Thanks go to John Seiler at Cal Watchdog for writing about this interesting twist on the Patriot Act gone awry.
It seems that two young Irish folks, on their way to a vacation in Hollywood, California, were barred from entering the United States after a joke tweet that they were going to “destroy America” and “dig up Marylin Monroe”.
Leigh Van Bryan, an Irish national, was handcuffed along with his companion, Emily, and kept under armed guard in a cell with those accused of, shall we say, more heinous crimes, the nature of which, you would want to keep them out. The exact tweet, according to the Daily Mail, was, “Free this week, for quick gossip/prep before I go and destroy America?”
They were allowed to make their way through passport control at LAX before they were detained by armed agents. According to the Daily Mail,
Despite telling officials the term ‘destroy’ was British slang for ‘party’, they were held on suspicion of planning to ‘commit crimes’ and had their passports confiscated.
While being questioned on this tweet, he was also asked about another tweet that essentially said they were going to “Hollywood Bloulevard and digging Marilyn Monroe up!” This tweet was a direct reference to The Family Guy, an American produced sitcom cartoon.
Altogether, Leigh and his friend, Emily, spent 5 hours in custody while Homeland Security Agents questioned them and, apparently, looked for the shovel they were going to use to desecrate Ms. Monroe’s grave with. They then spent another 12 hours in a holding cell waiting for a return flight to Europe. Never mind the fact that our Homeland Security Agents should have better things to do than prevent grave robbing and harrassing young kids on vacation, the article really points to a more ominous issue, as Seiler pointed out.
We are supposed to be relatively free in our private lives to conduct our business and our personal affairs, free from general restraint of the government. This should also mean that we should not be subjected to general spying by our government or intrusion on our personal affairs. While it can be argued that Twitter and Facebook are somewhat public, it does not mean the Feds should be in everyone’s business checking each tweet or posting. Quite honestly, tactics like these, where Homeland Security is surveilling the Twitter universe looking for any threat however small, has some serious 4th Amendment issues involved.
But, this is how it has gone, ever since that fateful day in New York. It wasn’t long before the Government used the fear instilled in every American to institute a “Homeland Security” department through the Patriot Act. I still get chills up my spine when I hear these words because it reminds me of a certain regime during World War II and their justifying everything in the name of the “Fatherland”. And, over the years, even though the threat has been dealt with, the Government continues to spy on its people and do so with impunity justifying it in the name of, well, homeland security. Obama had the opportunity to eliminate or largely change the Patriot Act. Most people assumed he would. Instead, he showed just how paranoid the entire Federal Government has become toward its own people when he renewed the Act. He has even gone further to strengthen the Act (Oh, and lets not forget the REAL ID Act) and eliminate 4th Amendment rights through recent executive orders that allow detention without justification. Yes, that’s right. You can now be detained and held in secret without due process if they suspect you are an enemy of the state. Forget habeus corpus, forget due process, forget any semblance of your rights.
I wonder what George Washington would think?
So, there you go. We berate Syria, Egypt and other countries because they stifle freedom by turning off Twitter and censoring Facebook in the name of their national security We cry foul when China decides to censor Google searches in the name of national security. At the same time, our own Government, one which is supposed to be the servant of the people, not its enslaver, is doing the same thing to us. And, it is because we stood by and did nothing as a couple of young kids from England, on holiday, were misunderstood by Big Brother and sent home branded enemies of the state.
Like John Seiler said, welcome to 1984 — in 2012.