Posted by: changholt | August 31, 2009

Keep our borders open

In the US, we are becoming more and more concerned about our national security and terrorist threats. We have good reason to be concerned. In sum, our safety measures have been well behind most developed countries’ world standards.

In the late, 1990s I was working in China for a US company who did a lot of business in the construction field. One year, I was given a “Leatherman” knife which I could use in Business. The fact is, I was a “white collar worker” and never needed to have it with me so I put in my TUMI briefcase, in one of the “secret pockets” so I could use it the next time I needed it. Well, I forgot about it. I travelled in and out the US all the time with this knife in my briefcase and on the plane (remember I forgot it was there). In the US NO ONE even noticed it no matter how many security screens I went through.

Conversely, the first time I arrived in at Narita International airport (Tokyo, Japan) I was stopped by security on the outside of the airport in a “preliminary” security screen. I asked them, “What’s the problem”? They asked me to remove my knife. I thought they were crazy. Why would I have a knife? In sum, I vehemently denied this …. until they pulled it out of my bag. I was shocked! I had completely forgotten about it. It was then when I remembered travelling to dozens of US cities with this knife and going thought dozens of security systems and checks and they never caught anything. Remember, this is the “preliminary” check at Narita Airport… a more full scan was coming up.

In the end, US citizens don’t really want to pay for the systems that I saw in Narita and they don’t want to pay the staff to check and double check…. Heck tickets in Japan are expensive. Then what do we need to do? There are a lot of scenarios bantered back and forth. What we don’t want to do is go from one extreme to another (checking every passenger, every bag and every container that comes into the country… we just can’t do it. It’s logistically impossible… and would kill are economy.

For example, the United States Customs at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) processes 9 million people a year coming to this country. If you put those people in a line, it would stretch all the way from LAX to JFK Airport in New York City, the other major point of entry into the United States.

We need leadership and not politics. We need practical advice not extreme measures. The US is a great country because of its freedoms and openness. Let’s be safe but not protectionists.


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