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Homeland Security View

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By Joe Ognibene: 50 year veteran outdoor writer

Sunday July 1  2007 

         When it comes to colossal blundering it’s hard to beat the department of Homeland Security headed by Michael Chertoff, bureaucratic wunderkind. His unworkable passport scheme is now dead in the water let’s hope his department’s newest proposals suffer the same fate.

        The agency is now considering “anti-terror” legislation designed to protect this country’s citizens at the expense of restricting recreational boating along with fishing and boat operators. The proposal calls for all boaters to take a “proficiency” test, carry a “to be created” governmental identification and, the dippiest part, require that all crafts be equipped with electronic transmitters. The transmitters, a form of global positioning device, would cost anywhere from $500 to $1,000. Heaven help the persons who might own two or three boats. Does that include duck boats, rowboats and Jet Ski boats? Who would monitor all the boats so equipped? Just imagine a monitoring screen in a surveillance location as hundreds of blips appear showing boats on Lake Ontario or any other lake in the state. Who would monitor the screens and what would they do with the information? How could anyone know by looking at a blip on a screen what the boat operator is doing or contemplating doing? As usual, the law abiding would adhere to the law, if it ever comes to that, but no law will stop anyone from simply using a boat that is not equipped with a transmitter and do whatever he or she intends to do. Then too, consider how many boats are on local waterways from Canada that will not have transmitters on board. Will this include boats that never leave the Erie Canal or Tonawanda or Ellicott Creeks?

       The proficiency test requirement is a puzzler too. Proficient in what, boat docking, fish finding, able to handle rough water, not get seasick, able to negotiate a slalom course or towing water skiers? Would a boater be restricted on the size boat and or motor he or she is proficient at? Let’s say you are proficient at operating a 17-footer with 50 horses on the back end. Would that mean you are not allowed to operate a18-footer with 60 horses? When one considers the thousands of casual boaters and more thousands of fishermen on the water who would give the proficiency tests? Which bureaucratic office would issue the new form of government issued identification?

      Neither proposal makes any sense whatsoever. The U.S. Cast Guard, local law enforcement agencies or the Border Patrol don’t have enough boats between them to monitor or check transmitting boats or check for proficiency documentation. I don’t know what they are smoking in the Department of Homeland Security but it’s beginning to affect their brains.

Question for Outdoors Niagara Viewers: What is your View on Homeland Security? This may be our next Mini-Poll or email us!

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