Last week my wife and I were invited to a dinner party.The invite came from an old friend of my wife's called Julie and the card said that the meal
was due to start at 8pm but we were to arrive early as the host had some security concerns.
Approaching the front door clutching a bunch of flowers and a bottle of wine for the hostess we were blinded by a flashing light and while we were
still dazed and confused the door opened.
"Sorry about that" said the hostess "It's just a camera taking a photo."
We didn't question why a snapshot had been taken as we were still a little confused,bright lights were still flashing across my vision,instead we
handed over our gifts and crossed into the house.It was then that we noticed Julie's husband Dave sitting behind a small folding table in the
"You first" he said as he beckoned me over.
He held out his had and I thought he was going to shake it and so I reciprocated only to find my hand thrust into an inkpot.Still stunned I watched as
he expertly place each inky finger onto a page in a notebook.
I looked up questioning towards Julie.
"Nothing to worry about"she said "A month ago we had a break-in and we just do this with everyone now.I'm sure you understand.
Well,us Britons are renowned for not making too much of a fuss especially when we've been taken off guard.
We were shown into the living room where we waited with some other guests.There was no conversation just the occasional flash which enanated through a
gap in the curtains.
Over dinner I ventured to ask if it was appropriate to fingerprint guests.Every other guest looked up from there meal eager to hear the reply.
"Well"said Julie "we did have a break-in"
Yes but we are friends and guests.Those that burgled you came broke in uninvited." I said thinking that the distinction was obvious.
"It is precisely because you are all friends that Dave and I know that you will understand our need to protect ourselves and take precautions." she
We left soon after the meal as everyone else appeared to do.My wife said that if it had not been for the fact that we'd driven for an hour just to
get there she'd have made us turn straight back around after the fingerprint incident.We crossed them off our invite list and resolved not to go to
visit Julie and Dave again.
OK,this strange story is made up but it reflects exactly what will be happening to the 4 million Britons who visit the U.S.A annually after Sept 30th
this year.For it is on that date that the 27 nations who are part of a 90 day visa waiver programme will from that point on have to be fingerprinted
as they enter the U.S.A.
It is hard to imagine that the U.S authorities have an existing database of terrorists fingerprints to compare millions of tourists dabs against and
it is unclear how this database will be stored or to what possible use it will be put to in the future.
What does seem clear is that as soon as the initial stories of two hour post flight waits and personal impositions hit the popular press of 27
friendly nations the desire to visit the U.S will quickly drain.Not too quick to have any effect before the November Presidential election,which is
handy as Florida is a top holiday destination,but an effect there surely will be by next year.
Another new innovation is that children,who have up until now been able to travel on their parent's passports,will, after October 26th,need a
passport of their own or be turned back.This will effect 400,000 British children alone every year.Even babies will need their own passport.
We will no doubt be told that as friends we should mind less but the truth is we're going to mind more.No other nation as seen fit to introduce such
personal impositions and it will be the U.S tourism industry that will be hit most.
Many of us who have travelled to the U.S.A before or have been thinking about spending our holiday money there in the future will certainly be
thinking if maybe a trip to the continent might be a better bet where borders are opening and barriers coming down.
Or maybe we'll all just stay at home.
EDIT: Inserted more tag.
[edit on 8-23-2004 by Valhall]