… after returning from a recent trip to the UK and just as the other chap was setting off on his own particular international sojourn.
While on his travels, this chap read all about how the newly anointed king of America new President of the United States had implemented some kind of a ban on citizens of seven countries, regardless of their legal status. (Let’s not give it a name, we all know what we are talking about).
To be clear, this chap is English, living in the US under the Green Card program. He’s also of caucasian decent. But still, when he read about said ban, he got to thinking. Now again, he is not only English, born English in fact (well actually, that is not exactly true and is a different story that we might elect to cover at a different time) and not only has - to his knowledge - no connections to any of the seven countries on the Pressers list he also hasn’t visited any of them.
But that still didn’t stop the chap wondering. And wonder this chap did. By the time he returned to these ‘United’ States … people with Green Cards were being ‘generally’ allowed back in, so being English and all … he felt safe.
A couple of contextually relevant articles for you …
So if a natural US citizen can be held, what chance does an English chap have, if the authorities decided to take a stand?
He read a lot of articles about your rights at the US border - what you could do, what you couldn’t. But in all honesty all highly conflicting info. But there did seem to be something about being able to force you to use your finger-prints to open your phone, but not for you to give them your security code.
Now, this chap doesn’t have too much to hide from the authorities, but he DOES have a lot to hide from people in general. He is not in the habit for example of sharing his bank account information with people, nor his emails received that are covered by various NDAs he has signed. You know - stuff like that.
Here’s what you might not know, when they ask for your phone and code, they don’t explore that phone in front of you, it is taken away and opened somewhere else.
Now, it is well documented that ‘Team TSA’ aren’t exactly the brightest or honest. Consider for example this recent news: 12 TSA Agents Arrested in Massive Puerto Rican Cocaine Scandal - strange how we don’t read too much about this in the main-stream media, but ‘The Hill’ is well respected and generally neutral - so I will go with it.
So - there you are at the border. If you had your life on your phone, Bank Accounts, Apple Pay, Medical Records, Private EMails … you name it … how happy would you be to allow said phone to disappear for an indeterminate time in the hands of some Custom Agent? And this chap is fully aware that a Custom Agent is not the same as the TSA - but they do fall under ‘Team Homeland Security’ - and really - can you tell the difference?
So in preparation, this chap disabled all biometric security on all his devices in advance of landing. If you want some detailed thoughts, take a read of this.
Now, it’s been a while since he passed through San Francisco customs - last time (October 2015) they were experimenting with machines that read your passwords, took your photos etc etc … this you could elect to do voluntarily - and then you stood in line and went through it all again with a human. (They forgot to tell you that the machines weren’t yet ready to go for real).
I know right? Go figure. Well now it is all improved. Everyone engages with the machines - you get a little printed ‘billy do’ - and then stand in line before engaging with a Homeland Security professional. Now, to be fair, said professional did not do the whole finger-print, passport, photo thing - but … BUT … the lines were not improved one jot. And as he approached the desks, he understood why. There was a lot of additional interrogation going on. Not - of course - ‘interrogation’ interrogation, but there was - without doubt - a lot more questions that were obviously going above and beyond the usual ‘how long you been gone and welcome back’ … remember this is standing in the Green Cards, US Passport line - not the alien line.
And as a final note - just as a casual observer … three separate people appearing to be asked to step aside for a more detailed conversation with another chap(ess). And these people to all intents and purposes ‘looked just like me’. It just seemed to be a higher number than usual.
For me, straight through once I was at the desk. No phone asked for. No separate interview. So my mind had delivered ‘much ado about nothing’,
But those other people - I wonder where they stood. Indeed now stand. And I wonder if they handed over their phones. And I also wonder - intellectually I was ready to ask for a lawyer if I had been asked to hand over my phone and security code … but the un-answered question is, when it came down to it, what I would have actually done?
These chaps have a way of piling on the pressure you know.
… of a similar nature. No more than ‘the usual stuff’ to be concerned about – bank, a little intimate flirting– but still. It goes against that reticent English grain. It also cuts across a natural sense of justice – the Idea that the full power of the state can be turned on a chap personally to force him to open up his personal life to anyone in a uniform who feels like demanding it. It was an experience familiar to Ellis Island immigrants, and present-day to those lacking the privilege of looking like most TSA agents. But that does not excuse it.
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