigration clerk, not least because I was clearly not a Muslim suicide bomber.

To show her displeasure the clerk made me wait for about 20 minutes while she disappeared to a room to “check” my passport. When she returned, the clerk said there was some kind of technical problem with my passport (nine years and seven months old, which survived the U.S. system earlier this month on a trip, also to Detroit.)

She declined to say what the problem was, and suggested I replace it soon. I shall of course replace it when it expires in July. I’m wondering if this clerk has added some information about me on the immigration data base, which might impede my next attempt to travel abroad.

I’m travelling Monday, so if I get a hard time from these people, it will be interesting to see the reaction when 50 odd journalists travelling with me get wind of what’s happening.

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