53 Reasons to Stay at Home

Article excerpt

Byline: Wesley Pruden, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

If you think radical Muslims, bureaucrats and cops have made travel miserable for everyone in America, you might have to stay away from Britain.

Gordon Brown, the new prime minister in London, revealed his new scheme yesterday for saying hello and goodbye to tourists and other travelers, and it's a scheme that could please only a busybody bureaucrat. The jihadists are working now on cracking the code.

"Travelers," reported London's Daily Mail, "face price hikes and confusion after the government unveiled plans to take up to 53 pieces of information from anyone entering or leaving Britain."

The relevancy of all this to Americans is clear and present, since bad things spread swiftly to unexpected places. Even now, there's a ranking bureaucrat in the Homeland Security Department say saying, "Hmmmmm. Possibilities here. If the Limeys can get by with this . . . "

The 53 items include the usual questions of sex, name, address, telephone number, passport number and so forth, but also such trivia as frequent-flier number, "no-show" history, names of infants traveling in the party, check-in time, initials of check-in agent, "group indicator of whether a party member is a 'friend,' " and - here's the real sticker - "any other information the ticket agent considers of interest." Who knows what a nosy ticket agent might want to know. How close is that "friend"? Are you sleeping together? What's your favorite color? Your astrological sign? (Would a Sagittarius be allowed to fly with a Libra?) If you die in a terrorist crash, what tree would you like to come back as? This opens up considerable possibilities on the slippery slope, and who knows who would ultimately get such a priceless data dump?

But worst of all is the prime minister's proposal to extend to 58 days the length of time the government can hold a "suspect" without filing a charge against him (or her). This is not going down well in the land that invented civil rights, and particularly that little gem of the Anglo-Saxon common law, the right of "habeas corpus." Where, indeed, is the body - and the formal charge of a crime. …