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Michael Yon: Border Bullies and Consequences

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posted on Jan, 6 2010 @ 12:21 PM
I ran accross these recent stories concerning Michael Yon and his experiences with the TSA.

Michael Yon (born 1964) is an American author, independent reporter, columnist, photographer, and blogger. He served in the Special Forces in the early-1980s, one of the youngest soldiers to pass the Green Beret selection process, and he became a general freelance writer in the mid-1990s. He focused on military writing after the invasion of Iraq. Yon has been embedded on numerous occasions with American and British troops in Iraq, most prominently a deployment with the 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment (Deuce Four) of the 25th Infantry Division in Mosul, Iraq that ended in September 2005.

So, now that you know a little about the man, here's his experience and that of a friend:

Border Bullies: The Department of Homeland Security in Action

A Thai friend with whom I have traveled in Europe and Asia took time off from her job to meet me in Florida over the holidays. This was a good time for me, as it was between reporting stints in the war. My friend, Aew, had volunteered to work with me in Afghanistan or Iraq, but I declined because many people around me get shot or blown up. So we were looking forward to spending some vacation time together. She comes from a good family; and one that is wealthier than most American families. She didn’t come here for a job. Well-educated, she has a master's degree and works as a bank officer in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Aew was excited about the prospect of visiting America for the first time, though she had traveled to many other countries and had the passport stamps to prove it. She had no problem getting a U.S. visa, and she was paying her own way to fly.

Problems began when she entered the airport in Bangkok. Aew had a one-way ticket to America, because we would travel back in the direction of the war before she would go home, but we did not know our exact itinerary, so she hadn't bought a round-trip ticket back to Thailand. Before boarding the flight from Thailand to America, Northwest Airlines required Aew to buy a return ticket for 53,905 Thai bhat, or about $1,200 for a return ticket, else they would not let her board the flight. Aew paid by her credit card and pushed on. Understandably, it raises suspicions when a foreign national doesn't have a round-trip ticket in an age of massive illegal immigration -- even if that person is an educated professional with a home and career, and even though Aew has a ten-year visa to the United States. Nevertheless, Aew paid approximately $1,200 for the return ticket, and so now had a return ticket.

That is how it began. She boarded the jet, eventually landed in Japan and then Minneapolis, before the final leg to Orlando...


While the U.S. Immigration officer named Knapp rifled through all her belongings, Aew sat quietly. She was afraid of this man, who eventually pushed a keyboard to Aew and coerced her into giving up the password to her e-mail address. Officer Knapp read through Aew's e-mails that were addressed to me, and mine to her. Aew would tell me later that she sat quietly, but “Inside I was crying.” She had been so excited to finally visit America. America, the only country ever to coerce her at the border. This is against everything I know about winning and losing the subtle wars. This is against everything I love about the United States. We are not supposed to behave like this. Aew would tell me later that she thought she would be arrested if she did not give the password.


Officer Knapp called my phone as I was driving to the Orlando airport. I was going to be there two hours early to make sure I would be on time, so that she had a warm welcome to my country. But instead, Knapp was busy detaining Aew in Minneapolis and was on my cell phone asking all types of personal questions that he had no business asking. Sensing that Aew was in trouble, I answered his questions. Mr. Knapp was a rude smart aleck. The call is likely recorded and that recording would bear out my claims. This officer of the United States government, a grown man, had coerced personal information from a Thai woman who weighs 90 pounds....

A year later, this is what the TSA did to Yon:

Michael Yon Detained, Handcuffed by TSA in Seattle Airport.

Award winning war correspondent Michael Yon was detained and handcuffed at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport Yesterday by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) personnel.

Yon was returning to the United States from Hong Kong to visit family when TSA officials stopped him during a routine security checkpoint. “Officials asked me what was in my bag—nothing wrong with this question,” Yon said in an interview with “I told them it was normal stuff, clothes and toothbrushes.”

At this point the TSA officials escorted Yon to a designated screening area where they examined the contents of his bag. “Then they asked me how much money I make,” Yon said. Yon suggested to the TSA officials that the question was inappropriate and unrelated to transportation security. The award-winning blogger noted another TSA officer approached Yon: “he asked who do I work for.” ”I did not answer the question which clearly was upsetting to the TSA officers.”

Yon was escorted to a room elsewhere in the airport where he said he remained silent during much of the questioning. According to Yon, “they handcuffed me for failing to cooperate. They said I was impeding their ability to do their job.”


Yon continued, “They said I wasn’t under arrest, but I’m handcuffed. In any other country, that qualifies as an arrest.”

Ultimately Port Authority police released Yon; according to Yon, the police were “completely professional.”


Regarding the incident in Seattle, Yon was adamant the TSA agents had overstepped their bounds: “If I am the guy on that passport and I don’t have any contraband in my luggage, it is a matter for the FBI, not the TSA.”

“TSA people are out of control,” he said. “They are not doing their jobs, they are harassing people, creating animosity. They ask you ‘what time is your connective flight?’ and they bully you until you miss the flight.”

In case some of you have the impression this is some coach potato blogger, think again. In the first article he writes:

I have just returned from Afghanistan and Iraq on a trip with U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and I can assure you that we can do better. We do not have to violate human rights and insult our closest allies to maintain our security.

Even that connection couldn't save him or his friend from the nonesense dished by Homeland Security or the TSA.

He ends his first article with:

I had intended to show Aew a bit of my country. But it's taking a little while for her to get over her discomfort at being in America. She was treated better in China. So was I.


Welcome to the good 'ole USA... You know what they say, "If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck..."

posted on Jan, 6 2010 @ 12:49 PM
This is indeed sad and makes me wonder how many more have just given up and refused to travel after being treated in such a way.

I used to travel extensively, but have almost stopped at this point as although I have never had problems such as those you have posted, I believe it's just a matter of time. And I wouldn't just idly stand by while my rights were abused in such a fashion and hence would be in more trouble than most.

I'm glad that I live in such a diverse country as I have a lot of exploring to do here at home, and will glean information about other countries from books and the internet from now on. Not even close to visiting I know, but I am finding it is just not worth the hassle.

posted on Jan, 6 2010 @ 02:13 PM
It's gotten to the point that I don't like to fly. A couple of years ago I went down to Orlando to attend my godson's wedding and visit DisneyWorld with my two year old daughter. At BWI I got tapped for one of the random "enhanced" security checks. I was told to go over to the side of the security area. I think the officer had not realized the cute little 3 year old child was mine as she is Chinese and I am Caucausian. Anyway, over I went with my daughter and was ordered by a TSA agent to face the wall in the traditional pat down position. However I kept turning my head to try and keep an eye on my child who I was not allowed to hold by the hand to keep her from straying adn who viewed this as a great opportunity to 'go walkabout' as it were. As she started to go under the rope barrier that seperated where we were from the regular security area I asked several of the TSA agents who were just standing there to stop her. They looked at me like I was crazy and told me they would not. So I left the wall, ran over to my daughter and brought her back and had her sit by me, which she was happy to do having discovered that the airport was really big and a bit overwhelming. The TSA agent was furious with me for not "obeying" her. They then wanted me to go back through the metal detector. My daughter came with me and that infuriated the agent who told me that they didn't want her. I asked if one of them would mind watching her for a moment then and was told that they didn't do that. After going through the metal detector again I was ordered to open my carry on, my daughter's diaper bag. I told my daughter to come over and stay by me while I opened it, but the female TSA agent ordered her to stay back. My daughter, confused, started to cry and so I picked her up and brought her over to the table the bag was on, sat her on it and kept my one arm around her as I emptied the bag. The female TSA agent was almost beside herself with fury at this point and told me that she had the power to detain me for non-compliance. I politely told her that I had to make sure that my child was safe. She made a rude comment about my daughter's ethnicity. I told her that she needed to get her supervisor there right now. One of the other agents, who had heard her made the comment, walked over, motioned her away and identified himself as her supervisor. He apologized for incident, told me that she would be spoken to and told me I was free to leave. The incident really got to me - the rudeness, the arrogence and the shear nastiness of some of the TSA screeners I've seen really frightens me. I know it scared my daughter. She kept asking if 'the bad lady' was going to take her off the plane and didn't relax until we were in the air. To be honest - neither did I since I had had to show my boarding card to her.

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