Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

June 13, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

T-SHIRTS AND THE DHS....Ray LeMoine reports on his encounter with Homeland Security in a drab backroom at JFK airport upon returning from a trip to the Middle East:

"You know, we could have you sent up to Boston for the unresolved T-shirt infractions," Malik said. "But what we're holding you for is an NYPD bench warrant from 2004. You were in a fight with a parking attendant, found not guilty and then missed a court date." All true. But how and why does Homeland Security share the NYPD's jurisdiction in cases unrelated to counter-terrorism? A fight over a parking space hardly counts as terrorism.

Read the whole thing. It's even dumber than it sounds.

Kevin Drum 12:24 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (76)

Bookmark and Share
 
Comments

What's the status on the flag burning amendment? What are the numbers for and against it in the sneate?

Posted by: FLS on June 13, 2006 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

Didn't Arlo Guthry write a song about a littering offense haunting him in a similar fashion?

Posted by: Ron Byers on June 13, 2006 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

I feel safer.

Posted by: Ugh on June 13, 2006 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

"Keystone Stasi" is priceless. Gotta use that one.

Posted by: Tom Hilton on June 13, 2006 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

Ray LeMoine was a criminal who broke the law and Homeland Security reported him to the NYPD so he could be arrested. What's your problem with Homeland Security arresting criminals like Ray LeMoine?

Posted by: Al on June 13, 2006 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

Okay... but he did violate a law, and dodge a court date. And he's certainly got more than your average mix of elements (the middle east traveling, the investigating terrorism sites). Like Peggy Noonan bitching about the occasional pat-down, my sympathy only extends but so far - either we want security to stop and investigate people or we don't. And if we don't, then I don't want to hear about how lax out security is when something else happens. I think Americans want some sort of magic security that instantly identifies the guilty from the innocent, with no time lost or inconvenience suffered, and knows that we - who presume our innocence - are among those who should be left alone. After 9/11, I put up with the inconveniences. And if DHS found an unpaid parking ticket on my record and held me for it, I'm not sure I'd whine about it quite so much.

Posted by: weboy on June 13, 2006 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK
But how and why does Homeland Security share the NYPD's jurisdiction in cases unrelated to counter-terrorism?

Because an arrest warrant was issued. One of the things that happens when that happens is that other LE agencies are made aware, so that if someone comes into the hands of any LE agency, they can be arrested.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 13, 2006 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

Al nails it!!!111!!one!!

Posted by: Please Make the Pain Go Away on June 13, 2006 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

Dude, where's my homeland security?

Posted by: RT on June 13, 2006 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

In other news, Time's Mike Allen tells us the President is a girly-man:

"Bush is uniquely sensitive about his personal ecology," Allen reports.

No matter what the wording, Real Men aren't sensitive about their personal ecology. Period.

Posted by: RT on June 13, 2006 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

You might think the point is one about limited resources. DHS has only so many staff. The question is whether interviewing LeMoine is the best use of those resources. NYPD also has a presence at JFK. If there was a warrant out, and immigration spotted him, shouldn't he have been directed to the NYPD and not DHS?

I say this as someone who had a single apple confiscated by the US Ag Control forces at Vancouver International Airport. If I had been allowed to walk through immigration control, I would have brought the apple back into Canada, where I would have eaten it, before boarding the plane (to Chicago, where, last I checked, there isn't a fruit fly problem). It took two years before the kind folks at the USDA decided to wipe me off their blacklist so I didn't get sent to the Ag folks every time I crossed the border. Which is to say that I have a fair amount of sympathy for complaints about inefficient use of resources.

Posted by: lisainVan on June 13, 2006 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, I'm sensitive about my personal ecology, too. I don't shit where I eat.

Posted by: Matt on June 13, 2006 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely: Because an arrest warrant was issued. One of the things that happens when that happens is that other LE agencies are made aware, so that if someone comes into the hands of any LE agency, they can be arrested.

Yes, but the application of this option is exercised rather inconsistently and arbitrarily, is it not? Knowing that, we might be tempted to believe that, in this case, it's being trotted out as a means of intimidating the subject.

Posted by: shortstop on June 13, 2006 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

This is what happens when you genuinely start trying to find the needle in the haystack.

It's the classic two-state decision problem from elementary mathematical statistics. If you lower the false positive rate sufficiently, then you can not find the targets. Post-hoc, every false positive looks like a ridiculous and easily avoidable error. Trying really hard to avoid a false positive in the summer of 2001 is how the FBI avoided catching Muhammad Atta; his only crime, at that point, was the relatively common and minor visa infraction.

DHS will probably get better with time, but hordes of minor errors like this will always be the penalty for increased vigilance.

Posted by: republicrat on June 13, 2006 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

If he was sober, he gets major cool points for taking a fight with a parking attendant to the level of police intervention. Those guys can be insanely irritating.

Will go read now...

Posted by: doesn't matter on June 13, 2006 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK
You might think the point is one about limited resources. DHS has only so many staff. The question is whether interviewing LeMoine is the best use of those resources. NYPD also has a presence at JFK. If there was a warrant out, and immigration spotted him, shouldn't he have been directed to the NYPD and not DHS?

He was stopped "at customs" by "an officer from the Department of Homeland Security", which sounds pretty spooky, until you realize that Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Customs and Border Protection, are part of the Department of Homeland Security, so what he is almost cerainly referring to is that he came through customs, had the Boston and New York warrants (I assume that the unresolved infractions they could have sent him to Boston for involved warrants there) show up to the "Homeland Security" officer at customs, was detained by ICE or CBP while the NYPD was called about the New York warrants, and released when, for whatever bureaucratic snafus, other priorities, or whatever other reason, NYPD didn't come to pick him up.

Aside from being a potent reminder that its a good idea to consider mandatory court appearances when making other plans, I'm not sure what point there is to this story.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 13, 2006 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK
Yes, but the application of this option is exercised rather inconsistently and arbitrarily, is it not?

All that "Homeland Security" (presumably, as noted above, ICE or CBP, who would initially have noted the warrants) seems to have done here is hold him to give NYPD a chance to pick him up. This doesn't really seem that out of line.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 13, 2006 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

There was a time when the Dem Party cared about the dignity of parking lot attendents. Now if the Patrick Kennedys or the Ray LeMoines want to push them around what lese majeste to hamper their perogatives. And you guys wonder why your circle jerk gets smaller and smaller every year.

Posted by: minion of rove on June 13, 2006 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

DHS will probably get better with time, but hordes of minor errors like this will always be the penalty for increased vigilance.

Time itself won't make DHS better as long as they think they need to check for bench warrants, parking tickets and guys behind in their child support. FOCUS!

Posted by: tomeck on June 13, 2006 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

What kind of mandatory court appearance can there possibly be after being found not guilty for an assault?

Posted by: gub on June 13, 2006 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

"minion of rove"

lol, I never thought a screen name could summate in three words entire volumes of political positioning. Whether it's fake-al, or a real Republican bed-wetter kudos for making me laugh.

Posted by: sheerahkahn on June 13, 2006 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

For more exciting reading about the DHS's priorities, how they contract out your privacy, and how they really are like the Stasi, taking a travel journalist's papers out of his bag and MAKING COPIES before returning them, read Ed Hasbrouck's chilling tale:
http://hasbrouck.org/blog/archives/001065.html
Also discussed, with reference to recent DHS court decisions:
http://upgradetravel.blogspot.com/2006/06/whats-acceptable-airport-security-and.html

Posted by: Better Living Through Miles on June 13, 2006 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK
Time itself won't make DHS better as long as they think they need to check for bench warrants, parking tickets and guys behind in their child support.

The time it takes to do an automated database check for outstanding warrants is not probably not substantially, if even at all, increased by checking for all warrants in the database versus artificially limiting them. And, frankly, before or after the creation of the massive "Department of Homeland Security" superbureaucracy, and before or after 9/11 "changed everything", doing that kind of simple check on entrants is something that is both reasonable and appropriate for customs agents and ports of entry to do.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 13, 2006 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

All of you trolls have completely missed the point of the story.

The guy doesn't complain once about being stopped. Actually, the whole problem is that they didn't question him about anything relevent, and then let him go because they didn't want to miss the ball game.

Posted by: DR on June 13, 2006 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

Umm.. I think you're missing the point. LeMoine was NOT complaining that he was held by DHS. He thought he fit the profile of someone who SHOULD be questioned: having just returned from Pakistan, Lebanon, etc (land of the terrorists). The idiocy was that he was pulled because of some minor civil matters, and in the hours he was held, none of the four DHS officers handling his case asked him about what he did in Masadras or in Hezbollah controled parts of Lebanon.

Posted by: Dan on June 13, 2006 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

"All of you trolls have completely missed the point of the story."

Oh darn, I've been discovered, how ever could I have missed that.
Wow!
I'm so humbled, here I'll got back to my corner and sit down while you enlighten us with your indepth discernment for which we all must bow before you!

Posted by: sheerahkahn on June 13, 2006 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

Um, maybe the point is that if it weren't for the parking thing, he'd never have been picked up? And that he should have been picked up for the other stuff?

The whole point of DHS is to catch people who are coming to this country to commit terror acts. That's an awfully hard thing to do, since these people are few and far between. So, the natural tendency of a bureaucracy is to try to do something productive--DHS starts helping the police do local enforcement.

And thus mission creep begins.

The problem isn't only that it distracts DHS from doing its real job--catching terrorists--but that it also lets an organization use powers we reserve for terrorist-catching (which we think is a rare thing) for routine police work.

It's like giving someone a bazooka for national defense, and then finding out he's started hanging out with exterminators and is now using that bazooka for roach control. In your house.

It's a problem both because it undermines civil liberties, and because it potentially distracts DHS from doing its real job. Maybe DHS knows of a connection between t-shirt sellers and terrorists that I don't. But inasmuch as the DHS is doing law enforcement's job, that's a very, very bad thing.

Posted by: theorajones on June 13, 2006 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

i gotta agree with cmdicely. not much outrage here and in the end it seems conmon sense prevailed. but why the court appearance after being found not guilty?

Posted by: mudwall jackson on June 13, 2006 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

DR -- much more succinct (and faster)

Posted by: Dan on June 13, 2006 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK
The guy doesn't complain once about being stopped. Actually, the whole problem is that they didn't question him about anything relevent, and then let him go because they didn't want to miss the ball game.

The idea that they should have questioned him about something else rather presumes that the DHS had extensive intelligence on his overseas activities so as to be suspicious, but not enough to know they were innocent.

It seems kind of odd to me to complain about being detained for actually breaking the law rather than for innocent overseas activities, and to complain about being released when the NYPD, responsible for dealing with the actual offense, clearly wasn't going to pick him up, rather than being indefinitely detained.

Seems to me, most people would complain, in both cases, about the opposite situations far more, and far more rightly.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 13, 2006 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK
The whole point of DHS is to catch people who are coming to this country to commit terror acts.

No, its not.

The whole point of creating the DHS was (avoiding the cynical comment about it being for show, for a minute) to reorganize and restructure a number of existing agencies to make them more effective at detecting and dealing with actual terrorists coming in to the country, without, in most cases, abandoning their previous missions.

Seems to me that the DHS agencies and agents involved did exactly the right thing here, perhaps with the exception of not notifying Boston authorities.

The only problem that may be indicated is a communication problem between DHS and NYPD, and its not real clear where the problem is with that -- it may just be that NYPD isn't as efficient as they should be at letting DHS know they aren't interested in small fry. Which is a problem, sure, but hardly a major one.

Agencies like Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection, the Coast Guard, etc., all continue to have important missions that extend beyond fighting terrorism.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 13, 2006 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

From the link:
As long as we allow Homeland Security to act like a Keystone Stasi, terrorism will continue to win in destroying our freedom.

Doesn't the fantastic phrase "Keystone Stasi" just exactly sum up BushWorld?

Posted by: craigie on June 13, 2006 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

We allowed 19 suicidal men in hijacked airplanes (a low-tech, low-level threat), to turn our country into the Soviet Union? How sad.

What have we become???

Posted by: Stephen Kriz on June 13, 2006 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

"Seems to me that the DHS agencies and agents involved did exactly the right thing here" -- cmdicely

Even if you believe that, should it take four agents to handle a t-shirt infraction?

I think we live in different worlds, because I cannot agree that the agents acted properly. LeMoine's passport showed he had traveled to "Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt and Pakistan." Should not that have raised a few flags? Six hours of custody should not pass without DHS agents asking about "a single question about Pakistan, terrorism, Islam or madrasas." How do they expect to find any terrorists?

Posted by: Dan on June 13, 2006 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK
I think we live in different worlds, because I cannot agree that the agents acted properly.

People in the same world can, and often do, disagree about what is "proper".

LeMoine's passport showed he had traveled to "Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt and Pakistan." Should not that have raised a few flags?

Are you suggesting that everyone who travels to the Middle East should be interrogated about it, or only those with warrants for minor offenses with no rational connection to terrorism? What specific rule do you think there is or ought to be that wasn't followed here?


Six hours of custody should not pass without DHS agents asking about "a single question about Pakistan, terrorism, Islam or madrasas." How do they expect to find any terrorists?

As best I can tell, his position is that no amount of interrogating him would have found any terrorists, so whatever screening criteria they are using, there is no evidence from his encounter that it is wrong.


Posted by: cmdicely on June 13, 2006 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

Face it. Had this episode occurred during the Clinton Administration, the trolls would be screaming about jackbooted federal bureaucrats. It's all about which master you choose to serve.

Posted by: ct on June 13, 2006 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

People in the same world can, and often do, disagree about what is "proper".
I'll agree - I mis-"spoke" previously.

Are you suggesting that everyone who travels to the Middle East should be interrogated about it, or only those with warrants for minor offenses with no rational connection to terrorism? What specific rule do you think there is or ought to be that wasn't followed here?
No, I don't think that everyone who travels to the Middle East should be interrogated. However, if a person has been detained, then questioning should be a routine matter. A parallel would be police running a warrent check on anyone stopped for traffic violations.

As best I can tell, his position is that no amount of interrogating him would have found any terrorists, so whatever screening criteria they are using, there is no evidence from his encounter that it is wrong.
I see no evidence that there was any terrorist screening at all, although neither of us is in a position to know for sure.

Posted by: Dan on June 13, 2006 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

As best I can tell, his position is that no amount of interrogating him would have found any terrorists, so whatever screening criteria they are using, there is no evidence from his encounter that it is wrong.

This doesn't make any sense. The whole point is that once they'd pulled him out of the line for his minor infractions, shouldn't they have spent a few minutes asking him where he'd been and why? They pulled up his minor infractions from a database...fine. No big deal. But holding him for hours because of these issues without making any effort to see if there might be bigger ones is idiotic. If this is how DHS operates, they're not doing their job.

Posted by: RP on June 13, 2006 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK
I see no evidence that there was any terrorist screening at all, although neither of us is in a position to know for sure.

Some people are detained as suspected terrorists. He was not. The process that produces both of those results is a terrorist screening process.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 13, 2006 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK
The whole point is that once they'd pulled him out of the line for his minor infractions, shouldn't they have spent a few minutes asking him where he'd been and why?

To what end? Just a pro forma effort to make sure that he has a superficially plausible non-terrorist story, or would you have them devote the time and resources to investigate and verify his answers, presumably detaining him for days and weeks while they do?

Posted by: cmdicely on June 13, 2006 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

I don't shit where I eat.
neither will a dog

Posted by: someOtherClown on June 13, 2006 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

They did something, therefore ther is a process, and since he was not a terrorist that process works. Sorry, but I do not feel safer. If this is how DHS is spending our tax dollors then the country is getting ripped off.

Posted by: Dan on June 13, 2006 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

If we are truly interested in Homeland Security preventing terrorist attacks, then it is in our interest for them not to concern themselves with petty infractions like this. Homicide cops don't go around busting witnesses for unpaid parking tickets because if they did, then no one would cooperate with the authorities on such matters. Homeland Security needs cooperation if it is to catch terrorists, and this cooperation will often come from people with less-than-sterling records. Busting people for petty nonsense is not merely irrelevant to DHS's mission, but actively counterproductive to it.

Posted by: Firebug on June 13, 2006 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

Thank GAWD they nailed him on those t-shirt copyright violations! I was feeling so insecure. I feared for the future existence of the country and freedom with evildoers out there passing out "copyright infringing" t-shirts at baseball games.

I can sleep peacefully now knowing how safe we are.

Posted by: Praedor Atrebates on June 13, 2006 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely,
I'm glad your not in charge of Homeland Security, or any law enforcement for that matter.

When officers pull people over for minor infractions, they keep an eye out for other things, such as drugs, or bodies in the back of the truck.

For example, Timothy Veigh was arrested for driving without a license plate on his car. If the officer had decided that it was more important to catch the ball game, he might have been let go because it was too much trouble.

There are many, many examples of terrorists (and other major criminals) caught because of minor traffic violations.

Posted by: DR on June 13, 2006 at 4:44 PM | PERMALINK

I think this is a case where information sharing among local, state and federal agencies is actually getting better. That's been a priority among agencies at all levels and it appears to be paying off. Bottom line is they are all law enforcement officers whether it's local criminal matters or international counter-terrorism.

Posted by: DKS on June 13, 2006 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

WHAT INCOMPETENCE!!

This guy was hawking "Yankees Suck" T-shirts and they just let him go??? I can't think of a clearer case for detaining a person, sending him to Gitmo, and torturing him with World Championship Rings until he cries out "ARod is MVP!"

Posted by: New Yawka on June 13, 2006 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK
When officers pull people over for minor infractions, they keep an eye out for other things, such as drugs, or bodies in the back of the truck.

Yes, so? That kind of inspection is different from interrogation (though it can lead to it.)


There are many, many examples of terrorists (and other major criminals) caught because of minor traffic violations.

And many, many more examples of people who aren't major criminals (like the person involved here) who aren't interrogated for major crimes in minor traffic stops because there is no rational reason to do so.

What I fail to see is a specific suggestion of what should have been done, but wasn't, that is justified by a reason to believe that the recommended action would be reasonable, useful, and appropriate.

I refer back, again, to the specific questions in my 2:57pm and 3:32pm posts.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 13, 2006 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK
Thank GAWD they nailed him on those t-shirt copyright violations!


Except that, well, they didn't nail him on the t-shirt violations... They noted that they could, but were instead going to hold him for NYPD on the local warrant -- and then let him go when NYPD didn't show up.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 13, 2006 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK

RP says - (and makes perfect sense - ed.)
The whole point is that once they'd pulled him out of the line for his minor infractions, shouldn't they have spent a few minutes asking him where he'd been and why?

cmdicely replies - (building toward a rhetorical flourish of a finish - ed.)
To what end? Just a pro forma effort to make sure that he has a superficially plausible non-terrorist story, or would you have them devote the time and resources to investigate and verify his answers, presumably detaining him for days and weeks while they do?


cmdicely son, can you hear me? Snap out of it boy. Youre hyperventilating on me. Quick, someone get that bag over his head. Damn! Were losing him here. Okay - good, good. Thats it boy. Breathe slowly now. Into the bag. Relax. Youre gonna be okay. Thats it in with the good air, out with the bad. Whew, that was close.

A very wise man once said: if you have to use pro forma and superficially plausible in the same sentence it usually means RP, and every other responder to your comments here, have beaten you badly about the head and shoulders. Rhetorically speaking, of course.

So, go on to the next thread and hope you do better Im pulling for ya.

Posted by: sosyourma on June 13, 2006 at 6:07 PM | PERMALINK

They harassed friends of my sister (who were by the way white, Christian, and not returning from the Arab-Muslim world) over a restraining order related to a dispute with their neighbors about the respective couples' dogs. There are novelists writing books about terrorism whose homes are being raided, their lives turned upside down, artists who work with biological materials - innocently - being charged with federal crimes; this is what it has come to.

The fact is that the new and improved American police state makes no practical distinction between terrorism and other crimes and infractions. Not only does the Patriot Act give widely expanded powers to law enforcement in ordinary criminal cases, but the overwhelming majority of cases where those new powers have been employed is in ordinary criminal cases.

As De Tocqueville and a few other rational people pointed out, America has always had two moral blind spots: its treatment of its poor, and its treatment of its criminals. Proverbially, there are winners, there are losers, but they ain't no big deal.

Sadly, neither party nor mainstream ideology today really gives a damn about either.

Posted by: Linus on June 13, 2006 at 6:11 PM | PERMALINK

Let me see if I've got this straight. This guy was detained on entering the US because there were outstanding arrest warrants against him; and the complaint here is that he wasn't "profiled"? That DHS didn't assume automatically from his itinerary that he was a potential terrorist?

Look, I can see a case for interrogating everyone with such an itinerary, outstanding arrest warrants or no; but I somehow doubt that'd fly around here. I can also see a case for taking the opportunity, once you've busted someone for an infraction unrelated to terrorism, to see if s/he fits a terrorist profile of travel &c., and interrogate further if so. (That was Dan's point above, and a good one; I gather the NYPD did pretty well just having the cops pursue perpetrators of minor crimes and then check for outstanding warrants.)

But I thought "terrorist profiles" were in general in bad odor around here anyway. Being under suspicion for having traveled to many Muslim countries is but a little step away from being under suspicion for having relatives living in one, or from having been born in one.

Either all these people should be "profiled"; or (according to some comments above, so far as I can understand them) only all with outstanding warrants should be "profiled," but any little misdeeds they had warrants oustanding for should be Our Little Secret between the DHS and the individual. Why a fellow hawking suspect T-shirts is any more likely to be a terrorist than anyone else who's made a madrassa tour, I don't know; but logically, you either let him go, or else interrogate everyone with similar itineraries in the way that he complains he wasn't. I know what that would be called here, were it ever actually implemented. And because it would be called that, it won't be implemented.

Posted by: waterfowl on June 13, 2006 at 6:21 PM | PERMALINK

Linus,

They harassed friends of my sister (who were by the way white, Christian, and not returning from the Arab-Muslim world) over a restraining order related to a dispute with their neighbors about the respective couples' dogs.

Umm . . . this is where I start asking "who are "they"? It sounds too like an item in the Carmel Pine Cone's Police Log where one homeowner accused another of sabotaging her begonias.

There are novelists writing books about terrorism whose homes are being raided, their lives turned upside down, artists who work with biological materials - innocently - being charged with federal crimes; this is what it has come to.

I really do think it's safer to write a book about terrorism here than practically anywhere else. Did someone raid John Updike's apartment when I wasn't looking? And what "federal crime" is it involving "biological materials"? That one I am really curious about. Especially with the "innocently" thrown in.

If you are an ex-Muslim in a Dutch housing complex, not even your government will make that a house safe enough. Saying what Aayan Hirsi Ali said has this peculiar tendency to get one assassinated in Europe.

Posted by: waterfowl on June 13, 2006 at 6:45 PM | PERMALINK

This is a bit of a tangent: the author of that op-ed was interviewed about the time he spent in Iraq on This American Life. (Act two in the linked episode.) It's an interesting story.

Posted by: Rhett on June 13, 2006 at 7:13 PM | PERMALINK

I have a good friend whose whacko neighbor accused him of all sorts of strange things and obtained a restraining order from a county court. Now everytime he goes through USA immigration when returning to the country he gets pulled aside and asked if he beats his wife.

Posted by: Chris Brown on June 13, 2006 at 7:20 PM | PERMALINK

"Umm . . . this is where I start asking "who are "they"? It sounds too like an item in the Carmel Pine Cone's Police Log where one homeowner accused another of sabotaging her begonias."

They being DHS - presumably Customs - people at some point of entry into the US. As a subsequent poster notes, they will stop and harrangue anyone with a restraining order against them.

"I really do think it's safer to write a book about terrorism here than practically anywhere else. Did someone raid John Updike's apartment when I wasn't looking?"

It was a minor female genre fiction writer working on a thriller about Thai terrorism. The FBI or DHS had her under surveillance for months, went through her garbage, bugged her phones. She wasn't a Muslim. They eventually raided her house, seized her computer. They eventually returned it - with bugs installed. I don't know the state of the case today, but all she had done was conduct internet research about terrorism in Thailand from her home computer. I'll try to find her name. I'm forgetting it.

"And what "federal crime" is it involving "biological materials"? That one I am really curious about. Especially with the "innocently" thrown in."

The case of SUNY Buffalo art professor Steve Kurtz is well known. He is an artist who uses organic materials in his sculptures. His wife dropped dead one day. The paramedics thought they saw "suspicious materials" and his life has become a Kafka-esque nightmare ever since.

In the coming months and years we will find that there are many, many other cases like these.

Posted by: Linus on June 13, 2006 at 7:50 PM | PERMALINK

But how and why does Homeland Security share the NYPD's jurisdiction in cases unrelated to counter-terrorism?

Because an arrest warrant was issued. One of the things that happens when that happens is that other LE agencies are made aware, so that if someone comes into the hands of any LE agency, they can be arrested.Posted by: cmdicely

I think the question was, rather, why would DHS give a shit about a guy with a bench warrant for something that isn't remotely related to national security? They obviously have much better things to do with their time, and just how much of it are they wasting on nonsense like this?

Posted by: JeffII on June 13, 2006 at 7:57 PM | PERMALINK

I think this is a case where information sharing among local, state and federal agencies is actually getting better. That's been a priority among agencies at all levels and it appears to be paying off.Bottom line is they are all law enforcement officers whether it's local criminal matters or international counter-terrorism.
Posted by: DKS

As a matter of fact, that's not the case at all.

Local law enforcement made it abundantly clear after 9/11 that they don't want responsibility for anything to do with counter-terrorism because 1) they aren't trained for this kind of work and 2) certainly don't have the budget or manpower to do the job in addition to "regular" police work.

What this idiotic episode shows is that DHS is just as fucked up as everyone suspects it to be.

Posted by: JeffII on June 13, 2006 at 8:06 PM | PERMALINK

Linus,

I don't quite get the problem with gov't officials "haranguing" people with existing restraining orders against them, or for that matter existing warrants. Why the hell should they not? Is the idea that we really shouldn't bother about lesser crimes at, oh, large ports, large cities, large airstrips? And if that's the case, isn't it obvious that the problem in the case cited is just that he shouldn't have been stopped at all, and so no one should have even known about his itinerary, much less bothered about it?

Posted by: waterfowl on June 13, 2006 at 8:07 PM | PERMALINK

"I don't quite get the problem with gov't officials "haranguing" people with existing restraining orders against them, or for that matter existing warrants."

Local restraining orders are no business of Customs officials; this was a point of general agreement in the pre-9/11 world. And warrants at the state level are really no business of federal law enforcement either (unless the person was under reasonable suspicion of violating a federal law - that doesn't appear to be the case here); this was also a point of general agreement in the pre-9/11 world.

You know: Americans waged a revolution on behalf of civil liberties they had lost, and unreasonable taxation by an unaccountable imperial government.

Thomas Jefferson said "every generation needs a revolution."

You make me think he could be right.

As Mr. Sam Adams put it, "If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you; May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen."

Posted by: Linus on June 13, 2006 at 8:39 PM | PERMALINK

Local restraining orders are no business of Customs officials; this was a point of general agreement in the pre-9/11 world. And warrants at the state level are really no business of federal law enforcement either (unless the person was under reasonable suspicion of violating a federal law - that doesn't appear to be the case here); this was also a point of general agreement in the pre-9/11 world.

Points of general agreement in the pre-9/11 world were what permitted the WTC attackers to proceed. It was, for example, much too easy to obtain Virginia drivers' licenses, thus facilitating interstate transportation for criminal purposes. Whatever else we do, we can not simply assert the superiority of pre-9/11 general agreements.

Posted by: republicrat on June 13, 2006 at 10:44 PM | PERMALINK

"Points of general agreement in the pre-9/11 world were what permitted the WTC attackers to proceed."

What are stupid, misplaced extrapolations?

I wonder if anyone can cite a single credible study suggesting a correlation between restraining orders and terrorists. I think you'll find that if anything sleeper cells are trained to blend into the scenery, not get into petty disputes over yapping pets with neighbors, not to have girlfriends and certainly not to beat them, not to draw too much attention to oneself.

What you present is the logic of the police state, which makes everyone a suspect, every kind of minor wrongdoing somehow a red flag - an indicator of something worse, that there is nothing the government should not know, or make its business.

Revolutions have been waged over less.

Posted by: Linus on June 13, 2006 at 11:56 PM | PERMALINK

The problem with using "Keystone Stasi" (which I also loved: right up there with worse than Nixon better than Caligula [or your monster of choice]) is that most people won't have a clue.

Posted by: Brian Boru on June 14, 2006 at 1:27 AM | PERMALINK

Um, but isn't Customs part of Homeland Security? What the heck does "A guy from Homeland Security" mean?

Here's the Customs and Border Protection Website: it says "Department of Homeland Security" in the bottom righthand corner.

Questioning people entering the US about outstanding warrents is standard operating procedure, right?

Posted by: Measure for Measure on June 14, 2006 at 2:18 AM | PERMALINK

Oops, sorry here's the link:
http://www.cbp.gov/

Posted by: Measure for Measure on June 14, 2006 at 2:38 AM | PERMALINK

"Questioning people entering the US about outstanding warrents is standard operating procedure, right?"

Why should it be - at least with respect to American citizens, and minor offences?

A certain level of informality, a certain level of breathing room, is fundamental to a free society; we seem to be losing that awareness - that wisdom - almost entirely.

Even before 9,11 America had become a society where systemization - the ugly, bastard child of the Enlightenment - had become universal. It brings not only censuses and the rule of law but the steady erosion of privacy, the growth of the penal state.

There was a time in this country when not everyone contacted law enforcement, or filed a lawsuit as a first resort to redress grievances. Matters could be settled with a handshake, or a stern warning.

What do people think the settlers of Kentucky and Ohio and the western frontier were seeking? It wasn't just free land, and new wealth, but freedom *from* the lesser angels of the state, the stifling mores of the east.

In the popular culture, local law enforcement used to be widely lionized as authentic, intuitive, street smart; they knew when to get in people's faces, when to let things go. The feds on the other hand were bumbling idiots, slaves to bureaucracy. They were inflexible, lacked the human touch. There is more than a little truth to the cliches.

It is truly strange and grimly ironic that conservatives today have come to adore the agents of the police and penal state, demanding efficiency, no exceptions. These shits are no more human today, however television has tried to massage their image (none of the new shows about the feds are any good [the X Files was an exception, but only because they managed to be anti-government agents of the federal government]).

When conservatism veers away from a love of American liberty it seems to always enter dark country, a place of rigid and inhumane systems, a place of terrible logic, and systemized intimidation - even terror.

Posted by: Linus on June 14, 2006 at 3:52 AM | PERMALINK

Yes. I know I certainly feel safer. Real pros. Doctors can spot small malignancies on MRI or CT film. Yet these clowns . . .

Tuesday, June 13, 2006 - 12:00 AM

Bag of honey, electronic gear shuts Tallahassee airport

By BILL KACZOR
The Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. A food writer's bag containing recording equipment, honey, an oyster shell and seasoning rub was blamed for a three-hour shutdown and evacuation of Tallahassee's airport Monday, authorities said.

The configuration of the electronic gear and organic material looked suspicious when Transportation Security Administration officers scanned the carry-on luggage, said Tallahassee police officer David McCranie.

"Something indicated this was not your typical bag, and they pressed the alarm," McCranie said.

Todd Coleman, food editor for New York-based Saveur magazine, was detained but later released after the bag was removed from the terminal and a robot opened it to disclose the contents.

"I was afraid they were going to blow my bag up," Coleman said. "It would have blown my story up."

Coleman said he was in Tallahassee to visit his parents, who live in the area, and to write about the food of nearby Apalachicola, Florida's oyster capital. The Apalachicola area also is famous for tupelo honey, which Coleman had in his bag.

Posted by: JeffII on June 14, 2006 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

Linus,

You know, I very largely agree with you. I dislike fundamentally the idea that every misstep should haunt every human being for ever, that every crime should pursue every criminal for ever. I don't like an omnipresent state any more than you do. I want crime punished, expiated if you will, but then forgotten.

But have you forgotten the general tone of Kevin's post, and many of the comments on it? The complaint was not that this man was stopped because of his outstanding warrants; the complaint was that the Customs people hadn't taken the opportunity afforded by his detention to grill him about his visits to madrassas &c. In other words, profiling him purely because of his itinerary would have been wrong, but calling him aside because his name was flagged for reasons having zero to do with terrorism was a good enough excuse. And, by golly, we should've taken advantage of it, because we have so few golden opportunities to interrogate completely innocent people about madrassas, and we should take what we can get, or rather what we can get by Washington Monthly rules.

I said before and will say again: If this man's itinerary was such that he ought to have been interrogated on entering the country, then everyone with a similar itinerary ought to be interrogated, in the same way, whether there are oustanding warrants or no. If the itinerary in itself doesn't justify interrogation on that subject, then adding a warrant for selling illegal T-shirts doesn't change the situation at all. It merely provides an opportunity, a way to get what we want without actually saying what we want and asking for it up-front.

And many of the commenters here are apparently just fine with that. Which is odd, because this sort of "'we're just enforcing the law,' while really selectively cracking down on this or that" business is generally not cool around here. If this man had been interrogated about his travels, I think it's a safe bet that there would be comparable outrage here at his having been "profiled." Your own option just don't bother about the warrants or the itinerary is the most human and the most reasonable and the most doable, which is why you will probably see no one actually doing it. It's far safer to pretend to be doing something else.

Posted by: waterfowl on June 14, 2006 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK
I think the question was, rather, why would DHS give a shit about a guy with a bench warrant for something that isn't remotely related to national security?

Because, while DHS was created to group together a bunch of agencies whose missions had some national security component, and to improve their interoperation where it concerned national security, few of those agencies are have an exclusive national security mission.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 14, 2006 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

Because, while DHS was created to group together a bunch of agencies whose missions had some national security component, and to improve their interoperation where it concerned national security, few of those agencies are have an exclusive national security mission. Posted by: cmdicely

Yes, with regards to enforcing laws and regulation with regard to national security, not unrelated local civil or even criminal ofenses.

Posted by: JeffII on June 14, 2006 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK
Yes, with regards to enforcing laws and regulation with regard to national security

Neither Customs and Border Protection, nor Immigration and Customs Enforcement mission, with regard to law enforcement, is limited to "laws and regulations with regard to national security".

Posted by: cmdicely on June 14, 2006 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely:
Regardless of whether the agencies grouped under the DHS umbrella have "an exclusive national security mission," if one goal of creating DHS was to improve coordination between agencies where it concerned national security, then we might expect the coordination in this case to have, you know, concerned national security. It did not. The attempts to contact NYPD did not revolve around, or even include, any question about whether the detainee was a national security risk. There's no hint that any of the officers said, "you've got an outstanding bench warrant... and we're going to see if they think you're a security risk."

In fact, the entire notion of inter-agency cooperation is made pretty ridiculous in this story. If we want these agencies to coordinate -- over terrorism suspects, bench warrants, or restraining orders -- doesn't it seem that almost five full years after the terrorist attacks that set this all in motion, customs officers in New Yorks international airport ought to be able to figure out how to contact the NYPD (the nation's largest police force, headquarterd about 15 miles from the airport) once they have placed a suspicious character in detention?

Because, while DHS was created to group together a bunch of agencies whose missions had some national security component, and to improve their interoperation where it concerned national security, few of those agencies are have an exclusive national security mission.
Posted by: cmdicely on June 14, 2006 at 2:18 PM |

Neither Customs and Border Protection, nor Immigration and Customs Enforcement mission, with regard to law enforcement, is limited to "laws and regulations with regard to national security".
Posted by: cmdicely on June 14, 2006 at 4:56 PM |

Posted by: keith on June 14, 2006 at 7:18 PM | PERMALINK

Linus:
---------"A certain level of informality, a certain level of breathing room, is fundamental to a free society; we seem to be losing that awareness - that wisdom - almost entirely."

Agreed, with caveats. But remember this is immigration we're talking about: they always have had enhanced discretionary power. Heck, they used to arbitrarily change people's names when they were processed at Ellis Island.

Personally, I think it's understood that entering and leaving the US is likely to involve some hassles.

Waterfowl:
------- If this man had been interrogated about his travels, I think it's a safe bet that there would be comparable outrage here at his having been "profiled."

Not from me though. The 2 times that I flew in from Colombia, South America I was questioned for a disturbing 45 seconds about my itinerary, my activities and whether I took drugs. My scope for remaining silent was substantially restricted and I answered all questions. This was during the 90s; I assume it is the same way today.

Posted by: Measure for Measure on June 14, 2006 at 7:40 PM | PERMALINK
In fact, the entire notion of inter-agency cooperation is made pretty ridiculous in this story. If we want these agencies to coordinate -- over terrorism suspects, bench warrants, or restraining orders -- doesn't it seem that almost five full years after the terrorist attacks that set this all in motion, customs officers in New Yorks international airport ought to be able to figure out how to contact the NYPD (the nation's largest police force, headquarterd about 15 miles from the airport) once they have placed a suspicious character in detention?

I agree that that is something of a problem (and upthread discussed the one government problem shown here being the DHS-NYPD communication failure), though perhaps not as much as it would seem when related to dealing with terrorism, as presumably the federal-local law enforcement communication in that context would be through the Joint Terrorism Task Force.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 14, 2006 at 7:58 PM | PERMALINK

Neither Customs and Border Protection, nor Immigration and Customs Enforcement mission, with regard to law enforcement, is limited to "laws and regulations with regard to national security".
Posted by: cmdicelyM

Well since you've declared without equivocation or qualification that the various arms of the DHS have multiple law enforcement responsibilities, and apparently, in your estimation, the time to multi-task on all crime fronts, I've got a couple intersections I'd like them to post up on to write tickets to the dozens of people who run red lights during rush hour M-F.

Posted by: JeffII on June 15, 2006 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM



buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly