Two British citizens were barred from entering the United States because they joked on Twitter they were coming to the U.S. to "destroy America," and "dig up Marilyn Monroe."
The Sun reports that the Department of Homeland Security flagged Leigh Van Bryan a potential threat to the United States because, in his excitement over his visiting the U.S., he posted the news to his friends, saying: "Free this week, for quick gossip/prep before I go and destroy America."
According to The Sun, Leigh was arrested at the Los Angeles International Airport, questioned for five hours, handcuffed and held under armed guard, in the same cell with tattooed Mexican drug dealers for 12 hours. He travelling companion Emily Bunting, was also held by U.S. security officials last Monday .
Leigh tried in vain to explain to the security officials that "destroy" is a British slang for "partying."
The two were amazed when they found that security officials actually took Leigh's expression that he was coming to "dig up Marilyn Monroe" literally. Federal agents searched their suitcases for spades and shovels, and expressed suspicion that Emily came to act as "lookout" while Leigh tried to "dig up Marilyn Monroe."
Emily said: "The officials told us we were not allowed in to the country because of Leigh's tweet. They wanted to know what we were going to do. They asked why we wanted to destroy America and we tried to explain it meant to get trashed and party. I almost burst out laughing when they asked me if I was going to be Leigh's lookout while he dug up Marilyn Monroe. I couldn't believe it because it was a quote from the comedy Family Guy which is an American show." (The Washington Post explains that the joke about "digging up Marilyn Monroe" actually comes from an American TV comedy show "Family Guy.")
The Sun reports Leigh said he tried to explain to the officials that they had got his meaning about "destroying America" wrong. But one of the officials told him, "You've really f***** up with that tweet boy."
After the two were returned to the airport, they were handed documents that explained why they were refused entry to the U.S. Daily Mail reports Leigh's charge sheet read: "He had posted on his Tweeter website account that he was coming to the United States to dig up the grave of Marilyn Monroe. Also on his tweeter account Mr Bryan posted that he was coming to destroy America."
Emily's charge sheet read: "It is believed that you are travelling with Leigh-Van Bryan who possibly has the intentions of coming to the United States to commit crimes."
Orwellian Big Brother monitoring our TweetsThe Washington Post reports this is not the first time a Twitter joke by a British would lead to trouble with authorities. A man, Peter Chambers, who in 2010, tweeted a joke about how bad weather led to closure of the airport was arrested on charges of terrorism and found guilty of sending "grossly offensive" message "by a public communications network."
The Washington Post also reports the case of Birgitta Jonsdottir, a member of the Icelandic parliament, who was served a subpoena by the U.S. Department of Justice on tweets she wrote about WikiLeaks. According to Jonsdottir, in a blog warning people who use the web: "Many users do not understand that they are giving away all control of their web usage... Personal data can be used against you...!This is very dangerous to those, like me, who are activists, journalists and researchers. It equally endangers the merely curious."
Daily Mail reports the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) maintains false accounts on Twitter. The accounts are used to scan networks for "sensitive" words and for tracking people.
The online privacy group, Electronic Privacy Information Centre, made a request under the Freedom of Information Act for information about the scans but was ignored. According to Daily Mail, words deemed "sensitive" by the DHS include: Illegal immigrant, Outbreak, Drill, Strain, Virus, Recovery, Deaths, Collapse, Human to animal and Trojan.