Transcendental Bloviation

Politics, Space, Japan

Monday, June 28, 2004

For a kinder, more literary, Homeland Security

The heavy-handed treatment of Elena Lappin at the hands of the INS and Homeland Security is yesterday's news, but the story is still making the rounds - John Carter McKnight sent me a link to her Guardian article just today. I thought I'd exhausted myself on the topic in Marc Cooper's comment section, but today ... well, when you're an intellectual snob like me, mordant thought springs eternal.

Read the story, if you haven't. Pretty disturbing, isn't it? If (as even some CIA agents now speculate) bin Laden helps Bush to a second term with yet another major attack, we can expect more of the same.

I suspect there is ideological profiling going on in the Terrorist Threat Integration Center databases, since Lappin has contributed to Granta and perhaps other leftish rags. But maybe the problem is that there's just not enough ideological profiling. You see, Elena's case is tricky. Justice requires detailed scrutiny of the facts of a case.

What's a beleagured, overworked Homeland Security official to do? Think of all the background reading required. Still, let's be optimistic. Let's imagine a kinder, more literary, Homeland Security.

"Well, Ms. Lappin, we're a bit dismayed that you'd write for such virulently anti-American publication as The Guardian, not to mention Granta, but your years at the helm of Jewish Quarterly and your years in Israel introduce some nettlesome ambiguities, and your sympathetic interview with an Iraqi poet favored by those wonks over at State would seem to argue for clemency. Well, but you know those poets: mercurial, unreliable, romantic, irretrievably radical. Not to mention ungrateful: just read this interview of Sinoon Anton with Amy Goodman. Really, you can't trust them further than you could throw Arthur Andersen's audit report from their investigation of Ahmed Chalabi's gutting of a Jordanian bank.

"Hmm. All right: we'll incarcerate you, but ... we'll clean the toilet in your cell before you take up residence, we'll only strip you down to your undies when we do the body search, and you'll be allowed use the same junk-food vending machines as the prison guards. However, you will have to sign this form saying that you won't write any pieces critical of your incarceration or treatment. Fair enough? The choice is yours.

"Oh, by the way: loved Foreign Brides. Would you autograph this copy before I send it to my daughter? She's in her second year at Barnard, in the middle of a sophomore slump, and she'd be so thrilled."

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