I had three Austrian policemen in my hotel room last night. They stood there all grim faced with their fluorescent bibs, torches and sidearms. It was like the worst ever fancy dress party. I offered them a pilsner. They declined. They were too busy checking my ID that had been carefully checked 10 minutes prior at a police checkpoint. And carefully checked two minutes prior to that, at another police checkpoint.
This third check took so long, it was so late, and my patience was so thin, that eventually I took my shirt and trousers off in front of the officers. “I’m having a shower,” I explained, and went and had one. When I’d finished, I came out in my towel, thinking they might be gone. They weren’t. “Put your clothes on please and come to your car.” This party wasn’t getting any better.
Out at my car I couldn’t be bothered to get into the whole ‘probable cause’ thing so I flung open the doors and with as much good cheer as I could muster, said: “Help yourself”. They did. While one set of police searched my car with their torches, another lot clustered round me and asked me questions: “Where do you live? What are you doing here?” I’m a journalist and I live in a police state. What about you?
In my trouser pocket I found a “Medienhandbuch” from the G7, which I was given in my goodie bag when I was accredited there. By the light of a police searchlight, which was trained on me like I was trying to escape Stalag 17, I read out passages to my guards to pass the time. “Experienced staff from the Federal Government will be happy to help you with your work …” An officer interrupted. “Your address please.” It was on my driving licence in his hand. This was getting silly.
A little while later, bored and a bit cold, I decided to point out to the officers that while they were treating a journalist like a criminal, there were actual criminals about to arrive at the hotel they were guarding. Convicted criminals. Such as disgraced former CIA boss, David Petraeus, who’s just been handed a $100,000 (£64,000) fine and two years’ probation for leaking classified information.