Free Markets, Free People

Michale Yon: Handcuffed In Seattle For Refusing To Divulge His Income

I had the pleasure, last Sunday, of participating in an interview with Michael Yon on PunditReview radio. Michael had finished up a year out of the country, covering both Afghanistan and Iraq as a citizen journalist. He was in Hong Kong when we did the interview (you can hear it here). You could tell how excited he was to be coming home to the US. My last words to him were, “welcome home, Michael”.

And how was he welcomed home? From his Facebook page:

Got arrested at the Seattle airport for refusing to say how much money I make. (The uniformed ones say I was not “arrested”, but they definitely handcuffed me.) Their videos and audios should show that I was polite, but simply refused questions that had nothing to do with national security. Port authority police eventually came — they were professionals — and rescued me from the border bullies.

His description of those who handcuffed him is appropriate and I applaud his resistance to their questions. He also put a little context around what happened to him in his next posting on Facebook, something which I find disturbing:

When they handcuffed me, I said 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.

Unfortunately, in the “home of the free and the land of the brave”, that’s not at all an uncommon tale. For the life of me, I can’t figure the “national security” angle on income. And I have to admit I’d have told whoever asked me that it was none of their business.

This is an example of the individual tyrannies that can establish themselves within nameless/faceless bureaucracies. I have no idea if that question is a standard one that our border agents are supposed to ask. If it is, it is an unwarranted invasion of privacy. But my guess is it isn’t. My guess, based simply on a hunch, is that this was some border agent playing his or her little game and not used to being refused. And when refused, didn’t have the good sense to back off and instead escalated the situation.

I hope Michael gets a good lawyer and goes after the individual and the agency for attempting to invade his privacy. National security is a serious business – but it appears, given the info we have, this had absolutely nothing to do with national security or any type of security.

Anyway, “Welcome home, Mike”.



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13 Responses to Michale Yon: Handcuffed In Seattle For Refusing To Divulge His Income

  • Too bad that Mike isn’t a Muslim (as far as I know) .. he could complain to the State Department about making a bad impression on Muslims.

  • Update needed….
    Hint: run Spell Check

  • One of my coworkers tells a story of when he was in college, taking an American history class. They spent several weeks driving around the country, with the main rule being “no interstates,” and the idea being to learn observe the history of less observed places. In southern Texas, they came across an immigration stop, not at a border, and were asked to show ID. One of the students (a Hispanic, and the daughter of a prominent DC immigration lawyer) refused, on the (correct) grounds that she had no legal obligation to do so, as an American citizen, unless they wanted to arrest her or present a court order of some sort (subpeona, warrant, etc). Of course they didn’t want to arrest her without cause, and they didn’t have any court papers – it was what amounts to a nuisance stop designed to catch illegals. In the end, the agents disassembled the car “to search it” and then left it disassembled when they were done. (They were nice enough to give the students the tools to put it back together.)

    I do not mean to get us off on the topic of immigration, per se. My point is only that some – all too many – law enforcement officials do not like to be told “no,” and will go out of their way to make miserable the lives of people who do not unconditionally obey them. Sounds like Yon found some of them. Assuming all is at it seems, I hope they are sufficiently punished for their misbehavior that they are a bit more humble in future.

  • Note that there’s a typo in your title.  Also, privacy rights are drastically diminished at the border.  He could sue, but probably unsuccessfully.

    • Thanks – got it.

      To your point: no, privacy rights are not drastically limited. While some information required at border crossings is considered private but necessary, that doesn’t mean it is open season on private information and you must divulge whatever the agent behind the desk asks. Income earned isn’t a part of that requirement, isn’t necessary for security and Yon was perfectly correct to refuse to give it.

      • I believe the agent is protect from any direct repercussions if not the agency.  They only thing that could happen to him is reassignment, firing, etc.  But being the guberment, firing is unlikely.

  • So, the TSA stopped Michael Yon, a blogger, but let some Nigerian jihadist through because…why? Maybe we should be doing as El Al does and profile Muslim men and women who are the root cause of terrorism, and sue the TSA for stopping ordinary Americans who deign to oppose this criminal in the White House.

    I know that this sounds paranoid and all, but I will not be surprised hearing of Americans being arrested for daring to do anything that is seen as “opposing” this maladministration, this criminal cabal, in Washington, D.C. The Snorkeler™ looks like the type of thin-skinned doofi who does tons of slamming of other people but when he gets slammed (as when Dick Cheney called him out for not fighting a war on terror properly), he fights back. He has no shame, no pride in this country (and neither does his wife, unless the country is voting for the two of them), and – I know I will get the sh!t for this one – he is going down as the worst President we have ever had. Hell, he makes Jimmy Carter look like a two-term success story, and we know how THAT turned out.

  • Here’s a little joke someone told me yesterday:

    Why won’t Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad meet with President Obama?
    Because in Iran it is illegal for a pr!ck to touch an a$$hole.

  • I grew up in El Paso, TX, while my father worked in Mexico (he was a Mexican citizen to boot). Watching him cross the border time and time again, the right way, while also watching people walk across the river on a regular basis, I came to the conclusion that it is easier to get into the US illegally than legally.  One of the biggest problems are immigration agents who have a badge and a gun so think they can get away with anything.  Yon’s experience is unfortunately indicative of a large number of immigration agents.

  • In the future, you’ll be required to present your health insurance card along with your passport to get back into your own country.  Oh, and whatever money you’ve got in your wallet.

  • It is truly disheartening to behold the daily entropic wasting away of our liberty.

  • Yon has reason to be uncooperative.      I’m not saying that as a bad thing, but the article he wrote a year ago about the trauma a friend of his was put through and the extreme invasion of her privacy and disrespect she was put through, undoubtedly contributed to his decision not to answer inappropriate questions.
    And the thing of it is that he’s got the luxury to do so where other travelers, like his friend, do not.    Other travelers can’t afford to risk missing connecting flights or risk finding themselves stranded in a foreign place.    The extra expense itself is a disaster.    What do you do?    What you do is comply, no matter how invasive or upsetting the whole thing is because you can not take the risk.
    Yon was in a position to stand up for himself.    He was in a position of knowledge from traveling so very much as he does, and of strength because he risked nothing more than an annoying delay,  and efficacy as a journalist, to call the bullies on their behavior and to speak for those who are powerless.