Whenever U.S. officials make a trip, the various U.S. security agencies send teams to clear the way weeks before.
Along with local police agencies, they seek out troublemakers, and anyone who may represent a danger to the official.
When a president makes a foreign trip, the effort is monumental. With President Barack Obama coming to Costa Rica May 3 and 4, expats here may be sure that their names will come to the attention of the U.S. Secret Service or the Diplomatic Security Agency. And they can be sure that access to the president will be very limited.
Officials in Washington already have suspicions about Americans who live overseas. And with the computer and data handling power that now exists, the search is on for anyone who might be a threat.
A parallel effort is being done by local law enforcement intelligence experts.
There is a lot of work to do. After all, Costa Rica is full of retired U.S. military veterans, the same people who Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in 2009 called a security threat because of their training and weapon handling knowledge.
Expats here also enjoy a high degree of freedom of speech, mostly because local Costa Rican officials do not really care if U.S. political figures are insulted or worse.
One can even see on the Internet U.S. expats calling for the violent overthrow of the current U.S. government. The Internet has a way of loosening lips. Certainly all those rash comments are now being processed by U.S. government computers. The Nacional Security Agency is empowered to read all overseas emails and monitor all overseas telephone conversations. Sometimes a person considered a high risk by the Secret Service ends up getting a little vacation on a trumped up local allegation to get them off the streets. The reason could be a blunt statement or even a joke that triggers suspicion.
Agents also will be scanning the data for U.S. expats or Costa Ricans who have demonstrated signs of mental illness or who have obtained a weapon permit here. Incoming tourists who might be here during Obama’s stay also will get scrutiny. So will expats here unknowingly already on the U.S. secret no-fly list. Or maybe those with tax trouble.
On the Costa Rica side, the list is large. Leftist groups, including the Nuevo Partido Socialista, have promised to ignore a request by President Laura Chinchilla. She asked that there be no anti-American demonstrations while Obama is here. The anti-imperialists are meeting next week to plan such an event.
There are the U.S. expats who advocate for peace or support Palestine in its confrontation with Israel. Some even appear in protest marches in the garb of Palestine women. Israel and Palestine are hot button issues that will draw scrutiny. So is support for Cuba and all those expats who make trips there.
All those demonstrations who marched repeatedly against the U.S. Free Trade Treaty also are on the watch list, as well as perhaps everyone associated with the Universidad de Costa Rica and the University for Peace in Ciudad Colón.
According to a statement Tuesday night by the leftists, Obama is responsible for all the ills Costa Rican society faces now. They had unkind words for Ms. Chinchilla, too.