INS is just following the whims of its bosses

In "Finding visa abusers" (Jan. 10, Editorial), the question was asked why the INS didn't act sooner to provide the names of some 300,000 aliens, ordered deported from the US, to other law-enforcement agencies. As one who retired from the Border Patrol, a part of the INS after 28 years, I have one explanation. The INS is much like a toy sailboat on the sea of national politics. It goes whatever way the political winds blow it. Had Congress wanted immigration laws enforced, they would have been. The upper levels of INS management are political animals and are sensitive to the wishes of their bosses. It's not honest to blame it all on the INS, particularly the hard-working people out in the field, who will gladly enforce the laws when given a chance.

John H. Frecker

Baileyville, Maine

Clean lists get you on the plane faster

"Airlines test out clean lists" (Jan. 8) hits the mark. I'm one of the millions of Americans who have served in the armed forces or in the defense industry. I held a secret clearance, my wife held a top-secret clearance, and my brother, a former Navy radioman, held a cryptographic (code) clearance.

In order to get any security clearance, you fill out a four-page application. You list every school you've attended, every job you've had, every place you've lived, and every club you've belonged to, with the dates. Investigators can then interview former supervisors, teachers, and neighbors. This provides a pretty good idea if you're a potential terrorist.

It's a great idea that people could voluntarily fill out such a form. If that means law enforcement narrows the list of potential terrorists and those of us having nothing to hide get through the gate faster - wonderful.

Robert W. Bliss

Lake Forest, Calif.

Airlines believe that "clean" lists are a way to maximize efficiency at airport security checkpoints while providing the necessary security. It won't work. Such measures actually diminish security by trusting that "good" passengers won't go bad. Many terrorists intentionally keep their backgrounds clean and so would be deemed "good." Furthermore, many good citizens would find themselves unable to fly because of erroneous computer records or nervousness under questioning. Safe air travel requires screening what people bring on planes, not screening people.

Jeff Johnson

San Francisco

African leadership needed

Thank you for "More light on Zimbabwe" (Jan. 11, Editorial). President Mugabe, the only president Zimbabwe has known since gaining independence, may have been a good freedom fighter, but he is a corrupt and poor democratic leader. Mugabe will always be a soldier. The thread of his speeches, that everything is a war for independence, is the only way he thinks - in terms of struggle.

The present food shortage is a direct result of Mugabe's desire to return farmland to the people. There is nothing wrong with that idea, in fact it's a good idea. But the people taking over the farms are not farmers. It's like putting a family from New York on a farm, providing no education or resources, then expecting them to begin producing food.

The neighboring African leaders are quiet about the whole thing. After living in Africa I understand the problem. Most African leaders will someday need a place to hide. So the important thing is not to make the leader of another country angry. Someday you may have to ask that country to be your home. With the exception of South Africa, most southern African countries are corrupt, warlike, and controlled by leaders more interested in personal gain than the well being of their countrymen.

Jerry Wampole

Sacramento, Calif.

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