Homeland Security Denies Entrance To UK Tourist Because Of Twitter Joke

from the so-sorry,-too-bad dept

I am actually writing this post sitting in a French airport, getting ready to board my flight back to the US… but I think I’ll hang onto it and post once I’m back in town. That’s because it’s about some UK tourists who were taking a little vacation to the US… until Homeland Security refused them entrance, because one of them had joked on Twitter about digging up the grave of Marilyn Monroe and “destroying” America (by which he meant partying). Apparently, DHS has figured out how to monitor Twitter… but hasn’t figured out what a sense of humor is. (And yes, I made it home and through customs without any trouble).

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Comments on “Homeland Security Denies Entrance To UK Tourist Because Of Twitter Joke”

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118 Comments
Violated (profile) says:

Its a bomb!

I am only left wondering if they will let him in on the next visit if he is good between now and then?

He at least got off lightly compared to one UK teenager who sent email of vile abuse to both Congress and the Whitehouse saying some very nasty things about the United States.

What was their reply you may wonder? They had the UK Government send a Police Officer around his house to inform him he had just got a lifetime ban from ever entering the United States.

He claims he could not remember what he wrote.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: The really scary part

In a word… Yes.

It might just be part of their program run by General Dynamics looking for certain words and phrases, mostly focused on finding people talking poorly about them.

http://techlaw.justia.com/2012/01/13/dhs-contracted-with-general-dynamics-1-16m-to-monitor-fb-twitter-blogs-news-comments/

EPIC Sues DHS Over Covert Surveillance of Facebook and Twitter : EPIC has filed a Freedom of information Act lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security to force disclosure of the details of the agency’s social network monitoring program. In news reports and a Federal Register notice, the DHS has stated that it will routinely monitor the public postings of users on Twitter and Facebook. The agency plans to create fictitious user accounts and scan posts of users for key terms. User data will be stored for five years and shared with other government agencies.The legal authority for the DHS program remains unclear. EPIC filed the lawsuit after the DHS failed to reply to an April 2011 FOIA request. For more information, see EPIC: Social Networking Privacy. (Dec. 20, 2011)

https://epic.org/privacy/socialnet/

But secretly spying on social networks is to keep us safer, or at least try to head off the next person complaining about their 7 yr old being felt up by a TSA agent.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re: The really scary part

There is absolutely no way for a generic key word scan i.e. watching out for people saying “Destroy America” will catch a single terrorist, not in ten million years. Anyone planning to commit terrorist acts will not broadcast it on Twitter. If they, in fact do, then they’re so retarded, that all this surveillance is unnecessary (because, who would want to waste all these resources trying to catch an idiot?)

No, this type of key word scanning has got be illegal on so many levels. I can sort of see how they can justify not allowing tourists in, they’re not citizens, therefore they don’t get the full protections an actual citizen should get, but something like this will inevitably be extended to citizens. Then what? You’ll have US CITIZENS barred from the country for saying the wrong thing?

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: The really scary part

They are hoping the keyword searches will help them catch suspects that are on their level?

America is a battleground now… we needed these new rules to keep us safe from independent thought and people who might point out the violation of rights to the sheeple who thought it would make them safer.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: The really scary part

This isn’t about terrorism. This is about the growing political dissent in this country. The goal is to try to identify the next Benjamin Franklin or Thomas Jefferson or George Washington before they they can lead to growing revolution. Their hope is to succeed in their efforts the way the British (as one of many examples) failed in the mid 1700’s of suppressing dissent.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: The really scary part

It has nothing to do with fighting terrorism but everything to do with fighting free speech.
The objective is simply to get every person on the planet to think “Will I get in trouble with the US authorities for writing or recording this?”, whenever they post a comment on a social media site, blog, whatever.
Global censorship ladies and gentlemen.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: The really scary part

> Then what? You’ll have US CITIZENS barred
> from the country for saying the wrong thing?

As of now, the law mandates that a US citizen cannot be barred from entering his/her own country.

They can make your trip through customs a nightmare, and if you’re bringing anything illegal, of course you can be arrested for it, but they cannot legally deny a US citizen entry into the US.

I’m sure that will promptly be changed with the new NDAA, however. I mean, if they can raid your home, drag you off to a secret prison and hold you forever with no attorney and no trial, then I imagine it’s a small matter to strip out that bit of law that prohibits the government from barring you entry to your own country.

The good news is, all you have to do is fly to Mexico and smuggle yourself across the southern border and become an illegal alien. The way things are going here in California, the illegals are now being treated *better* under the law than US citizens, so it won’t be long before all you have to do is declare yourself to be an illegal and the government will have to treat you with kid gloves.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: The really scary part

why has the US government and, in particular, the security/law enforcement agencies got so obsessed over, so paranoid about? everyone it seems is a terrorist, a dissenter, trying to destroy the nation! before long, no one will even contemplate visiting for fear of the most innocently meant thing being taken the wrong way and held against them. Jeez!

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: The really scary part

“before long, no one will even contemplate visiting for fear of the most innocently meant thing being taken the wrong way and held against them. Jeez!”

Too late friend, I’ve stated here on Techdirt many times that I am already afraid of entering the US, that my fear of entering the place and what would happen is the same kind of fear I might expect if I were to visit Saudi Arabia for example. I am one potential tourist who will most likely never set foot on US soil, not while we have these police state tactics going on.

John Doe says:

Re: Re: Re:2 The really scary part

I am one potential tourist who will most likely never set foot on US soil

That is a real shame too. The US is a beautiful country and the people are as well. In fact, the older I get the more I am convinced that it is governments that don’t get along and not the people. Most people will get along with most other people, but governments seem to have a problem playing nicely.

The US government is completely out of control and now doesn’t even trust their own citizens. I forget who said it , maybe Thomas Jefferson, but there is a quote that goes something like this: “That government which does not trust its people can itself no longer be trusted.” Unfortunately that is the where we are at in the US.

Michael Lockyear (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2

I have visited Saudi Arabia at least 20 times and never had a problem, however I would be concerned about visiting the US.

Saudi Arabia is quite open (righteous?) about its restrictions, unlike the US which appears to be a democracy but by many accounts seems to behave like a police-state. The other important difference is that Saudi Arabia does not have the influence on the rest of the world that the US does.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: The really scary part

Because the dial has been turned to 12 over terrorism, and they need to show they are doing something.

This lesson shows lots of stupidity, but with a slow mind imagine what would have happened had these 2 people ACTUALLY come and dug up Marilyn and Destroyed the country… someone would have found the tweet where he announced his bold plans and someone would have gotten their ass handed to them and that kick in the ass would have rolled down hill to someone on the line picked to take the fall. So the guy on the line, saw a chance to show he is on the ball…
I saw someone over on BoingBoing trying to compare these tweets to shouting fire in a theater, and we shouldn’t ever say these things… *blink*

I got into a bad habit once after I found out about the rooms monitoring phone traffic… I would randomly say Jihad and other phrases while on the phone talking with friends… now I know if I do it again I should expect black copters in about 15 minutes.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The really scary part

That’s not scary. You know what scary? The fact that people still need to ask that question.

It’s scary in the sense that you and the rest of the general population have not yet realised that you are being spied on by governments that want to pin you down so that you don’t bother them and by corporations that want to whore you and your data to oblivion.

I suggest you learn what GPG is, and I also suggest that you start using it.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

They searched his luggage for shovels. *blink*

Destroy in British(Irish!?) Slang means party according to an article.

The other quote about digging up Marylin Monroe… a quote from Family Guy.

He and his female companion were obviously here to ruin the country, and this is why we can not have nice things.
It has nothing to do with the idea of a police state being run by people hired from the tops of pizza boxes.

Reject says:

Re: Re:

Yes; if you want to visit to go to a meeting, and use the term ‘for work’ instead of ‘for business’ (not much of a difference in some languages), you can also get arrested and sent back. It happened to me, and I was lucky there was a flight back later that day (otherwise you get put in federal prison).

These things are way more common than a lot of people realize.

Reject says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Well, not that directly. What followed was an interrogation that lasted a number of hours (wait half an hour, answer the same questions, wait half an hour, answer the same questions, etc.).

Not knowing what they were looking for, I simply kept focusing on that I was there for my meeting for work, but after a 12 hour flight and 4 hours of questions one tends to loose focus a bit, so I’m not entirely sure at what point it really went wrong (I believe at one point they asked where I planned to use my laptop, to which my answer was of course, why would I bring it otherwise)

I’m from one of the VISA Waiver countries, i.e. you do not need a VISA (that is, until the waiver has been denied for any reason at some point), and my ESTA record was up-to-date and OK.

The drawback of the waiver program is that it can be denied for any reason whatsoever. And when it does get denied you are automatically an illegal alien.

JackSombra (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

“The drawback of the waiver program is that it can be denied for any reason whatsoever. And when it does get denied you are automatically an illegal alien.”

Actually that is not something unique to the visa waiver program, it can apply to any visa if the low paid, poorly educated and poor trained immigration official decides you have broken the terms of your visa. No arguing,no higher authority, no appeal, nothing but either jail or next plane to where you came from

JackSombra (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

At a guess he was there under the visa waiver program, they asked him “business or pleasure?” he said “for work” (as was there on a work business trip) so they booted him (even though that visa is program is valid for such things)

Even though for most people that would be the same thing and if in doubt one or two questions could resolve any confusion, that would require actual thought and effort on behalf border officials, something that is outside of their job description.

Their job is plain and simple, to find reasons to deny people entry, sometimes i suspect they have actual quotas of denied entry’s to reach

Crap like this is pretty common with US borders offcials, hence why multinationals/international businessmen now try to arrange to meet anywhere except the US if they can

Robert Doyle (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I read an article in the Globe & Mail (national newspaper in Canada) in regards to a similar issue. There was a Canadian businessman who bought a mill in the US and was trying to keep it open. Customs denied him entry because they argued the work could be done in the US… well, it could have, if anyone in the US had wanted those people to keep their jobs…

There really should be a minimum standard of education and experience to work in customs.

That said, I haven’t had any difficulties with the individuals I have dealt with when I have to travel for work so I can only assume there is more to the story in every case.

Josef Anvil (profile) says:

Thank You

Thank you TSA for protecting us from another dastardly terrorist plot. I can’t wait til this episode is added to the list of TSA accomplishments that have made us safer.

This is the US and we don’t want any water bottles, plastic utensils, or threatening Tweets in our country, and the terrorists need to learn that we mean business.

Keep up the good work.

Richard (profile) says:

How things have changed

I remember a story some years ago about a person visiting the US and = filling in the visa form, where it said “have you any intention to undermine the government of the US” (or words to that effect) he wrote:

“Sole purpose of visit”

He was allowed entry without a murmur. Seems like modern immigration officials have their sense of humour surgically removed as a condition of employment.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: How things have changed

.16 Gilbert Harding
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
1907-1960
Before he [Gilbert Harding] could go to New York he had to get a US visa
at the American consulate in Toronto. He was called upon to fill in a long
form with many questions, including “Is it your intention to overthrow the
Government of the United States by force?” By the time Harding got to that
one he was so irritated that he answered: “Sole purpose of visit.”
W. Reyburn Gilbert Harding (1978) ch. 2

The Oxford Dictionary of Modern Quotations
http://www.freeinfosociety.com/media/pdf/4587.pdf

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: How things have changed

Come to think of it, last I checked, overthrowing the government of the US by force isn’t actually illegal. Doesn’t it say in the Constitution that citizens have the duty to overthrow the government if it gets too corrupt/too oppressive? Surely you can argue from that that the Constitution says its legal (and expected) to do so.
If I’m wrong, feel free to correct me.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: How things have changed

Come to think of it, last I checked, overthrowing the government of the US by force isn’t actually illegal. Doesn’t it say in the Constitution that citizens have the duty to overthrow the government if it gets too corrupt/too oppressive?

No, that’s the declaration of independence, which has no legal force. Any unauthorized use of force (other than exceptions such as self defense which wouldn’t fly) is illegal, and I’m certain there’s no exception for trying to overthrow the government. Even trying to directly incite others to violent overthrow can be illegal, let alone actually doing it.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 How things have changed

I was defending myself against an imminent threat.I consider the US Government an imminent threat against my person and my property (I live in Texas, we allow deadly force in defense of property).

In defense of property against physical incursion, right? If someone inappropriately puts a lien on your land you’re not allowed to go find him and shoot him.

aguywhoneedstenbucks (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 How things have changed

Dude, take the tongue in cheek joke for what it was. The same reason I said we shoot people for sport. It was funny to me. If you disagree, that’s fine, and I’ll fight for your right to say so. But c’mon, really? I’m not going to go murdering senators and claiming that it’s cool under the law because I felt like they were a threat to my property. Hell, I’m sure someone would have found that loophole and started shooting officials a LONG time ago if it actually existed.

tl;dr: I’m not the kind of troll you think I am.

Anonymous Coward says:

Epic sense of humour failure is why...

…I will never again visit the US. Coupled with the fact, of course, that the US customs and immigration service at airports consists of the rudest, most abusive, self important, jumped-up, gun toting, petty bureaucrats in the world. I have never been more rudely treated by any other officials anywhere else in the world. And I’m british and white. Can’t imagine how they treat anyone with a slightly darker skin colour. (well, actually I can…but it’s not a pleasant thought)
The US is the biggest fundamentalist, fascist police state in the world. ‘Land of the free’, my arse.

ASTROBOI says:

Re: Epic sense of humour failure is why...

As an American I can’t help but agree with you. I’d never get on an airplane unless I was forced to fly to Europe or China or something, which is quite unlikely. Within the states, I’d drive myself even though it adds days to the trip. At least I’d be likely to get there without being arrested. But you must understand that it’s always been this way here; we just keep changing what is forbidden and we regularly change which bullys harass us. Once it was whisky that got a person in trouble, then later it was dirty books. At one time just being a mixed race couple was a ticket to jail, other times, being queer. Now that stuff is legit and making wisecracks is wrong. This has been in force since we got independance. We just rotate the injustice-of-the-week for a bit of variety. In all fairness, you guys do it too, just not quite so obviously.

John Doe says:

Re: Epic sense of humour failure is why...

I rode my motorcycle to Canada last year. It was pretty easy getting into Canada. They ask you a few questions and away you go. The trip back in was not so easy. I am on a bike tagged in the US, I have a US passport, I look and talk like a US citizen but yet that was suspicious. They pulled me and my friend into a garage bay and searched our bikes. They didn’t search us though except to ask for my pocket knife. I don’t believe they searched the bikes all that thoroughly either.

While we were in the office, there were lots of other typical Americans there as well. All in all, with my experiences crossing in and out of Canada, I don’t feel one bit safer. They aren’t really looking for terrorists. Probably just have quotas to fill on the number of people search. Frankly I don’t blame them for picking me. You might as well pick the people you don’t actually think will attack you as you want to go home at the end of the day.

To be fair, they were very nice about the whole thing and one agent chatted with us for a few minutes because he just got a motorcycle.

Anonymous Coward says:

Caution on Twitter urged as tourists barred from US

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-16810312

Abta, which represents travel companies in the UK, said holidaymakers need to learn to be ultra-cautious when it comes to talking about forthcoming trips, particularly after 9/11.

Abta

“Posting statements in a public forum which could be construed as threatening – in this case saying they are going to “destroy” somewhere – will not be viewed sympathetically by US authorities,” it told the BBC.

The Devil's Coachman (profile) says:

This country is starting to remind me of the lyrics from the song “Plastic People”, performed by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention in their 1967 album “Absolutely Free”.

Take a day, and walk around
Watch the Nazis run your town
Then go home, and check yourself
You think we’re singing ’bout someone else

This was in 1967, when the Viet Nam War was going on full swing, and any opposition to the government’s stance was viewed as treasonous by the majority of the boobs that still comprise the majority of the populace. Not much has changed in the interim.

Viatcheslav I Sobol (profile) says:

And I thought "only" British and Israelis are bereft of humour

Try to post some similarly witty comment no matter how sarcastic and funny it is indicating that you would cause harm to the citizens or interests of some advanced country and see how receptive their governments would be upon your attempted entrance into their society. These types of data mining algorithms that the border agencies utilize for visitors threat assessment do not take the existence of human capacity for jokes and humor into consideration yet and score even benign comments “accordingly”. Naturally, the border agents have the discretion to overwrite the automated decision suggestibility in terms of an individual’s suitability for temporary admittance. However, why use the ability to think when it is so much easier to ban yet another harmless British tourist from spending his money in the United States whose entire life history suggests radical islamism and being drunk on religious sobriety?-:) The moral of the story: people! do not post dumb stuff prior to visiting the United States even if you come from the most friendly country on earth toward the US besides Canada, Australia and the NZ. Otherwise, you’re throwing away your airfare money.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: And I thought "only" British and Israelis are bereft of humour

The moral of the story: people! do not post dumb stuff prior to visiting the United States even if you come from the most friendly country on earth toward the US besides Canada, Australia and the NZ.

And good luck figuring out ahead of time what qualifies as “dumb stuff” this week.

Andrew Stergiou (user link) says:

DISMANTLE DHS AND THE POLICE STATE

Known for my ability to write at length I will make it short the time has come for America to consider dismantling the number one threat to American security for until then no one even Americans can rest easy, namely the American Police State the one that allows Rep. Peter King (R-NY) to sweep his past Irish Republican Army associations under the carpet while he currently sits on the house committee for homeland security.

This police state is what in nature as part of an unbridled military what destroyed the Roman Empire so everyone can look forward to something eventually occurring regardless of what they liked in an industrial society in decay.

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