ROME -- Following the fatal shooting of an Italian intelligence agent, and the wounding of a freed journalist hostage by US forces in Iraq last week, the Italian Foreign Ministry yesterday announced revised plans to give US tourists "something to remember" when they visit to Italy. "We have decided," explained Signor Mascarpone, a spokesman, "that Americans must be made to realise the security risks involved in travelling abroad. Although we regard Italy as basically a safe country, we have to remind the USA that we have a history of home-grown terrorism, and that security comes first. Accordingly, we are going to institute full body cavity searches on any holders of a US passport entering or leaving Italy, regardless of age or gender. Additionally, we are recommending that this procedure is followed by all hotels towards their American guests every morning and evening in order to remind Americans of the need for security." When asked whether this would include members of the US administration, such as so-called President George W. Bush, Sr. Mascarpone said there would be "no exceptions".
A commentator for Italian TV explained the decision on prime time news, and showed a demonstration on a dummy of the equipment which will be used to carry out the searches (see photo). Although this drew protests from family groups, the TV station defended its decision to air the segment, claiming that it was in the public interest to do so.
Public reaction on the streets of Rome was overwhelmingly in favour of the decision. "The Americans have had it their own way for too long," explained one Rome citizen. "Let's see how they like it up the **** for a change." Another 80-year-old Roman lady commented that "it would be fun to go down to the airport and watch the Americans coming out". One more thoughtful approach was expressed by a 45-year-old newspaper vendor: "We shouldn't be doing this to every American -- just those who voted for Bush. If Americans can prove they voted for Kerry, we should give them the benefit of the doubt."
A US State Department official declined to comment, as did the Vatican See.