I realize that in the spectrum of boneheaded moves by the
Administration, this one is not the most extreme. Still, it
was a pretty dumb thing to do.
Federal Letters Tell Students They’re Security Threats
By SCOTT SHANE
Published: May 13, 2008
WASHINGTON — A German graduate student in oceanography at M.I.T.
applied to the Transportation Security Administration for a new ID card
allowing him to work around ships and docks.
What the student, Wilken-Jon von Appen, received in return was a letter
that not only turned him down but added an ominous warning from John M.
Busch, a security administration official: “I have determined that you
pose a security threat.”
Similar letters have gone to 5,000 applicants across the country who
have at least initially been turned down for a Transportation Worker
Identification Credential, an ID card meant to guard against acts of
terrorism, agency officials said Monday.
Officials apologized for the language used, called it “unfortunate,”
but stated clearly that they have no intention of backing down.
They will not soften the language, nor will they append a
But Ms. Howe, the agency spokeswoman, said that the
letters were legal, if flawed, and that there were no plans to send
Well, the letters may be legal. But it also is legal to call the
president of the United States an asshole; that does not mean that
it is the right thing to do. Nor does it mean it is the wrong
thing to do. The legality of it is irrelevant.
It is very difficult ot imagine how a grad student in oceanography
could reasonably be considered a security threat.
Ranting aside, the policy is a mistake. One of the things
that previously kept the USA secure, was the tendency for smart,
capable people to want to come to the USA.
Although the brain
drain can be detrimental to developing countries, it has been
enomously beneficial to the USA. Now, we keep imposing
disincentives for bright people to immigrate. This security
card situation is yet anothere example.
Shutting off the inflow of talented persons is a big mistake.
Combined with the rising
anti-intellentualism and anti-rationalism in the USA, it
threatens the vitality of our nation.