A Russian journalist experienced all security measures of US airports, toughened to the maximum after 9/11 attacks
I have recently had to experience the ultimate pleasure of using US airports, the security level of which had been toughened probably at the maximum capacity after the 9/11 attacks. A lot of journalists from all over the world wrote numerous articles reproaching the US authorities for the intention to scan passengers' fingerprints, set forth new requirements for visa photos and so on.
They asked for my fingerprints already in the US embassy in Moscow, when I came to the consulate department to request a visa. I had to press my left and right forefingers to the surface of the scanning device, which looked like a small glass box. The procedure did not last long, and there were no unpleasant feelings about it. The consul did not have any objections either about my 5x5 photograph or the answers that I wrote in the questionnaire. When the official was through with traditional questions about my goal of visit to the States, and how much time I was going to spend there, he announced to me that my visa would be ready in three days.
I was flying with Delta Airlines. The inspection at the Sheremetyevo-2 international airport in Moscow became the second stage of the adventure. According to US requirements, registration of passengers of an international flight starts three hours prior to the departure. I did not have to take my shoes off when I was going through a metal detector. The luggage passed the X-ray test successfully as well. A female inspector of Delta, wearing latex gloves started meticulously examining the contents of my bag. It became the most unpleasant moment of the entire process of my departure to the US of A. A few seconds later I realized that I was luckier than some other passengers. When I turned around I saw a uniformed woman examining the belt buckle of a 40-year-old man.
When the plane took off, all non-US citizens were given two blanks to fill: for immigration and customs services of the USA. The second paper contained a question, which asked if a passenger visited pastures or contacted farm animals lately. It was also said there that importing meat products and fruit in the USA was prohibited. Those requirements are not new, although the practice is rather strict. I was told that a passenger, who had an apple core in his bag, was fined $400.
When the jetliner finally landed at JFK Airport in New York after ten hours of flying, I faced an officer of the US immigration service. Having taken my passport, the woman started speaking perfect Russian – as it turned out, she came from the former USSR. The quick conversation was followed with another finger-scanning procedure. I could hardly notice the officer taking a picture of me with a tiny digital camera.
Several minutes later I had an opportunity to personally experience all security measures, which thousands of American citizens have to make up with on a daily basis. I was actually supposed to board another plane, because I was heading for Reagan National Airport in Washington.
This time I had to take my shoes off. I removed my jacket and went through a metal detector, which signaled alarm in spite of the fact that I had no metal items with me. I removed my shoes, put them in a box, which was X-rayed too, and went through the detector again. When I was finished, I picked up my clothes, shoes, passport and ticket, and proceeded to another desk.
Removing your shoes is perhaps the most unpleasant aspect of arriving in the USA. This is not a big discomfort indeed, taking into consideration the fact that it became very helpful when a terrorist once hid explosive substance in his shoe soles. One may approach it with a sense of humor: boarding an American plane is like entering a mosque or a Japanese house – you are supposed to be barefoot.