Monday, August 21, 2006
What don't I know about the latest in the JonBenet Ramsey case?
I know what John Mark Karr wore to fly from Thailand back into the arms of American justice -- a red shirt and a tie.
I know where he sat on the Thai Airways flight -- in business class -- and what he had to drink: champagne before takeoff, a beer and glass of Chardonnay with his dinner of salad with walnut dressing and fried king prawns.
But what I still don't know is why on earth the Department of Homeland Security -- in its putative job of protecting Americans from global terrorism -- has anything to do with an arrest in the murder of a little girl, a child beauty pageant contestant, that happened ten years ago in a moderately sized Colorado town.
There must be some connection. Otherwise, why were we hearing press statements last week from ``an attaché for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security'' about exactly when Karr would be flown back to the United States? And why was a security officer with ``Homeland Security'' on his t-shirt among the officials on the plane bringing Karr back from Thailand?
Two answers suggest themselves: one, that President George Bush was being too modest when he said that ``America is safer than it has been, yet it is not yet safe.'' Don't be shy, George; We must be as safe as all get-out if Homeland Security has the time and the money to assign its people to cases like this one -- a geeky-looking American schoolteacher who supposedly killed an American child, a man who has visited not an Al Qaeda training cam but a sex-change clinic. If that's all true, I can't tell you how happy I am that I'll be able to take lip gloss with me on a plane that will now never be commandeered by terrorists, and that the nation's newspapers can take ``Al Qaeda'' out of their spellcheck for good and all.
Two, the more sinister answer, is that Homeland Security is becoming exactly what some people feared it would be: an uber-police agency, dealing not only with foreign threats to these shores but with any damn thing it pleases, domestic or foreign, given free rein to bigfoot any infraction from jaywalking to serial murder, under a conveniently vaguely defined mission of ''protecting the American people.''
If DHS can coolly decide to butt in on a tragic child-murder case that happened nearly five years before 9/11 -- perhaps on the flimsy premise that the suspect chanced to turn up in a foreign country -- then the correct answer is the second one. And now there'll be no stopping them. In some circle of hell, J. Edgar Hoover must be jealous.