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An enemy at the gates

The New York Times ran an item on Saturday about Eckart Runge, a German cellist and member of the Artemis Quartet, whose visa application to visit the United States has been held up, forcing the cancellation of the string quartet's planned 13-concert tour. Runge was convicted of stealing a $0.99 pair of tweezers from a supermarket in Aspen, Colo., when he was 24. That misdemeanor, apparently, is sufficient to force him to wait for a still-pending background check before entering the country.

Some protections and oversight over who enters the country are obviously useful (and, I've argued before, reasonable). But overly prolonged (the Artemis Quartet applied for its visas last June) and exacting investigations of every would-be visitor with a youthful indiscretion on their record will inevitably tie up valuable (and expensive) resources, and has an evident cost to taxpayers, to foreigners and to those in the United States they would do commerce with. It's hardly clear what their cost is to would-be terrorists, on the other hand.

It's a tough balancing act, sure. But this seems more like an almost-paranoid overreaction than a sensible protection against the nature of the actual threat.

October 29, 2002 11:16 AM


Yes, but no doubt, this dude most likely stole the tweezers (and, if not caught) would have attempted to bring them aboard a flight.

And we all know what would have happened then, tweezer-armed foriegners on flights is a big no-no. We thrawted his plans once, but would we be so lucky given a second opportunity ? This is all about trying to think like a terrorist, not paranoia.

Who here is willing to take that risk, to risk the lives of potentially hundreds of over-fed/drunk Western air travelers ?

You should feel fortunate the INS weeded out this obvious sleeper.


Posted by rob adams on October 30, 2002 12:14 PM

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