excerpt from the book I'm writing on technology, terrorism, and
time at DHS, tentatively titled "Skating on Stilts." (If you want to
read the excerpts in a more coherent fashion, try the categories on the
right labeled "Excerpts from the book." I'm afraid I can't fix the bug
in TypePad that prevents me from putting them in the category in
reverse-chronological order, but I have started putting chapters up in
pdf form from time to time.) 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.
The young Tibetan girl waited quietly in line at the border. Call her Dechen, though that’s not her real name. She had spent two comfortable years studying in Dharamsala, India. Now she was going home. She had made the long trip across Nepal to the border with Tibet. The border crossing made her uneasy, but she told herself the Chinese border guards had no reason to stop her.
Dechen was a follower of the Dalai Lama, and she had spent much of her time in India conducting computer chat sessions with his supporters inside China. But she had been careful. She really had been a student. There was no way the Chinese government could know what else she had done. Or so she hoped.
Dechen stepped forward and presented her identification to the guards. They looked it over with care. Too much care. Something was wrong. Her heart sank. She was under arrest.
She spent months in captivity. Dechen clung to her story.
– I was a student. They cannot know what else I did, she must have told herself.
But over and over, intelligence officers accused her of working for the Dalai Lama’s youth group. Over and over, she denied it. She was being held incommunicado, without support from friends or relatives, but if she held firm, they would have to let her go. She stuck to her story.
Finally, the officers lost patience. They showed her a file. It held a full transcript of her online chat sessions. It covered years. They’d known everything, recording it as she typed. All her attempts at security, all the work of the Dalai Lama’s youth group, had been defeated. They knew her coworkers too. They could expect the same treatment she got, or worse, if they returned. It was over.