Airport cops: we don't keep track of your books (unless they're *suspicious* books)

After yesterday's story about how airport cops are assembling files on travellers' reading material, the a DHS spokesman has hotly denied keeping track of the titles of the books you read -- unless those books are, you know, suspicious.
"I flatly reject the premise that we care at all about the latest Tom Clancy novel a traveler is reading," Knocke said.

"But the fact does remain that CBP officials are going to be mindful of whether there is anything that suggests there could be possible violations of a law associated with a traveler or items in possession of a traveler as they make an admissibility decision about that traveler," Knocke said. "That is what they are charged by Congress to do."

Link (Thanks, Xeni!)


  1. Knocke’s comment, “you are late to the discussion by two decades” sounded to me like, “Hey, if we’ve been violating your right to privacy for 20 years and you haven’t called us on it, you can’t whine about it now.”

  2. Hmmm, I’ll have to bring a copy of Michael Crichton’s “Airframe” with me on my next flight. Hilarity will ensue, I’m sure.

  3. “Suspicious books” like:
    Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic With God on Their Side: How Christian Fundamentalists Trampled Science, Policy, and Democracy in George W. Bush’s White House
    The War at Home: The Domestic Costs of Bush’s Militarism
    Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy
    When News Lies
    Clueless George Goes to War
    How the Gop Stole America’s 2004 Election & Is Rigging 2008
    What We’ve Lost: How the Bush Administration Has Curtailed Our Freedoms, Mortgaged Our Economy, Ravaged Our Environment, and Damaged Our Standing in the World
    Cruel and Unusual: Bush/Cheney’s New World Order
    Grand Theft Pentagon :Tales of Corruption and Profiteering in the War on Terror
    Homeland Security Scams
    These books are clearly terrorists books!

  4. Wow. I wonder what books are on this list? I guess I shouldn’t ask too much, or else I’ll end up on a DHS list. I’m afraid already.

  5. I for one want to dispute the assertion that Tom Clancey books aren’t suspicious. Isn’t there one (Executive Orders????) in which a foreigner flys a plane into the white house or some other DC target? What could be more suspicious?

  6. It’s not just books — it’s suspicious symbols! The Canadian band The Russian Futurists were detained by the US Customs /Border Patrol a couple of years ago because the agents took offence to all their hammer and sickle logos on their buttons and shirt shwag. They missed their show that day.

    The initial issue was visa confusion,

    “…But that didn’t stop the FBI and Border Patrol from detaining them for almost all of Sunday. As Jones said, “Apparently the FBI are not big fans of the hammer and sickle logo on all of the Russian Futurists’ t-shirts, buttons, and stickers.”

    Forget Al Qaida — Putin and his Russian friends are clearly America’s greatest threat once more. No, wait — it’s the Canadian dollar at par. (Women *and* French-speakers on your currrency? Zut alors!)

  7. What geniuses! Because, as we all know, airliner-hijacking terrorists always carry around suspicious reading material like “Jihad for Dummies” and “Realizing your Inner Terrorist in 10 Easy Steps”. I’ll never, ever doubt TSA or the federal government again!

    I can SMELL the safety. And the freedom! (Or is that freedom fries I smell?)

  8. I was flying from Charlottesville Virginia to Paris a few years ago on my way to a conference and carrying a copy of Euclid’s elements of Geometry in Greek. The TSA agent looked through it for over a minute and then asked me suspiciously what language it was in. I told her and they let me through, so I suppose that the Elements is permitted but suspect. Mathematicians beware.

  9. “flatly reject the premise that we care at all about the latest Tom Clancy novel a traveler is reading,” Knocke said.”

    “CBP officials are going to be mindful of whether there is anything that suggests there could be possible violations of a law associated with a traveler or items in possession of a traveler as they make an admissibility decision about that traveler”

    So, this appears to mean that a judgement is made regarding your reading material. Therefore, one can only conclude that you will be detained for reading certain material. Ergo, you are not free to read what you wish.

    Is that not written about in the Constitution somehwere???

  10. Wouldn’t it be most suspicious if you were bringing along “The Pet Goat”? That’s such a powerful story that it can distract the Executive Branch for several minutes during a crisis, so imagine what it could do to a flight crew!

  11. “I flatly reject the premise that we care at all about the latest Tom Clancy novel a traveler is reading,” Knocke said.

    Um, no one premised that!

    This spokesman offers no explanation why anyone is RECORDING the information; he only explains why they must BE MINDFUL of the information. And the only reason given for being mindful is that Customs is “charged by Congress” to do so. However, he doesn’t explain why this is beneficial to anyone’s security; I guess such such explanations are the job of the legislative branch, hmm?

  12. This has nothing to do with the topic. I just thought it was funny that Cory thanked Xeni and included a link to her site. I have no idea how we would have found Xeni’s site without that.

  13. So what to terrorists read? The Koran? Well. . . so do non-terrorists, and even non-muslims (I had to read it in translation in college). This is like the Dept. of Homeland Security issuing a statement that possible terrorists might be using copies of The Farmer’s Almanac in their evil schemes.

    It seems that, yes, they are trying to do everything they can possibly think of to thwart a terrorist attack, but unfortunately they are just bogging themselves down in reams of useless (and possibly misleading )information.

    Even if a terrorist reads “book X”– would said terrorist be foolish enough to bring that suspicious book on a plane? It seems the DHS is looking at an obvious “false flag” in their attempts to “look busy.”

  14. Maybe they should care about Tom Clancy books. I remember the White House saying after 9/11, “No one would have suspected someone would turn airliners into flying bombs.” That’s not entirely true. Tom Clancy did. In fact crashing an airliner into the capitol occurs at the end of _Sum_of_All_Fears_. Perhaps the TSA should detain anyone reading Tom Clancy because they’re obviously using his books to get ideas.

    Now, I have to catch a flight. Good thing I brought the Anarchist Cookbook to read on the way!

  15. Not surprised by the literary profiling (judging a book by its cover?). I was singled out for a thorough search for cracking the cover of Hamid Dabashi’s book on Iranian cinema, Close Up, at the Des Moines airport.

    I can’t believe that after all these years waging the war on terror, we still haven’t found Abbas Kiarostami.

  16. I can’t believe this administration thinks for a minute that it can invade Iran.

    I like the idea of a blank book with a cover that says “Hijacking for Dummies.”

  17. I used to have a copy of Upski’s Bomb the Suburbs. I wonder what they would do if I brought that on a plane with me.

    For those not in the know, ‘Bomb’ in this case refers to covering a place with graffiti.

  18. I read of this halfway through one of many research trips I’ve taken in the past year for my dissertation, which is about how the public got information about radiation and radioactivity in the first half of the 20th century.

    I can’t remember if I’ve ever NOT had my luggage searched since 9/11, according to the little TSA cards they put inside. Maybe it has something to do with all the suspicious books about uranium I carry around with me.

    Now, my question: if the TSA is keeping lists of my books, who do I talk to about getting a copy? Because for the life of me, I can’t find my master bibliography file, and why should I go to the trouble of re-constructing it if my tax dollars have already provided me with a workaround?

  19. [Boring moderation notice: Sorry about the holes that just appeared in this conversation. The commenter who posted here as “CantStopTheSignal” is actually another user who’s been temporarily suspended for misbehavior in another thread. CantStopTheSignal’s comments, here and elsewhere, have been unpublished because he’s the sockpuppet of a suspended user. For the record, this had nothing to do with the content of his comments. -tnh]

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