Ilija TrojanovÂ was at the airport in Brazilâ€™s Salvador da Bahia, on September 30, checking in for his flight to the United States, when the person behind the American Airlines counter told him that the computer had issued a â€œBorder Security Crossingâ€ alert â€“ and that it was necessary to contact the American authorities before he could be issued a boarding pass. As the time for his flight approached he was told the airline was forced to refuse him entry to the flight â€“ and that he must return to Germany.
Trojanov is an acclaimed author of 20 books, includingÂ Along the Ganges,Â Collector of Worlds, andÂ Mumbai to Mecca. He is the co-author ofÂ Angriff auf die FreiheitÂ (Attack on Freedom), with Juli Zeh, a 2009 jeremiad against State surveillance. Trojanov was on his way to the Denver conference of the German Studies Association, and had been issued an invitation to appear at the Goethe-Institutâ€™s â€œNew Literature From Europeâ€ Festival in November.
He hadÂ earlierÂ been denied a visa to enter the United States, but with the help of an American university he was finally granted his travel papers: thus the â€œsecurity alertâ€ came as a surprise.
So why all the trouble over traveling to the US?
In response to media queries, the US embassy in Berlin had â€œno commentâ€ to make. Thatâ€™s because no comment was necessary: Trojanov was among the prominentÂ signersÂ of anÂ open letterÂ addressed to German Chancellor Angela Merkel protesting NSA surveillance on German soil as an â€œhistoric attack on our democratic, constitutional state.â€ That is clearly the reason for this Soviet-style harassment by the Obama administration.
This latest outrage is part of a disturbing pattern of repression that all points to one ineluctable conclusion: the United StatesÂ is the Soviet UnionÂ of the new millennium â€“ an ideological state with global ambitions that holds itself up as the epitome of â€œfreedomâ€ and yet is the single most powerful enemy of liberty worldwide.
Trojanovâ€™s historyÂ makes this Soviet-style persecution all the more ironic: he and his familyÂ fled BulgariaÂ when he was very young, seeking refuge in the former Yugoslavia and finally being granted political asylum in Germany. During the regional uprising against Soviet domination and the revolts against the dictatorship of the Communist parties of the Warsaw Pact, the peoples of Eastern Europe looked to the United States as theÂ torchbearerÂ of freedom and the symbol of all their hopes for a better future: that one of those hopefuls is now being barred from entering â€œthe land of the free and the home of the braveâ€ on account of his political views is utterly sickening.
The American PEN Center, representing thousands of American writers, has issued aÂ formal protestÂ to our clueless Secretary of State, whoâ€™s too busy arguing for fundingÂ Al Qaeda jihadistsÂ in Syria to be bothered with answering for travel restrictions on ideological grounds: the German government is also making â€œinquiries.â€ Washingtonâ€™s response continues to be â€œno comment.â€
Okay, so itâ€™s only this one guy, and maybe itâ€™s a mistake, and why am I making such a big deal about this?
Because it isnâ€™t only just one guy: as the Pen CenterÂ points out, â€œMr. Trojanov is at least the third member of one of our international affiliates who has been barred from entering the United States since September 2001â€³ on ideological grounds, andÂ it doesnâ€™t stopÂ there. While the Bush administration wasÂ no friendÂ of the freedom to travel, the Obamaites haveÂ escalatedÂ the governmentâ€™sÂ attackÂ on visitors it deems politically incorrect.
When writers and journalists are targets of government repression, you know you have a problem â€“ a big problem â€“ on your hands. And that is precisely the case here in the US. Why else would the Committee to Protect Journalists be doing a study â€“ for the first time â€“ of the mounting difficulties put in the way of reporters in America? Facing prosecution for â€œespionageâ€ on account of their probing into Washingtonâ€™s spying on its own citizens, as well as others worldwide, US journalists find themselves increasinglyÂ in the crosshairsÂ of Justice Department prosecutors, who are taking some lessons from their Soviet forebears:
â€œFor three decades, the Committee to Protect Journalists has reported on assaults on press freedoms in China, Iran, Syria and otherÂ countries with government regimes traditionally hostile to a free and robust news media.
â€œThis year, for the first time, the Committee is conducting a major investigation of attacks on press freedoms by the U.S. government, led by an Arizona State University professor.
â€œâ€™Journalists working in the United States have told us that their work has become more difficult as aggressive leak investigations and prosecutions have chilled certain kinds of reporting,â€™ said Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists.â€
What in the name of all thatâ€™s holy is going on?