The Bush/Cheney campaign insisted on knowing the race of a newspaper photographer assigned to shoot a Cheney rally in Arizona.
Now, when you visit non-public areas of certain security-conscious government sites, they do a brief background/watchlist check, for which they require your full name, date of birth, and social security number. I've had to provide this information when I visited the White House, the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, Kennedy Space Center, and the 2000 Democratic National Convention. But they don't ask for your race.
It sounds to me like the campaign was either a.) being bigoted, or b.) engaging in some sort of half-baked racial profiling. Neither is necessary, and both are deplorable. The campaign insisted it's necessary for security purposes, but declined to explain how. I found this nugget of information to be interesting:
Organizer Christine Walton asked for Popat's race in telephone conversations with two other Star editors before she spoke to [Arizona Star managing editor Teri] Hayt. They also refused to provide the information. Walton told Hayt that Popat's race was necessary to allow the Secret Service to distinguish her from someone else who might have the same name.
"It was a very lame excuse," Hayt said.
Indeed. Because the campaign already has her social security number. Is the Secret Service worried about having two different people with the same name and social security number, but with different races? That's, shall we say, a stretch.
Interestingly enough, I went to school with Mamta Popat, the photographer in question. She was an acquaintance -- we had a few classes together, and wound up at some of the same parties. I haven't seen her since graduation, but she had no discernible terroristic tendencies when I knew her.
ADDENDUM: I wonder if you have to sign a
loyalty oath endorsement form to get into the rally...