- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 27, 2003

Surveillance, or else
"Domestic surveillance is prevalent," reads a travel diary belonging to Rep. Peter Hoekstra, Michigan Republican, who is back from a nine-day intelligence-gathering mission to Britain and Kuwait.
"In fact, the typical Londoner is caught on video an average of 52 times daily," the congressman writes. "London probably possesses the most civilian surveillance in the world, and people are accustomed to it. Privacy invasion does not appear to be an issue."
In Britain, it no longer can be an issue.
"Headlines announce that 10,000 asylum seekers who were refused asylum in Britain cannot be found," the diary continues. "The Brits, with a wink and a nod, did not enforce parts of their law and now are paying a price for this failure. … The U.S. has a lesson to learn here. We need to reform and enforce our immigration laws."
Carry-on grenades
Privacy International is on a quest to find the world's most absurd terrorism-related security measures, and Inside the Beltway readers from Washington to Alaska are weighing in with nominations.
Getting us started is John Celick: "Two armed, jungle-fatigue-wearing soldiers, milling around with the tourists on the middle of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. These two could be taken out with a Los Angeles gang-style drive-by and what could they possibly do to prevent an attack upon the bridge?"
Next up, Betty Bengtson of Glennallen, Alaska, population 554. The "55-plus"-year-old Alaska woman was passing through "certainly not one of our larger" airports and was asked to remove her Birkenstock sandals.
"And for approximately seven minutes I stood with my arms extended while the female inspector repeatedly passed the wand over my body. I have long hair, and that day had chosen to wear it up," she says. "After having this woman finger, pull and lift my hair, I finally offered to take all of the pins out. I guess the assumption was that I had rolled my hair around explosives."
Airline pilot John Tutini says he knows more than he cares to about airport security, particularly in South America, where recently a man boarded a flight and flew all the way to Europe with a live grenade.
"As an international airline captain we see a lot of security measures," Mr. Tutini says. "One I had to say something about was in a major city in South America. One would arrive at the security check point and be instructed to: 1) place bags on screener belt; 2) place jacket on table; 3) step through screening machine; 4) recover your jacket.
"But wait, no one touched the jacket. So I watched the entire crew and some passengers and nothing on the table gets checked. … Had to point this little lapse out to the local authorities."
Hotline scoop
Former Hotline editor Craig Crawford will join Congressional Quarterly as a political columnist, filing his political intrigue from the 2004 presidential campaign trail.
His weekly column for the 58-year-old publication will debut Monday, although Mr. Crawford is already busy taking notes in New Hampshire, where we caught up with him yesterday.
"I had an exciting six-year ride on the Hotline roller coaster, but as with all things it's time to move on," he says of his former National Journal compilation of political stories. "Congressional Quarterly is the Tiffany of its field. I am thrilled to join the team."
Also new on the team is Jim McGee, snagged to cover homeland security. He is a former investigative reporter for The Washington Post and the Miami Herald, where he won the Pulitzer Prize.
No beer here
Beneath the headline "At home in Hanoi," we told you that representatives of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) of the United States and its ladies auxiliary were holding overseas discussions to open the first VFW post in Vietnam. Apart from meetings with Vietnamese officials, the VFW delegation will meet this week with prospective VFW members, many of them American war veterans living in Vietnam.
This first post would be located in Hanoi, according to the VFW, the Vietnamese capital and the center of military planning during the Vietnam War.
"I had to stifle a chuckle when I read in your column this morning that there is going to be a VFW post in Vietnam," writes Arlin Menager of Silver Spring. "In 1967, among thousands of others stationed in Vietnam at the time, after being eligible to join the VFW, I we joined the VFW via mail and our first VFW post was 'Post 15000' in Saigon, Vietnam.
"I never had the chance to get to Saigon except to land there and get processed at Long Binh to get to my unit in 'upcountry' territory. I don't know if there actually was a physical VFW building in Saigon at the time, but our membership cards and other mailings came from an address of a VFW post in Saigon. …
"It may have been a ploy from the VFW headquarters itself to get newly eligible military members stationed in Vietnam to start paying dues," he surmises.
VFW headquarters spokeswoman Peggy Allee confirmed yesterday that VFW Post 15000 doesn't physically exist, "rather it is a means for somebody to become a VFW member at large."

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