Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Secure our Ports!

Last September I went on a wonderful cruise to Cozumel, Mexico with two girl friends of mine. We had a fabulous time on the cruise, but on deporting from our cruise, I had a worrisome experience. The following information is regarding my experience with homeland security at the Mobile, Alabama port on the somber 5th anniversary of September 11.

I was traveling back into the states after a cruise aboard the Carnival Holiday ship with my three friends. We chose to self embark (personally carry off our luggage) off of the cruise ship and into the port. The process went smoothly, however, while standing in line to have our credentials checked, we noted that no one had screened our belonging, as well as the hundreds (literally) of other self embarking passengers from the ship. We never had our bags go through any x-ray equipment , we didn't pass through any metal detectors, or never had any dogs sniff our luggage (we personally never saw any dogs).

We were very concerned at the lack of screening of bags, suitcases and belongings-as well as people themselves at this port. When we finally got up to the counter to where a young man checked our drivers license we kindly asked him why this screening process had not taken place. He immediately became defensive and short with us, saying that it had taken place, we just didn't see it. We proceeded to nicely explain to him that we had self embarked and had hold, literally of our luggage at all times since we had gotten off the ship to that point. We also brought to his attention that no one had put any of our luggage into a x-ray machine nor had dogs sniff our bags, or checked luggage nor did we pass through any detectors. He insisted that it did happen and said to us sternly, "I will not discuss this any further!". He then took the three of us (middle aged ladies mind you) and escorted us to two gentlemen and told them that we were "a problem and he wanted our bags searched".

This was fine with us, for this was the point we had tried to make along, even though his reason for doing this was to "punish or embarrass us" for questioning him. My thought was that he said, to himself, "OK, they want to be checked then we'll check them and make an example". The two gentlemen that checked our bags were very kind and pleasant. We recounted our experience with the first gentleman (termed loosely). They saw no problem in our asking questions of why this port lacked security. They explained that there were dogs sniffing luggage (but it was not of self embarked passengers -those that elected-it was those that elected to have the cruise ship staff remove their luggage for them). We did point out to them that the hundreds of people in line never saw a dog (and believe me we asked those in line with us, if their luggage was checked). We were then asked if we were terrorist or drug traffickers ("NO.NO") After a short delay we were on our way and the two men last handling the situation apologized . I asked the initial man's name and was refused that information from officer Swartz (the dog handler-who again was very kind). I wanted his name to report his superior.

As a tax payer, and an American citizen greatly affected by the tragedy of 9/11, I feel it is my very right to question my home security or the lack of it at that particular port. I know that the terrorist of 9/11 didn't just get on a plane and drive them into buildings, they first strategically investigated and took those plane trips before that date to orchestrate a plot on Americans. One could easily do that in the port of Mobile, and find that personally carrying luggage aboard and not getting screened or sniffed by dogs or any sort of checking (a person even going through random bags) would be an easy target. This frightens me as an American citizen that a situation like that could easily take place again. We are currently on a heightened state of security (Sept , 2006) and these measures should have taken place. I certainly don't mind my bags being checked!

Perhaps the young officer did conceive that we were "problem passengers" but I am certain his attempts were to make us mad and embarrass us in front of hundreds of people to have to check our bags. However it was just what we wanted yet but we wanted all passengers checked in some fashion. I would gladly wait a few more minutes for my luggage to have gone through an x-ray machine (as it did before embarking to the country of Mexico) but it certainly should after arriving to port from a foreign country. Please heed my concern, as a proud American I urge you to check into this port of concern. I urge you to write your government representatives and the national and state port authorities on your fears.. I wrote to my Governor so that he would also be alerted of this situation. I also wrote to the cruise line and the Alabama port security. I did receive a letter basically saying “we will look into it” and nothing more. I can certainly tell you it was not our lack of seeing these things take place, these measures did NOT take place FOR SELF EMBARKING PASSENGERS (it did only of those having their luggage removed by ship crew). We must protect our shores.

Also, on another note, while in that port, I did not see not one American flag. We should welcome all of our American citizens as well as our foreign neighbors (that have been fully screened) to the states by flying our flag, one that stands for freedom, with pride. I wished that flag would have been visible upon my arrival, because with every trip I take, I enjoy it, but I enjoy nothing more that returning home to this great country and knowing I am an American citizen and that I am free to speak my concerns.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I wanted to say your account of your customs experience here in Mobile was at the least disturbing, but not entirely a surprise. I'm glad you and your friends took a stand. Hopefully, you made a difference.