It is odd how things change. In the 1970s I visited the United States of America. The security checks were friendly and the people at immigration were polite and generally helpful. Of course, the security was not one hundred percent; I was on one flight in which the crew had captured a person who wanted to hi-jack the plane and locked him in the lavatory while the plane proceeded normally to its destination, without fuss and without a plethora of armed intervention when we arrived at our destination.
In the same decade I visited the Soviet Union as it was then. The security checks were frighteningly unfriendly and the people at immigration were suspicious, poring over my passport and other documents and minutely examining my features. I felt the difference between a free nation and an enslaved nation at the point of entry.
I have not visited Russia since, but I am told that the security and immigration is carried out in a more friendly way and with less suspicion. I have visited the United States many times since, and now I find that although the officials act in a very friendly and reasonable way, the things that I am required to do seem reminiscent of the old Soviet ways. I must provide finger prints. I am photographed. I must submit advance information on line before I travel and provide far more information about myself than I had to twenty five years ago.
In modern Russia it is interesting that Mr Lavrov, the Foreign Minister, has criticised the USA for the way in which the National Security Agency gets a ribber stamped permission for all its surveillance inquiries without there being any proper control over whether such activities are always necessary. The Americans have been uncomfortable with the NSA since Mr Snowden revealed the extent of its information gathering, and President Obama now seeks to remove the NSA’s power of collect data.
This activity by the NSA seems to be harming the economic interests of the United States instead of promoting them. Brazil has rejected placing an order with Boeing for aircraft, in favour of Saab, which Brazilian “government sources” have explained by saying “the NSA ruined it” (the Boeing bid).
The purpose of surveillance should be to protect the people, not to enslave them. We should be less concerned with our safety and more concerned with our freedom. There is risk in everything and we must balance the risk of being put in slightly more danger by such as hi-jackers and evil doers against the risk of being put in more danger by an oppresive albeit democratically elected government.