Skip to comments.I Am Detained By The Feds For Not Answering Questions (April 2010)
Posted on 03/30/2012 6:04:11 PM PDT by expat1000
Sherman Oaks, California
I was detained last night by federal authorities at San Francisco International Airport for refusing to answer questions about why I had travelled outside the United States.
The end result is that, after waiting for about half an hour and refusing to answer further questions, I was released because U.S. citizens who have produced proof of citizenship and a written customs declaration are not obligated to answer questions.
* * *
Why were you in China? asked the passport control officer, a woman with the appearance and disposition of a prison matron.
None of your business, I said.
Her eyes widened in disbelief.
Excuse me? she asked.
Im not going to be interrogated as a pre-condition of re-entering my own country, I said.
This did not go over well. She asked a series of questions, such as how long I had been in China, whether I was there on personal business or commercial business, etc. I stood silently. She said that her questions were mandated by Congress and that I should complain to Congress instead of refusing to cooperate with her.
She asked me to take one of my small bags off her counter. I complied.
She picked up the phone and told someone I was refusing to cooperate at all. This was incorrect. I had presented her with proof of citizenship (a U.S. passport) and had moved the bag when she asked. What I was refusing to do was answer her questions.
A male Customs and Border Protection officer appeared to escort me to Secondary. He tried the good cop routine, cajoling me to just answer a few questions so that I could be on my way. I repeated that I refused to be interrogated as a pre-condition of re-entering my own country.
Am I free to go? I asked.
No, he said.
The officer asked for state-issued ID. I gave him my California Identification Card. I probably didnt have to, but giving him the ID was in line with my principle that I will comply with an officers reasonable physical requests (stand here, go there, hand over this) but I will not answer questions about my business abroad.
The officer led me into a waiting room with about thirty chairs. Six other people were waiting.
The officer changed tack to bad cop. Let this guy sit until he cools down, the officer loudly said to a colleague. It could be two, three, four hours. Hes gonna sit there until he cools down.
I asked to speak to his superior and was told to wait.
I read a book about Chinese celebrities for about 15 minutes.
An older, rougher officer came out and called my name. Weve had problems with you refusing to answer questions before, he said. You think theres some law that says you dont have to answer our questions.
Are you denying me re-entrance to my own country? I asked.
Yes, he said, and walked away.
I read for about five more minutes.
An officer walked out with my passport and ID and handed them to me.
Am I free to go? I asked.
Yes, he said.
But we werent done.
I picked up my checked bag and was told to speak to a customs officer. My written declaration form had been marked with a large, cross-hatched symbol that probably meant secondary inspection of bags.
The officer asked if the bags were mine; I handed him my baggage receipt.
He asked if I had packed the bags myself. I said I declined to answer the question.
He asked again, and I made the same reply. Same question; same response. Again; again.
I need you to give me an oral customs declaration, he said.
I gave you a written declaration, I said.
I need to know if you want to amend that written declaration, he said. I need to know if theres anything undeclared in these bags.
I stood silently.
Visibly frustrated, he turned to a superior, who had been watching, and said that I refused to answer his questions.
Just inspect his bags, the senior officer said. He has a right to remain silent.
Finally! It took half an hour and five federal officers before one of them acknowledged that I had a right not to answer their questions.
The junior officer inspected my bags in some detail, found nothing of interest, and told me I could leave.
* * *
1. Cops Really Dont Like It When You Refuse To Answer Their Questions. The passport control officer was aghast when I told her that my visit to China was none of her business. This must not happen often, because several of the officers involved seemed thrown by my refusal to meekly bend to their whim.
2. Theyre Keeping Records. A federal, computer-searchable file exists on my refusal to answer questions.
3. This Is About Power, Not Security. The CBP goons want U.S. citizens to answer their questions as a ritualistic bow to their power. Well, CBP has no power over me. I am a law-abiding citizen, and, as such, I am the master, and the federal cops are my servants. They would do well to remember that.
4. U.S. Citizens Have No Obligation To Answer Questions. Ultimately, the cops let me go, because there was nothing they could do. A returning U.S. citizen has an obligation to provide proof of citizenship, and the officer has legitimate reasons to investigate if she suspects the veracity of the citizenship claim. A U.S. citizen returning with goods also has an obligation to complete a written customs declaration. But thats it. You dont have to answer questions about where you went, why you went, who you saw, etc.
Of course, if you dont, you get hassled.
But thats a small price to pay to remind these thugs that their powers are limited and restricted.
Thew real reason they ask questions, as this fool already knows, is to hear you speak. CBP agents are trained to listen for the very subtle differences between native-spoken English and English that which was aquuired after age 2. No one who learns any language after learning another fluently is completely free of the accents, inflections, words patterns, etc. of their first language.
Back in the day, there were certain phrases they would lead Eastern Eurpeans to speak, and in doing so, they could detect a Russian native pseaker as opposed to a German, Yugoslav or other person who could get into the US more easily.
In addition, since they make no record of the persons answers to these questions, this idiot is simply a ballbreaker.
>>Thew real reason they ask questions, as this fool already knows, is to hear you speak.
Actually this fool (above) is out of date by a few decades.
They know very well he is American. The real reason they ask is to look for signs of stress, no accents.
I'm missing that part of my copy of the Constitution.
Besides, refusing to answer questions falls under 1st and 5th amendments. He let them search (4th amendment).
No, but he could use a much better hairdresser, and an updated photograph since his graduation from law school in the 80s !
What are you talking about? His screen name is expat and I said that if he had any real balls he would preach the Gospel in a Mosque rather than show us how tough he is by occupying Border Officers in a Sterile environment that he know that he is safe in. Are you slow?
All of the above.
What’s worse, is I think that fate has relegated me to always being behind that guy.
Douche, massive ego...?
No wonder your handle is PATFAN!
You probably never had an Area 51 Anal Probing by TSA you didn't enjoy...!
Ah uh...so you’re some Boston cop or something, right?
Badge banger, right?
The best question to ask when being detained. If the answer is yes, you can just turn and walk away as if the police don't exist. If the answer is no, it can come in handy if there is ever a related trial.
This isn't about testicles, it's about enforcing the law. And the law doesn't require him to answer questions, apparently.
I know you might not agree with that, but it is good to know information the next time you get to customs.
Maybe not a terrorist, but maybe they should search his computer for kiddie porn.
And I don't have to worry about customs, because I don't intend to leave Texas, ever again.
Ping to read later......
This is a classic example of being an ass because you can.
Here is an overriding example. There was a time when commercial lawyers ensured that all contracts were in proper legal form, clearly expressed the desires and expectations of all parties and provided remedies for failures to perform under the terms of an agreement. Then, a contract was simply an enforceable agreement.
Now, lawyers (because there are so many and they need something to do) have set themselves up into a new arena.
Time and again, two non-lawyer parties reach a mutually advantageous agreement. They then call their respective lawyers to reduce the agreement to writing. The lawyers, however, decide that it their job to get their client a “better deal.” They often spend hundreds of (billable) hours, achieve no substantiate benefit for their clients, and only get the two contracting parties mad at each other.
Often what was to be a mutually beneficial arrangement is never concluded, or even worse, becomes so one sided the underlying business proposition fails, after everyone has put a few million into it.
It's especially bad with female lawyers who think they have to enter every meeting with a scowl and an adversarial attitude.
I was recently called in to help mediate a libel and slander case against a TV station. Three times I had it settled, and everyone was happy, but the opposing lawyers screwed it up.
I finally called in both counsel and told them if they screwed up this 4th settlement, I was going to call their clients in and tell them I thought both counsel were simply trying to ensure the case went to trial, to vastly increase their billable hours.
They said I wouldn't dare. I gave them three names of other bar members they both knew and offered to have them call and ask if they thought I would do that.
The deal was dictated, reviewed and inked in 40 minutes!
Lawyers, stop acting like assholes because you can!
Not entirely true. A USC can show up with nothing, declare themselves a citizen and they have to be admitted. Obviously there will be a process involved in proving the claim but you must still be admitted. Even if this guy was a complete jackass, once it is determined he is a citizen he must be admitted. There are quick ways and slow ways to get through customs. This guy seems to relish the slow way.
I would bet that he wouldn't act like this if he had a tighter connection.
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