is another excerpt from the book I'm writing on technology, terrorism, and my
time at DHS, tentatively titled "Skating on Stilts." (If you want to
read the excerpts in a more coherent fashion, try the category on the
right labeled "excerpts from the book.") Comments and factual quibbles
are welcome, either in the comments section or by email:
firstname.lastname@example.org. If you're dying to order the book, send
mail to the same address. I'm still looking for an agent and a
publisher, so feel free to make recommendations on that score too.
Business and privacy groups were conservative by choice in this debate. The third player – the international community -- is conservative by nature. Other countries just don’t like it when the United States changes policies. And our new border strategy was a change. The Canadian ambassador to the United States was vocal in questioning our fight plan to require passports for all travelers, questioning whether we were ready and predicting disaster if we actually carried out our plan. He pressed us many times to postpone the requirement, and the Canadian government would have been delighted to see it delayed forever.
It makes a kind of sense that other nations would line up against change. After all, the travel and tourism businesses are often multinationals (so are the privacy groups, in some cases). If new U.S. border measures may make Americans safer but put a burden on Lufthansa, European officials may feel it’s their job to represent the interests of Lufthansa.
Sometimes it’s hard to separate that motive from a less attractive one. Unfortunately, anti-Americanism is now an institutionalized part of the politics of most Western nations. Practically all developed democracies, particularly in Europe, have a party that is anti-American and a party that is not.
There are a lot of reasons for this. They may blame us for changes in the world that aren’t exactly our responsibility (we blame Hollywood for the skewed values taught by the movies; Europeans blame us). They may have felt slighted or ignored as the U.S. puts its policies together. And President Bush’s moral certainty after 9/11 did not wear well abroad; he was cast as a handy villain in a tale of American unilateralism and imperialism. Even with a new President, I don’t expect much change in this institutionalized anti-Americanism. Saying “no” – or “yes, but” – to the United States is the diplomatic default position of virtually every foreign ministry across the globe.
And that is indeed what the diplomats of the European Union said when DHS began to implement a data-based screening system. Borrowing arguments from both their travel industry and their privacy advocates, European officials set out to thwart DHS’s new policy and to roll back the clock, to take us back as near as possible to the old, failed status quo.
As we’ll see, they very nearly won.