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Citizen Journalist Michael Yon Detained by the ICE

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Author and citizen journalist Michael Yon has been through many of the worst places on earth and come out with a smile and a story. He spent years self-embedded with the US military, reporting on events in Iraq and Afghanistan, providing first-hand stories which the mainstream media failed to cover. As a former soldier and a voice of truth Yon is a real American hero. But he didn't get a hero's welcome when he returned to the United States on Sunday. Instead, he found himself in the Seattle airport, detained, interrogated, and ultimately handcuffed by customs agents.

What was Yon's crime? He stood up for his rights as a US citizen. In an incident similar to one which happened last year to a Ron Paul staffer, Yon was taken aside by customs agents and asked a series of questions, many of which seemed to have no bearing on national security. Finally when asked what his personal income was, he refused to answer because he felt it was none of their business. At this point they handcuffed and detained him until he was eventually released by Port Authority police because the TSA had no legitimate grounds to hold him.

On his Facebook page, Yon observed that:

No country has ever treated me so badly. Not China. Not Vietnam. Not Afghanistan. Definitely not Singapore or India or Nepal or Germany, not Brunei, not Indonesia, or Malaysia, or Kuwait or Qatar or United Arab Emirates. No county has treated me with the disrespect can that can be expected from our border bullies.

This incident is a reminder that the problems in our safety and security system go beyond just being ineffective in preventing terrorism. They also include a pattern of abusing the rights of travelers.

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About Dave Nalle

  • http://www.davecottrell.com Dave Cottrell

    Thanks for a great article, Dave. As an enthusiastic subscriber or Michael Yon’s I am very sorry to discover he had to go through this kind of garbage.

    My daughter and her boyfriend just flew through SeaTac, today, on their way from YVR to OKC. Due to the fact that a terrorist tried to set off a bomb in his shorts on Christmas day, my daughter, a student, could not bring any carry on luggage or her expensive laptop in its protective case.
    The logic behind these exclusions, while still allowing men to wear pants, somehow REALLY escapes me.
    The logic of arresting an American hero on the ground in the United States, as what has happened to Michael Yon, clearly shows how misguided and misdirected US security is, and demonstrates clearly a big part of the problem.
    It is time to get the Israelis over to properly train North American security forces.

  • spinnikerca

    What earthly way could your income take down the plane? And what other business have they to ask?

  • annon

    Hmmmm sounds like you ran afoul of the behavior detection folks at TSA. If so… they were doing their job, & you were acting up. Trust me, they could have cared less about your income, they were using dialogue to see if you a bigger problem other than just being a jerk. The questions were not nearly as important as were your reaction to them.

    Calm down, get a grip and you won’tsingle yourself out for extea screening.

    Oh… and David… Isreal comes to the US to fine tune their behavior training. But, granted, we could be a little more thorough if we walked around the with Uzi’s. Not gonna happen in the US, Bud.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    spinnikerca –

    The TSA could care less what your income is. What they were doing was looking for evasive reactions, visible indications that the individual had something to hide. Yes, that sounds like a violation of privacy…but that’s the world we live in, now.

  • STM

    Border bullies. Great term.

    I have heard some horror stories, including one from a colleague who went to the US for work only to be detained and held in a cell at LAX because he has an arabic surname. His loud Aussie invective probably cured them of the notion that he wasn’t who he said he was, but it was a long process for him to get out and let in to the country.

    That kind of welcome is why I’ve decided I won’t visit the US right now, Dave, unless I absolutely have to. I don’t want to take thr risk of, say, going there for a holiday and being turned around with my family at the border for no good reason.

    As a foreign citizen – but one from a country that is a great friend to America -I also object to having my bio data stored.

    I don’t want my own government to be scanning my face for recognition, nor would I want them to have my fingerprints on file especially when I don’t have a criminal record and haven’t done anything wrong (apart from rolling through the odd stop sign).

    On that basis, I certainly don’t want them on file with the US Government’s various security agencies. God knows what could happen with those guys.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    As a foreign citizen – but one from a country that is a great friend to America -I also object to having my bio data stored.

    Bio data, or just your photo taken with one of them little webcams? The US isn’t the only country that does that, unfortunately. Just on this recent trip, we had mugshots taken in Thailand, Cambodia and Burma (sorry, refuse to call it Myanmar).

    I used to keep pretending to get distracted and stare off into space, just to make the border folks’ lives a bit more difficult. Actually, maybe I wasn’t pretending. :-)

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Glenn, if they ask questions which any American should consider irrelevant, invasive and inappropriate, they should expect a negative reaction. And how do they tell the negative reaction of the pissed off person who believes in constitutional rights from the evasive reaction of the potential terrorist? Clearly their skills are not adequate to that job, since they handcuffed Michael Yon. So if they’re not competent enough to interpret the subject’s reactions properly they should not ask questions designed to provoke those reactions.

    Dave

  • birdcaje

    The TSA has, in my opinion as a U.S. soldier who repeatedly deploys and therefore is subject to TSA routinely, is that the TSA has gotten better about being rude, self-righteous and inhospitable — but they certainly have a long ways to go. They have a way of talking at you instead of to you – this is especially grating to redeploying soldiers after a year-long tour followed by 72 hours of travel to get to, what should be a happy reunion with fellow Americans at an airport on home soil. The manner of TSA employees has always been offensive to me, but again, I do think they are getting more personable – at least with the redeploying soldiers. My treatment by TSA at my last homecoming through Atlanta was significantly more pleasant than previous homecomings.

  • STM

    No mate, apparently they’re doing it so they can store your facial details for recognition purposes.

    You might have arrived in Fresno before it all went down.

    They are also now taking fingerprints of all foreign nationals. Next it’ll be DNA swabs.

    Perhaps I shouldn’t have recently watched “Shooter” (for the umpteenth time), the FBI/shadowy Guvmint agency/corrupt congressman/innocent US war veteran movie, starring Mark Wahlberg, that jeans ad guy who also starred in the remake of Planet Of The Apes. Marky Mark??

    The way Hollywood portrays it, the US government and its citizens are just stooges of the shadowy “security” agencies, who in effect are “the guv’mint”.

    If there’s even a grain of truth there, everyone should worry :)

    I know there’s probably not, but still …

    Mind you, I’ve been bullied by Australian Customs too.

    Almost every time I come back they check me, unless I happen to have short hair at that time.

    Last time they were going to give me the once over until they realised I was with my wife and daughter, but a couple of years back I got questioned in the customs hall coming home from Portugal after passing through the main barrier.

    The guy was staring at my red eyes. I said, “Mate, give me a break, I’ve been travelling for 48 hours”.

    Lack of sleep, long hair and sunburn will be the trigger for a bit of profiling every time.

    Once I told what I’d been doing over there he let me go.

  • STM

    What about visiting foreign nationals from countries that believe in the same rights, Dave. It’s overkill.

    They want us to come and spend our money and contribute to the American economy, but then treat people like poop at the border.

    From what I’ve heard, “Welcome to America” it ain’t, these days.

    What a contrast that is if true to how I’ve been greeted in the past.

    All genuine smiles, “nice to have you here”, “Hope you enjoy your stay” … really, it always made me feel welcome, and kind of set the tone for how Americans treated me over there: unbelievable hospitality (even in Noo York!), which is how Americans made me a friend for life no matter what any other bastard says.

    I understand they’re using a scattegun approach, and I more than understand why, but it’s possibly a bit over the top now.

    Let’s hope they restore some balance, especially when dealing their own citizens, like the soldier commenting above and also the subject of the piece.

  • Irene Wagner

    Seasoned traveler Michael Yon surely knew that a little obsequiousness doesn’t hurt when one is signaled over to the side of the road by a cop, or asked questions by TSA personnel. Perhaps Yon was being questioned by TSA staffer with an “attitude”–one who may have been LOOKING for a rumble and kept on pressing buttons intentionally.

    Such things happen, occasionally. Good thing he didn’t have a taser. But one bad apple don’t spoil the whole bunch etc. etc…

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Interestingly, I’ve never been stopped or searched by the TSA despite flying a fair amount. Of course that would make perfect sense if they are profiling people, which they claim they are not.

    Dave

  • Irene Wagner

    Not even when you had your Skull and Cigar look? Impressive.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Well, this article, along with the piece about how the TSA bullied a blogger who passed on one of their precious “rules” in a blog article, have convinced me NEVER to set foot in the land of my birth again. My sympathies to those who have to visit your nation for business reasons.

    You Americans can keep your incompetent president, your worthless money, your arrogant and condescending attitudes towards my country, your bullying border goons and other nightmares for yourselves. It will not be one minute too soon that the United State gets wiped into the trash-bin of history. Hopefully all the good that was your country will not be lost in the Cleansing that is coming your way….

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/tom-carter/ Tom Carter

    Ruvy, as one American who has always strongly supported Israel and always will, I have to take a wee bit of umbrage at your apparent hope that the U.S. “gets wiped into the trash-bin of history.” Who will stand with you then against the rest of the world?

    It’s true that in the U.S. these days, “progressives” and lefties in general are not friendly toward Israel. Some are getting to the point where they’re little more than knee-jerk anti-Semites. But there are many, including moderate liberals like me, who disagree with them. In fact, when it gets down to the nut-cutting, you’ll find that the majority of Americans support you. So, be careful what you wish for.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Tom, this has little to do with supporting Israel. If we take Israel off the table for a moment, and just concentrate on YOUR COUNTRY, you have basically two roads open to you in the future.

    1. To shuffle off of history’s stage as a mass of huddled poor from Europe and Latin-America – yearning from a lost freedom and the privilege of breathing free once again.

    2. Or you can scare your creditors with your nukes so they will understand never to raise a hand against you, kill off the Wahhabi and Shi’a terrorists who have sworn your deaths (with your nukes if necessary), and start to produce your way out of the mess you have created for yourselves (by stripping yourselves of productive capacity and outsourcing it). This last element will require real sacrifice of freedom, but when the goal is held out and explained clearly, you may have people willing to do that for a time – until you can stride the world as the empire of good you can be, instead of the evil empire of the setting sun you are now.

    Put simply, you can do what is easy – or what is right. My money is on “You will do what is easy”.

    Frankly, I see nobody with either the brains or balls to follow the second path – doing what is right – that I’ve laid out. Therefore there will be a Cleansing of your nation, a badly deserved one.

    It is not a matter of what I wish for – it’s what I see in the cards.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/tom-carter/ Tom Carter

    I hope you’re wrong. In any case, I go with option 2.

    I hope we can muster the will to deal decisively with the Wahhabi and Shi’a terrorists who have sworn the deaths of our countries. I haven’t given up on President Obama yet — the underwear bomber may have been like a splash of cold water in his face (sorry for the mixed images!).

  • KathyP

    From Yon’s Facebook page:
    “TSA was not involved. The Customs people (CBP) were the actors who handcuffed me.”

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Thanks, Kathy. That wasn’t clear on his FB page when the story first broke. It was my main source.

    Dave

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    the TSA has gotten better about being rude, self-righteous and inhospitable — but they certainly have a long ways to go.

    As someone who flies quite a bit, I agree with you, Birdcaje. Somebody’s definitely given them some pretty through customer service training over the last two or three years.

    You still do get the occasional arsehole, but that’s going to be true of any public service job. Problem with these guys is that it’s difficult to complain about them if you want to be able to catch your plane.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Interestingly, I’ve never been stopped or searched by the TSA despite flying a fair amount. Of course that would make perfect sense if they are profiling people, which they claim they are not.

    Interestingly, I’ve never been stopped or searched in an airport either (well, except for the time when a TSA agent saw my GPS dashboard mount going through the X-ray scanner and couldn’t figure out what it was).

    My wife, however (who is just about as lily-white-looking as I am despite being half Latino), always seems to be the one who gets singled out for ‘secondary screening’. Go figure.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Interesting indeed. My wife gets wanded about 50% of the time too.

    Dave

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Proof, if more were needed, that the TSA does not profile. Unless my memory deceives me and the 9/11 hijackers were all female.

    (Actually, there were those female Chechen suicide bombers who blew up a couple of Russian airliners a while back…)

  • Total Stupidity Agency.

    Stupid is as stupid does…

    Why do we allow an agency to be created to assault our own citizens?

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Dr. D, you know that in counterterrorism training they teach you to shoot the women first, because they are considered more likely to be fanatical and prone to react with sudden violence.

    Dave

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Dave, (a) is this actually true, and (b) if it is, is it based on anything more than anecdotal evidence?

  • STM

    Maybe. They teach you to shoot the person furthest away first.

  • STM

    Of course, there would be a million variables. I think if you look at what the US and the coalition are doing in the mid-east at the moment, they also teach you not to make assumptions.

    Making assumptions was part of what turned everything pear-shaped in the first place.

    I would suggest they teach you to think about whether the women are actually just wives or daughters or mothers rather than someone who might try to blow you up.

    Some of Michael Yon’s writing’s are instructive in this regard, BTW, especially in terms of the change of focus in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    My comment was specifically in reference to hostage situations where the women are armed. I think the doctrine originates with the Israelis, but who knows better than them?

    Dave

  • STM

    The SAS

  • http://earthtiger.info/bearsbookblog Tim Singleton

    Annon:

    You need to back way up and re-evaluate what you said.

    “Hmmmm sounds like you ran afoul of the behavior detection folks at TSA. If so… they were doing their job, & you were acting up. Trust me, they could have cared less about your income, they were using dialogue to see if you a bigger problem other than just being a jerk. The questions were not nearly as important as were your reaction to them.

    Calm down, get a grip and you won’tsingle yourself out for extea screening.

    Oh… and David… Isreal comes to the US to fine tune their behavior training. But, granted, we could be a little more thorough if we walked around the with Uzi’s. Not gonna happen in the US, Bud.”

    Every word you wrote drips with Fascism. “Behaviour detection folks” my @$$. If I am tired and worn out and just returning from a war zone, I do not feel like being harrassed by some 250lbs of dogs#1t stuffed into a 100 lbs. bad uniform who would most likely drop his d@mn weapon and run squealing into the night when confronted with someone more dangerous than an 80 year old tourist from Japan.

    TSA agents are clearly being recruited from the rising predator class in America and need to be stood up to. When the day arrives that they taser some foreign national to death in the airport because he didn’t step lively enough I hope they send them to worst state correctional facilities available so they can get the special treatment they deserve. I used to be a Correctional Officer, so I know in detail what they will be in for.

    The arrogance, false pride, and future karma payback in your words was simply astounding.

  • http://earthtiger.info/bearsbookblog Tim Singleton

    “so they can get the special treatment they deserve. I used to be a Correctional Officer, so I know in detail what they will be in for”

    should have ended in “at the hands of their fellow inmates.”

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    I used to be a Correctional Officer, so I know in detail what they will be in for.

    If the sort of behavior you’re hinting at was routine in the prison you worked at, I have to wonder how effective you and your colleagues were.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Tim,

    TSA agents are clearly being recruited from the rising predator class in America and need to be stood up to.

    Great choice of words. I think that is exactly right. But what do you mean by that? Can you say more about it?

    What about your other experiences–in the military and as a prison guard? I imagine they also contribute to your view that there is a rising predator class in America?

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Good article, Dave.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    It’s not often that Dave gets a praise from Cindy. The world must be changing.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    True, Roger, it is not often, but it happens. Dave and I are both libertarians. Dave from the right and I from the left (libertarian socialist). So, both of us are interested in govt oppression and would be expected to agree on certain things.

    I really like when Dave focuses on stories that expose govt oppression and also MSM’s marginalization of it.

  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ Jeannie Danna

    hello Cindy!!!:) sorry to comment in this thread without reading, but i wanted to connect again.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Hiya Jeannie :-)

    Nice to see you! I was trying to track you down in another thread to do the same thing! But I probably wandered away before I could due to ADD. I am glad you did!

    I hope everything is good with you. :-)

  • annon

    Tim,
    I do not need to re-evaluate. I am not a fascist.
    Please to not think that having served our country gives either of us a special right to dump all over people who are just doing their jobs, as we did ours. Thank you for your service to our country. Remember that terrorism comes in both foreign and homegrown forms. Do you remember the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City? The bomber was Timothy McVey, he received the Bronze Star during his military service. He looked like any All American guy. And he fits the definition of a terrorist. So, yea… behavior detection officers look for anomalies in behaviors, because profiling just doesn’t work. And when you act up and act out, a reasonable security officer will want to know why. Are you stressed because you plan to do something bad, or are you just having a bad day? Calm down, accept that being screened and having your bags searched is part of the process and you’ll have a much less negative experience.
    Are some of the TSA officers jerks? Of course they are. Have you ever worked any place where at least a few people weren’t jerks? I bet there were a few of your fellow correctional officers that fit the bill. I know that there were in the Military Police units that I was in.
    Remember… flying is not a right. The airlines can decline to sell a ticket to anyone. If you don’t like the hassle associated with air travel, may I suggest Greyhound. Of course, they may also ask you to check your attitude at the door.

  • Don Bryan

    Their seems to be two different stories here. One involing TSA and the other customs
    agents. I suspect that the rules and regulations and suthority would vary. Our
    right violations began a long time ago,Long before 1 /11 etc. All of our problems start
    with congress. Until we throw all the bums
    out,do not expect any improvement.

  • House

    Relevant Information:

    -Border Patrol stopped him from ENTERING THE COUNTRY, not from getting on a plane.

    -Michael Yon is an AMERICAN CITIZEN, and cannot be prevented from RE-ENTERING the country of his BIRTH.

    As I see it, this was not an airplane security issue, or a question of whether to allow Yon admittance into the U.S. Since Yon is a citizen, the only reason BP would interrogate Yon would be to fish for criminal activity while he was overseas.

    It’s no different from when traffic cops fish for guns and drugs when they pull you over for speeding.

    Cooperating with police in those situations are not in your interest. Chances are, you’ve done something wrong that you don’t even know about. The more cooperative you are, the more likely you’ll figure out what you did. Likewise, a mis-statement could be construed as lying, which is also an offense.

    Obviously, it’s best practice not to get lippy, but I can understand why people lose their patience.