SSSS on your boarding pass – Is Pakistan to blame?
I flew to the US this week and when I checked in from Dubai to Los Angeles I was advised that i had been selected for ‘extra’ security checks as a random thing. No worries I thought, and as I boarded they simply hand searched my carry on at Dubai at the boarding gate, and did a drug screen and let me on my way. No big deal. I didn’t realise that was just the beginning!
Upon arrival into the US at customs I lined up as normal, and was quite ‘cocky’ to my Pakistani travel companion, asking him if he was ready for his ‘treatment’. he laughed and said he was used to it.
As I went to the counter, the small talk was good, the customs official was friendly, then he said, “I have to hang on to your passport until my colleague does some advanced screening”. A few minutes later I was taken away – Border Security TV Show’ like into the back room with a room full of US Customs and Border `Security people and I thought, “Oh, what’s this all about?”
I was about to start the experience of the Secondary Security Screening Selection process.
I was handed a pile of papers and asked to start filling out while he did his thing on the computer. All my details – name, date of birth, place of birth, address, phone, email, etc, then all my family and parents as well. Then details of all education, including address, dates, etc. Places of work, current employment details including names of people I worked with, their details etc. This was interrupted with questions about my work, travels, places I went to, why, when, what I did etc. They wanted to know why I was in Vegas, copied my licence, passport, all my travel documents and conference paperwork, got hotel details, dates, and times of the function etc.The process was fine, just time-consuming, and after 30 minutes I could go. My phone rang from y travel companion as this occurred and I asked if I could answer but was quickly told “No! Silence it”. Eventually my passport was stamped and “Welcome to the United States” was my parting message.
I then checked in for my LAX-LAS flight and noticed i have been blessed by being given the SSSS again on the next boarding pass.
As I lined up to go through security, I was again advised I had been selected for ‘advanced screening’ and asked to wait.
I was eventually taken away, and one good thing is I was taken to the front of the line at security screening, all my items including shoes taken from me, and I went through. As this was happening I was told I would be receiving ‘advanced pat down’ procedure which would involve full body pat down including ‘firm touching around groin and rear areas!’. Awesome!
My backpack was meticulously emptied and everything checked, I had to turn on and show my laptop, phones and all other electronic devices to them. I got the ‘pat down’ was made to stand, stretch, spread ’em and got my fair share of a groping in public…good stuff…
Finally after all this had taken place, I was allowed to go, much to the amusement of my Pakistani travel companion, who went through everything like a breeze!
This was my first experience as an SSSS, and it wasn’t that bad, I’m sure it could have been worse, but I guess many recent trips in and out of Pakistan may have been the cause, I guess I will never know!
Whilst I don’t see myself as a demographic of risk, I guess customs need to be vigilant these days, so all was taken in stride, and I must say, all was handled very professionally by the customs officials at all times. I can’t wait for the return trip.