British tourists branded as terrorists, jailed & deported over Twitter jokes

January 30th, 2012
He would have gotten away with it, if not for his Twitter addiction!

And he would have gotten away with it, if not for his Twitter addiction!

Recently, several media outlets reported that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security had begun monitoring social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter. The FBI is also in the process of developing its own internet monitoring platform.

This week, we got one of our first looks at the level of security that we can expect thanks to this type of government internet monitoring.

Earlier this month, Homeland Security agents spotted a message on Twitter written by UK resident Leigh Van Bryan to one of his friends that read: “free this week for quick gossip/prep before I go and destroy America?” Another of Van Bryan’s tweets read: “3 weeks today, we’re totally in LA pissing people off on Hollywood Blvd and diggin’ Marilyn Monroe up!” Based on these messages, DHS agents flagged Van Bryan as a threat.

When Van Bryan arrived at Los Angeles International airport with pal Emily Bunting this week, Homeland Security agents were waiting for them.

The pair were immediately detained, and spent the next five hours being questioned by agents. When asked why he wanted to destroy America, Van Bryan explained that “destroy” is British slang for “partying”—but Homeland Security wasn’t buying it. According to Van Bryan, DHS agents treated both him and Bunting like terrorists, stating that he had “really f***ed up with that tweet, boy.”

When asked about their plan to dig up Marilyn Monroe, Van Bryan tried to explain that the tweet was a quote from the popular American comedy Family Guy. Apparently Homeland Security doesn’t like Family Guy, because they didn’t believe him. According to Burting, agents asked if the plan was to have Burting stand as a “lookout” while Van Bryan dug up Monroe’s grave. Agents even searched the pair’s luggage for spades and shovels.

After questioning, the pair were taken to a nearby prison in handcuffs, where they were locked up for 12 hours. Then they were returned to the airport, handed papers stating that they were denied entry into the U.S., and sent home to England. The papers that Van Bryan was given stated that “on his tweeter [sic] account Mr Bryan posted that he was coming to destroy America.”

Maybe before any more government agencies invest our tax dollars into these (presumably ludicrously expensive) systems to scour the internet for potential threats, we could make sure that the people responsible for analyzing the data they produce aren’t clinically brain-dead? Perhaps the idiots that flagged this guy as a threat based on two obviously innocuous tweets might want to read this?

And DHS agents questioned these people for 5 hours in person, only to reach a conclusion of ‘yup—they’re definitely terrorists?’ Really?

Comments are closed.