Customs' Hamfisted Attempts To Intimidate Wikileaks Volunteers

from the witch-hunts dept

Computer security expert (and US citizen) Jacob Appelbaum, who is well known for his work on Tor, had been having some issues lately concerning his involvement as a volunteer with Wikileaks. He was among those who had their info requested by the Feds via Twitter. And he’s been having issues traveling to and from the US lately. Last July, he was detained upon flying into the country and it looks like something similar has happened again, where he was detained, searched and questioned after flying into Seattle from a vacation in Icleand.

He was careful to travel with no computers or gadgets whatsoever, other than some USB keys with encrypted versions of the Bill of Rights. He noted that the initial customs agent, to whom he handed over the declaration form was friendly until she pulled up his account, and from there things went sour. He asked to speak to a lawyer, which was denied on the grounds that he wasn’t being arrested.

Apparently he was told initially that he was pulled aside as part of a “random” search, which leads Appelbaum to joke about the actual randomness — which was also shown to be false when one of the agents mentioned his pre-flight Twitter activity.. He also pointed out that those detaining him were disappointed that he wasn’t traveling with computers or mobile phones, and that Iceland had plenty of computers, such that he didn’t need to bring his own.

In the end, after about half an hour’s detention and search, they did let him go. Some might consider that to not be that big of a deal, but it clearly has something of a chilling effect. He notes that the mental stress of being in such a situation is not at all enjoyable. This is unfortunate. If he’s done something wrong, arrest him. If he has not, harassing him every time he crosses the border is just obnoxious.

Filed Under: , , ,
Companies: wikileaks

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Customs' Hamfisted Attempts To Intimidate Wikileaks Volunteers”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
74 Comments
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Erm, I think that sitting around the immigrations office of the country of which you’re a citizen and which you’re trying to enter is a place where that doesn’t apply. On the street? Sure. But, where would you suggest he goes after saying “bye” if they won’t let him enter without going through the detainment first?

btrussell (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“An arrest is the act of depriving a person of his or her liberty usually in relation to the investigation and prevention of crime or harm to others and oneself as well. The term is Anglo-Norman in origin and is related to the French word arr?t, meaning “stop”.

The word ‘arrest’ when used in its ordinary and natural sense, means the apprehension or restraint of a person, or the deprivation of a person’s liberty. The question whether the person is under arrest or not depends not on the legality of the arrest, but on whether the person has been deprived of personal liberty of movement. When used in the legal sense in the procedure connected with criminal offenses, an arrest consists in the taking into custody of another person under authority empowered by law, to be held or detained to answer a criminal charge or to prevent the commission of a criminal or further offense. The essential elements to constitute an arrest in the above sense are that there must be an intent to arrest under the authority, accompanied by a seizure or detention of the person in the manner known to law, which is so understood by the person arrested. (Para 46 of Directorate of Enforcement v. Deepak Mahajan (1994)3 SCC 440)”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arrest

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

That doesn’t exactly answer my point. If you’re not under arrest, they’re still detaining you until they decide to let you in the country. The country in which you reside. Where are you supposed to go if you say “bye” before they do that?

Under the law, a detainment is not necessarily an arrest. They can detain you legally long enough to determine that a crime has not been committed, and then must let you go. The question is how long can they legally detain you, and the Supreme Court has said that it can only be as long as necessary to determine whether or not a crime has occurred, and no longer.

You cannot leave when you are being detained, just as you can not leave if you are being arrested, but with a detainment, the clock starts automatically, and if they detain you for a period longer than what is reasonable to determine whether a crime has been committed or not, then you have a case for a violation of your 4th Amendment Rights.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

You cannot leave when you are being detained, just as you can not leave if you are being arrested, but with a detainment, the clock starts automatically, and if they detain you for a period longer than what is reasonable to determine whether a crime has been committed or not, then you have a case for a violation of your 4th Amendment Rights.

But apparently no right to a lawyer to help you make that case.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

But apparently no right to a lawyer to help you make that case.

True, and don’t let my statement make you believe that I am making excuses for what is happening here. I do not like what is happening here, and I’ve said so before and since. But this is the way the law works, and if Jacob Appelbaum’s rights are being violated (which I believe is occurring because he is being unjustly persecuted for supporting a site which isn’t violating any current laws,) then the law allows for him to sue the government for grievances.

In this case, however, detainment is not arrest, and until he is arrested, his right to have a lawyer present has been found to be unnecessary by the courts. I suspect this is because they are worried that by allowing lawyers to be present during entry to a country (or during a traffic stop) would be an unnecessary distraction and would cause more stress than it solves. I guess that they figure that afterwards, if a person’s rights have been violated, they can contact a lawyer and go through the courts to become whole again.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

I suspect this is because they are worried that by allowing lawyers to be present during entry to a country (or during a traffic stop) would be an unnecessary distraction and would cause more stress than it solves.

I suspect they are worried that having a lawyer present would make it more difficult to violate someone’s rights.

I guess that they figure that afterwards, if a person’s rights have been violated, they can contact a lawyer and go through the courts to become whole again.

Once your rights have been violated, they can’t be un-violated. That would be like trying to un-rape someone.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

I suspect they are worried that having a lawyer present would make it more difficult to violate someone’s rights.

Maybe, but since it is judges and not TSA behind this case law, I find it difficult to see them (who were once lawyers themselves) being part of some grand conspiracy. I suspect if TSA keeps doing what they’re doing, eventually the Supreme Court is going to take this away from them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

When you enter into a customs area, you are voluntarily giving yourself over to authorities for inspection. Until they accept that you are legally entering the country, and not carrying contraband or otherwise breaking import laws, you are voluntarily restrained.

Arrests only happen when you have been charged. Otherwise, you are detained. In customs, there is only one way to go if you don’t want to go through the process, which is back where you came from.

btrussell (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Sorry , but re-read what I wrote.

I’ll try to simplify it for you.
Your words:
The search is the detainment, moron, (Name calling? What are you upset about? Can’t someone disagree/have different opinion with you?)

My words:
I and my belongings have been thoroughly searched and nothing illegal or incriminating has been found. I have gone through your “detainment” process.

Where did I say “bye” before the thorough search?
Why are you needlessly detaining me further? Harassment?

Need more time for what? Time to plant something?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

I was referring, of course, to the little play you wrote out in the comment directly above the one I replied to.

…and again you didn’t answer the question. He’s not under arrest, he’s being detained while being searched before they allow him into the country. At what point in that is “I’m not under arrest? Bye!” an option?

DCL says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

Isn’t he a US Citizen? If he walks out the door onto US non-controlled-by-Customs soil without going through their checks I guess he could be charged with something.

His other option is to turn around and sit on a bench in the waiting area until the shift change or he decides to get a ticket… wasn’t that the plot of the Terminal (with Tom Hanks)?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 The Terminal

About The Terminal: it was purportedly based on the case of Mehran Karimi Nasseri, who lived in Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, France, for 18 years.

There was an autobiography; the case presents an interesting case in the disaster of the “no man’s land” that exists between exiting one country and entering another.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re:

btrussell is right; they don’t understand the definition of arrest either.

No, unfortunately you are wrong, and neither of you understand the definition of arrest as it relates to legal detainment. A law enforcement officer can legally detain you without arresting you, such as during a traffic stop, with nothing more than reasonable suspicion that you committed a crime. However, they must determine probable cause of you committing a crime before they can arrest you. If they can’t, in a reasonable amount of time, they have to let you go. When entering a country, they may detain you long enough to determine whether you haven’t committed a crime, and whether or not you’re authorized to enter the country, and then they have to let you go.

So, they under the definition of arrest fine, and so long as he was not held longer than reasonable to determine if a crime was committed, no rights were violated.

Anonymous Coward says:

As long as Mr Applebaum continues to be part of a group committed to distribute stolen US confidential documents, he will find himself on the receiving end every time he deals with authorities.

That he is stupid enough to tweet about it while in customs only shows that he doesn’t take any of this seriously. It also proves that he doesn’t understand the difference between “detained” and “arrested”. Failure on the basic stuff makes me wonder what else wikileaks screws up.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

No, YOU don’t understand the difference. You can be detained AND arrested pending an investigation. And the imormation is not ‘stolen’, it is ‘infringed’. Get it right.

He is right. But only about the difference between detainment/arrest.

Wikileaks has not, and I’d argue that they will never be found to have, committed a crime. Being part of the organization should not be grounds for additional scrutiny. And what I believe is happening here is absolutely wrong. However, an arrest is always a detainment, but detainment is not always an arrest under the law.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Are you missing a sarcmark or something?

Yes, he is being investigated. However, he is being investigated by a completely different authority. Since they have been unable (so far) to find something he has done to be illegal, they have decided to place him on a list of people that is to be detained and extensively searched every time they enter the country despite not even being ACCUSED of ever illegally transporting anything out of or into the country.

That seems like the same thing as having the police stop his car every time they see it and give him a sobriety test. Either charge him with a crime, or leave him alone. A country that harasses citizens that it cannot legally jail is not the land of freedom.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

he was stopped at customs. Last I knew, the transport of classified documents to export them outside of the country (even in digital form) would be considered illegal, and as such, a member of Wikileaks should expect such checks at every entry and exit of the US.

Wikileaks is known to have possession of documents of this type, and it is a very good conclusion that members of the organization are likely to have similar documents on their person, on their laptops, or in their luggage. How hard is that to understand?

If he doesn’t like it, he can move to sweden or wherever full time and stop trying to get into the US.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Yeah im sure they would use sneaker net for this clandestine endeavor. With all the secure comm tech in use everyday these folks are not stupid enough to take hours to move the documents. It would be through secure channels and transmitted in seconds.

This country is out of control and watching it degenerate into the likes of stupid high school argurments and he said shoot em argumets is both funny as Fuck and terrifying. Its plain to see the people in office have never not gotten their ways.
To quote another techdirt poster…”the sooner were hit by a extinction event metor the better”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“As long as Mr Applebaum continues to be part of a group committed to distribute stolen US confidential documents, he will find himself on the receiving end every time he deals with authorities.”

Uh, if you are referring to Wikileaks, newsflash: No document was stolen. They are still available. In fact, now you have even more copies (free backups!).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I get so bored of this stupid argument.

Documents obtained illegally, secret documents obtained by someone illegally making copies of them. Contraband.

if that is your entire argument, you already lost the discussion. You know Applebaum is part of an organization that is part of potential act of treason, and that it is very likely that any member of the group may be carrying additional documents or copies of documents with them that would be illegal. Wikileaks is under investigation, and everyone member of that organization that presents itself to enter the US should expect to get themselves and all of their luggage and carry on belongings checked very, very closely.

He should considering himself lucky that he didn’t get the rubber glove treatment.

You know it, you are just being a moron and playing word semantic games. That is a losing position.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I get so bored of this stupid argument.

Umm..ok. Why are you here commenting on this article then?

You know Applebaum is part of an organization that is part of potential act of treason…

Well actually, I don’t know that at all. If you are talking about Manning, who presumably took the info in the first place (not sure, no trial yet) well then maybe.

Wikileaks is under investigation, and everyone member of that organization that presents itself to enter the US should expect to get themselves and all of their luggage and carry on belongings checked very, very closely.

He should considering himself lucky that he didn’t get the rubber glove treatment.

I don’t dispute either of the statements. But realizing that they are true doesn’t change my opinion that they morally wrong.

Marcel de Jong (profile) says:

Re: Re:

As long as you continue to anonymously misrepresent Wikileaks’ actions, despite the many corrections people have given you, you don’t have to expect any kind of respect from the people here.

Where does it say he tweeted about his trip while in customs?
The fact that the customs officers pointed his tweet out, proved that the detainment wasn’t random.

Anonymous Coward says:

Applebaum is also a member of other groups, including CDC. I have a feeling that some of those involved will wish they hadn’t messed with some of the more technically competent American citizens; we’re talking about people responsible for discovering major PKI weaknesses, among other things. I’d doubt they’ll see as much friendly cooperation from them…

Anonymous Coward says:

The U.S. really has turned into a tyrant nation. In terms of airport searches and whatnot we are probably by far the worst. Everyone who comes into the country always complains of the difficulty it takes to enter. I myself have been searched (though I cooperated and it was quick and uneventful) for no apparent reason and others I know have also complained about being searched and having airport security take their time delaying their entrance. Everyone says that going to any other country is not a problem, but entering the U.S. is a problem. I even know someone who had his laptop searched upon entering. After a long time of searching his stuff and his laptop, they found nothing and let him enter. He says that going anywhere else (even Israel) isn’t such a problem. and they waste all this money and everyone’s time to do this and it doesn’t improve security much.

BTW, what ever happened to that wikileaks Bank of America leak? Has Bank of America plugged that leak with some dollar bills? Did they pay Wikileaks off not to leak it?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Israel and the US and Airport Security

The safest airline in the world is generally accepted to be Israel’s El-Al Airlines, and their security procedures, while not completely uncontroversial in themselves, have little in common with their American counterparts. Officials in other countries have criticized and ridiculed American efforts at airport security.

Seems to me like American airport security is all about show and politics – and cost-cutting – and not about real security (not to mention the trampling of rights of all forms).

Who Me? says:

Re: Re: Israel and the US and Airport Security

Yep. It might be a good idea to startup an airlines called Paranoid Airlines (“Fly Paranoid”) – based on the procedures of an Oakland, California bar I heard about where every customer is frisked upon entering and, if no weapon is found during the pat-down, a weapon is issued to the customer – for the duration of the visit to the premises. All passengers, when “Flying Paranoid” would be issued a taser, with instructions to watch each other. (Yes, I know this is off topic in re: Yankee returns to “homeland”… but close enough to make a point (about absurdity and abuse of power).

Steve R. (profile) says:

“He was careful to travel with no computers or gadgets whatsoever, other than some USB keys with encrypted versions of the Bill of Rights. Well did Customs figure out what he was carrying?

Really you don’t need computers or even a USB device to transport data that could be highly sensitive. There are many ways to “hide” data on your person, assuming that you have to go this route. Encrypted emails would be a more efficient route since it would bypass Customs ability to intercept.

bosconet (profile) says:

Next time he should bring a computer

Not one he actually uses mind you but a through away one. get a cheap surplus one for $100 or so, install and OS on an encrypted partition and then fill up the partition with another encrypted file with the output of /dev/random. Let them confiscate it and enjoy themselves. As a added bonus they might think that the encrypted /dev/random file is some new encryption they can’t break…

MD2000 says:

Customs is disappointed

A foreigner they can simply deny entry to for any reason – hey look suspicious, they disagree with the government of the land of the free, or the customs guy is just having an off day. Several suggestions above invlolve mouthing off to the customs guy or asserting your “rights”. As a foreigner asking to enter the country, you have less than zero rights. Smile and say “yessir”.

Unfortunately, an actual citizen of the USA, they eventually have to either charge him or allow him back in.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Customs is disappointed

> FORTUNATELY, an actual citizen of the USA, they eventually have to either charge him or allow him back in.

> There Fixed that for ya ๐Ÿ˜‰

FOrtunate for him; but, unfortunate for the customs officials, they did not have any valid reason to hold him longer, deny him entry, and otherwise throw their weight around.

Anonymous Coward says:

Things nobody has mentioned yet:

Firstly, this atrocity against Applebaum took place outside of American jurisdiction – that is, assuming he was not let into the country prior to being detained, then he has no constitutional rights as he is not on American soil.

Secondly, there is no right to a lawyer except when being interrogated by the police (or authorities). Thus, if he is having a “nice” discussion around the water cooler, there is no right to an attorney.

Lastly, he was just back from a “vacation to Iceland.” Has no one noticed that one of the three Wikileaks volunteers in the news of late (along with Applebaum) is an Icelandic citizen? No one mentioned this, that’s for sure. I venture to say it did not go unnoticed by the American “authorities.”

teka (profile) says:

Re: Things nobody has mentioned yet:

wow.

You are truly terrifying.

Actions taken inside the geographic area of the United States, performed by agents of the United States government inside a building built on the soil of the United States, against a citizen of the United States who was lawfully traveling home to the United States from a country which we are not at war with or having any standing terror alert against..

These actions can be declared to be “outside of American jurisdiction” by a simple wrinkle of law?

Fun.

And being held, against your will, for an indeterminate period, with no right to leave is not being “arrested” because this same United Stated Government organization, which has proclaimed that it does not operate under US jurisdiction, also claims that a Citizen has no rights while being so detained.

You can say all that and still say that it is the victim who was being foolish? that he should expect such treatment for being thought to be connected to a group who has not been charged with any crime?

scary.
And thus liberty dies, with the applause of the confined.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Things nobody has mentioned yet:

“These actions can be declared to be “outside of American jurisdiction” by a simple wrinkle of law?”

According to the Supreme Court, the answer is YES.

In fact, thanks to a neocon-packed Supreme Court, the bill of rights doesn’t even apply within 100 miles of the border. That’s really terrifying.

Anonymous Coward says:

No big deal?

“In the end, after about half an hour’s detention and search, they did let him go. Some might consider that to not be that big of a deal, but it clearly has something of a chilling effect.”

You know, if I were to just grab someone off the streets and detain and search them, even for half an hour, I’d probably be committing a FELONY punishable by some serious prison time.

No big deal? Hardly!

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop ยป

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...