Border Bullies

The Department of Homeland Security in Action
04 January 2009

A Thai friend with whom I have traveled in Europe and Asia took time off from her job to meet me in Florida over the holidays.  This was a good time for me, as it was between reporting stints in the war. My friend, Aew, had volunteered to work with me in Afghanistan or Iraq, but I declined because many people around me get shot or blown up.  So we were looking forward to spending some vacation time together.  She comes from a good family; and one that is wealthier than most American families.  She didn’t come here for a job.  Well-educated, she has a master's degree and works as a bank officer in Chiang Mai, Thailand.  Aew was excited about the prospect of visiting America for the first time, though she had traveled to many other countries and had the passport stamps to prove it.  She had no problem getting a U.S. visa, and she was paying her own way to fly.

Problems began when she entered the airport in Bangkok.  Aew had a one-way ticket to America, because we would travel back in the direction of the war before she would go home, but we did not know our exact itinerary, so she hadn't bought a round-trip ticket back to Thailand.  Before boarding the flight from Thailand to America, Northwest Airlines required Aew to buy a return ticket for 53,905 Thai bhat, or about $1,200 for a return ticket, else they would not let her board the flight.  Aew paid by her credit card and pushed on.  Understandably, it raises suspicions when a foreign national doesn't have a round-trip ticket in an age of massive illegal immigration -- even if that person is an educated professional with a home and career, and even though Aew has a ten-year visa to the United States.  Nevertheless, Aew paid approximately $1,200 for the return ticket, and so now had a return ticket. 

That is how it began.  She boarded the jet, eventually landed in Japan and then Minneapolis, before the final leg to Orlando.  While thousands of people have canceled trips to Orlando due to the failing economy, Aew was coming with cash to spend in Florida.  We would go to Disney, Kennedy Space Center and many other places; she'd be seeing the sights while I was meeting with military and other people in preparation for my upcoming return to Afghanistan for the long year ahead. 

I first met Aew in Indonesia during a break from the Iraq war.  I had gone to visit the site of the murder of my friend Beata Pawlak, who, along with about two hundred other people, was killed in a terrorist attack on the island of Bali.

After meeting in Indonesia, Aew and I stayed in touch.  We traveled at different times to Singapore, Great Britain, Thailand and Nepal.  Yet when Aew landed in Minneapolis, she was hustled away by an immigration officer.  After approximately 24 hours of exhausting travel, Aew was detained for about 90 minutes without cause, and as a result, she missed her connecting flight to Orlando.  She was brought into a small room where she saw a camera peering down.  The officer conducting the shakedown wore a name tag: "Knapp."  Five times she had traveled to China with zero problems, but Knapp grilled Aew with a long series of questions, rifling through her wallet, handling her credit cards and reading them carefully, questioning her piece by piece.  Her passport, thick with extra pages, showed stamps from countries around the world.  It contained the valid U.S. visa, and stamps and visas from countries she had traveled to, such as Great Britain, Japan, China, Nepal, Singapore, Indonesia, Myanmar, South Korea, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Brunei, New Zealand and Cambodia.  She had traveled to some of these countries on multiple occasions, always paying her own way.  She never had problems.  Not even in China.  We had toured Parliament together in London, on a private expedition led by Member of Parliament Adam Holloway.  Aew was very interested to see the Royal Family, and was beside herself when I met Lady Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, who at that time read this website.  The British, including military officers, had treated her very well and she left with positive memories of Great Britian.

But that was Great Britain.  The American shakedown was just starting.  Her sister, Puk, was sending me SMS messages from Thailand, worried that Aew seemed to have disappeared.  I had bought Puk's daughters, North and Nurse, who are 8 and 9, a "talking globe" so they could track the travels of their Aunt Aew.  The last time I saw North and Nurse, we had taken them to the Chiang Mai zoo, and also to an elephant camp where the elephants paint.  Puk's husband, Bey, is a high-ranking Thai police officer who, as part of his duties, helps organize security for the Thai Royal Family. 

While the U.S. Immigration officer named Knapp rifled through all her belongings, Aew sat quietly.  She was afraid of this man, who eventually pushed a keyboard to Aew and coerced her into giving up the password to her e-mail address.  Officer Knapp read through Aew's e-mails that were addressed to me, and mine to her.  Aew would tell me later that she sat quietly, but “Inside I was crying.”  She had been so excited to finally visit America.  America, the only country ever to coerce her at the border.  This is against everything I know about winning and losing the subtle wars.   This is against everything I love about the United States.  We are not supposed to behave like this.  Aew would tell me later that she thought she would be arrested if she did not give the password.

The Government of the United States was reading the private e-mails of a U.S. citizen (me).  The Department of “Homeland Security” was at work, intimidating visitors with legitimate visas.  They had at least 24 hours to check her out before she landed in the United States.  What kind of security is this?  The Department of Homeland Security was at this moment more like the Department of Intimidation.

Officer Knapp called my phone as I was driving to the Orlando airport.  I was going to be there two hours early to make sure I would be on time, so that she had a warm welcome to my country.  But instead, Knapp was busy detaining Aew in Minneapolis and was on my cell phone asking all types of personal questions that he had no business asking.  Sensing that Aew was in trouble, I answered his questions.  Mr. Knapp was a rude smart aleck.  The call is likely recorded and that recording would bear out my claims.  This officer of the United States government, a grown man, had coerced personal information from a Thai woman who weighs 90 pounds.  I asked Aew later why she gave him the e-mail password, and she answered simply, "I was afraid," and “I thought I would be arrested.”

What could I say to alleviate any of this?  Could I say, "This is the U.S., nothing to be afraid of."?  The world already sees us as senseless bullies.  Aew might have been detained indefinitely; even I was concerned that the Department of Homeland Security might detain Aew for no reason.  Essentially, she had no rights.  They had already coerced her e-mail password out of her head through intimidation.

This does not make me feel safe: Our Homeland Security was focusing on a 40-year-old Thai bank officer while there are real bad guys out there. Thailand and the United States have had good relations for 175 years, and Thailand is one of the few countries in the world that is proud to say they are friends of the United States.  There are no threats to Americans from Thai people -- who, among other relevant things, are mostly not Muslims.  The King of Thailand was born in Massachusetts and graduated from Harvard.  I have never seen the King with a gun; only a camera.  His 2009 New Year’s speech was also a call for peace.  The King and his family helped bring widespread education to Thailand, which created a special problem.  Today there are large numbers of highly educated, successful women looking for highly educated men.  I remember General (ret.) McCaffrey, our former drug Czar, telling me a couple of years ago that the King of Thailand was incredibly important in wiping out opium poppies in Thailand.  The King of Thailand is highly respected by the government of the United States.  He is a very good man. 

During World War II, when the Japanese encouraged the Thai people to fight us, the Thai government actually declared war on the United States and Great Britain.  But the Thai Ambassador in Washington refused to deliver the declaration of war.  The upshot was that the United States refused to declare war on Thailand, and the Thai people formed a resistance against the Japanese.

Thai people refused to fight Americans.  Instead, they attacked the Japanese.  Has our government had problems recently with 90-pound, 40-year-old Thai women?  Do they blow things up?  Aew doesn’t even know how to light a match.  She doesn’t smoke or drink, and is more upright than your average southern Baptist.  She can’t even curse and gets upset if she hears me say a bad word about someone.  “Michael!” she says, “Don’t say that!” 

When I discovered that she had missed her flight, after about 24 hours of travel thus far, I called immigration at Minneapolis and asked to speak with Officer Knapp.  Knapp got on the phone, but this time it was me questioning him.  Knapp told me it was legal to read e-mails.  I asked for his first name, but he was afraid to give his first name, which was rather strange for someone working within the confines of an airport where everyone has been searched for weapons.  Where I work, in a war zone, soldiers give their first and last names and face Taliban and al Qaeda heads up, man to man.  I write about al Qaeda, Taliban and other terrorist groups who kill thousands of people.  My name is Michael Yon.  My first name is Michael.  Mr. Knapp hides behind a badge bullying a woman whose only activities are Yoga, reading, travel, and telling me what is healthy and unhealthy to eat.  Knapp is a face of Homeland Security.  How many other officers at Homeland Security bully 90-pound women, but are afraid to give their own names? 

Knowing that Homeland Security officers are creating animosity and anxiety at our borders does not make me feel safer.  How many truly bad guys slip by while U.S. officers stand in small rooms and pick on little women?

I have just returned from Afghanistan and Iraq on a trip with U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and I can assure you that we can do better.  We do not have to violate human rights and insult our closest allies to maintain our security. 

Meanwhile, Aew had missed two flights; standby seats were full on the second flight, and I was considering flying from Florida to Minneapolis to get her myself.  I did not want Aew to have to sleep in the airport overnight.

I had intended to show Aew a bit of my country.  But it's taking a little while for her to get over her discomfort at being in America.  She was treated better in China.  So was I.


# Stew Greathouse 2009-01-05 03:51
The same thing happened to my wife (then my fiancee) when she came to visit me prior to my deployment in 2003. In her case, however, she 'agreed to withdraw her request to enter' and had to buy a ticket back to Singapore. It caused no end of trouble after we got married and I wanted to bring her back to the US. It was nearly a year from our wedding in Singapore until she was able to bring join me here. I estimate that single incident cost me $5k in lawyer fees alone while I was filling out the paperwork to acquire her visa.
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# Tim Grubbs 2009-01-05 03:58
Mike, I read your postings all the time and only wish I was able to be as involved as you are in the betterment of our country and it's rich history. All the while I read this posting, I could only shake my head and acknowledge the experience of poor Aew, knowing full well the guttural and misguided intentions of people misplaced into positions of power. I pray she does and did have a better experience of America than Knapp... I pray we all can overlook the Knapps in our society.
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# bondo 2009-01-05 04:33
Its really amazing that people can just walk over the border, yet at the airport your Homeland "Secruity" acty like the stazi. A pox on this coward called Knapp.
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# kimchilover 2009-01-05 04:50
What can we do?
I understand that months ago HS opened their website to comments and were inundated with complaints.
And yet these sorts of things continue to happen.
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# Matt Delventhal 2009-01-05 05:15
Thanks for sharing, that is discouraging. Let's hope we can sort these things out over the next few years. Our nation is young yet.
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# Brooks Imperial 2009-01-05 05:19
One can only imagine how much worse the scrutiny would have been had your friend been a 90 year-old grandmother or some similar threat to our national security. Much of the rest of the world understands America a hell of a lot better than many Americans do. I'm glad you publicized this bad actor and hopefully he will be removed from his position of authority.
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# Chris Garrity 2009-01-05 06:01
I can almost bet what you wanted to do to that guy. I would have to agree. However, considering I've only been to Germany for my outside travels of the US, that is really... pathetic to hear. What was the guys reason? Or anyone's reason to detain her?
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# HomefrontSix 2009-01-05 06:29
I am so sorry that your friend was treated in such an awful manner. I hope that she eventually made it to Florida and that the rest of her trip was thoroughly enjoyable. I also hope that you (and she) were able to track down this Agent Knapp and file a complaint that carried with it severe repercussions.

Thank you for all that you do, Michael.
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# Mrs N 2009-01-05 06:30
It is a shame this one person in a position of power could give your friend this horrible impression of our country. Please explain to your friend that not all Americans are like this maggot Mr Knapp. As she travels in our country I am sure she will find out what we all know is true- Americans are a warm and welcoming people-
God Bless You and your friend
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# Bill Smith 2009-01-05 06:32
Knowing you, Michael, this Lady is probably quite attractive, and well-dressed, the sort of Lady a guy like you describe would never be able to spend time with any other way. I think he was just getting his jollies going through her stuff, and reading the private emails you two exchanged.

Since the American Consulate or Embassy surely had ALREADY VETTED her for her TEN YEAR VISA, Mr. Knapp had better have a really good reason for what he did. Alas, you may be told that there are certain secret reasons why she was perceived as a potential threat dumb enough to carry incriminating information in her laptop, but smart enough to be a world travelled business woman. BTW, was he alone with her in that little room that whole time? Oh, it's OK, there's video, right?

This country is is ZERO danger from this type of traveler, but we ARE in danger of discouraging this type of traveler, and losing their business, and good opinion of us which, I assure you, will go around the world to similar influential business people she knows, and they know, and they know at the speed of email. We do not seem to try too hard to discourage uneducated, frequently disease carrying, frequently criminal illegal aliens.

I am sure there are superb attorneys who are regular readers of your site. Perhaps they can share their thoughts.

Please tell Aew that we are not all like that fellow, and that we appreciate her country's letting us have several vital military bases, and other installations on Thai soil.
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# Maggie45 2009-01-05 06:33
Another bully in a position of power. I can just imagine how many other people he's pulled this on, who don't have a friend named Michael Yon. I wince whenever I see the words "Homeland Security".
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# John Butcher 2009-01-05 06:42
Last April I drove from San Diego to Texas to visit my father. The Border Control stops me at a checkpoint in Arizona and the officer asks me where I was born, where I'm going, and where I'm coming from. I was born in Texas and, last I checked, law enforcement officers need probable cause of a crime to stop and interrogate you. It's a Fourth Amendment thing that some of us fifty-something s actually remember. They even had drug-sniffing dogs check each vehicle!

We were in the middle of the Sonoran Desert, so I dared not talk back - he could have gotten a search warrant faxed, stripped my car to a pile of bolts, and left me and my dog in a dangerous desert environment. It turns out that the Border Patrol and the local Arizona sheriff have a racket where they bust Californians crossing into Arizona with a few joints and then shake people down for thousands in fines and legal fees. I'm against drugs, but I do cherish that Fourth Amendment - and my right to travel wholly within the United States without police interrogation where no probable cause of a crime exists.
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# Bill Calvin 2009-01-05 06:54
Perhaps you friend should have been a Saudi male carrying a box cutter, the mindless government worker drone would have waved her straight through.
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# Howard E. Morseburg 2009-01-05 07:31
Sounds more like a guy in a power position who is "on the make" and this is his method of operating. It's not uncommon. Bet he's been using this technique for quite awhile, and ten to one he's married.
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# Sam Freedom 2009-01-05 07:53
Michael, I always know that when I open one of your articles, something either of great importance, or enriching value, is going to be within and, once again, you proved me right. ;-)

I'm very sad to hear what happened to your friend Aew. Please let her know that most of us do not treat people that way and to please try to enjoy her stay here. While what the agent did was unacceptable, some margin of both error and misbehavior is to be expected. If only we were perfect.

That being said, it doesn't let the agent off the hook.

Why not post us some detailed contact information where we might register our concern with the appropriate officials? Thanks so much for you diligence and commitment. I will write about this to my MySpace readership and point them here this week.

Thanks again,
Sam Freedom
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# Tracy White 2009-01-05 07:59
I'm truly sorry she had to learn how much we have fallen as a people.
TSA has been broken for a long time.
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# Alec Rawls 2009-01-05 08:30
I think we can be certain that when it comes to angry young Muslim men from terror producing states, no such interrogation would occur or be tolerated. If interrogating people who there is no reason to suspect is to demonstrate that we do not profile, the flip side of that coin is NOT interrogating who there IS reason to suspect.
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# pdwalker 2009-01-05 08:37
The Department of Homeland Security needs to be abolished.

You should be contacting your politicians by mail or fax and let them know.
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# ScottA 2009-01-05 08:43
Ma'am, if you are reading you have my heartfelt apology. That is not what my country is supposed to be about. My apologe to you Ma'am. I hope we as a people can make it up to you in some way.
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# Eric Mowrey 2009-01-05 08:46
Mike, I was very distressed to read your article on HS and mister (with a small m) Knapp. I am an expat living in Europe and have a few European friends who won't travel to the US again for reasons very similar to your unfortunate friend. However, it is my opinion that worms like Mr. Knapp are allowed to "work" for homeland security, in the manner they do, because the agency is run by career idiots who set policy, or even worse, don't set policy and let people like Mr. Knapp abuse their authority.

HS got off to a bad start when the first Bush appointment to head up the department insisted on the politically correct approach to vetting US air travelers, resulting in practices so inane that eventually Ann Coulter dedicated a column to ridicule the man and cut his department to shreds. He has since resigned, but it appears his legacy of stupidity and arrogance lives on in a department that employs nasty little garden dwarfs like Mr. Knapp.
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# Scott Klimczak 2009-01-05 11:11

Perhaps there is an environment in Minn/St.Paul that breeds this type of behavior.
There was very little to find about a "Mr. Knapp" in Minneapolis, but one Knapp is the Asst. Sec. to the Deputy Director, I think. Perhaps he was deflecting, using a high-profile name he knew within the agency to cover his own.

This thread is reprinted from the original, which now requires a password. I'm sure some out there have better resources to track this kind of incident, but here's a start.

There is no hope of 'everyday' individuals being able to correct this type of injustice, but en-mass, and through higher profile names and organizations, we might be able to slowly clean and heal the wounds like these that we've inflicted on our good reputation.

Should this ever get around to the Offensive Little Mr. Knapp...your actions make it much more difficult for me to hold my head high as an American when around those from the rest of the World Community.

Regret, Regards, and Best Wishes to you and Aew, Michael.

Scott Klimczak
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# Linda from Bama 2009-01-05 11:17
These low creeps on the totem pole get off on the power their badges give them and do things like they did to your friend but they sit on their fat butts and just let young men who fit the terrorist profile pass by and they let millions of illegals flow across our borders and into our country. And a hell of a lot of these illegals are criminals and I'd bet a few mean to do this country harm.

They pull people like your friend and people like the elderly gentleman who won the Congressional Medal of Honor aside and give them a hard time. I mean gimme a break! Some elderly guy from WWII with the highest military honor this country hands out and who got that medal and probably a whole hell of a lot more for doing something byond heroic and was probably wounded in the process is what? Gonna use his cane or walker or even.....GASP worse his Medal of Honor to take over the plane? Geez.

Seriously I think the applications for ANY personnel in airports have a section marked "Check this if you are a stupid a'hole". If ya check it then BINGO! you get the job. It's probably right next to where they check that they also have criminal records and aren't legal US citizens.

I have flown and seen them pull aside an elderly woman who looked 90 if she was a day. Sure all the people on 9/11 were all white, 90 year old females. (Rolling eyes) Michael betcha you've run into a bunch from that seniors group in Iraq and Afghanistan haven't ya? (wink)

I got pulled at the airport on Kauai, Hawaii while coming back because of the metal in my bra straps. I even offered to take the damn thing off and let the hooters free for all to see and go back through the detector braless.......b ut also no that wasn't gonna happen. I had to stand there for 20 mins with my hands held out while a trainee would say "Okay I'm going to have to touch under your breasts now." and every time she'd repeat that I'd say, "Honey you go ahead and touch whatever you want to so long as you make it impersonal and hurry it up cause I know you got a job to do so just do it and don't keep telling me you're gonna have to touch me cause I give you permission to do your job without telling me that again unless things get really kinky here in front of everyone." She still would tell me every single time she touched me somewhere which was a lot considering it was just metal in the bra straps which caused the whole problem & by the way the damn detectors in Atlanta didn't pick 'em up and I was wearing the same kind of bra so go figure.

I personally think people shouldn't be afraid to complain about things in airport. They should feel comfortable enough to complain and complain very loudly about any problems they encounter. It's a shame that people now just go through airports with their heads down and get through security without trying to attract any attention and God forbid they complain about incompetent employees...... .who knows when they'd turn up next if they had a fat a'hole like that Knapp guy working there.

Ack! This just makes me madder than a wet hen. Little southern expression that is just shy of a full blown redneck hissy fit........and not the menopausal kind.....those even that Knapp idiot would have sense enough to run from.

Linda aka Pocahontas
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# Gildas Dubois 2009-01-05 11:18
HS is a good reason not to go to the states from France...
They can access your hard drive, email, disks, private documents and dossiers at the border... From a business perspective, that is a NO NO. In my case, this material is copyrighted, not available to the public, very valuable on the black market and sometimes "secret d??fence" (meaning that even the French police cannot look into it without a court order and under the supervision of a civil law official of my choosing).

This stuff can be pored over by a low wage frontier low life? Without probable cause nor an independent witness? With no supervision? Are the Americans crazy? How can we do business like this?

I recently went to Russia with way less hassle.

Gildas Dubois
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# carol 2009-01-05 11:34
Happy New Year Michael!

Reading this made me heartsick, something I haven't felt while reading your work for some time.

The reason this Knapp character felt free to do this is he knows there will be no retribution. There is no way he would have acted so unprofessionall y if his department was well managed.

I have to balance my negative belief that nothing will happen to him with my clear knowledge that you are unique in your crusades and if ANYONE can achieve his objectives, it is you.

So what do you hope to achieve? A complete retraining of all customs people? Or just the blackest mark on this Knapp person's record, so that he never has customs duties again and never trains anyone due to unfitness of character.

I visited DC last week with my friend James. He looks (because he is!) like a middle aged English banker. While I was whizzing through the American side (welcome home, happy new year) his customs guy called out to him in the queue, "come on, come on, or I'll send you back".

Before we went, James was advised by an English chum not to say at American customs that he was travelling with his American girl-friend "because they'll send him right back". I would be interested in knowing why it's legal in America to refuse entry on this basis.

Please tell Aew they are horrible to everybody and fingers crossed this Knapp guy never works on the customs desk again.
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# Solo 2009-01-05 12:06
In Knapps defense, I don't know if he acted on his own initiative, or was following orders. That's as far as the defense part goes. I too wear a badge and deal with immigrants on a daily basis. Respect should be the first part of the SOP. Mr. Knapps actions were uncalled for, and unprofessional. I hope the rest of Aews trip is pleasurable and that Michael has the opportunity to show her the true America. Aew, my apologies, and my sincere welcome.
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# John Bailey 2009-01-05 12:39

I'm ashamed that your friend had to meet up with such a person. I know they exist. And let me say, they all have one stamp in common, they're unionized bureaucrats. "Mr. Knapp" is a type of person commonly called many names more colorful and less polite than bully; but for your friend's sake, we'll leave it at that.

I never thought of myself as a terror threat (late 40s at the time, overweight, honorably-disch arged US Veteran of the Cold War, tax-payer, etc.; but the TSA always managed to check my groin area manually. Maybe it was the disdain I felt for them acting like they were some sort of heroes instead of just another obstacle to overcome. There is something so unappealing about the process that I've just quit flying anywhere...

In Richmond, they were searching all "non-whites." They searched a man from India, then his wife--who, before being searched, handed her carry-on luggage to her husband. They never searched their child or his bag. There's efficiency for you! They did manage to take several old women behind their little screen.

In Las Vegas, during a particularly busy day, they closed down one line so they could get a break--and put the whole of that line in front of another, sparking numerous complaints that almost resulted in fist-fights on both sides of the security area. And the supervisor blamed American Airlines, saying they weren't paying for the extra lines to be open. I was flying United.

I wouldn't trust the TSA to change a bicycle tire. May Mr. Knapp and his leadership get what they deserve. This month.
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# Bill Cattley 2009-01-05 12:42

Your story about your friend at the airport confirms my own experiences traveling as a soldier in uniform. The TSA folks seem to take special delight in wanding down soldiers and finding any leathermans or other "tools" of the trade. The number of elderly in wheel chairs and walkers I've seen detained would fill an airliner. Giving these goons like Knapp authority with out moral responsibility causes these abuses and bullying. Let's hope that your spot light of this incident costs Mr. Knapp his job at least.

Thanks for your posts and stay safe in A-Stan,

Bill Cattley
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# Lyle 2009-01-05 12:51

Welcome to the real world. Rights get trampled all of the time, and I see it every day. Officers of the law actively seek out ways to circumvent the Constitution. We tolerate it and even encourage it--all the way until it's our ox that's gored, or our friend that's searched. Most people don't have a friend that buys ink by the barrel.

No surprise here.
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# Peter Borregard 2009-01-05 12:59
Not long after the inception of the TSA, an Israeli security expert stated: "We have a system for detecting terrorists. You have a system for annoying people."
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# Mare 2009-01-05 13:09
What an unbelievable story. Except for the sad fact that it's true. I hope your friend meets enough really nice Americans to make up for being harassed by this one jerk. I don't fly often and when I have I've not encountered any problems. You hear all the awful stories because they are not allowed to profile. Except when it comes to Thai women of course.

Nice to know our tax dollars are being spent paying jack booted thugs like this. I hope your friend enjoys the rest of her trip.
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# Doug TSA Screening Oficer 2009-01-05 13:11
As a TSA employee, most of you are confusing Customs and TSA. They are two different departments. It was a Customs employee who gave her a hard time, not the TSA. TSA only gives older, 50's and up men and women a hard time. Most likely the Customs Officer was waiting for an offer for sex to let her go. Lots of bad apples in these agencies.

TSA has policies that the Officers MUST follow on harrassing anyone but a Middle Eastern looking person. The TSA rank and file do not like the policies, but if you don't follow them you lose your job. So, you must meet your quota for patting down the wheelchair bound elderly and other important terrorists. Up until recently, TSA treated their own employees as the general public so we had to constantly go through screening each other ,so a TSA employee could not do a terrorist act. That finally has ended. So, the entire DHS is so screwed up it will take a decade or two to fix it. It really is a mess.
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# Jonathan Rubinstein 2009-01-05 13:18
Michael: First. thank you. Please apologize to your friend for the millions of Americans who are mistreated by Homeland Security personnel at airports and wherever they appear. The simple viciousness that is creeping into American life comes from the top down as the people who lead our country have been acting like scared bullies since 9/11. The military has regained some balance but our political leadership, our Congress, revealed now as being inept and venal, has lost its power to lead. We, the American people, have to reassert our common decency and our native ability to be confident and remove from authority the mindless bullies who are conducting razzias on illegal immigrants, many here legally by now. We can only hope that Obama will establish a new tone that will pervade the country and begin to remove this venom that is now coursing through our nation. You have performed many valuable services on behalf of your country and we, your fellow citizens, but none more valuable than this one. Again, please apologize on behalf of all decent thinking Americans, a majority for sure. Please continue to speak out on this.
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# Gilbert 2009-01-05 13:23
As a former Law Man, and I'm sure my fellow mates can tell you it is all about keeping your work stats looking good. I used to get so frustrated because I would see officers stop the poor, uneducated, foreign, or anyone else that were either to afraid or to poor to file a complaint or a law suit. Hell I use to love a good legal fight but I have to say in the time it took me to work a good case and take care of all the court appearances and paperwork the "Knappes" of my agency would have "worked" six times the number of "cases" who cares they were all BS cases.

It is the administrators in the ivory towers that promote this kind of behavior because they just look at the numbers and not what actually goes on. The real shame is that for the hundreds of thousands of dollars they make in tax payer paid salaries, you would think they would actually monitor the activities of the men and women in their span of control --- oh I'm sorry that would mean they wouldn't be able to keep their bureaucratic stats up.

The thing that caused me to leave the "brotherhood" was it became more about working the most cases and making the most arrests no matter how much they had to bend the Constitution.

Michael please tell Aew that this is really not the heart of America and that I hope she gets to see America for what it is suppose to be. I also hope that some Ivory Tower seat polisher will read this and do his/her part to make sure that our allies in the world are not treated like this when they finally get to visit our great country.
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# Susanne 2009-01-05 13:26
I also have had the pleasure of TSA hospitality. Mike, you remember me leaving Iraq in a black boot cast, right? (And I look soooo suspicious!) Well, after flying many hours in the 'comfort' of a C130 jump seat, then the middle seat of a commercial plane, I landed in the states and had to clear customs, etc.

When I got to Security, TSA told me that unless I wanted to be body searched, I had to take off the cast and walk through the sensor! You saw the ankle - and it was still purple and green - so during the 'search', I made some mention of how ironic it was that they were searching someone who was actually on THEIR side, and who had just left Iraq.

Know what they said? Something to the effect of, "That's why you're being searched, you are coming out of Iraq. All you had to do was take off the cast. It's your own fault." Wow. Did I feel proud of my country? That's a negative.

TSA needs to be fixed - but like someone already said, they're a union, and union busting is illegal, right?
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# DagneyT 2009-01-05 13:29
"I have been all but strip searched, Michael, and I am a 120# American woman; my offense? A one-way ticket.

I agree with the previous commenter, the fault lies with career bureau-dummies running most of the bureaucracies in Washington, most of whom belong to unions! We are in the financial mess we're in, with Fanny, Freddy, and the big three due to unions!

Unions will be the death of this country yet, as they are responsible for an uninformed barely able to read populace. They've screwed up our kids with their brand of public schooling with should be called public programming (on "global warming", et al).
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# Nicholas Vinen 2009-01-05 15:08
This story is unfortunate. I live in Australia and until a few years ago I would visit the USA every year or two, since I do a lot of contract work for companies based there.

I haven't been for several years now. I'm afraid to end up in this sort of situation. I go to consult with the companies I work for - planning future work etc. - and to see my friends. However, I don't want to wait for hours to get through airport security, where I can't bring water or other essentials, fly for 15 hours, then worry about having my laptop and personal effects searched and possibly be detained for some unknown period. It just isn't worth it to me. So, I stay here and work remotely and don't get a chance to meet with the people from these companies, as much as I would like to.

I hope one day I can return and visit my friends safely and without having to worry about the indignity that international air travel - especially to the USA - brings. I believe I am a good friend for your country and its people, but customs and immigration are my least favourite of all. I haven't been treated as badly as your friend, but I have had a few unpleasant experiences, and don't want to risk more and worse.
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# John M. Yunker, Sr. 2009-01-05 15:20
My ongoing complaint of November 24, 2008 seeking the termination of employment of Richmond, VA Airport (RIC) TSA employees David Brock and Sarah Taylor for abuse of authority is listed under TSA control number 269754-353671. As of today, January 5, 2009, I have had no response from DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff, TSA Administrator Kip Hawley, or RIC TSA Manager Jacqueline Cosby.

John M. Yunker, Sr.
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# Jim Bruce 2009-01-05 15:32
My son was Army infantry, and the first three times he flew out of Albuquerque to go overseas he was put in the line to be fully searched, even though his active status in the armed forces was apparent. He almost missed one flight due to this B.S., and I risked arrest to go yell at the TSA people to get him on his flight, or he'd be considered AWOL. When he was returning to Iraq after a one week leave (in full uniform), the airline gave my wife and I passes to go to the gate with him, and TSA did the same to hmy wife! As a result, we got to spend about 30 seconds at the gate with him. Geniuses.
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# XC 2009-01-05 15:50
I've flown around the world on business and vacation, racking up at least 5M miles over the last 15 years. I'm a pretty big guy but obviously a business traveler - Tumi rollaboard, computer bag, Bose headphones, business or first class tix, passport with extra pages in it, etc.

Worst border experience of my life: the Windsor crossing going into Canada.
Worst border experience of my wife's life: the Windsor crossing going into the US.
Year: 1993, within 24 hours, with the Canadians hassling me (US citizen) and the US guys detaining my wife (Canadian citizen) for five hours. No explanation.

I've had excellent experiences in England until last year when some pooftah practically stripped searched me in the hallway of Heathrow and grabbed my boys and gave them a gentle squeeze. I refrained from giving him a Scottish hello because of the guy carrying the laded MP5 standing behind me.

I saw a customs guard in the Auckland airport knock a Malysian woman down for having a guava in her purse. The same crew let me go *backwards* through customs to get a case of Aussie wine I'd forgotten. Go figure.

I snatched my passport out of an Indian guards hands in Chennai before he could rip out pages in lieu of a bribe. If I hadn't had 100lbs on him he'd have used his lathe on me, no doubt.

What conclusions can you draw? None, really. Border guards have a tough job, don't get paid very well, and contain an above average distribution of jerks per country maybe.

If you just want to hyperventilate about airport security hand how stupid Kip Hawley is and all that, I suggest you go to where you can raise a posse of people like that with just tiny breath.

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# qys 2009-01-05 16:03
Several people in these posts are appalled and say this is not the way the majority of Americans are. That's very nice and probably true.

So what? What will this majority of appalled and disgusted and humilitated people do to change the situation? When will this majority stand up to these bullies?

That's what I was afraid of.
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# Max 2009-01-05 16:21
Mr. Yon,
I'm afraid that Homeland Security (and the current administration) most likely has absolutely nothing to do with the incident except being titular overseeing agency. The behavior described had been quite normal for entry port officers prior to the establishment of DHS, as the idea that foreign nationals attempting to enter the US have no rights until their lawyers show up had been pretty prevalent in the original INS.
Both entry port and consular officers hold the right to refuse entry/visa without a recourse or serious review. The guidelines surrounding the privilege that is the entry to the US had never been too clear and thus allow for job creation for the industry of immigration consultants and lawyers, while the appeals process is long and drawn out.
And don't forget the fact that presumption of guilt is practically enshrined in the procedures there. While there are probably plenty of good people working for Immigration/Cus toms, I suspect it is all too easy for anyone there to succumb to the spirit of their instructions and treat everyone in front of them as the scum of the Earth.
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# Isidro Beccar Varela 2009-01-05 16:57
Unfortunately what happened to Aew is not that rare. Telling the USCIS and TSA to lighten up a little bit would be a good idea. You could tolerate all of this if they were this super efficient machine yielding results every week (in the form of terrorist busted at border crossings). But what makes it more revolting is that since 9/11 I NEVER heard that a terrorist was stopped either at a border crossing (well, with the exception of the millennium plot) or at a security check point. But I did heard thousands of stories like Aewƒ??s. I also heard stories of people smuggling weapons (remember Orlando?), accessing with fake IDs, fake boarding passes, etc. and being caught by other means than airport security or USCIS.
Iƒ??m obviously not saying that you should eliminate them, but USCIS and TSA should train their guys to be less arrogant, teach them to use their common sense (I know is too much too ask) and work under the assumption that 99.9999% of people going through their control is a decent normal citizen rather than a potential terrorist. Only when SOMETHING tips them off is that they should act as tough guys. I know that someone will tell me that this is suicidal. My answer is that is EXTREMELY unlikely that they will catch anyone seriously dangerous anyway and as illegal immigrants go, many go by land and the others overstay their visa (which means that they are LEGAL until then). You cannot establish a thought police trying to discover the INTENT of someone when entering the country (which is the only explanation that I have to the USCIS attitude in some cases).
My point: the cost of all of that parody far outstrips the benefits. They need to rethink the system.
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# D. Anderson 2009-01-05 17:10

I'm so sorry to hear this story. We have seriously done most everything we can to discourage and offend visitors to our country.

I'm not sure who your Congressman is, but I would suggest you contact Congressman John Mica. He is on the Transportation committee and has previously expressed his frustration with TSA. (His district covers north Orlando to Jacksonville)

Someone else in these comments mentioned Israeli security and I'd agree it works. They were very pointed and persistent in their questions, but were polite and you understood what they were doing and why. On another note, one of my more hilarious border encounters was crossing into Canada in the winter: the officer wanted to know why anyone in their right mind would drive from Florida to Canada in February!
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# MichaelC 2009-01-05 17:14

I can relate. I've traveled across Europe and the Caucasus and had minimal issues at the border - nothing any more serious than a long delay or a quirky officer. However, driving back into the States (MY country!) from Canada, I was detained for two hours as POS Border goons went through the car, expecting that my friend and I were transporting drugs. The entire time, we were treated like suspects, grilled about transporting drugs, and had doubts cast on the purpose of our travels (I wanted to see Quebec); we weren't allowed to use the bathroom, we weren't allowed to stand, we could only sit there at the leisure of border patrol officers who acted more like interrogators than protectors. For our part, we were polite but understandably cautious and deferential. For the first time in my life, I realized that if I wasn't overly polite, these people had the power to plant drugs in my car and ruin me. I had no power or recourse.

We eventually left after they had overturned the car and, of course, found nothing. But no apologies. It was as though we had wasted THEIR time (sorry to disappoint, you fu*kers). I have never been ashamed of my country the way I was then, and to this day I will never have the same trust or respect for law enforcement or the government as I did before that incident. I wrote my Congressman and Senators, and got a cursory reply, which surely amounted to nothing. I wish something could be done about this sort of thing, which is most assuredly rampant - little busybodies in positions of moderate power getting off by treating people like criminals - but I think what is required is a serious cultural change within these organizations.

Unbelievable. It's amazing to me that there was once a time when I thought that this sort of thing couldn't happen here.
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# Robert Masters 2009-01-05 17:15
I am from Minneapolis and travelled to Eastern Europe last year driving through 10 borders in 5 countries meeting customs officers at each border and treated pleasantly each time. When I arrived in Minneapolis I was treated as a suspected criminal. When I became annoyed (and rude) I was asked by an officer (may even have been Knapp) if I knew where I was. I said "I am in the USA" and he responded "Not until you pass through that doorway" and added "Right now you are nowhere." I then asked him if that also meant that he had all the power to which he replied "Yes I do."

The US customs officers are mostly good guys but the entire power structure of the organization draws some who are simply schoolyard bullies with the authority to excercise arbitrary power over others. They actually believe that they individually have the power of life and death over anyone crossing the border. As long as we allow them to act on that belief we will be less free.

I say it is about time we stop living in fear of every foreigner and reduce the power of these guys.
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# jp thomas 2009-01-05 17:16
I feel for you and your friend....Try this one on for size...A 4year old on the TSA Federal watch list! Watch out for those crayons people!!!!
Here's the interesting part....
*Once on the list there is no way of EVER getting off of the list...least not yet (keep writting to your elected officials)
*There is no prior notification given by any government agency that you or your dependents are on this list. You find out at the airport!!!SURPR ISE!!
*They can deny your flight privlages. ( they didn't with us because the gate agents used their heads and realized that a 4 year old child is no real threat)
*If there is a ever a change of address you must report this to TSA
*Once 'cleared' you are still subject to extra screening
How is that for a violation of rights?
My child is effectivey being followed, tagged and watched by our paranoid government for no reason... And there is little that I can do about it except write letters and make phone calls... Most of which go unanswered!
So the frustration at our officials on all levels is felt not only by innocent worldly travelers but by regular citizens and children! It seems that our government has lost it's bounds or at least has forgotten how to use them.
Unfortunately untl more people get personally effected and stand up for their rights, I fear that things will not change for the better. Do you know of a group that is doing anything about any of this????
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# Texas_Canuck 2009-01-05 17:17
While I haven't travelled quite as much as you have, I must say you picked a wrong port of entry with Minniapolis. The Immigration folks there are the country's most arrogant, egotistical and self centered bunch of fools I have ever met. As a Canadain working in the US for several years I have had the displeasure of crossing there several times. As Canadian born just north of the Minnisota border, my wife and I certainly don't fit any profile except maybe boring WASPs. Yet these wahoos treat us like an Osama bin Laden deciple.

Anywhere else in the world (or country) and it has been smooth sailing with maybe a question or two, a check of my camera bag or a wipe on my computer.

Amazingly, at MSP airport you cannot get a cab if you have a bottle of duty free booze or a dog.
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# Scuzzi 2009-01-05 17:18
We should welcome these stories. So long as we hear of East Asian women, grannies, WASP high-school kids and the like getting the finger up their backsides courtesy of Homeland Security, we can bask in the safe knowledge that our brave officers are not engaging in outrageous and discriminatory profiling practices in their endless struggle against the Islamist terrorists. Rejoice!
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# Eric Parsons 2009-01-05 17:23
Every country I have been in has a Ministry for the Obstruction of Progress and a Ministry for the Harassment of Foreigners.

I have paid $75 to the Policeman's Vodka Fund in Kazakhstan in order to leave.

I have had to pay extra duties to internal Ukrainian Customs for equipment donated to yes, Ukrainian Customs by the US government.

I have lost a chance to hookup with a nice Danish blonde because of stupid questions asked by the uniformed twit at Heathrow.

Oh the insolence!
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# Carol Herman 2009-01-05 17:40
Perhaps Mr. Knapp didn't know? But by now, with InstaPundit's Internet reach I think Mr. Knapp may be a little contrite? So, you don't know his first name. But at the airport in Minneapolis? I think Mr. Knapp will discover that getting his behaviors to show up here ... He's the one with more than "24 hours worth of grief" ahead.
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# ret7 2009-01-05 17:48
It'll take me a day maybe but I'll hit up my congress critters as well and Minnesota's regarding this ... past time to get some light on this problem.

My apologies to Aew and you for having to put up with this kind of treatment
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# ADH 2009-01-05 17:49
My experience is that most Americans have no idea how difficult it is for LEGAL immigrants to come to this country, even for something as simple as a tourist visit. When I described the ordeal I went through just to get my wife into the country to family and friends they were shocked - they have a hard time believing it, in fact one of my friends still refuses to believe that the country he loves so much makes visiting so difficult.

That was just to get her into the country - getting the green card was just as difficult, time consuming, and expensive. I have thick file folders of immigration filings and supporting documents at home as proof of the headache that is legal immigration to the U.S. I won't even bore you with the ridiculous and almost embarrassing "interviews".

Sometimes people ask me why her family doesn't come visit her. Simple: It's too difficult, time consuming, and expensive just to get a tourist visa. Not to mention that my wife would never allow her family to travel alone to the U.S. for fear of exactly the kind of experience Michael Yon's friend had upon arrival. My wife would rather fly back to Thailand and escort them through the arrival process to ensure nothing went wrong, especially since most of her family doesn't speak English. Again, because we fully expect the kind of treatment described in Michael's post above. While this example is a bit extreme (the e-mail thing is unnerving) it does not surprise us at all.
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# TheOldMan 2009-01-05 17:50
With videocams becoming small, keep one running as long as possible during the approach and interrogation.
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# Scott Edwards 2009-01-05 17:52
I am embarrassed as an American that your friend or any other friendly visitor to our country was treated in such a manner. Knapp should lose his job. I hope your friend Aew comes to know that all Americans aren't like him and has a pleasant visit for the rest of her trip.

Sadly this is part of the "decline" of our nation. People in positions of authority often forget that their authority doesn't come from a title, honorific, badge, office, or anything other than "We the People". There are some very dedicated men and women in these positions who are honorable and decent, but these people seem to be dwindling. Look at our Congress and the people our incoming President has surrounded himself with, crooks the lot of them. More concerned with their own power and position than the well being of our nation.
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# Freddy Hill 2009-01-05 17:53
Many commenters here conflate the TSA with the USCIS. They function under very different legal regimes. When you land in the US but have not yet passed immigration you are nobody, you are just a thing with no rights whatsoever. No right to legal representation, no right to privacy, no defense against unreasonable search and seizure, nothing. Illegal aliens once in US soil have more rights than somebody waiting in the immigration line. This applies to US citizens as well as foreign nationals (since your citizenship is unknown until a border guard accepts your passport as legitimate).

This is not unique to the US. The French gentleman that claims that French immigration officers would need a court order to search his PC at the border is wrong. The French border guards can search his cavities and his PC's cavities for no reason whatsoever.

None of this is to diminish the awfulness of what your friend went through, just to point out that the immigration officer, while obviously overstepping the limits of human decency, was probably acting within the limits of the law. There is nothing new in this, though, and the Patriot Act / Homeland security connection is a red herring.

Officer Knapp wasn't looking for terrorists, he was looking for mail brides.
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# fire@will 2009-01-05 17:54
Michael - I take your word as near gospel. This is a most distressing story on several levels. Whether this sort of missbehavior is due to a faulty system - or simply a bad individual (I suspect both), I hope something can be done to address the problem. My deepest sympathies to you and your friend.
I was saddened (but not surprised - I'm a Vietnam vet) to hear of all the uniformed service personnel who have been rousted, as well.
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# RebeccaH 2009-01-05 17:58
I hope someone apologized to your friend, besides just you, for the boorish behavior of the people who are supposed to be protecting us. I can't tell you how many times I (a Waspy-looking grandmother) have been stopped and searched, while unaccompanied Middle Eastern-looking men have boarded past me with no trouble.

At any rate, for what it's worth, I'm sorry for what happened to your friend, and I hope she doesn't think all Americans are like that.
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# tinfoilhatter 2009-01-05 18:14
In a previous life as a charter pilot, I had many of the same experiences that Mr. Yon's friend had. Except of course, in my wallet was my military ID, concealed carry license, and my employer ID, all of which bespoke some kind of security vetting, in my case, a rather complete one.

As a primary example, certain ports of entry would demand the use of a obsolete form, of which of course, they did not maintain copies. Customs preclearance paperwork, faxed and emailed to their offices to expedite the process, was routinely lost to the point my company just stopped doing it.

Searches were often cursory, but the wait was often significant. One day the response from CIS would be quick, professional and competent, while the same station 24 hours later would be rude, inconsiderate, disorganized and perfunctory.

One was forced to the conclusion that the individual stations were run as personal fiefdoms, and that the attitude of the commander was mirrored in his subordinates. Understandable? Yes. Acceptable as the public face of the U.S.? No.
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# Megan 2009-01-05 18:16
That is absolutely pathetic and disgusting. Clearly this "man" is on a power trip - someone gives him a badge and all of a sudden he thinks he can do whatever the hell he wants. I am so sorry for your friend and hope that she will not think all of our law enforcement officials so pathetic.

There must be something that can be done to get this situation noticed. The guy should be suspended or fired and no longer allowed to interrogate anyone. He should be moved to loading airplanes. Loser.
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# Eddy 2009-01-05 18:21
Yeah, an ex from England got the shakedown whenever she came to the States to visit. She probably weighs 90 pounds soaking wet. Absolute Jack Booted Thugsƒ?›.
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# Michael J. Totten 2009-01-05 18:22
Anyone you reads my work knows I'm a friend of Israel, but I have to say that their border procedures are even worse. They detain me every single time I enter and leave, and they once detained me for five hours. And they detained my traveling companion, as well, who just happened to me a member of the United States military. His Department of Defense ID did not prevent him from being treated like a suspected terrorist.

The hilarious thing about the ridiculous treatment at Ben Gurion airport is that every single last interogator is a young attractive woman. It must make the Islamist nutjobs go crazy. I have no doubt whatsoever that they picked those women on purpose for that reason.

Next time I go to Israel I'm bringing with me the cover story I wrote for the Jerusalem Post's weekend magazine about Hezbollah. That just might help speed up the process.
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# Jerry D. Brown 2009-01-05 18:35
I was a Airport Operations and Safety Officer from 1995 to 2004. In the aftermath of 9/11 I watched the formation of the TSA and the contractors who populate its rank and file.

This incident is characteristic of, not exceptional to; the calibre of people wearing the white shirts. The people who showed up as TSA inspectors/scre eners at my airport were for the most part the people who were unsuccessful or unqualified in competition to be hired by our Airport Commission, Police Department, the FAA, or the air carriers. A lot of them expressed a "chip on the shoulder" attitude toward existing Law Enforcement and Operations people.

I just finished a hoilday cross country trek using domestic air carriers six different times and transiting four different airports. The problem still exists and now it is taking on the aspect of a bureaucratic characteristic.
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# Alec Caudell 2009-01-05 18:46
Dear Mr. Yon.

First I would like to apologize for the unethical treatment that Ms. Aew received from the over zealous Mr. Knapp. Sadly as a former employee of the United States Marshal Service I have seen first hand how issuing a badge to people will change them into a bulling, power hungry abuser. However, there are ways to rectify this problem that Ms. Aew suffered needlessly and to prevent it from happening again to other innocent people.

First of all Mr. Knapp is just an employee of the US Government and is subject to rules and regulations that dictates his conduct while performing the duties of his job description. He, as all Government employees, has supervisors. These supervisors hate more than anything else is to have negative attention directed at them caused by a subordinate. Therefore you must report this manƒ??s action and attitude to DHS headquarters in Washington DC. Now, if I may ask a couple of questions?

First, from your letter it appears that Mr. Knapp removed Ms. Aew from a public area into a private room; this in its self is not against the rules, however, was it only Mr. Knapp (a male) and Ms. Aew (a female) in the room without a female agent present at all times? If so, a male agent and a female subject alone in a private room, for any amount of time is absolutely against all rules and Code of Conduct of any law enforcement agency of the United States Government. If the room was under video surveillance there is still a requirement for a minimum of two agents be present except for a very brief time period.

Next point, did Mr. Knapp go through Ms. Aew belonging without a female agent present? If no female agent present he has again violated the rules. This must be reported as well.

Mr. Knapp was not required to give you his fist name, however, he is obligated to give Ms. Aew his first name. If he refused to provide this information, this must be reported as well.

You need to send copies of your article posted here, plus a personal statement by Ms. Aew to the Congressional members of the State of Minnesota, and if you are a US Citizen, to the Congressional members of your home state. This should be forwarded to the Thai Embassy. A copy should be sent to the Attorney Generalƒ??s Office of the Department of Justice of the United States. If you have any influence with Sectary Gates, use it, have his office become involved as well.

As you are well aware there is a power change in Washington this month. This can be used to great effect. Many positions in the DHS are by appointment. These people that hold these appointed positions do not want to lose their jobs. Having embarrassing problems with a low level agent is the last thing they want or need. Mr. Knapp will be thrown to wolves if enough negative attention is brought to focus on him and his supervisors.

Therefore, make sure you attach a copy of the taped mobile/cell phone conversation you had with Mr. Knapp, both audio and certified transcript, to your and Ms. Aew statement and keep the pressure on him. Use any and all media outlets you have any contacts with to bring this sad affair to public attention.

We cannot undue what occurred to Ms. Aew, however, you can help prevent this from happening to others and have the satisfaction of seeing Mr. Knapp be punished for his highly unethical and possibly illegal conduct.

Again, my sincerest apologizes as a US Citizen to Ms. Aew.
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# Glenn Brown 2009-01-05 18:52
Sadly, I have to report that every time I've visited America since 9/11 I've had very poor experiences at ports of entry, be it NY,Boston or LA. Once, exasperated at the time taken, the banal and seemingly pointless stream of questions, (such as: ƒ??You ever been involved with a terrorist organisation?ƒ? ) aggressive body language and continuous shouting (ƒ??Take yer Goddamn shoes OFF!ƒ? ƒ??this to an elderly Asian couple who clearly didnƒ??t speak English) I produced my British Army ID card in addition to my UK passport. A vain attempt to ƒ??smooth the wayƒ??...Only to elicit the response: ƒ?? Whatƒ??s this? I am supposed to be impressed? If I want any extra ID, Iƒ??ll ask...this donƒ??t mean nothing to me..ƒ? Fair enough and admittedly, it was a selfish attempt to bring the painful process to a closure and I doubt anyone else on my flight was a serving soldier in the Army of Americaƒ??s closest ally. Still, a little professional courtesy wouldnƒ??t have been amiss. God alone knows what some poor Asian, Arabic (or indeed French!) people suffer as they try to make their innocent and peaceable way into the ƒ??Land of the Free....ƒ??
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# Tommy Barrios 2009-01-05 19:09
1. Look at the folks hired for many of these TSA positions. It looks like affirmative action on steroids!
2. How many of these people had any background or training in:
A. Physcial security and protocols.
B. Dealing with the public at large.
3. How many could get a major military/govern ment security clearance (SCI, SSIR)
4. Have an IQ over 50!
It is no wonder we have the chaos in American airports with these kinds of people in place. From what I understand their training is a joke in professional security circles and the Israeli's (who have the best and most efficient airline security) regard ours laughable!
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# T Sahlin 2009-01-05 19:46

Stay Mad! Do what poster Alec Caudell advises! Do not let a few days of calming down lull you to inaction! Help get this unfit badge wearer fired. There is no telling how many others he has harmed. Please - make the complaint official!
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# AFSister 2009-01-05 19:58

Of course this is the same TSA that detain our soldiers returning to the war after leave for having explosive residue on their boots. NOSHITSHERLOCK.

I am not one to quote Spiderman, but this fits "With great power, comes great responsibility" . But power and responsibility do NOT include bullying, terrifying, and intimidating people for no reason. And coercing email passwords??? UNFORGIVABLE. They had NO reason to suspect her. I can understand them coercing passwords from suspicious people, but this is unreal.

I'm embarassed on behalf of my nation, Aew. I hope you found the rest of your trip enjoyable, and realize that not all Americans are asshats.
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# Alien 2009-01-05 20:22
I'm a US citizen who has had problems on returning to the USA, so I appreciate the distress caused to your Thai friend, Michael. I have a Thai wife and live in Thailand, so my perspective is perhaps a bit different from the average. Thai citizens can easily get marriage documents, bank statements, air tickets, letters proving employment and more -- all of it fake. That bogus documentation can get one a visa to visit the USA. Overstaying the visa is a snap, thanks to the absurd policies of law enforcement and government agencies in the US. So Knapp may have been aware of the reputation Thailand has earned over the years. In minutes, he or someone like him has to decide whether all the paper is genuine. Not easy. That said, it does appear the guy is a thug and violated procedure, so he's got well-deserved problems. But the truth is more complex than "bully brutalizes tiny harmless female." It may be that Knapp knows that Thailand is corrupt from top to bottom and in ways that would stun most US types, and he may be trying to do his job. I fault him for doing it badly, but I remind you that there may be understandable reasons why this Thai lady was pulled out of line and targeted. International travel is a problem today, and getting passed through immigration quickly and politely may just be a sign that immigration is way, way too lax. Sad truth.
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# Gilbert 2009-01-05 21:12
I am curious Michael. In the article you say email password. Are you referring to the password for her laptop or movable media or an email account hosted by a server somewhere like yahoo or google. If it is the laptop or media then maybe I could see the argument that he was concerned about what data might be on it as she was bringing it in the country. But the last time I checked for email accounts hosted on separate servers by hosting companies, even the federal government has to have a federal judge sign warrants or subpoenas to access that information. And if it is a foreign based server work with that government to obtain the information.

Looks like this is some slick way to circumvent the foundations of the constitution. So what if she is not a US citizen, if her email is hosted somewhere else go get a subpoena if he wanted to look at it. I can almost tell you want any judge would say.

The more I read your article and the more I think about it, the more it smells like Mr. Knapp's approach is more suited for someone dressed in black with a red and black band on his arm, than a representative of American Values, People, and System of Government. I haven't checked but if you look at Lady Liberty I think she is crying today after she looked at your article.

"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."
Benjamin Franklin
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# Kerry 2009-01-05 21:14
I have friends, mainly from Europe, who visit the USA and remark (independently of one another)that the TSA and Immigration people are among some of the most petty and boorish on their itineraries. Something is way out of wack. I have felt it necessary to apologize for this kind of stuff on a regular basis.
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# George C. 2009-01-05 21:44
I want to repeat something said in an earlier comment. The person responsible was almost certainly not in TSA but was instead part of Immigration & Naturalization Services (INS.) INS run the passport control stations. Customs run the Customs control point. TSA would only be involved at the point your guest had passed the other two and was re-checking bags for her connecting flight. We need to find this Knapp fellow in the INS part of the MSP crew.

I have travelled in and out of the U.S. for over 35 years. I lived in Russia for more than five years. I have learned that the people staffing the control point can wield power above their station in life and some of them enjoy abusing this rare taste of power. This is as true for the U.S. as anywhere. However, I have always expected more from the U.S. It is WRONG when a public servant can force a free citizen to cower and grovel simply to exercise their rights. INS, Customs and TSA should have large posters in every point of entrance inviting people to call a toll-free number to report abusive behavior. Why should that be hard?

My wife was a Russian citizen when we married. Several years later, we moved to the U.S. She was a legal resident and an executive employed by a Fortune 50 company. Until she qualified for citizenship, every time she left the U.S., she had to worry that she might be have her re-entyry challenged by some INS thug. During that same time, the "undocumented" visitors to our country passed freely to and fro without any bothersome attention. I forget whether it was Mark Steyn or Christopher Hitchens but one of them once quipped: "You know the old saying, Nothing human is alien to me. I think the INS motto is, Nothing alien is human to me." My experience with the INS matches this almost perfectly. I wish I could apologise to your visitor and say her experience was an exception but I am afraid this happens all too often.
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# Alex Nelon 2009-01-05 21:52
I worked for nearly 20 years as a corporate pilot in international operations. I never had a problem with US Customs and Immigration until they became Customs and Border Protection, part of TSA, part of Homeland Security. The level of competence and professionalism dropped precipitously after the agencies were thrown in the blender and fortified with bodies that belonged, I swear, to the bottom of the barrel. I never saw slovenly appearance, I-gotta-be-me attitudes, or overly rude behavior on the part of the career Customs and Immigration officers who met me when I returned (many times) from overseas. After the Big Push to lead Americans to believe Something Was Being Done to secure the airports (particularly) and borders it was a whole new ball game. Chertoff and company had better get off their pedestals and take a look at how some of their people are behaving and put some teeth into the complaint process. Security screening doesn't have to be unpleasant as long as the people doing it know their role in the scheme of things.
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# Joseph OGERSHOK 2009-01-05 22:12
December 14, 2007 5:33 PM PST
Judge: Man can't be forced to divulge encryption passphrase
January 18, 2008 1:58 PM PST
Feds appeal loss in PGP compelled-passp hrase case

DOJ: No comment on forcing encryption passphrases

In Child Porn Case, a Digital Dilemma
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# Tuptian 2009-01-05 22:45
Thank you for your story of the unfortunate experience of your friend Khun Aew and the brief summary of US-Thai relation and their beloved king. From personal experience I can pick out may does and don'ts from the story you described. I have been traveling back and forth to Thailand multiple times a year for the past ten years to visit my girlfriend who I have known for over 15 years. We, as has Khun Aew, traveled to many countries though out east Asia with little trouble from the immigration officers, but these trips to include several trips to China were usually with a (Thai) group. The most trouble I have ever had was returning to the US. However, I have seen others in trouble at the boarder of other countries for what ever reason.

We planned a couple of years ago that she would come to visit me and my family in the US. She lives in Trang, home of former Prime Minister Chuan Lee Pi who I have had the pleasure of meeting. Trang is 826 km from Bangkok by train. It is a long journey and to submit the application, interview, and back ground check is an expensive and time consuming process. The applicant must report to the interview on the Embassy's time table. And at any time the application can be rejected with or without cause and with no reimbursement. The council in Songkla has long since closed and is now occupied by CPR China. But, this is only to show the effort people will go though to come to this country they admire and appreciate in many ways. Just to get the visa alone is an intimidating feat as you know.

My girlfriend, who is a teacher and is will known among her peers and who comes from a well founded middle class family, received the coveted visa. After 19 hrs of traveling she landed in Minneapolis, I waved to her as she walked off the plane heading to the ICE check point. It took over 90 minutes for her to finally pass through. It too was very shocking for her. While well educated, she is not an english speaker and after experiencing the technique of "the louder one speaks the more the recipient understands" was sent the room to be questioned further. While trying to make her forms in order she was fortunately helped only by woman of Hmong background who was also being detained. She does not have a computer and had the interrogator tried to call me would receive no answer as I have no cell phone but was standing at the doorway no less than a 100 yards away but might as well have been in Florida. It is an often related story to her friends.

Much of the information I related above and the formation you provided have no relevance to the immigration agent. They have their own agenda. As earlier writers stated they are a law on to themselves and TSA has its own problems. I think I have seen your agent Knapp as I experienced needly intrusive questions at MSP and soon so will more people. Last year I brought her though SFO with little incident.

Sawasdee be my laa choke dee mach mach na krap
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# Marcus Aurelius 2009-01-05 22:48
On our return from our last trip to the Philippines we had a little green-card snafu while trying to enter in Detroit and got sent to the "principal's office". We sat down and just waited for our situation to be dealt with.

Some guy who looked Indian was having a hard time of it. Mr. Behind Thedesk asks the guy to write his wife's name on a piece of paper. Indianish dude does so, Behind Thedesk then produces another scrap of paper and repeats the request. Indianish Dude complies and then Mr. Behind Thedesk asks Indian dude to explain why he spelled his wife's name differently both times. They were going back & forth not exactly having a nice chat and then I heard MR. Behind Thedesk exclaim "Ohhh, so now why are you deciding to tell me the truth?". I have no idea what it was about.

Then some woman from Africa comes in with a couple of children. Their problem was address mismatch, but a phone call to her husband in Iowa got that straightened out without any contention.

Then another guy and official comes in and official gloves up and starts going through guy's suitcase one item at a time. Opening and paging through books, while dude was standing there. No idea what happened to him or Mr. Indianish. We were finally called, told they were keeping a hold of my wife's old & expired (and second) green card and we could go on our way and an explanation had been given to our carrier why we missed our flight.
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# bjh 2009-01-05 23:27
This is in no way a defense of big brother, but people CAN and DO get off watchlists all the time-if the person is no longer a subject of investigation and/or is no longer deemed a threat. Also, many people share names, so if Michael Smith, DOB 4/15/1963 is watchlisted, then Michael Smith, age 4, will have to demonstrate he's not the same guy, as demonstrated by being 4, and off you go. People are watchlisted with as many identifiers as the listing agency has available, in an effort to avoid snagging the wrong person. It would take some tremendously bad luck to get really screwed by this process.
I work for the USG and travel on an Official Passport. I also share a name with a watchlisted person and every time I board a flight, or go through customs, we go through the same dance. I have a colleague with a diplo passport and the same thing happens to him, also because of a shared name.
All this being said, some people want a gun and a badge for right reasons, and some for all the wrong reasons. Ideally the hiring process would sort out the bozos but clearly, as in the case of Mr.Knapp, this doesn't always happen. When they were just contractors, he'd be fired. But as Mr. Knapp is now a USG employee, he'd have to run naked down the hall smoking a crack pipe and shouting racial epithets before he'd be put on leave while he was investigated. Actually losing his job for being an unprofessional bully is a long-shot, unfortunately. Still worth following up and making his life miserable though, IMHO.
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# Carolyn J Butler 2009-01-06 00:15
Dear Michael, as an American citizen, I have to agree with you that the disgraceful behavior of the Homeland Security employee does not make me feel safer, either. Is there any way this bully can be reported for his inhumane treatment of your friend? Please pass along my apologies to her, as a US citizen. I am terribly sorry for what she had to endure by someone who obviously enjoys abusing his position of trust, and makes his particular department look like the Department of Homeland Insecurity.
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# Chrissssss 2009-01-06 00:49
Thanks for bringing this issue to the fore Mike. Friends of mine have had similar, horrible experiences. Intimidation at the border is shockingly common - physical and mental. Anyone taken in back is treated as guilty, threatened and told things like 'you have no rights here'. There is no accountability within the INS for these glorified, power abusing passport checkers. Complaints are not followed up. It is horrible that for so many foreigners their first experience in America is with rude, power abusing INS jerks.

It is more than just a few bad apples. They should start immigration reform at the border and that includes our airports.
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# Cassandra 2009-01-06 01:02
Hey Mike,

The gentleman who commented an a male and female in the room alone is absolutely correct, it's against the rules. My husband did a short stint with Home Sec after trying to retire from the army and said it was a complete pain in the butt, and they did everything wrong. He left after a few months and gave in to the army again.

I'm posting this on my forums in Compuserve and Netscape. My apologies to your friend and hope that the rest of her visit went well.

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# Scott Johnson 2009-01-06 01:41
This is not acceptable, but I may be able to shed some light on why. My G/F was a flight attendant for 7 years, and explained the reason as this. It was merely the purchase of a one way ticket, just like the terrorist of 911. She told me that several airlines will not allow any single flight arrangements internationally , whether flying in our out of CONUS.
This also happened to us when she purchased a one way ticket last month to Phoenix from Minneapolis. She got searched at the airport. No she wasn't interrogated, just searched.
Again, this is in no way an attempt to defend unprofessional and demeaning treatment, just an attempt to explain "the why." Hope it helps.
Michael-Fantastic site and writing!

Scott Johnson
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# Lisa White 2009-01-06 02:32
Please exent my sincerest apologies to Aew for her treatment in Minneapolis, and for the way Northwest treated her. I will be forwarding a link to your article to my elected representatives in Washington. Her treatment is in no way acceptable! I will also not patronize an airline that forces a person with a 10 year visa to purchase a round trip ticket, and I will let them know it! I hope that the rest of her stay in our country is enjoyable and "uneventful"!
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# Voyager 2009-01-06 03:28
From what I can tell, the INS has operated much like this for a very long time. Even Steinback had strange what-the- issues with boarder agents of the time. Not to this degree, but he was a US citizen, and times were somewhat different.

My suspicion is that the boarder patrols have very little visibility, as well as their low transparancy. We just don't do a good job of policing them, and they don't seem to have any natural constituencies. If we don't watch the watchers, then they go bad.
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# Dan Wilkinsson 2009-01-06 03:28
To set the record straight, this officer works for Customs and Border Protection (CBP). CBP was born in March, 2003 as a new agency in the new DHS. CBP consists of part of the previous INS (Justice), part of the previous Customs Service (Treasury), Border Patrol (Justice) and port of entry agriculture inspectors from the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) with USDA. From the top down the agency stresses that every employee is to maintain professionalism at all times and to treat all passengers and crew members with dignity and respect. The fact that incidents such as described here by Mr. Yon still occur points out the gap between agency directives and reality.
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# Matthew Lusk 2009-01-06 03:53
Michael - buddy I love your website, and will keep reading your posts forever, but lemme tell you how this story reads to me: WAAAAH! I really could care less you have a friend that got hassled getting into the US. Hell, I'm an american and a few times I have been treated badly coming in. How about giving a bit of lattitude to the system and people that screen forieingers like your friend? You have a few stamps on your passport, and I'm sure your friends do, too... I shop at K-mart a pretty good bit, and when I have a negative experience with a cashier, I don't pitch a fit and cry, I realize that the human I am dealing with, and the situation I am in are transient...a mere snapshot of the moving river that is K-mart commerce. Sorry your little globe-trotting friend had a bad day. I've had bad days. FYI I do't read your posts to hear about your foreign friends bad days in customs....
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# Voyager 2009-01-06 03:54
I was just thinking how odd it was that no major news outlet has tried breaking a story on things like this, when a possible way of handling recording it struck me.

Bluetooth enabled cell phones are vulnerably to remote hyjacking, and one of the things one could do with that is turn the phone into a remote listening device/camera, without any action, or knowledge on the owner's part. The problem would be doing it in such a way that it would remain undetected, and intact, if someone tried to use the phone during that time; I suspect it would get exceptionally ugly if the Officer "Knapp" realised they were being recorded, and I don't know if one could get police intervention if they decided to become violent.
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# Paul Garner 2009-01-06 04:52

Please forward my personal apologies to Khun Aew for the unwarranted disrespect that she received when she entered this country. There never is an excuse for this type of behavior.

I am a 71 year old handicapped while male who is a retired GS-11 ands also a retired Air Force Sergeant. Should I run afoul of Mr. Knapp, or any others of his ilk, the first thing I will do after turning my cell phone on record is to demand (not ask) is to see his supervisor and file a formal complaint. I do not suffer fools gladly. My next stop would be an attorney's office where I institute a criminal complaint. I suspect that I could make a case of a violation of my constitutional rights. Finally, as an ex-Union Stewart, I would contact his local and file a formal complaint. Hit the bastard from both sides so to speak.

Bureaucrats hate to have waves made. The solution is to make waves, many many waves. Go to the newspapers. Do blogs. Make formal complaints to your congressperson AND follow these complaints up. A friend of mine carried a small copy of the Constitution with certain passages marked. He got some rather funny looks when he pulled it out of his pocket and quoted it. More fun.

This is our country. I do not feel safer with the jack booted thugs of the TSA in charge. They have violated the Constitution more often than all the terrorists in the world - all in the name of "making us safe".
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# Solid 2009-01-06 06:17

I have been an avid reader of yours for quite some time and needless to say that I respect and admire what you have done in your life and continue to do to bring the story of the two wars to the home front.

There is nothing I can say that will bring relief to the anger you must feel and the fear that Aew felt. I will not second guess the officer in question because I was not there, but you must know that there are those of us who hold that line and take our sworn duty to uphold the Constitution very seriously. The brave men and women who work the border, from the airports, to the seaports, to the land borders and in between are there around the clock to do our best to make sure that Americans and all within Americas borders are safe. I know that you know this, but I think it is important to point out to your readers and posters that the great majority of us do our jobs to the best of our ability.

To some of the posters on this forum: You are entitled to your opinion and I respect you fully for it, but I must respectfully implore you to please not denigrate the lot of us for the transgressions of a few. Please trust that the majority of us out there genuinely want to do right thing.

On the border Humbly,

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# Bui 2009-01-06 06:19
In 1999 I sold a company I had in Europe, and since I had always loved New York City I decided to start my new business there. The first thing I did was to go to the US Embassy in my native country, and inquire what visa and permits I would need.

After getting the visa I was directed to get, I rented an apartment, and started work on my business, things where going well. When 9 11 happened, I was on my way to the airport after a weekend at home, I took the next flight to Canada and a bus down to NYC. The next few months things where hard but in the end things got good. In fact so good I started a business in Moscow as well. I was loving life and decided I wanted to emigrate to the US, I bought a building in Manhattan and started planing the renovation for my business. When the plans for the renovation were approved I decided to go home and celebrate with my family. At this time I was flying in and out of the US at lest 1 per month on average.

Upon my return I was stooped by a officer at the airport that informed me that, I was spending to much time in the US for my visa and he would not let me in, and my only options where to go in front of an immigration judge after spending the night in jail or going back home and talking to the embassy. I had no intention on spending the night in jail so I got the next flight out of the US, this was the biggest mistake ever, now I was on the refused entry list, I was told I would not go on any list.

When I came back home after buying 3 last minute flights, you all know how expensive that is. I went to the embassy only to be told the visa i had was the right one and the border control was wrong, at this point I got nervous, I was stressed about my building sitting there and no work happening and ........ to make a long story short after looking into my options the best one was to sell the company and all it's assets and start a new. That was not so simple no one wanted the company with out me running it for at lest a year (I could not work with out a visa), this made things worse and after about 6 moths of looking I finally signed a deal for a 3 year contract (H1B visa) to run the company and money to pay debts, and some pocket money.

This was 7 years ago, I still get in trouble every time I go to the US to visit friends or vacation, but I will not stop going I have to many friends, and I'm not giving up my apartment in NYC.

When I convince my girlfriend, I'd still like to emigrate, and be a part of the greatest experiment in freedom of choice the world has seen.

Thanks Michael love your site.

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# Jack E. Hammond 2009-01-06 08:06
Dear Mr Yon,

I greatly appreciate your article but on this one you are wrong. It is know that al Qaeda has been working hard to recruit people who will not be suspect (ie they are working hard with Hispanic converts in South America it is reported). Remember on the days before 9/11 one custom official was rude to a Saudi and would not let him in the country. He was the 20 hijacker. REMEMBER!

Jack E. Hammond

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# Andrew Smith 2009-01-06 08:21
Mike your do great work, thankyou

My experience at an American airport in Florida was also very poor and this was before 9/11. I am British , saw on TV advert come to Florida have a great holiday etc. I came and I never felt so unwelcome at the Airport in Miami. Nothing happened to me like the poor lady Aew, it was just the way they questioned me why i had come to America, frankly I was pretty close to tellling them to get stuffed and go home.
Once past the Airport I had a great holiday and every American I met was very nice

I am Pro-American always have been but that experience at the Airport has put me off going on holiday to America ever since, it sounds to me things are even worse now
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# Alex Su 2009-01-06 10:10
Tim Grubbs: "I pray we all can overlook the Knapps..."

ARE YOU KIDDING? My job as a Fulbright Fellow is to build goodwill between foreigners and Americans. This idiot Knapp doesn't make my life easier; and there's plenty of anti-American sentiment already.

Someone can this moron and teach him a lesson. Bullies seem to be the same, no matter what age or what playground.
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# Chris M 2009-01-06 11:08
Michael, why the surprise? Don't you know that foreign visitors to the USA get treated like this and worse on a daily basis?

Take some friends of mine, an Australian couple in their early 80's who have visited the USA many times over their lives for both missionary service and personal reasons and never broke any laws of overstayed. They visited their daughter in Mississippi and, less than 3 months after returning to Australia their son-in-law was tragically killed. So they returned for his funeral via LAX.

Pastor Christopher got through immigration fine but they decided to detain his wife for questioning. So homeland security separated them and for TWO HOURS questioned and re-questioned his wife. "Why have you come back so soon?" "How can you prove you intend to be at a funeral" and "show us an obituary or other proof" etc.

We are talking a sweet old Australian-born lady who is almost deaf and has never had so much as a speeding fine in her life. Truly amazing. Finally they let them go.

Hey, I love your country but your immigration / homeland security is really the pits. Rude and daft.
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# Jim Wood 2009-01-06 14:36
To those suggesting that Mr Yon and Ms. Aew buck up and deal with the post 9/11 era:

Let us not conflate the terms "rude" and "effective". Think of the job Israel is tasked with. They are professional and sharp. I would even imagine they are trained to be rude if such an approach is called for.

This Knapp character is just a bully. How does this help? I can't be certain but I would also guess he is ineffective in a job where such should not be tolerated.

How embarrassing.
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# MeToo 2009-01-06 15:15
If ya don't like getting questioned by Customs, don't travel!!!! The reason the Customs officer did what he did is because he was looking for child porn on the laptop/camera. Additional questioning can occur when one travels to "certain countries" that are rampant with child porn. Once again, Customs getting a bad rap trying to protect citizens of America!!!!!
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# johnF 2009-01-06 17:51
There are several things that bother me regarding this incident.
1. Northwest Airlines has no business demanding that anyone should buy a return ticket. This strikes me as a really bad idea some vice-president had to increase revenues by forcing her to buy a ticket from them instead of another carrier, while blaming it on "security issues"
2. Immigration should not have the power to detain anyone long enough to miss a connecting flight without probable cause, or at least a very good reason why the passenger is suspected of breaking or intending to break the law. On the other hand, if there is a valid reason to suspect someone, eg. they fit the profile of previous terrorists or criminals, or recent intelligence, or suspicious behaviour (a tricky condition, cops are suspicious of everyone), then they should be checked out in a reasonable manner.
3. Mr. Knapp was a rude smart aleck who asked Michael personal questions he had no business asking. This is unacceptable, and he should be fired for his attitude alone, if nothing else.
4. Mr. Knapp asked for/coerced the email password. This should be unacceptable, however, if the passenger was a 25 year old male from a middle eastern country, I'm not so sure I would object to this. The distinction in my mind is the risk factor. I'm torn on this issue, I don't want the government to have the power to search my personal info. (Not that the NSA isn't already capable of doing that!)
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# Frank Hughes 2009-01-06 18:52
I have supported your mission and am an avid reader. My son is currently serving and his wife, my daughter in law is a State dept employee with a diplomatic passport. She was traveling from Guatemala with her mother to the US with all of the appropriate documentation when her mother was pulled aside and harrased by immigration. The agent was rude and bullying. This is common practice in Miami Florida. When I was CO of my squadron I was responsible for the conduct of my men. This man's supervisor should be contacted and reported to his superiors. I hope you do write the appropriate letters. Keep up the good work.
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# Damon 2009-01-06 20:06
You know, as bad as the situation was for her (Aew) and the discomfort she had to experience, I do feel for her and for your distraught with the process, Michael, however, I think the bad guys are to blame. Just like most every other law we have - their intentions are to prevent something. Granted because of the likes of the ACLU and unions we have to be fair and indiscriminate, good people will be pulled aside and searched. If it were logistically possible the safest flights would be the ones where everybody is searched. I don't blame Customs for this. A few stupid people are always messing it up for the rest of us. I blame the bad guys. Because of them, because of their actions, this is what we have. We can be better though. I am thankful for the good Agents out there with the good contacts and searches they make that go unheard of, and where they do treat travelers with respect and common courtesy. There are many interdictions that have been made, apprehensions, and arrests where bad guys and bad things like drugs and much more have been kept from our streets. Customs agents can hold someone at the airport and search them and their belongings without any reason. It is law. If you don't like it then you need to write your Congressional representatives . Searches of laptops have kept many sex offenders, molesters, those with intent to distribute child porn, and more out of our country and put them in prison. So there is good work that has been done and it is not all for not. You can read many stories on agency websites. There are good agents. Now one thing I came across that may help your friend, Aew, on her journey back and maybe any future return trips to the USA is an Electronic System for Travel Authorization that Customs is running. It can be found here:

Good luck! On another note, the mention in comments regarding the hassle our troops are said to have been receiving when traveling is astounding. Unbelievable. I would think that there could be an agreement with each military Service and US Customs... but then there I go putting common sense into government. However I have had help from an agent at a small rural airport who relocated my leatherman to my checked luggage for me when I mistakenly tried to bring it through a carry-on, so... Stay Safe.
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# OwenG 2009-01-06 20:42
Too bad all you pro-war types were silent while the bill of rights was stripped. Funny how now I see lots of complaints from loser old farts complaining about how much money they had to spend, how haaaard it was to bring in their mail order brides from Thailand, Singapore, Mexico, China or whatever. Perhaps the King of Thailand is a good man, but Bangkok is still a cesspool where underage prostitutes are imprisoned for the pleasure of "sex tourists." I hate what your friend had to go through, and I'm not saying Thais are any threat but don't whitewash Thailand. They have plenty of problems.
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# Dan Jacobs 2009-01-06 20:42
Was this the United States or Nazi Germany?
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# Bill Smith 2009-01-06 21:05

It's amazing how many conclusions you jump to, and tangents you run off on in such a small comment. Perhaps we should make it a new Olympic sport. Maybe we'll call it -- and you -- the Jumping Tango.
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# Gilbert 2009-01-06 21:24
In reference to the comment from 'metoo'

It's funny how everyone always runs to the child porn card. I agree it's a problem; however there are a few problems with your attempted deflection of the real issue.

1. Michael said she was coerced into giving he email password. (Server based email is subject to subpoena, barring voluntary disclosure... this is obviously not voluntary i,e, the use of the word coerced.)

2. Evidence obtained from coerced searches, confessions, and seizures is considered the "fruit of the poisonous tree" invalidating the evidence, investigation, and the whole case.

3. There is little difference between circumventing the constitution and torturing prisoners. No matter what information you obtain, we as American's should not be doing it.

4. I wonder if you would still be so willing to trade in your freedoms if it was you or your wife, mother, daughter sitting across the table from a "Knapp".

There are a lot of comments on this article from people representing many different countries, even US citizens who are all having very similar problems coming into America. Hummmm I wonder if all these people are suspect in Child Porn, or is it just that the people who get singled out are the ones who are being profiled as the ones that won't complain and buck the system.
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# Pierpaolo Piccirilli 2009-01-06 21:26
Hi, I am an Italian expat who in the last 10 years has been living and working around the world. I spent almost 5 years in Asia and my base was in Thailand.
Seeing first hand how things really work outside of the West has turned my "force-fed" PC beliefs on their heads.
You want to see and experience in real life the racism, classism and xenophobia the evil West is supposed to be the home of? Just set foot outside of the West.
Mike, I speak Thai and I know Thai immigration laws pretty well. Do we want to make a comparison?
I am married to a Thai and she got Permanent Residency (and 1.5 years later citizenship) here in Italy for the simple obvious fact she is is married to an Italian citizen. International treaties and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights say that it's a basic human right to be allowed to live with one's spouse and children.
In Thailand the best I can get is 90 day NON-IMMIGRANT "O" Visas which are not conducive to eventual Permanent Residency and/or citizenship.
By law (and under very harsh conditions) one can get PR but ONLY UP TO 100 PRs can be "handed out" per year per nationality (and usually this ludicrously low limit is not even reached)!! Getting citizenship is more difficult and PR is a pre-requisite anyway so the final numbers are even lower...

Moreover, here in the West my wife can obviously work any job, buy land and houses, is protected against any type of discrimination by the laws, police force and judicial system etc while in Thailand I can work only very few job types (for example I am a nurse and this job falls within the countless ones which are restricted to foreigners), I cannot buy land or houses and am limited to condominium apartments but only in certain designated areas and provided the condo I am buying into has not reached a 50% max "foreign quota"! Moreover the foreigners always pay more (e.g. in the national parks foreigners pay several times more than Thais) and is very often the "guilty part" before the police and judicial system in any kind dispute against a local and irregardless of who is actually at fault.
And not even try to think to physically defend yourself or in any way "get physical" against a local who is threatening or abusing you, bystanders and passersby would jump in in a flesh to beat you senseless without any type of interest in what's actually happening and who was attacking who, all they see is a Thai against a foreigner.
White Westerners are called "farangs" in Thailand, they have "slangish" derogatory words for any other race and most of them are not ashamed nor restrained in any way by the laws or simply the education to openly use them.
I could go on much longer but I think you have got the gist of it... And to be honest with the kind of job you do I think you already know this all too well...
Only thing I would like to add is that these kind of things aren't in any way peculiar to Thailand, in various shades of grey they are going on everywhere outside of the West.
Sorry for the rant but my 10 year experience have wore off all of the sympathy and the "3rd worldism" which was inculcated in me and force-fed to me by our stupid, ignorant, hypocritical, opportunistic and downright dangerous PC media and politicians...

Time to wake up and smell the somtam folks, RECIPROCATION should be the name of the game. The only way to make this (and many other types of) crap stop and the only way they understand.

P.S. That said, and without knowing all of the facts and circumstances, that guy does seem a prick on a power trip.
Just hope to never get an officer like that on you in places like Thailand...
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# Delphine 2009-01-06 21:35
You mention it several times but no postings.
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# julian 2009-01-06 21:50
Just stumbled across this excellent blog and I have only one thing to offer here. Please apologize to your friend on behalf of all of us who have always enjoyed the warmth and friendship of the Thai people, extend our heartfelt best wishes, and apologize for her ill treatment. Also, tell her that IF she comes here again, just tell the people "No Ingles!" or 'I left my passport in my other burkha" and they will courteously escort her through the line, carry her luggage, gently hold any explosive items she may bring and, if she so desires, they will kiss her arse politely as they wave her to a table in the airport restaurant. At least, that seems to be the way they treat people who come here illegally, or people who hate America.
But THIS is the way we treat our friends.
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# Joseph OGERSHOK 2009-01-06 21:54
MeTOO said: If ya don't like getting questioned by Customs, don't travel!!!! The reason the Customs officer did what he did is because he was looking for child porn on the laptop/camera. Additional questioning can occur when one travels to "certain countries" that are rampant with child porn. Once again, Customs getting a bad rap trying to protect citizens of America!!!!!

You missed the whole point of the post about US v. Boucher; it does not matter the reason, they can not compel you or I to give up your password on the computer. There is a big difference between due diligence and abuse of power. The same folks who you find exibiting these behaviors have issues with power and control. Stating that this is the expectation of travel is downright insensative at best and arrogant at the extreme.

I am a 54 year old grandfather, a former Special Forces medic, with a US Gov't ID card and a US passport but still get grabbed from time to time as I travel back and forth through Europe and other Middle Eastern countries. My parents are of Slovack and Russian ancestry but I meet none of the current threat profiles. I do not get hassled by TSA but they do pull me when I have two tickets for the same flight and someone else buys my ticket. That, I can understand but not threatening "little people." You can tell a lot about people by who they choose to bully.

How do I know so much about power and control? I have counseled sex offenders and abusers in prisons as a group facilitator and our Mr. Knapp meets some of those criteria. The Maryand State Police have a very good screen to weed out this type of individual from getting into a position that would enable them to use their positions to the detriment of the average citizen. Mr. KNAPP needs to be held accountable for his behavior not the victim of his abuse.
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# BJ 2009-01-06 23:11
I don't condone the behavior and I've seen my share of TSA a=holes. (LAX is the worse), but she had a lot of flags.

Attractive young lady. Why? Because women from Asian countries are unfortunately assumed to be coming to work as PRO's. Sad but true. Seen it many times. In many countries. I work in Singapore currently and every time I fly back from Bangkok while standing in the immigration line they will send single women over to the side counters to do some checking.The return ticket thing will cause everyone problems. I've been questioned and I'm career military with an Official passport.

She's a bank officer in Thailand? What's the monthly wage for that? About 20,000 baht? Seems she can fly a lot to beau coup countries on that or is it the family or you or other men paying? Sorry, but I'm just stating what these guys think.

My advice is this: Should have sent her a letter on sponsorship, your statement on helping her out and contact. I've done it for my Thai girl as well and when they have questions they can call. She went to Pusan to meet me and they detained her over an hour and a half. Finally had to have the outside people call into the immigration side and some official walked out and asked to see my ID, then they asked if I knew her. It happens. Now days don't make short connections between flights. You really expected her to clear customs/immigra tion and go from the International Terminal to domestic in less than 90 minutes? Good luck on that.

I truly hate travel to the US due to all the precautions but it is what it is. The crappy jobs of security etc no one wants and they aren't the highest paying.

A little thought prior to her travel would have made for a better flight and maybe less hassle.

My girl still flies to meet up regardless of the hassles. She doesn't complain. Of course she isn't from a "well off" Thai family, just a simple Isaan family. Maybe that's part of the main complaint.??

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# Drew Baker 2009-01-06 23:26
You hit the nail on the head with this one. I am an Australian, who's country has a proud history of supporting America in every military endeavor it has every undertaken. And every time I enter the USA on the Visa Wavier Program I am fearful for my future. I can never be certain whether I will be granted entry or end up in a small cell in Cuba (I'm sure that's a gross exaggeration, but I can't be certain). Regardless of the reasons people here give to justify the over zealous security, the fact remains that it is doing more harm than good. How many real threats has the DHS caught compared to how many it has provoked? The number is impossible to tell, but not impossible to imagine.

There is reason America has the reputation it does abroad, and Mr. Knapp personifies that reason. I believe Gen. Petraeus was the biggest supporter of America maintaining the "moral high ground" and it's about time America learns from Iraq's experience.
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# Lifeofthemind 2009-01-07 08:22
I have had the dubious pleasure of working for both TSA and Customs and Border Protection. There is a lot of bad advice and rumor getting put out here. First the airline can be fined if the transport someone who is deportable into the United States, therefore they have a financial interest in ensuring that you have passage out booked. The comments that the officer was checking the laptop for evidence of child pornography or of a mail order bride or prostitution connection are also true. Also if she had traveled to states that have some terrorist connection that could be a flag. Extensive travel could mean that someone is a courier for drugs or money. Having someone sit for a while can reveal if they are carrying drugs internally, don't ask.

Now there was some good advice given about traveling with a letter of introduction, evidence of your professional status etc. She probably could have asked for someone to help her translate, although that may have further delayed her. They should have been able to check her fingerprint and passport reasonably quickly. It is true that until her identity, citizenship and intentions were validated she did not have the rights regarding the 4th Amendment that any person has once in the United States.

Finally there is the question of Mr Knapp. The doctrines and training in the various Homeland Security agencies aren't that bad but the staff is often deplorable. The TSA is absolutely the worst and the current system of 45,000 government employees making from $30,000 to $75,000 a year without education discipline or accountability should be replaced. Unfortunately given the political realities I am afraid that their jobs are secure. CBP should be a more professional service and their officers, who are real gun carrying Law Enforcement Officers with a 20 year retirement, can make $100,000 or more a year. Under the circumstances he should have been able to size up what type of person he was dealing with and conduct a thorough inspection, there is no reason to cut corners, without appearing rude. If he acted improperly then you should follow up with appointed and elected officials.

In conclusion there is good reason to do thorough inspections at the border but for the money it is also important to do so in a manner that is not needlessly offensive. A good officer can offer a smile and a cup of water and get better results.
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# johnF 2009-01-07 11:53
I take exception to the following quote, "It is true that until her identity, citizenship and intentions were validated she did not have the rights regarding the 4th Amendment that any person has once in the United States. "

The Constitution of the United States is not a terrain based document. The fourth amendment is a restriction upon the federal government against infringement of a natural right. Said natural right exists independantly of the Constitution. Law enforcement officers who violate natural rights violate their oaths of office and the constitution regardless of where they are located.
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# nani kemp 2009-01-07 16:34
So sorry that Aew started her American adventure with that idiot, Knapp. America is the greatest country in the world, but we definitely have our bad apples. There must be a lot of idiots in Minnesota, since they elected a professional wrestler to govern them, & now they have a comedian, Al Franken, representing them in Congress. The next four years are going to be hilarious with a "leader" who has unscrupulous ties & a media that can't get enough of him.
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# A.G. Pym 2009-01-07 20:39
I found it disheartening that the flyertalk thread ( that began with an (almost unattributed), incomplete copy of Michaels post here immediately veered into "She acted suspicious and nothing happened so this is a stupid story" territory almost immediately.

Then again, some of the posters brag about weekend trips to Tokyo just to get flyer miles.
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# bl1ndspot 2009-01-07 22:56

I'm sorry, but I have to offer some advice here. After the painful experience of trying to read through some of these posts, I am quite frustrated. Please, make an investment in your future, for the sake of all of us. You will gain the ability to communicate more effectively, and we will not have to spend any more of our day, than is necessary, in the misery of your writing skills. Onto my advice, buy a copy of The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition by Strunk and White. This book will provide some great insight into where to do things like place comma's, periods, begin a new paragraph, etc. These are some very basic things that will make reading your rants more enjoyable. I looked on and you can buy your very own copy of this for as little as $4.91, plus shipping.

Donƒ??t get me wrong, I enjoy reading the intent of your posts, itƒ??s just the pain of completing many of them to get to your point, which is begging me to make this post.

Finally, This post is meant to be humorous. If you are offended by it, Iƒ??m probably talking about your post.

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# Bill Smith 2009-01-08 03:44
Ahh, Jeff, my boy. In the future it would be best to refrain from criticizing someone's punctuation when you have made several errors yourself. I have enclosed YOUR completely unnecessary commas and words -- or omissions -- in [brackets] below, some with comments. But, Jeff, you ought at least to be able to form a simple PLURAL. It's "commas" not "comma's."

You will gain the ability to communicate more effectively, and we will not have to spend any more of our day, than is necessary[,] in the misery of your writing [skills]. Onto [should be "on to," NOT "onto" ] my advice[, should be a full stop, like a colon, not a comma] buy a copy of The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition[ ] by Strunk and White. This book will provide some great insight into where to do things like place comma's, periods, begin a new paragraph, etc. These are some very basic things that will make reading your rants more enjoyable. I looked on[ ] and you can buy your very own copy [of this] for as little as $4.91, plus shipping.

Donƒ??t get me wrong, I enjoy reading the intent of your posts[, full stop] itƒ??s just the pain of completing many of them to get to your point[,] which is begging me to make this post.
As for my using "full stop," I'm not picky. Either a semi-colon, or period would have cured the problem, but your bizarre use of commas, especially in this context, is a problem. BTW, I've still got my copy of Strunk & White which I bought when I was 14, in 1963.
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# Mamie 2009-01-08 07:15
Interesting article re records kept on travelers just came up on Yahoo:

Can't help think all this was triggered by the one-way ticket and it just so happened a very unprofessional employee took the case.
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# Brian H 2009-01-08 10:10
Carol, #24;
The reason? An inane extrapolation (the US should be so lucky!) of the fear of those trying to short-cut the route to US citizenship by means of quickie marriages to American citizens (you, in this case).

Jerry Pournelle (on his eponymous site) touts the power of his Universal Iron Rule of Bureaucracy, which in short says the paper-pushers always take over and drive the competent ones out or underground -- and to hell with the purpose of the "bureau".
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# Don Cordell 2009-01-08 18:43
We have an estimated 4000 illegal aliens enter our southern borders daily, and once in America it's against the law to ask them if they are here illegally. then we are told we can't make them leave, unless they have committed a crime (it's a crime to enter our nation illegally) so they flaunt our laws, demand free medical care, then food stamps for a child they have in our nation, now free education and all other benefits. What Homeland Security?

The actions at our ports of entry, and at airports must be to make up for the illegals that can enter carrying what ever they want. How has our government given some 300,000 Muslims who were caught entering our border with Mexico, applications for Amnesty? INS claims only 7% of those Muslims appeared in court on their assigned date to continue their application for Amnesty.

I find all to many local police use the same tactics on American citizens in our cities every day.

We have lost our way, and soon an Illegal immigrant named Barack Obama is about to be sworn in as our President. The Supreme Court has been chanrged with investigating this, and refuses to do so, WHY?

We have been sold, so get use to more and more POLICE action, and even worse when they enact "REX 84" and Executive Orders to place our nation under Martial Law. Financial crisis, huge unemployment happening and more to come by our wonderful elected America government.

I'm sorry foreign visitors to our nation are shaken up, but they are seeing the real America. If you have not left this nation, and tried to return, you have no idea what dumb people have been hired to fulfil these jobs.

I will not fly even in the USA, because I tend to explode when I'm questioned illegally about where I came from and where I'm going.

Get ready for more and more Road Blocks to check our Drivers license, to see if we are drunk, then to check our vehicles, and if we give them a hard time, we can be arrested just for failure to submit to illegal searching.
We can be stopped at any time, even in our front yards by police and demanded to show ID, and be searched at any time. WE have not 4th amendment anymore, in fact we have NO Bill of Rights anymore. Free Speech is now Hate Speech, permits to own a gun may be denied. Rights to a trial when detained, now cancelled by the War Commissions act of 2006, that cancelled Habeas Corpus.
The actions against anyone entering this nation are just a start of a totallitarian government that has taken over our nation. Welcome to the New World Order.
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# John D. 2009-01-09 00:25
While this officer's conduct is inexcusable, I suspect the emphasis on harassing single women is based on trying to prevent human trafficking. The administration mandated all employees take training to identify and prevent young women from being used or sold. Your friend raised more than one red flag with her status and ticket, so the guard was able to question her for what would seem to be an unreasonable amount of time and reasonably search in detail. You may not have run into this criminal enterprise in the middle east, but it is problematic in Asia and eastern Europe. She should have been aware as well, so it doesn't make sense that this treatment would be totally unexpected, or that she would not be prepared for questioning.
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# Chuckles48 2009-01-09 01:02
My wife once worked for INS, and I found at the time that there were a certain percentage of folks who were great to deal with, and a certain percentage who were just frightfully bad. Honestly, this bit sounds as-bad-or-worse than the Russian border police I dealt with a few years ago. Actually, worse. Much worse.
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# New Crusader 2009-01-09 05:15
Flying internationally is no easy task! Let's see - there is jet lag, time zones, Customs, Immigration and now we have the under paid and poorly trained horses _ _ s named Knapp in MN. I was once pulled out of line and questioned in Taiwan because they wanted to know why I died my hair gray to hide my identity when my passport showed I had darker hair. What can be said for poor quality photo's about the size of a large postage stamp?

Having worked and traveled in Thailand I have the greatest respect and love for the Thai people and food! Please extend my apologies to Aew for the treatment she received at the hands of an idiot who probably made a step up in life from a Rent A Cop to Homeland Security.

Aew, I am embarrassed and ashamed at the treatment that you received at the hands of an obvious bully with a little bit of power and very little intelligence.
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# Mike Pierce 2009-01-09 06:42
I am not surprised by this, They hire these people & pay them nothing, That is the old adage..You get what you pay for! I am a former Marine (DAV) with a cane & have been bullied several times by these same types. I was in a combat MOS in the Corps, Their was a shortage of M.P.'s at the time. They pulled the sevice records of Marines who had some of the better records at the time & sent us to Military Police training, I will never forget one class being taught by a Federal Agent, He told
us all about what he called the 'Wyatt Earp' Syndrome. This is when many people first get a Badge & a lot of authority they
often get carried away & abuse their power, A good Training Officer will stop this or time on the job hopefully. This alway's
stuck with me & i tryed to treat those i dealt with as i would wish to be treated. I think this officer KNAPP has a bad,bad, cas of the 'wyatt Earp' Syndrome, Sadly using my observations traveling, (Pofessional Music Industry) this seems indicitive of many
"Airport Security officers'. This man should be made to answer for this, Training & just some plain common sense should have
alerted him that this was not a 'person of Interest' Terror wise. Just look at the officers they hire, They cetainly (the Majority)
do not bring confidence to me. There are some GOOD ones about out there but sadly there are far to many KNAPPS & just
plain un-qaulified ones manning their post. I would like to know if he is a rookie or has the 'Wyatt Earp' Syndrome. Great job
you are doing on blooded ground, God Bless & to you SEMPER FIDELIS!!!
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# Kyle 2009-01-09 19:49
I'm a asian, very dark skinned one on top of that. Wheneven I fly out of the country to visit family in Thailand I always get stopped and stuck in a room much like that, but you see the thing is i was a born US citizen, I servered 2 terms in the US army, and yet they still think just because i'm brown i'm a terrorist? I have friends and family that died(mostly from car bombs) because of these assholes and they are stopping asians? For f*** sake i'm a Catholic, it say it right on my dog tags which I still wear.
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# CBP Insider 2009-01-09 21:48
His name is Caleb.
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# ChrisVJ 2009-01-10 09:01
For many years, on my travels, I thought of Americans as brash and sometimes tasteless, but one thing I so admired, their attitude towards authority. Americans could always be relied upon to stand up for themselves, not to be put upon.

For me, the saddest aspect of the whole 911 saga and its sorry aftermath is the sea change in American citizens. No longer cocky toward authority, no longer sure of themselves, they stand in airport lines with eyes down, afraid to make loud comments or joke around, a downtrodden people.

Once the brashness was annoying, I had no idea how much I would miss it.
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# Don Gwinn 2009-01-10 14:10
Aew, I'm sure you're reading this dispatch. I apologize for the way you were treated in my country. I'm sorry.

And yes, I gave my real first name.
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# Ray Fernandez 2009-01-11 09:04
This is just the tip of the iceberg, children are beinbg tasered to death,young psychiatric patients are being pepper sprayed, old people are denied of their rights, intitutionalize d and forced into forced guardianships while drugged and isolated.We document these cases almost daily at ElderAbuseHelp. Org a website that I started when my parents were separated after 58 years of marriage, my father died because of the stress and my mother was incapacitated and financially raped.
I had to be the canary in the coal mine, but having lost freedom once in now communist Cuba I am very alarmed about the on going transition of my adopted country into a gulag.
Did you know that we now imprison more citizens than any other country?
Here if Florida alone we surpassed 100,000 people incarcerated, that one in four of every citizen in Miami.
Your friend's perception of fear was very correct, be very afraid! Be very afraid.
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# Scott Rainey 2009-01-14 07:48
Michael and Aew, I too want to apologize on behalf of my nation that this happened to you.

However your sad story is not new. Let me tell you a worse story from 20+ years ago that is nearly the same except for the email and cellphone part.

A friend from a good family married a Philippina from a good family and started their own family in the US. By good family, I mean the husband was the son of a long-serving state senator. My friend earned six figures, 20 years ago.

The wife had a sister who was about to enter college. She wanted to visit her extended family in America. Tickets were purchased, the 747 boarded.

A tiny brown woman traveling alone, even -with- a return ticket, was and clearly still is, a red flag to immigration. They read through her diary and focused on her words that she was excited about "going to America" instead of "visiting America" and put her in an airport jail cell.

They all learned the hard way that civil rights only start after immigration lets you in. There's even a CSNY song about it.

Angry phone calls from both of the state's US Senators and the state's entire US Congressional delegation (the actual Senators & Congressmen, not staff) didn't help. After 15 days in lockup the young woman flew home having never set foot outside the airport. Even with all that political juice, nothing could be done. Nothing could be done after it either.

A classic example of absolute power corrupting absolutely, amplified by the small minds who seem attracted to the job.

There was a public scandal about this immigration office some years later. Too late for the sister. Not much has really changed, despite the publicity.

I hope the rest of the visit was better.
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# Jeroen Wenting 2009-01-14 18:33
Treating anyone like that is a disgrace, treating a visitor to your country like that is worse.
Had a US citizen been treated like that after being arrested by police he'd have a very strong case for a lawsuit against the police department treating him like that (a foreigner probably wouldn't, at least one legally in the country).
But as this was a TSA Agent, and they're essentially above the law and can do whatever they want, they get away with it.

Given stories like this, I don't think I'll visit the US again. Though a European and therefore not from a group that's flagged as potential illegal immigrants, I'm a single man and therefore a likely sexual deviant (British Airways won't let me sit next to children because in their book ALL men travelling alone are sex offenders)...

I've visited the USSR several times, the GDR once or twice, and other WarPac countries during the height of the 1970s and '80s, and never was treated nearly as bad as that.
Apart from being looked at suspiciously, noone ever did more than stamp your visum (though no doubt we were followed around when in country).
Even my father, when he WAS taken from an airliner by the Hungarian secret police once, wasn't treated anywhere near this bad. And that was by a feared agency of a hostile country, responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands, not by a borderguard who should be on the lookout for contraband ivory and fake Rolex watches, not looking down the blouse of Asian ladies.
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# chiara subhas 2009-01-15 04:45
I read your blog from time to time(which I enjoy), and just had to comment on this piece. I am a US citizen, born and raised here however both of my parents were immigrants. My father is from Kashmir and my middle name is Arabic. I have traveled the world extensively for long periods of time, including many countries in Africa, China, Vietnam and Cuba. However I have never been treated worse than in my own country upon returning. Questions about where I travelled, why I have dual citizenship and what I was bringing into the country. This has happened numerous times and I get very defensive when I come back into my own country. I have never in my whole life been proud to be an American, until this past election, and that is one of the reasons. I always feel like a criminal when I come back. The only country which has treated me worse, and the only country I truly despise! Is Israel. I am sorry for your friend and the experience she had, it is truly embarrassing.
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# Matthew Goggins 2009-01-15 08:03
I don't know the details of what Mr. Knapp did and said, so I will take your word for the fact that he was rude and inappropriate with you on the phone.

On the other hand, I am unwilling to second-guess his decision to detain and interrogate your friend Aew.

I think you would agree with me that Al Qaeda would love to nuke or otherwise devastate several American cities if they had the means to do so.

If Al Qaeda ever does pull off another major attack, do you or I or Mr. Knapp know who the terrorists will be and what they will look like?

They might be Middle-Eastern males of course. But if they have anyone at all for the mission who doesn't fit that terrorist stereotype, you know they would be eager use them.

You and I know that Aew is not an Islamist terrorist, and Mr. Knapp knows it now as well. But before he interrogated her, he wasn't sure, so he did what he considered to be the right thing, the thing he thought his position demanded.

Mr. Knapp will probably detain hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals over the course of his career, and never come across a single terrorist. But that doesn't mean he shoudn't keep looking.

Other than that, a great article, as usual, thank you. And I apologize to Aew for the fear and trauma of her experience. I hope she never has to go through anything like that again.
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# C Woods 2009-01-16 04:28
Greetings from China. I came to your blog via another American site.

One of the interesting aspects of your writing is the personal, even private, nature of the narrative. It makes for compelling reading, convincing even.

Here's the problem: Aew's case isn't unique so why does it draw so much ink, even from readers such as I? Why does it merit your attention and effort, more than other cases? And then when you consider the airport experiences of the weak, the half-illiterate , and the non-English arrivals without Americans waiting inside or outside the airport and they get more than the "shake down", as Americans put it, then Aew must be fortunate. In the room, alone, she knows she has you to turn to in the worst possible situation, you, a person of some measure of influence.

Also, again, why in America is her kind of problem so prevalent indeed more commonplace than most other places. You have admitted to that; Aew has numerous immigration stamps from around the world.

Several readers have commented that American citizens knew or had the gumption to stand up to authority. Not anymore? The morality in Aew's case is that it is not suppose to happen: people, especially in authority, should be decent towards the other. America has rule of law, people have rights. But yet...? Out of sheer prevalence, this cannot be a case of a few bad apples, especially since 9/11.

The point, then, is this: in supposedly one of the world's freest places, richest, well-managed, it is also dysfunctional and at some levels horrifying - you never know when you're on the other side of the law. But nobody sees the dysfunction until they are face on with authority, such as in the vileness of a person named Mr Knapp. That authority is most readily found at the airport immigration counter. In Aew she experienced first hand the dysfunction because all along she thought of America as a great place and you, as a product of it, would be worth her while. Now, she knows better about America, though not necessarily applicable to you.

You thought America is great too. And to be great, somebody or some other place has lesser worth, by any kind of qualitative or quantitative measures you care to name, specific to Aew's case, laws, rights, professional conduct. So, by those measures, China is not a great country, perhaps a pariah one. You said so: "She was treated better in China. So was I".

Note, that was your conclusion.

Now, do you see why Americans are despised in spite of all the kindness or generosity they appear to exhibit, which I'm sure you do?

It is difficult to give proper and the precise expression to your conclusion. But it has elements of idealistic illusion, self-deception, arrogance especially, and a kind of national narcissism - all wrapped up in a system governed by law and rights. See the paradox? America, when you up close, can be a horror to behold.

This deserves an exploratory book-length treatment.
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# Mark East 2009-01-16 07:06
Matthew Goggins (reply 129) quote; "I don't know the details of what Mr. Knapp did and said...On the other hand, I am unwilling to second-guess his decision to detain and interrogate your friend Aew."

Matt, with all due respect, both you and Mr Knapp are good examples of why people are so easy to manipulate.

You because you are one of the "them's the rules, so we must follow " types. (Hitler would've been happy to have you on the team) .... and Mr Knapp because scaremongering and demonizing and putting too much power in the hands of ignorant individuals means that power WILL be abused (sometimes just for the sake of ego).

This sort of attitude filters down from the top, and is entirely avoidable. Travel in Europe, or most of Asia, and you will find the authorities are firm, but very respectful and polite.

These things SHOULD be subject to public inquiry, because besides inconveniencing and frightening an innocent person, Mr Knapp was endangering everyone and wasting his valuable time, which should have been devoted to looking for REAL threats (and you don't need to be a rocket scientist, Matt, to see that a 40 year old, well traveled Thai woman with credit cards is not likely to be a terrorist).

I would suspect that such inquiries would reveal that people like Mr Knapp are in the wrong job.

Having said that, I feel it things will not change under the present government, as they have some considerable interest in promoting a siege mentality amongst the American people.
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# Matthew Goggins 2009-01-16 08:48

I didn't say we should interrogate people because the rules tell us to do so. We should interrogate people because that might be an effective way of disrupting terror plots. That's why we changed the rules so radically after 9-11.

If our interrogation policies do not in fact serve to deter and disrupt terror plots, then we should chuck them and be very happy to be done with them.

Treating visitors to our country as potential suspects seems Nazi-like to you. But please remember we are trying to avoid bloodshed, not initiate it. Any border guard who is guilty of xenophobia or misconduct should be disciplined or fired.

We have a responsibility to each other to secure our country to the best of our ability. You and I and everyone else are going to debate how to do that. Disagreement doesn't make one of us a fascist, as long as we share the same goals and the same concerns. As far as I can tell, we do.

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# Matthew Goggins 2009-01-16 09:29

I want to address one more point that you made.

You said that "a 40 year old, well traveled Thai woman with credit cards is not likely to be a terrorist".

I agree. Very few people, almost no one actually, are likely to be terrorists. But Mr. Knapp's job is not to figure out which travellers are likely to be terrorists -- that is probably an impossible task.

Mr. Knapp's job is to make it as difficult as possible for terrorists to use our aviation system as a weapon against us.

Throwing in the element of aggressive, somewhat arbitrary, surveillance at ports of entry makes it harder (hopefully a lot harder) for terrorists to calculate the probability of success for high-stakes operations, such as 9-11. It makes it harder for them to train, co-ordinate, and execute their plans.

If Mr. Knapp actually succeeds in stopping or apprehending a real-live honest-to-goodn ess terrorist in the process, that is only a somewhat improbable bonus. Like what happened to the millenium bomber at the ferry terminal in Anacortes, Washington.

It is a great shame that the visitors who get detained at our airports are bearing such a disproportionat e burden. If there is a better way to treat our guests, then we should do it. But such decisions should always place the security issue on the other side of the balance, and the weightier concerns should dictate what we do.

Thank you for responding civilly to my point of view. I think we're on the same side here, but if I'm mistaken, feel free to let me know.

All the best,
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# icesurvivor 2009-01-19 01:11
Mike, I can tell you what happens if they had decided that she planned to live in the states, she would have been cuffed and ankle shackled, taken to an Immigration jail, and dumped in a freezing pen with up to 80 other women. She could be stuck there for months, sometimes years. I worked at the bank and lived in Chicago for 20 years; I was in this jail because I sued Immigration to get them to finally spit out my green card, I was an ƒ??Administrati ve Detaineeƒ??. I am now stuck in the UK with nothing, yet I own a house with a mortgage in Chicago. Everything I have worked for 20 years has been destroyed. I paid tax on all of my earnings; I was an IRS Enrolled Agent....

As you are in shock being arrested by the men in Black, you are told to collect your medications, they just want to talk to you; you donƒ??t get a phone call, you donƒ??t see your medication again (where does it go??)

Once you are in jail you are given substitute medications, which can make you very sick. Example an elderly Indian lady with high blood pressure and diabetes, so they wake her at 5am to record her blood pressure, it shows low, they take her blood sugar as soon as she has eaten, to show it is ok; the rest of the time because she is NOT OK she is either on the cold floor or on the bunk in her cell, unable to function. She has a urine infection they won't treat, it progresses to a kidney infection, she is shaking and jolting with the pains inside her, and the guards will not do anything and punish me for asking for help for her. I made phone calls to the OIG hotline to get her help, telling them she would die if they did not do something. They wanted her to walk down the stairs, she couldnƒ??t, (they are laughing when she is throwing up and falling down off the toilet onto the floor headfirst) With another inmate we walked in front and behind her so she did not fall, the guard was annoyed, nobody told him he had to deal with this, he called for a wheelchair. They took her up to medical where she said they gave her antibiotics, she lost 10 pounds in 10 days..the day she walked back into the main cell, and she was deported and shoved on to the plane that night. She too had applied for her green card. Her file was marked RUSH too. I had four months to see the abuses in jail.
I am now having liver tests for the rash that covered my body from the throat down that I contracted in the jail. We were forced to clean 3 times a day with chemicals and no gloves.
I met Julie Myers, head of ICE, in the jail, she put her hands on the table, I told her she should wash them because it says on the bottle that if it comes into contact with the skin you should wash with cold water for 20 mins, and call the poison control center!

So that your friend was not arrested and shoved into jail ƒ?? she should consider herself very, very lucky. Homeland Security officership is encouraging the worst aspects of human behaviour, (Die Welle; ignorance, fascism, the ƒ??need to belongƒ?? Abu Ghraib! Same thingƒ??) and is creating a ready bunch of new Nazis, under your noses. There were two US Citizens in Immigration jail with me, because they make mistakes, and donƒ??t care to correct them. I watched one young Us Citizen having a nervous breakdown, she couldnƒ??t comprehend why she was in there. They spent over half a million dollars to arrest and detain me, I was not a fugitive, I worked in a bank, and have never even had a parking ticket. I am supposed to be grateful to have survived. Over 80 people have died that we know of in these jails. We only know about them because they had relatives who were citizens, who managed to get someone to listen, and put them in touch with NY Times who is keeping statistics. I have watched them bring people close to death with their tactics to demean and destroy people who were not born in the States.

So I repeat, your friend is Extremely fortunate that she was not put through this, for absolutely nothing.
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# John Hamilton 2009-01-20 23:16
I don't usually look back to sites where I've made comments, but did for this one. There sure are some angry people out there. I see the older versions of these guys at the V.A., still angry after all these years. They tend to drive rusted-out pickup trucks festooned with bumper stickers that express a laundry list of hatreds: "liberals," Kerry, Muslims, "Democrats," immigrants, the mythical great masses of gun control advocates, "communists," and on and on and on. Here's an example: [URL removed by Webmaster]

It is a good thing to be proud of your honorable service. You also have every right and justification for being angry. What you might want to do is direct your anger at those who cooked up the lies that got you sent to "Iraq" in the first place. I served in the military in a different era, when we knew it was all a big lie, and we served with honor anyway. Nowadays, with the "all volunteer" military, the services can self-select for true believers. The Marines, in particular, are easily programmed for group mind. I can only imagine what it must be like to have an independent thought in today's Marine Corps.

What I suggest for those with raging anger against enemies real and/or imagined is that you look into your anger and see if you can discover its real source. You might be surprised at what you find.
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# Steven Thomas 2009-01-23 11:29
"Welcome Back to The United States..." as often as I have traveled outside of the US, I've never heard a border guard say welcome back. As an American, these people know how to piss off most normal people returning from a simple vacation. As a human being, they are an embarrassment to the human race. The excuse "we're just trying to do our jobs..." is a bunch of bull.

Your friend is owed an apology.
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# andy 2009-02-05 03:40
I've been a reader of Yon's for a few years now. He seems to be able to call his shots with great accuracy. Let's hope he's wrong about Afghanistan. According to the CIA, we need less democracy building and more taliban killing. Yon thinks we should pull out. But what happens then? Does Afghanistan just become a shooting gallery for Predators or do we just let the gangrenous boil on the planet festoon?
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# John Spencer 2009-02-11 02:53
Why do we allow such people to work for us? And yes they work for you and me. I believe in our constitution and any time we give up our freedoms, any freedoms we lose and the terrorist have won, they made us change how we live. We say I want to be safe, I say I would rather be free. At what price are we willing to give up our freedoms. This agent any many, many more like him are in Homeland Security it is time they were gone, we complain but do nothing. The time has come that we as Americans say enough is enough. This agent is a normal Immigration Agent.

Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends [life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness] it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government... Thomas Jefferson (The Declaration of Independence)

"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." Benjamin Franklin
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# SFC MAC 2010-01-05 16:42
@"John Hamilton:
"I don't usually look back to sites where I've made comments, but did for this one. There sure are some angry people out there."

Yeah, and their Democrats targeting the free speech of fed-up Americans who are angry with their jack-booted tactic

"They tend to drive rusted-out pickup trucks festooned with bumper stickers that express a laundry list of hatreds: "liberals," Kerry, Muslims, "Democrats," immigrants, the mythical great masses of gun control advocates, "communists," and on and on and on. "

Considering the Marxist currently occupying the White House, those bumper stickers are fairly accurate.

"What you might want to do is direct your anger at those who cooked up the lies that got you sent to "Iraq" in the first place."

The Bush lied" mantra is hackneyed and patently false. You need to get a clue, bud:

I served in the United States Army (now retired) as an Intelligence Anayst. I was in Iraq twice.

"Nowadays, with the "all volunteer" military, the services can self-select for true believers. "

True in people who stand behind their principles and values; and yeah, even believe that America isn't always the "bad guy".

"What I suggest for those with raging anger against enemies real and/or imagined is that you look into your anger and see if you can discover its real source. You might be surprised at what you find."

Oh goody, a self-appointed psychoanalyst who wants everyone to think that their anger at the way our national securiity and economy is being destroyed by a bunch of socialist effetes, is somehow "imaginary". Newsflash: The enemy is here, it's real, and unfortunately, the source will be in power until he gets kicked out in 2012.
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# basketball shoes 2010-01-05 19:32
The list -- one of oh so many lists -- is also refreshingly interesting in and of itself, a fine example of a publication stepping outside of the hive mentality and coming up with something that feels personal. Even if I don't personally agree with a lot of it.
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# JR Dunn 2010-01-05 21:15
You can toss all the nonsense about terrorists, Al Q, nuking Minnesota and etc. aside. Little man Caleb is obviously an old INS hand, and was trying to bag Aew for one thing: sneaking into the country as a mail-order bride. The business of questioning both parties (Aew and Michael Y. in this case) is an INS trick meant to ferret out contradictions. If any such arise, the agent can assume that the two don't actually know each other and send the "bride" back on the next plane.

Of course, that immediately raises the question of what Caleb thought he was doing wasting his time on such trivia while people are tyring to blow up airliners over Detroit. Seems that some people need their priorities straightened out. Which, I'm sure, comes as news to nobody at this stage of the Long War.
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# Dave C 2010-01-05 21:46
I was witness to a similar incident that a witch working the Canadian side near Detroit had gotten a nasty attitude with my Wife for stopping slightly ahead of the STOP sign at the border crossing. It was obvious she was trying to escalate the issue, angry, threatening face. As we sat there at the gate with the woman snobbily asking "didnt you see the Stop sign..." I took notice, and when she asked "whats the most valuable thing in your vehicle" I proudly exclaimed THIS VIDEO CAMERA THATS RUNNING and held it up showing her that I had been recording her.

She shut up IMMEDIATELY and sent us through.

TAPE RECORDER. NEVER LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT. The corrupt play the "you cant prove it" game.
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# RS 2010-01-06 08:54
Although I did not have any issues with the border control but there is what I noticed when I traveled to Europe a few years ago. Every country I traveled to, I was greeted by friendly border patrol staff who directed me on where to go and checked my passport. Every Country! When I arrived back in the states I was greeted by what seemed to be people who hated their jobs. Not friendly at all. This was also the case when I was leaving the country. I was embarrased to be an American. Al the tourists from other countries get the feeling "Welcome to America" froma bunch of people that are unhappy. Is this what America is??!! Sad time.
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# MikeNZ 2010-01-06 12:36
He sounds like a wannabe.
Has he been properly and positively I dentified for proceedings to proceed?
Have you asked for the video and transcript?
Is he going to be prosecuted for the violation of privacy of a US citizen?
Change happens one person at a time sometimes.
Today you have the power to effect change.
I am sure the ACLU will handle it for no fee.
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# td 2010-01-06 12:42
in mpls if she was an ethiopian muslim or somali with no ID, a burkah, and a sad look in her eye they would have paid for her flight and set her up on welfare---those MN TC people are into making amends for things they or their swedish german folks never did-----------s ee garrison K. they have to be first to apologize for every act commited in North America---they are nuts.
but, they are so self righteous that they think they are so special and "informed", super smart and sensitive, intuitive
that Sir KNappy can see beyond the reality of your friend into another dimension --and therefore have the right to hold her there for whatever amount of time until thier great brains are satisfied that they know the truth. crazy.
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# df 2010-01-06 13:24
This sounds like the bully tactics the IRS used when I worked for them, then one day I got a conscience and decided to get out of organized crime. They don't let you leave easily when you disagree with their practices, it's like trying to leave the mafia. They try to ruin you afterward in order to discredit anything negative you have to say about them and their thuggery.
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# wanderer 2010-01-07 02:54
regret that it's just a typical american tale these days. So many horror stories (the Canadian psychology prof barred from entry at the border because he had once written a scholarly article about LSD 30 years before, the UK musicologist who was the victim of an anonymous "tip", the Italian banker --with a US girlfriend-- jailed for many days and held incommunicado.. .) Generally the TSA / US border officials I've come across seem to be low paid & poorly educated, (which is forgivable) but also deeply suspicious of the outside world and often extremely --pompously (& pathetically)-- - officious (which seems to be a uniquely American cultural phenomenon). Basically the same kind of folks wageslaving at MacDonalds and Walmart, but with a uniform. The solution? a better public education system? Higher wage scale to attract college grads? well i wouldn't hold my breath waiting... maybe the real question - is it really worth the trouble visiting the states? So many other places to go...
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# Joe OConnor 2010-01-07 02:57
Michael, thank you for publishing this article, it’s appalling to hear we continue to have these issues with homeland security. I agree the Knapp’s of this world somehow manage to even surpass security measures “homeland Security” with their own background check of their employees. However this is ongoing concern not just with homeland security but with our own law enforcement which has created animosity. “Years ago theses were once noble professions”
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+1 # RE: Border BulliesTalk more about Caleb Knapp someone.....give us dirt on him!!! 2010-01-08 05:53
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# A Brit 2010-01-12 06:05
This sort of cr*p is why I won't visit the dump that is America if I can possibly avoid it!
Every story I hear or see about "Homeland (lack of?) Security" puts me off even more. America used to be run by the Brits, it should be again (admittedly not under the current government), as they have clearly lost the plot.
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# Sarah 2010-01-13 17:34
Let's hear more about Caleb Knapp, shall we? Does anyone have an address?
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# jeff 2010-01-14 15:32
this is absolutely sickening.
this is why i am against all these security measures being taken in the name of terror
id rather deal with the fear of a terrorist attack than the tyranny of government any day
people have got to wake up and see that these "security measures " are just a ploy to condition us for socialism and radical leftwimg control
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# Rick 2011-05-06 15:47
Reading that article really hit me hard, I had no idea that homeland security was doing things like that, its truly sickening! I was hoping to become a tax preparer for the government but now I don't think I want to be apart of this terrible human decency violation!
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# thanksUltrabook Notebook T 2012-03-10 16:44
Why will we allow such people to work for us? And sure they be good for you and me. I imagine in our constitution and any time we surrender our freedoms, any freedoms we lose and the terrorist have gained, they made us change how we live. We are saying I need to be protected, I say I would fairly be free. At what value are we willing to surrender our freedoms. This agent any many, many more like him are in Homeland Safety it's time they were gone, we complain however do nothing. The time has come that we as Americans say enough is enough. This agent is a standard Immigration Agent.

Every time any type of authorities turns into damaging of these ends [life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness] it is the proper of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government... Thomas Jefferson (The Declaration of Independence) Ultrabook Notebook Tipis Harga Murah Terbaik
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# RE: Border Bulliesseputarsoftware 2012-03-10 16:46
Flying internationally isn't any easy task! Let's examine - there is jet lag, time zones, Customs, Immigration and now we have the beneath paid and poorly educated horses _ _ s named Knapp in MN. I used to be once pulled out of line and questioned in Taiwan as a end result of they wanted to know why I died my hair grey to cover my identity when my passport showed I had darker hair. What could be mentioned for poor quality photograph's in regards to the size of a giant postage stamp?

Having worked and traveled in Thailand I have the best respect and love for the Thai individuals and meals! Please prolong my apologies to Aew for the therapy she obtained by the hands of an idiot who most likely made a step up in life from a Lease A Cop to Homeland Security.

Aew, I am embarrassed and ashamed at the therapy that you simply acquired at the hands of an apparent bully with a bit little bit of energy and very little intelligence.
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