Posts Tagged ‘border patrol’

I cross the U.S.-Canada border on I-5 or SR-543 in Blaine, WA at least once every two weeks. When I first started crossing in September, I was not used to the border guards’ interrogations and allowed them to intimidate me into nervous responses that led to two full searches going into Canada. But soon I figured out what they wanted to hear (yes/no answers, no headshakes, no mmmhmms, no long stories) and how they wanted me to act (calm as if I just downed a tranquilizer) and they stopped searching me. On the U.S. side, it was even less of an issue–they opened my trunk once or twice, but that was it.

Until this weekend.

Going to Canada was the same old thing. The border guard even recognized me and was friendly. But coming back to the U.S. just after midnight on Monday morning, the border crossing at I-5 Peace Arch was extremely dead. There was only one car in front of me. He got through quickly and I pulled up to the guard shack. The guard started into his usual questions, I started into my usual answers…and then he informed me that I’d been selected for a random screening. I stopped talking entirely and stared straight ahead. He gave me instructions for where to pull up and wait for a guard. Then he randomly said “You’re welcome,” either out of conditioning or because he wanted to piss on me a little bit more.

I pulled my car off to the left and parked. I waited. Five minutes passed. No guard emerged from the building. I looked around, wondering if maybe I was not in the right place. I turned the car on and began to inch it forward. Suddenly, two guards came out of the building and told me to stop and back up. They then instructed me to come inside.

The customs building is massive and sparkling. Ah, the wonderful things that 9/11 did for America’s police state bureaucrats! And on this night, it was also completely empty, save for three thugs at keyboards and one thug walking around behind them. I walked to the front of the “line” and then a surly red-haired thug who looked like he hadn’t seen a smile since the first Bush administration told me to come forward. Yes, told. He did not ask. I complied.

He started into the usual questions, too: “Why were you in Canada?” “How long were you there?” “Are you bringing anything back?” “What do you do for work?”

To this, I replied that I was a writer. He then followed up and said, “What kind of writing?” At last I had had enough. I said flatly, “I’m not going to answer that.”

“Why not,” he asked.

“It’s not relevant to my visit to Canada and I’m not going to answer it.”

“You are either going to answer it or you can go sit in the corner over there until you feel like answering it.”

I reemphasized that this question was not relevant and I would not answer it. Another guard yelled at me to go sit down. I continued to defend myself as a third guard then entered the fray. I asked him if he was familiar with “some guy v. Puerto Rico from the 1960s” (I could not remember the name of the decision, which is apparently U.S. v. Valentine), a ruling that stated that one of an American citizen’s rights is reentry into his own country. The guard said that he was aware of this right, but that I would need to answer some questions first.

With three of them telling me to sit down, I went and sat in “time out.” I haven’t felt more like a child since I was taking naps on towels and playing Transformers in kindergarten. I sat there and fumed, refusing to even look at them, planning what my next step would be, how long I would be willing to tolerate time out.

After five minutes, the red-haired thug told me to come back over. Again, told–he did not ask. So I complied.

“I need your keys so I can search your car.”

Now, first, let me point out that he did NOT re-ask me the same question about what kind of writing I do. That he did not re-ask this question necessarily proves my point that the question was irrelevant. Back to the dialogue.

“Ok, but I would like to be present for any search,” I said.

“That’s now allowed. Why do you care? Is there something I should know about?”

“No, I just want to see how my property is treated and would also like to make sure you do not plant anything.”

This suggestion made Mr. Thug angry, almost as if I had hurt him.

“Why would I plant something?”

“I have no reason to trust you,” I replied. Looking back on it, I should have said, “I am on this side of the desk and you are on that side. That’s reason enough.” But I was flustered.

So the dialogue continued. I offered to watch them search my car through a window, which, I pointed out, I have been allowed to do in Canada. No. I asked them if they had a warrant. Oh, ho-ho–the Supreme Court has ruled that the 4th Amendment does not apply at borders! So I continued to refuse the search and was ready to either ask for my passport back so I could just return to Canada (though I suspect this would not be allowed) or just go back to the corner.

Before I could act, the pacing thug walked over and asked what was going on. They explained the situation. He then looked at me and said, “Ok, so here is how this is going to work. You can either give them the keys and let them search your car, or I will put you in handcuffs, lock you in a cell, take your keys, and then search the car. Which one is it going to be?”

Knowing well the indefinite detention record of U.S. border guards, I decided the cell would not be in my best interest. Instead, I said, “I will give you the keys, but I want everyone’s name here so I can be sure to complain about you all.”

“Fine, I am the supervisor,” the pacing thug said.

So I gave them the keys. Two of them practically sprinted out of the building. They returned within a few minutes, much faster than the searches have taken in Canada. The reason, after all, is that they cared very little about searching my car but very much about making me kneel down and kiss Leviathan’s ring and acknowledge my own enslavement. They called me back over to the desk. The pacing thug returned and, wordlessly, wrote down his name (Rick Gattis, 360-332-5771) on a piece of paper and gave it to me.

The red-haired thug then started into some spiel about “thanking me for my cooperation.” I took the keys and didn’t even look at him, let alone respond. I couldn’t get away from those vile fascists fast enough.

Allow me to quickly say that it is incidents such at this one, an incident that proves that supposed Constitutionally-guaranteed “rights” we have are a sham, that make me look forward evermore to the day when I can walk into a U.S. embassy abroad and throw my passport in some shocked bureaucrat’s face. This country is a fraud. The only existential danger America faces is not some religious idiots hiding in a cave in Pakistan, but the ever-greater demands of empire. Terrorists cannot destroy this country. What can destroy it is the incredibly successful alliance of a credulous, stupid, and scared citizenry, ever happier to allow themselves to be enslaved by an army of bureaucrats, eager to get fat paychecks and pensions whilst searching the slaves and reading their emails.

And you know what? I look forward to the end of it all. Once America’s empire is gone (Ed. note: I am not advocating for America’s enemies, either, since they are mainly medieval religious fanatics), maybe it can be a decent country again or, better yet, many separate decent countries. I am not one to like the idea of a state at all, but several smaller, humbler Americas would be infinitely preferable to the present imperialistic behemoth that blows up Afghan weddings, holds people in cages indefinitely and without charge, and supports all manner of evil men, whether it be Somalis employing child soldiers or Netanyahu plowing under Palestinian homes, all in the name of freedom and democracy. Would that it could all be ended tomorrow. Would that the American people, no better or worse than any others, could be allowed to live peacefully and freely in small and humble communities, without the threat of coercion.

Whatever America’s future may be, I do not expect to be part of it. I would rather live in exile than continue to support this stupid empire any longer.


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  • Glenn Greenwald: doing vital reporting on an issue entirely neglected by the U.S. media–the release of findings from the UN’s inquiry into Israel’s raid on the Mavi Marmara. Included in the findings: 19-year-old U.S. citizen Furkan Dogan was shot execution-style as he lay on the deck in a semi-conscious state. The only UN Human Rights Council member to vote against endorsing the report was the U.S. American-Israeli relations: where you execute an innocent citizen of ours and we help you cover it up!
  • NYT: Norway says that three terrorist plotters arrested in July were planning an attack on the Danish hero-newspaper Jyllands-Posten–the paper that published the Muhammad cartoons. The best part is that all three plotters were permanent residents who arrived as asylum seekers. You came to the West seeking so asylum…so that you could violate the rights of others and make them seek asylum? Here’s hoping these three rot for a very, very long time.
  • New Humanist: around 20 U.S. newspaper spike a cartoon for a perceived slight to Muhammad. This is when they’ve won, when we start self-censoring. Ugh.
  • Carlos Miller: Michigan authorities bully a man and threaten to refer him to the Department of Homeland Security…for taking pictures of the town water tower. Similar photos are displayed on the town’s own website. Snap those shutters, people. We have to keep shaming these jerks into respecting our rights.
  • Reason: their entire October issue is available for free online now!
  • Free Keene: video of Pete and Adam from Liberty on Tour having a very well-handled, funny encounter with U.S. Border Patrol. Best part: the checkpoint is comfortably inside U.S. territory. And I used to think it was odd that Russians had to carry their papers everywhere.
  • National Post: updating information on the conscientious objector safehaven bill being walked through the Canadian parliament by Liberal MP Gerard Kennedy. It’s too bad they are trying to make him limit it to U.S. objectors only, but at least this would be an improvement over the current system.
  • Radley Balko at Reason: updating a police brutality case. The DEA gave a big, fat settlement to the innocent man who was brutalized. But now the only disciplinary action taken has been against the Kansas City (KS)  cop who blew the whistle. It’s their country, we just live in it.
  • Katherine Mangu-Ward at Reason: LA teachers union sickos blame the suicide of an LA teacher on the LA Times teacher effectiveness rankings. Vile. What other profession gets away with this sort of evidence-averse bullying yet still gets sympathy from the public?
  • Armin Rosen at Reason: highlighting the stomach-churning hypocrisy of Obama on DC schools. First Obama listened to the evidence-averse, child-hating crazies teachers there and helped kill the popular voucher program. Now he stood by and let the pro-school reform mayor lose his reelection race. In the meantime, his kids attend the super-elite Sidwell Friends. Do you think of the lives you’ve ruined before you go to bed at night, Barack? What are a few schoolkids condemned to failing schools when you run Guantanamo Bay and oversee two bloody wars, I guess.
  • The Globe & Mail: U.S. prepares to lock up a Canadian pot smuggler. 8 months for harming no one, for initiating no force, for respecting consent. Proud to be an American!
  • Pat Buchanan: making the case that China overplayed its hand in the recent fishing boat face-off with Japan. By Buchanan’s logic, China has now proven itself a ruthless foe willing to use economic warfare to achieve its goals. I don’t see this as a revelation.
  • The Globe & Mail: British Columbia’s political-administrative classes gang up on anti-harmonized sales tax (HST) leader Bill Vander Zalm because there happen to be some crazy people in his movement. What a load of spew. This is like that insane Google v. Viacom lawsuit, where Viacom tried to hold Google liable for individual users uploading licensed content, even if Google removed it. Vander Zalm is not responsible for the actions of individuals who support his cause. You’re getting desperate, guys.
  • The Globe & Mail: French prosecutors were nice and helpful, gladly turning over information on 1,800 secret Swiss accounts held by Canadians to the Canadian Revenue Agency. How dare you hide your wealth from Leviathan! Leviathan is hungry!
  • NYT: an Israeli publishes the country’s first pork cookbook. It doesn’t sound like a big deal until you read this part: “Pork sellers routinely face protesters, and in recent years, arsonists have attacked shops in cities like Netanya and Safed, where Orthodox Jews live near secular immigrant communities.” Yes, burn down a store because someone inside is selling a product you don’t have to use.
  • Glenn Greenwald: ridiculing Obama for his hypocrisy in talking tough on Iranian torturers whilst filing state secrecy claims to dismiss investigation of torture at home. It feels so refreshing to lose our moral credibility, doesn’t it?
  • The Globe & Mail: Vancouver politicos can’t understand why food carts aren’t taking off there like they have in Portland. Well, they have some inkling that it was because they limited the number of licenses. But hey, let’s just set a new, arbitrarily-low number of licenses and tell people to put their carts in clusters and it will be ok! You’re doing it wrong, you imbeciles. Get rid of the licenses. Let people do what they want. Then the trucks will come.

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You might remember me linking to a story by Paul Karl Lukacs about how he refused to answer questions from U.S. customs on a recent trip home. Given my recent difficulties with U.S. and Canadian customs, I found Lukacs’s strategy of non-cooperation fascinating. It’s not going to come much in handy going to Canada since, as they have reminded me before, going to Canada is a “privilege, not a right.” But with U.S. customs…well, eventually they have to let citizens back in the country. What’s the alternative? Deport us? If you know how hard it is to emigrate to another country with even the best of intentions, you’ll understand how laughable that suggestion is.

Lukacs just followed up with a more comprehensive, ten-point guide to customs strategy (H/T: Lew Rockwell.com). Read it, learn it, memorize it. I don’t necessarily recommend deploying these strategies since it will cost you time, maybe even to the point of ending up in detention, and maybe get you put on a watchlist or the dreaded no-fly list, but at least know what is in your arsenal as a citizen.

One of the money quotes:

That being said – and this is a point several commenters made – entering the U.S. is a cruder experience than entering most other countries. Although I enter China multiple times a year, I have never been asked a question by an immigration or customs officer. When I have entered Thailand without a visa, the officer’s questions have been limited to the duration of my visit (to make sure I am within the Kingdom’s visa waiver rules). Once, a German immigration officer wanted to know my plans, and that interview was polite and three questions long. And, in my reading of travel blogs, the U.S., Canada and Great Britain are the three countries consistently mentioned for their overreaching border officers. (emphasis mine, M.)

Having entered all three of these countries, I couldn’t agree more. Certainly there are outliers. Going into Ukraine, our train was searched by dogs. Entering Russia requires a visa. But even in those countries, my actual interactions with the border patrol were shorter, less intrusive and politer than what I’ve encountered in the U.S., the UK and Canada. Canada especially–I’ve been asked about my employment history, asked for contact information for the person I was visiting so they could call her and even had my hard drive searched for “obscene material.” It’s a veritable smorgasbord of dehumanization and shaming. The irony in the Anglophone countries that taught the world so much about civil liberties now working so hard to undermine them is deep and painful.

For U.S. citizens, I think the most important quote was this one:

A federal judge in Puerto Rico – a territory sensitive to the rights and privileges of its residents’ U.S. citizenship — said it best: “The only absolute and unqualified right of citizenship is to residence within the territorial boundaries of the United States; a citizen cannot be either deported or denied reentry.” U.S. v. Valentine, 288 F. Supp. 957, 980 (D.P.R. 1968).

Put that in your pocket. Remind the friendly customs people. See how they try to dodge that one.

Coming in a very close second:

3. Any Misstatement To A Federal Officer Can Result In Your Arrest.

If a federal officer claims you lied to him, you can be arrested and charged with the crime of making false statements. You do not have to make the statements under oath (which would be the different charge of perjury).

This statute – which is referred to as Section 1001 and which can be read here in all its prolix glory — is the reason why Martha Stewart has a Bureau of Prisons number.

The only way to immunize yourself against a false statements charge is to refuse to speak to federal officers.

This is such a big one. Don’t give them the rope to hang you. They interrogate thousands of people each day, hundreds of days a year. They are used to these interactions. They are pros. They have the power. We are amateurs. We get nervous and don’t know what to say. This leads to us saying dumb and/or inconsistent things. You might think you are above this reality, but you’re probably wrong. So play it close to the vest as much as possible.

Last one I want to highlight:

5. Politeness Would Make No Difference.

Many of the commenters took issue with my rude tone toward the CBP officers. This criticism is profoundly misguided.

To the authoritarian mind, there are only two responses to a demand: submission or defiance, and anything less than total submission is defiance. A Lutheran grandmother from Savannah with manners from an antebellum finishing school would be hassled if she refused to answer CBP’s questions.

Answering with a tart “None of your business” underscores that I will not be pushed around and – potentially important from a criminal procedure perspective – is an unambiguous statement that I am not waiving any rights. It is a line in the linoleum.

Definitely my experience so far. I’ve tried to be polite, especially with U.S. Customs. It’s been received positively once. Every other time, it’s been met with curtness and the same BS everybody else encounters. They’ve got an image to protect. Welcoming you back to the country with a slap on the back and a big smile isn’t part of it.

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The immense backlog of articles to read has been read. The requisite amount of head-shaking has occurred. And now, at long last, my sense of inertia has been overcome. We’re back online, folks. The Country Estate is now officially operating from a secret location tucked away on a Seattle hillside. Let’s get started with a record-breaking batch of links…and remember, some of them might be old since they’ve been accumulating for a while, but they’re all worth reading!

  • The Independent: Robert Fisk does a two-part series on “honor” killings. Worth reading every word. By the end, I didn’t know what was more horrifying–the crimes themselves (“One of the most terrible murders in 1999 was that of a mentally retarded 16-year-old, Lal Jamilla Mandokhel, who was reportedly raped by a junior civil servant in Parachinar in the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan. Her uncle filed a complaint with the police but handed Lal over to her tribe, whose elders decided she should be killed to preserve tribal “honour”. She was shot dead in front of them.”) or the “justice” systems in the countries that witness most of these murders and routinely let the perpetrators off the hook.
  • Via David Schmader at Slog, Seattle Weekly: the cartoonist who drew the “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” cartoon after the South Park controversy last year has gone into hiding. Because she drew a cartoon. Someone in the Slog comments thread was saying that we need to have an “I am Spartacus” moment and I couldn’t agree more. These medievalist thugs cannot be allowed to win.
  • Center for a Stateless Society: did you know border patrol skull-crackers can ask for your papers and lock you up even if you’re just near the border? Cops in Rochester are such happy little thugs that their department is endowed with increasing amounts of funding for their card-checking.
  • Jacob Sullum at Reason: the Las Vegas coroner clears a cop who killed a man in his home on a drug raid. Not only was the cop serving a warrant on the wrong guy, but also his explanation of what led him to shoot the man doesn’t match up at all with forensic evidence. So why did he get cleared? It’s their country, we just live in it, silly!
  • Via Reason, Paul Lukacs: an American citizen exercises his right to remain silent in an intrusive interrogation by U.S. border patrol thugs. Sample: “I’m not going to be interrogated as a pre-condition of re-entering my own country,” I said.
  • National Post: it’s old news out of my own Seattle, but the prosecutor who indicted non-violent freedom activist Marc Emery for selling marijuana seeds now says that the war on drugs is a waste of time and resources. Of course you would say that now, you schmuck…now that it comes at no personal cost to you, now that you’ve helped ruin another man’s life for a nonviolent “crime.” Whilst I’m at it, don’t forget to do your part in freeing Marc Emery, a true hero.
  • MacLeans: an absolutely bone-chilling account of a Canadian journalist who narrowly dodged an “honor” killing in her native Pakistan. Her own brother deceived her and would have killed her for marrying the wrong boy if she hadn’t been too smart to fall for it.
  • Via Lew Rockwell, Fox: the FBI bans a British teen from American shores for life…for sending an email with an obscenity to the president. Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will get me banned from a country for life?
  • Der Spiegel: a profile on the recently-charged five-man U.S. murder squad busted in Afghanistan. These guys were horrible…planting weapons and evidence on innocent people after killing them for sport, collecting body parts as trophies, etc. But the thing we have to be most careful of is allowing the Pentagon and the media to convince us that this was a one-off deal. These guys just happened to get caught. What they did was egregious and sickening, but it’s only a shade morally darker than drone strikes that kill one bad guy and a family full of innocents. Innocent blood like this will continue to accumulate on our hands so long as we stay in Afghanistan.
  • NYT: the Department of Defense wants to use your money to buy and burn all 10k copies of a new Afghan war memoir because it contains classified information. What does classified even mean anymore, in the world of Dick Cheney’s “Treated as Top Secret?” This case is a perfect example of why we need WikiLeaks. They can burn books, but good luck burning hyperlinks.
  • Via Tyler Cowen, NYT: longshot Nevada gubernatorial candidate wants to let people submit to yearly vehicle inspections and then pay a daily fee to speed up to 90 mph. This might sound freedom-y, until you realize that it means you have to accept the notion that the state can tell you how to use your property and that you should pay them money to partially exercise a right that should be yours from inception.
  • Radley Balko at Reason: Mississippi wants to execute a man based on “expert” evidence from a disgraced forensic dentist. Clearly trials in government courts are not stacked against the defendant! Clearly no innocent man could ever be executed in our country!
  • Center for a Stateless Society: “State power is not a creative force, but a destructive one.” This goes out to all those smarties out there who want politicians to “create” jobs. Check out the Broken Window Fallacy or GTFO, dudes.
  • NYT: take a trip to Newark, the city so plagued by police abuse and corruption that they’re asking the feds to intervene. So you’re going to make a justice system stacked in favor of the state less stacked in favor of the state by bringing in….more state power? That’s a hell of a thought process.
  • Via the NYT, AP: it’s short enough to just give you the relevant details–“VIENNA (AP) — A jailed right-wing Austrian author has been found guilty of violating a prohibition on glorifying Nazi ideology and sentenced to an additional two years in prison. Gerd Honsik is already serving a four-year term, which began last year after he was found guilty of ”Wiederbetaetigung” — ”re-engaging” in Nazi-era beliefs. The crime is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.” Good Lord! Nazis, Holocaust deniers, fascists, racists, etc–they’re all repugnant people. But jailing someone for 20 years for having the “wrong” idea? America looks a lot freer all of a sudden.
  • NYT: a restaurateur in San Diego faces “up to 30 years in prison, almost $4 million in fines and the government seizure of his small French restaurant” for hiring illegal immigrants to work in his kitchen. Because it’s not the right of free and peaceful people to cross  borders.
  • NYT: profiling smokers in NYC. “There was a time, not so long ago, that no one lingered, cigarette in hand, between the MetLife buildings on East 24th Street. They smoked at their desks, or, later, in a smoking lounge. Then in 1995, City Hall started rolling out its restrictions and the herding began: big room to small room, inside to outside, public to private, acceptable to anathema. Today, the stigma runs deeper than ever. “They look at you like you just clubbed a baby seal,” Mr. Davila said.” Whoo, demonize minorities! It’s not discrimination when it’s for public health!
  • Center for a Stateless Society: cops react so harshly to people following the law and recording them in public places because the state doesn’t like competing narratives. Keep the cameras rolling, people. If I ever get enough money, I’d love nothing more than to pay an army of cameramen to follow every cop everywhere in some big city.
  • Center for a Stateless Society: great article on a trend I’ve noticed with disapproval, too–statist jerks appropriating the word “serious” to describe just about anything that supports or expands the state power status quo.
  • NYT: Did you ever notice how the oldest person in the world almost always seems to be Japanese? Well, it turns out that Japan’s count of people older than 100 was actually off by a bit….to the tune of 234,000 persons. Some of it was down to bad bookkeeping, but a substantial part resulted from people lying in order to keep deriving pension benefits in the name of the dead. Not that entitlements breed dependency or anything.
  • Matt Welch at Reason: Headline says it all–“Watching California’s Newspapers Line Up Against Legalizing the Pot That 90% of Their Employees Have Smoked.” It’s not really too surprising given that we’re in a country in which the last three presidents have admitted using pot and the last two have copped to cocaine. Cognitive dissonance is a favored past-time of the “serious” people in the country.
  • Via Rational Review, the Show-Me Institute: the limitless expansion of licensing cartels, from doctors to lawyers to nurses to hairdressers. This is what happens when established interests hate competition, lawmakers love more power and revenue and average Americans continue to love to be scared.
  • The Globe & Mail: a woman sues her employer for being told to dress a certain way. Ugh. I get your point. I probably wouldn’t want to work somewhere that asked me to dress in what I viewed to be a degrading way. But no one put a gun to your head and made you work there! You freely entered into a contract with them, under which these terms were specified! Passive-aggressive power-up bonus: she didn’t even complain to her employer before taking it to the authorities.
  • NYT: NYPD, which has long denied the existence of ticket and collar quotas, gets caught talking about quotas on tape. It’s not like we didn’t already know there were quotas, but boy, it is ever satisfying to see these liars caught red-handed.

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