This is the most offensive thing Cliff May has seen all day:
The Palestinian Authority celebrates the 9/11/01 attacks on the U.S. – most recently with a cartoon showing Osama bin Laden raising his index and middle fingers in the V for Victory sign, except his fingers are the burning World Trade Center Towers.
This is the most offensive thing I have seen all day [emphasis mine]:
Nalini Ghuman, an up-and-coming musicologist and expert on the British composer Edward Elgar, was stopped at the San Francisco airport in August last year and, without explanation, told that she was no longer allowed to enter the United States.
Her case has become a cause célèbre among musicologists and the subject of a protest campaign by the American Musicological Society and by academic leaders like Leon Botstein, the president of Bard College at Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y., where Ms. Ghuman was to have participated last month in the Bard Music Festival, showcasing Elgar’s music.
But the door has remained closed to Ms. Ghuman, an assistant professor at Mills College in Oakland, Calif., who is British and who had lived, studied and worked in this country for 10 years before her abrupt exclusion.
The mystery of her case shows how difficult, if not impossible, it is to defend against such a decision once the secretive government process has been set in motion.
After a year of letters and inquiries, Ms. Ghuman and her Mills College lawyer have been unable to find out why her residency visa was suddenly revoked, or whether she was on some security watch list. Nor does she know whether her application for a new visa, pending since last October, is being stymied by the shadow of the same unspecified problem or mistake.
In a tearful telephone interview from her parents’ home in western Wales, Ms. Ghuman, 34, an Oxford graduate who earned her Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, said she felt like a character in Kafka.
“I don’t know why it’s happened, what I’m accused of,” she said. “There’s no opportunity to defend myself. One is just completely powerless.”
Ms. Ghuman’s descent into the bureaucratic netherworld began on Aug. 8, 2006, when she and Mr. Flight [Paul Flight, her fiance] returned to San Francisco from a research trip to Britain. Armed immigration officers met them at the airplane door and escorted Ms. Ghuman away.
In a written account of the next eight hours that she prepared for her lawyer, Ms. Ghuman said that officers tore up her H-1B visa, which was valid through May 2008, defaced her British passport, and seemed suspicious of everything from her music cassettes to the fact that she had listed Welsh as a language she speaks. A redacted government report about the episode obtained by her lawyer under the Freedom of Information Act erroneously described her as “Hispanic.”
Held incommunicado in a room in the airport, she was groped during a body search, she said, and was warned that if she moved, she would be considered to be attacking her armed female searcher. After questioning her for hours, the officers told her that she had been ruled inadmissible, she said, and threatened to transfer her to a detention center in Santa Clara, Calif., unless she left on a flight to London that night.
Outside, Mr. Flight made frantic calls for help. He said the British Consulate tried to get through to the immigration officials in charge, to no avail. And Ms. Ghuman said her demands to speak to the British consul were rebuffed.
“They told me I was nobody, I was nowhere and I had no rights,” she said. “For the first time, I understood what the deprivation of liberty means.”
As Ms. Ghuman tells it, the officers said they did not know why she was being excluded. They suggested that perhaps a jilted lover or envious colleague might have written a poison pen letter about her to immigration authorities, she said, or that Mills College might have terminated her employment without telling her. The notions are unfounded, she said.
One officer eventually told her that her exclusion was probably a mistake, and advised her to reapply for a visa in London after a 10-day wait. But it took more than eight weeks for her file to be transferred to the United States Embassy in London, in part because of routine anthrax screening at the State Department.
As for the possibility that she has been deemed a security threat, Ms. Ghuman said: “It’s not only insulting and heartbreaking, but how? In what way? Musicians, dangerous people? Is it my piano playing?
“I have no indication at all,” she added, “and it has been 13 ½ months.”
Ms. Ghuman's experience raises some obvious questions: How many times do incidents like this occur? If the State Department is so incompetent that it arrests people and revokes their visas without even knowing why, then who can say that the same thing or very similar does not happen to dozens of people? Or hundreds? And how can the Bush worshippers who sneer at the idea that any of the foreign detainees in U.S. custody are there because a terrible mistake was made be so sure of that, if someone as spotless as Ms. Ghuman could be snatched up by government agents and only by the sheerest good fortune escape being thrown into detention?