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DHS Sends Tourists Home Over Twitter Jokes 709

itwbennett writes "In a classic case of 'we say destroy, you say party hard,' the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security detained a pair of British twenty-somethings for 12 hours and then sent them packing back to the land of the cheeky retort. At issue is a Tweet sent by Leigh Van Bryan about plans to 'destroy America,' starting with LA, which, really, isn't that bad an idea."
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DHS Sends Tourists Home Over Twitter Jokes

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  • Zeig Heil (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MitchDev ( 2526834 ) on Monday January 30, 2012 @09:00PM (#38872103)
    herr DHS. DHS and the Patriot Act, destroying a once great nation one bit at a time.
    • Re:Zeig Heil (Score:5, Insightful)

      by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Monday January 30, 2012 @09:18PM (#38872315)
      We have been going down this road for a long time now, long before the patriot act. Remember CALEA, the act that required phone companies to give the police easy wiretapping access? How about the War on Drugs? The United States has been taking baby steps toward tyranny for decades.
      • Re:Zeig Heil (Score:5, Insightful)

        by siddesu ( 698447 ) on Monday January 30, 2012 @09:34PM (#38872515)

        You are obviously forgetting McCarthy, who was doing his best to protect America from subversive elements long before CALEA and the WoD, the incarceration of American Japanese, and who knows what else before these.

        All people seem to just be born as scared-to-death xenophobes, and most just don't learn any better as they age.

        • Re:Zeig Heil (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Sponge Bath ( 413667 ) on Monday January 30, 2012 @10:58PM (#38873201)

          All people seem to just be born as scared-to-death xenophobes, and most just don't learn any better as they age.

          Native Americans probably would be better off if they had been *more* xenophobic. Beware Europeans bearing blankets.

        • Re:Zeig Heil (Score:5, Informative)

          by magarity ( 164372 ) on Monday January 30, 2012 @11:48PM (#38873549)

          You are obviously forgetting McCarthy, who was doing his best to protect America from subversive elements.

          McCarthy was obsessed about Soviet spies in the State Department and the Venona files pretty much showed he was right. Like most people you've probably confused Senator McCarthy, who was mainly just guilty of being a jerk, with the truly noxious House Un-American Activities Committee.

          • Re:Zeig Heil (Score:5, Insightful)

            by korean.ian ( 1264578 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @01:53AM (#38874285)

            There is much controversy over the Venona Files, and if you were merely a member of the Communist Party of America, and not spying for the Soviets, with that level of hysteria, you would certainly lie your ass off too lest you get hauled off to the 50's equivalent of Guantanamo Bay.
            McCarthy might have been right some of the time, but he was certainly not innocent of creating a poisoned atmosphere.

          • by decora ( 1710862 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @03:27AM (#38874607) Journal

            the film J Edgar got it right. the Venona files would make incredibly poor evidence in a courtroom. many of them are partial and/or missing huge bits. if you just go and read them, and read the FBI papers on the surveillance done of some of the suspected agents, a large amount of it is a waste of our police time. "sep 1943. ms x went to get groceries. she went to visit mr y. she came home. dec 1943. ms x went to a book store. jan 1944. ms x had a baby. surveillance stopped."

            of course, one of the major problems was that Wild Bill Donovan, the head of the OSS (prototype of the CIA) believed that the soviets were great allies, and wanted to invite the NKVD to come collaborate with the FBI. of course the congress would never go after the CIA - that would be unpatriotic or something. but they would go after some third string hollywood writer who had attended a meeting 10 years ago during the great depression, when people were dying in the street from malnutrition in Los Angeles county.

            there were actual Soviet agents in the government and many were caught. they weren't caught because of mccarthy, they were caught because of ordinary police men doing their job, which is to gather evidence and present it to a court, not play hero in front of the media.

            the other problem is the people like William Shirer, a journalist and historian of the Nazis, and Carl Foreman, the man who wrote High Noon, were kicked out of the US for basically no reason. they had nothing to do with actual soviet infiltration.

    • Re:Zeig Heil (Score:5, Insightful)

      by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Monday January 30, 2012 @11:16PM (#38873347) Journal

      DHS and the Patriot Act, destroying a once great nation one bit at a time.

      Yeah, but they're really small little bits. So small that if you squint, you don't see them.

      Today, I saw kids smoking weed about a block from a high school, watched a downloaded film, did tai chi in the park, read a pretty radical book while sitting on a big cement block in front of the Dirksen Federal Building (it was almost 50 outside here in Chicago today).

      I read articles about hundreds of people protesting in one town and a bunch getting arrested and hundreds protesting in another town and nobody got arrested, so there still seems to be a fair amount of localization of the phenomena.

      I drove back from a week in Memphis this past weekend, and I didn't really notice the gulags and FEMA prison camps. In fact, I saw a whole bunch of bumper stickers which were about as disrespectful to the president as it gets and the people driving didn't seem all that worried about getting arrested and tortured.

      I think it's absolutely appropriate to talk about certain laws as being fucked up, wrongheaded and a big mistake. In fact, so many people did that about a particularly bad law a few weeks ago (SOPA) that there were congressmen who decided it was better not to vote for it.

      Yes, there are forces trying to make things worse, and there are forces who are trying to make things better. The "worse" side is better funded, but the "better" side is more talented, more technologically skilled and has better-looking chicks.

      It doesn't help when you talk about "destroying a great nation" because sane people say, "What the fuck is he talking about?" Better to talk about, "This is a shitty fucking law, and if we all go down and get in some congresspeople's faces, there's a good chance we can scare them into not voting for it." A bunch of idiots and paid shills known as the "tea party" did that in 2009 and '10 and made all the politicians shit themselves. Imagine what a bunch of motivated, reasonably intelligent people with good communications and technical skill could do. When the Patriot Act passed, everybody was too scared and/or lazy to do anything about it. 9/11 was still a fresh memory and nobody knew what the fuck to do. Most important, nobody went to get all up in their congress-critter's face and made him shit his pants. There's actually a pretty good tradition of making politicians shit their pants in this country and it's a tradition that people have forgotten, thinking that if they tweet enough, and put enough comments on the Internet, that's just as good as having 100 people show up at a congressman's event and getting all up in his face.

      If you're an American citizen, or a resident of the US, stop whining and go make a politician shit himself. If you're from anywhere else, take a look at the sequoia in your own country's eye (UK and Europe, I'm looking at you) before you start pissing and moaning about the douglas fir in our eye and the "fall of the once-great America".

      Hell, I'm still trying to figure out when the golden era of the "once great America" actually happened. When I was born, you couldn't drink out of the same water fountain as me if you were sufficiently dark-skinned and there has been some kind of ugly shit or another every decade since. Everybody's responsible for their own golden fucking age, OK? If you want some, you have got to make it happen.

      • Re:Zeig Heil (Score:5, Insightful)

        by gaspar ilom ( 859751 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @12:48AM (#38873937)

        It IS that bad -- your comment seriously downplays what's been going on. Part of the problem is that not all Americans are affected to the same degree. (which is perhaps why you haven't noticed.) Look at the differential rates of incarceration, depending on what race you are. (holding constant particular crimes & crime rates, eg: white vs. black drug use rates are nearly identical for various drugs -- but the incarceration rate for blacks can be more than X10.) Or, just look at this guy, who just spent TWO YEARS in solitary confinement, after having had NO TRIAL. []

        Meanwhile, if you were the decision-maker at a bank that issued "liar's loans" en masse -- or led one of the credit agencies that fraudulently rated these bundled mortgages as "AAA" -- I guarantee that you got off scott-free! No one has gone to jail, or even been arrested for these crimes. (described & documented by many people, e.g.: William Black, here. []) ...even though the ENTIRE ECONOMY NEARLY COLLAPSED -- putting the both the Constitution and American lives in peril.

        That's just a few small examples of how law & order have broken down in this country.

        • Re:Zeig Heil (Score:5, Interesting)

          by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @01:16AM (#38874089) Journal

          Look at the differential rates of incarceration, depending on what race you are.

          That predates the Internet age by more than a century.

          Or, just look at this guy, who just spent TWO YEARS in solitary confinement, after having had NO TRIAL.

          Again, nothing that hasn't been happening for almost as long as the US has been around.

          My point was that this notion that, "OMG! Everything is turning to shit overnight!" is wrong and a distraction. The panic in that notion actually does more to prevent people from improving things than it does to induce people to improve them. The US has not turned into some slave-state in the past decade, it was born as a slave state. Which by the way, does not make me pessimistic about the future. You can only work with what you've got.

          That's just a few small examples of how law & order have broken down in this country.

          See, that's the problem. You believe we have crossed some threshold and things have "broken down" and I see that things have been broken from the start. If you start looking around for something that happened recently to make everything break down, you're going to miss the fundamental mistakes that we've been making all along as a society (and maybe as individuals).

          You're panicking. Don't panic. It doesn't help to panic. Think about what you can do to make things better. This is not some crisis situation that has just arisen, it's part of an age-old battle. Panic will most likely get you to do nothing.

          The most effective way to stop things going in a direction you don't like is to get in the way. It's always been like this. People with power don't let go without a good reason, and it's up to people who want things to go differently to give them a good reason. There are people who have lost all fellow-feeling and who have decided to get what they can while the getting's good. Again, this is not new. We have to get in their way. Make them think that maybe it's less trouble to do the right thing. And even if you think you don't have any resources and you have no power, you can always do something to get in the way. But you can't be a pussy about it, running around in a circle and screaming "Oh shit oh shit oh shit nazis are coming" and clutching your pearls and saying "what ever shall we do?!?"

          In the absence of a plan, at least get pissed off. It's not a solution, but it might be enough to get you off your ass. Because one thing we know for absolutely sure, if we all just stay on our asses, the chances of things going the way we want approaches zero.

          Start by cultivating some fellow-feeling. Realize the people around you are scared too. If you're part of a community, even if it's just being a good neighbor, you're less vulnerable. If you worry about getting carted off to the gulag by the Belgian military, first make sure there are people around you who would notice if you disappeared. It's a start.

    • Re:Zeig Heil (Score:5, Insightful)

      by GauteL ( 29207 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @03:29AM (#38874619)

      Look I'm not saying this as a "flag burning" hater of America, but what is this Once Great Nation you're talking about? Was there ever a single time in American history where a great atrocity wasn't occurring?

      The country was created from genocide of native Americans, built upon the rock of slavery and may perhaps have started becoming "free" for a large part of the population in the 1960s. You had your own concentration camps for the Japanese and McCarthyism showed that even as a white middle class male, your freedoms were severely limited.

      Don't get me wrong, many great things have been achieved in America, but this "once great nation" stuff requires an awful lot of white washing of history. This is no different from most countries that have played a big role in history, but you are probably the best in the western world at ignoring large parts of your history so you can call yourselves great.

  • by Hartree ( 191324 ) on Monday January 30, 2012 @09:02PM (#38872123)

    "starting with LA, which, really, isn't that bad an idea"

    Certainly has worked for a lot of movies.

    But somehow, it doesn't quite rate up with Godzilla's thing for stomping Tokyo.

  • by Scott Swezey ( 678347 ) on Monday January 30, 2012 @09:04PM (#38872141) Homepage

    itwbennett, the author of this story, is now on the DHS no fly list.

  • This proves that (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sofar ( 317980 ) on Monday January 30, 2012 @09:05PM (#38872167) Homepage

    The terrorists have won.

  • Next up: (Score:5, Funny)

    by Bieeanda ( 961632 ) on Monday January 30, 2012 @09:06PM (#38872171)
    People who say 'Foo_City, I am in you!' will be charged with sexual harassment of a municipality.
  • Context is important (Score:5, Informative)

    by vmxeo ( 173325 ) on Monday January 30, 2012 @09:08PM (#38872187) Homepage Journal

    'They asked why we wanted to destroy America and we tried to explain it meant to get trashed and party.

    Source: []

    Context is very important. Especially when dealing with a different culture, even though they may share a common language

    Of course, as these young Brits discovered, this works both ways.

    • by DigitalSorceress ( 156609 ) on Monday January 30, 2012 @09:31PM (#38872473)

      Indeed - one of my best friends is a Brit - when her brother came over here, the first thing he said after giving her a big hug was "God, I could murder a fag right now".*.. he got some strange looks.

      *- A colloquialism for "I really need a cigarette" seeing as he'd been on a plane for 7 hours... needless to say, she had to quickly explain to him that this means "kill a gay person" in America.

  • Given rampant celebrity corpse theft [], you can't really be too cautious when investigating a tweet about a plot to steal Marilyn Monroe's remains. Kudos for defending our dead actors, DHS!

  • by PCM2 ( 4486 ) on Monday January 30, 2012 @09:14PM (#38872271) Homepage

    According to the New York Times report [] on this subject:

    Information gathered during this interview revealed that both individuals were inadmissible to the United States and were returned to their country of residence.

    That's the government talking. But they don't say that it was the Twitter posts themselves that rendered the two "inadmissible." They say it was "information gathered during this interview." Presumably the people interviewed repeated many times that it was all a joke, they didn't mean it, etc., so it seems unlikely that the "information gathered" was anything that was said. It seems totally possible, though, that there was something else that flagged them to be blocked at the border during the interview (for example, they had prior drug convictions).

    • by BasilBrush ( 643681 ) on Monday January 30, 2012 @09:49PM (#38872681)

      Bryan's charge sheet read: "During secondary examination Mr Bryan was placed under oath and his sworn statement was taken by CBP Officer Wahmann. Mr Bryan confirmed that he had posted on his Tweeter website account that he was coming to the United States to dig up the grave of Marilyn Monroe.

      "Also on his tweeter account Mr Bryan posted that he was coming to destroy America."

      No sign of any other reasons.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 30, 2012 @10:34PM (#38873037)

      It seems totally possible, though, that there was something else that flagged them to be blocked at the border...

      Right, and what bothers me about the incident is not that they were sent home, per se, but that we don't know why.

      The essence of the Rule of Law is that you don't just have someone in a position of power making gutdecisions (e.g. the King shouting "Off with his head!"). Instead, you have a system of laws and the people in power have power (only) to apply these laws and procedures. And, you havetransparency to be sure that the people in power are not abusing the power based on personal opinions and feelings.

      But in this case, we have only a deliberately vague and useless official statement - the kind of statement one would expect from a corrupt third world dictatorship. And it's not just this case either, I have, myself, had close friends denied entry to the USA totally inappropriately with no meaningful explanation of the reason.

      Now I know there are plenty of people here on Slashdot who blindly trust the federal government on these kinds of issues. But there is a serious problem here. Things were bad under Bush and I had hoped they would get better under Obama. But they have actually gotten much worse. In the last election, I voted for Obama, dontated money and even got the "hope and change" t-shirt but, needless to say, I won't be supporting Obamaor any other democrat in the coming election.

  • Alarming (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Monday January 30, 2012 @09:19PM (#38872327)
    The US is fast on track to be earth's most totalitarian society.
  • Weeks before trip (Score:5, Insightful)

    by michaelmalak ( 91262 ) <> on Monday January 30, 2012 @09:20PM (#38872347) Homepage

    A critical detail absent from the summary is that these tweets took place weeks before their trip -- they weren't done at the airport. So whereas previously one could not make a joke at the airport, now one may not make a joke anywhere, anytime.

    • by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Monday January 30, 2012 @09:40PM (#38872583) Journal

      An even more interesting thing is that they actually look up Twitter posts for random travelers entering U.S. I wonder if I'm gonna have troubles next time I cross the border, given that I've had a bunch of anti-TSA posts in my G+ stream.

    • by pnot ( 96038 ) on Monday January 30, 2012 @11:08PM (#38873283)

      A critical detail absent from the summary is that these tweets took place weeks before their trip -- they weren't done at the airport. So whereas previously one could not make a joke at the airport, now one may not make a joke anywhere, anytime.

      Thank you; this point seems to be getting missed in this discussion. It's even worse than that, though: as has been repeatedly pointed out, this wasn't a joke; it was simply a figure of speech. So, in fact, not only can you not make a joke, you can't say anything which may be construed by the DHS to have a meaning related to terrorism.

      In fact, few sensible Brits would knowingly make a Twitter joke about terrorism, after what happened to Paul Chambers [].

    • Re:Weeks before trip (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Oloryn ( 3236 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @04:06AM (#38874737)

      A critical detail absent from the summary is that these tweets took place weeks before their trip -- they weren't done at the airport.

      This itself I find interesting. This isn't just the TSA involved here, you have to have some of the U.S.'s intelligence apparatus involved, possibly including the NSA(for capture of communications). This essentially exposes the fact that U.S. intelligence has the capability of taking minor tweets (and no doubt other forms of internet communications), correlating them with the real-life identities of their authors, and matching them to people entering the U.S. These statements weren't made where TSA statements could hear them. That the TSA agents knew about them at all implies some sort of ECHELONish mechanism for collecting even minor tweets such as this and matching them to people entering the U.S.

      To some degree, this isn't surprising. Give a government organization the task of keeping terrorists out, and this is the type of capability you would expect them to develop. But why 'spend' this kind of capability on such a minor, harmless target? This implies to me a couple of things:

      1. Over reliance on technology vs use of actual human analysis or review. An actual human analyst might well have spotted the cultural references and noted that they were harmless. The implication seems to be that intelligence collected via technical means are presented directly to minor TSA agents who don't have the training or analysis skills to correctly understand them. This is likely done to speed up 'getting the information to where it needs to be used', but increases the risk of failure due to poor quality of information or interpretation..
      2. Is it possible to go from a tweet to the real-life identity of the sender in this kind of time-frame (hooking up a tweet to the identity of a person entering the country within a week or two) without the cooperation of Twitter? Note that there's no questioning if they got it right - the couple in question acknowledge they actually sent the tweets.

      Finally, does anyone else get the feel of something out of Person of Interest, except that the computer isn't actually capable of spotting malicious intent?

  • by swb ( 14022 ) on Monday January 30, 2012 @10:08PM (#38872823)

    Someone swore to me that their brother saw this happen in Sydney in the customs/immigration line.

    The story was: "I was with a group of people from my flight from Hong Kong to Sydney at the immigration/customs station. The guy in front of me was a British businessman. He was annoyed because of the late flight and the long customs line and was obviously in a hurry.

    He showed his passport to the customs officer, who looked it over, paging through all the visa stamps. He sensed the businessman was in a hurry and asked the businessman a lot of questions, superficial and obvious -- do you travel a lot, where have you been, why are you in Sydney, and finally, if he had a criminal record.

    The businessman was totally fed up. The late flight, the busy schedule, the long line at customs, and now finally this petty bureaucrat -- he'd had it.

    So he answered, "I didn't think that was a prerequisite anymore."

    The customs person looked straight at him, and stamped REFUSED ENTRY on his passport and told him he'd have to go back to Hong Kong."


    There's lots of reasons to not believe it's true -- I'd imagine that the customs process for Commonwealth citizens isn't that onerous, especially for British citizens visiting Australia, especially if they were traveling from another Commonwealth country, and I can't imagine that you could just arbitrarily deny someone entry (well, at least in civilized countries like Australia).

    But it's a fun story.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 30, 2012 @11:59PM (#38873621)

    Seems like the DHS have improved on the lower bound of Richelieu's requirement.

    "If you give me six lines written
    by the most honest man, I will find
    something in them to hang him.

                                                                    - Cardinal Richelieu

  • This is a message. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by forkfail ( 228161 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @01:31AM (#38874183)

    And that message is, "We are watching everything now. Everything."

It's fabulous! We haven't seen anything like it in the last half an hour! -- Macy's