Monday, November 14, 2005

It's easier to be 'on the list' if you wrote the list.

Woke up early. Showered, dressed, grabbed my gear, and headed over toward the buffet by the conference room for breakfast. Breezed through the first gate and was almost immediately stopped by a soldier (camouflage, sub-machine gun, the works) who was letting people know that they had to leave their laptops, mobile phones and cameras in their rooms.

Mmhmm, I see that President Museveni's long-awaited visit to the conference is happening today!

I explained to the soldier that I am supposed to have my laptop and camera, and he let me pass. I got up to the security checkpoint with the metal detectors, and they weren't so easy. After a couple failed attempts, I saw one of the Secretariat folks, and asked him what was going on. He was trying to get hold of people to find out how to get the reporting team's equipment cleared, but wasn't having much luck.

I waited around for quite a while in the hot morning sun, and then the Secretariat guy finally got hold of someone who told him that the team wouldn't get our gear in unless our names, and an indication of the type of gear, were on a list provided to the security checkpoints by the Minister of State who's serving as President of the conference today.

That made things a lot simpler. In relatively short order, the security checkpoints had gotten a list of all the team members, noting laptops for all and a camera for me, from the Minister. He, in turn, had gotten it from the Secretariat. And the Secretariat had, of course, gotten it from me.

Then it was just a matter of having all our gear scanned with a handheld geiger counter or something like that, going back through the security checkpoint again, having our names checked against The List, going through another security checkpoint where our names were checked again, and then having our names checked a third time on the way into the conference room.

This is a good example of the social concept of a "web of trust." The people at the gate do not know me, so they do not accept my explanation of why they should let me pass, even though I have a staff badge on. But the Secretariat trusts me - after all, they asked for the team to be here! And the Minister trusts the Secretariat, since, well, it is their meeting. And the security people trust the Minister, since he is a former General and it would be a very, very bad idea to not do what he says. So in essence, I authorized myself to pass through security - but in a roundabout way. :)

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