'I'm Not Going to Be Interrogated As a Pre-Condition of Re-Entering My Own Country'


Reason contributor Paul Karl Lukacs describes a recent experiment in asserting his right to remain silent at the San Francisco International Airport:

"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.

"I'm 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.

While being detained, Lukacs learned that he is listed in a government database as a guy who thinks "there's some law that says you don't have to answer our questions." Ultimately, he reports, "It took half an hour and five federal officers before one of them acknowledged that I had a right not to answer their questions."

By questioning the demands of government agents, of course, Lukacs was committing the crime of "escalation," which triggers a summarily imposed penalty of hassle and delay. One Customs and Border Protection officer suggested that Lukacs should be forced to sit  for "two, three, four hours…until he cools down."

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  1. One Customs and Border Protection officer suggested that Lukacs should be forced to sit for “two, three, four hours…until he cools down.”

    The likeliest reason that they let him go after only a half hour is that the Customs and Border Protection goons can’t count to “two, three, four.”

  2. By questioning the demands of government agents, of course, Lukacs was committing the crime of “escalation,” which triggers a summarily imposed penalty of hassle and delay. One Customs and Border Protection officer suggested that Lukacs should be forced to sit for “two, three, four hours…until he cools down.”

    That happened to me when I was a young, arrogant, full of piss and vinegar sailor at the Tijuana/San Ysidro border crossing. I had the audacity to question their manners, hello holding cell.

    1. They had cells when you were young?

      1. Yeppers. Amazingly enough the traetment did nothing to impove my attitude towards those self-important, officious blowhards.

        19 years old, carrying nothing, coming back into the states from TJ with an active duty military ID.

        Agent response – This is suspicious, he might be a drug kingpin.

        1. You sound like a self-important blowhard. They’re just doing their job.

          1. He sounds like a self-important blowhard who has in all likelihood done more for this country than those fools “defending” the homeland by detaining active duty military personnel. But otherwise, sure, whatever.

          2. Yes, our country was set up so that we should be self important blow hards granted certain inalienable rights – not just those ‘doing their jobs.’ This is kind of a fundamental concept.

      2. They had cells when you were young?

        They were carved out of rock with stone tools, but yeah … šŸ˜‰

    2. You were full of piss because you navy guys don’t know what beer taste like.

  3. there’s some law that says you don’t have to answer our questions.

    They’re right you know, there’s no law that says he doesn’t have to answer their questions…

    1. A few quaint and antiquated passages in the Bill of Rights, though.

      I refuse to talk with the prison wardens / TSA when going through airport security, or even be courteous and return smiles. Fuck ’em. I got the right to remain silent, and I intend to use it.

      1. and they have the right to detain you.

        1. Wrong. No they don’t.

        2. No, they don’t. Which would be why the guy in the story was let go after *only* half an hour. If they could detain him, he might still be there.

        3. No, they don’t. Which would be why the guy in the story was let go after *only* half an hour. If they could detain him, he might still be there.

        4. No they don’t. If they did, there would be no such thing as false arrest.

  4. If only our elected officials were subjected to the same bullshit, this would end immediately. But that’s not what power is about, is it; it’s about the fact that the little people do have to endure this but the elite don’t.

    1. Actually Ted Kennedy used to get hassled when he flew commercially because his name was on a watch list.

      1. Why doesn’t some anonymous patriot put all 535 members of Congress on the watch list? Wikileaks is fine and dandy, but hauling congress critters into a back room would be awesome.

        The best part of the plan is the TSA tards wouldn’t even be smart enough to realize that they were hassling their betters.

        1. Their betters? Congress?

        2. Their betters? That’s exactly the attitude that this thread is complaining about, congresspeople tend to be complete scum, save 3 or 4. Betters? Don’t make me laugh.

        3. Their betters? That’s exactly the attitude that this thread is complaining about, congresspeople tend to be complete scum, save 3 or 4. Betters? Don’t make me laugh.

  5. Not to make any defenses here, but there is no real polite way to say “none of your business” to anyone, let alone a low level goon. I’m curious how confrontational the event would have gone if he had even pretended to be civil.

    1. “Personal business. Anything else?”

    2. Actually, there is. A chipper, cheery “none of your business” would be polite, even if overlaid with a buttload of irony.

      But, you don’t owe the fuckers politeness. You don’t have to talk with them at all. You can stare mutely at them and wait for them to let you through. It’s your Fifth / First / Miranda right to do so.

      1. you don’t owe the fuckers politeness

        Civilization is overrated anyway. Life should be like a blog.

        1. “Are you sure you’ve probed as high as you’d like, sir? Hope it’s not too tight in there for you. Ok! Have a nice day!”

          1. Haha resorting to ad hominem. Good one!

            1. I don’t think that “ad hominem means what you think it means.

      2. I like:
        What were you doing in China?
        Minding my own business.
        That is polite and true.

      3. actually you dont have any 4th (or 5th) amendment rights before you cross the border into US territory. Once you are on US soil, the 4th amendment applies to everyone, regardless of citizenship. In this case, since he hadn’t gone through customs yet, they could search his bags or question him without any specific reason or justification to do so.

        1. are you seriously suggesting that the strip of ground you walk on prior to going through customs is not US territory? So who does the US govt pay rent to then?

        2. The constitution and bill of rights of the united states of america does not give rights to anyone, and certainly not to citizens.

          The document states rights that are owned by all people, everywhere. It states that those rights are self evident and inalienable.

          Anyone who thinks those rights don’t apply to certain people or in certain situations or in some places is wrong.

          1. Thanks, James. Very enlightening.

          2. Excuse me, I believe you are confusing the Declaration of Independence with the United States Constitution.


          Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the U.N. General Assembly, reads,

          (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State.
          (2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

          Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights incorporates this right into treaty law:

          (4) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country.

          By constitution, if we have signed a treaty, it has the force of law.

  6. I would just like to brag about the time that I actually bypassed ALL security in the airport because I showed up late and a TSA lady just gave me a look once over, decided I didn’t look threatening, and took me right to where I needed to board. Past all the long lines of suckers preparing to take off their shoes and other crap.

    I know that this means someday karma will come back around to bite me in the butt and some TSA asshole will pull this kind of shit with me for refusing to answer a dumb question, or for having too much money on me, or whatever the hell other stupid reason they come up with.

    But for now I’m going to gloat.

  7. Same thing happened to me at BWI in ’02, returning from Iceland. I told the Customs officer I thought it was an invasion of privacy; her response was the same as reported here. Not that it matters (it doesn’t and absolutely never should), but I was in my mid-40s, am clean cut, blue eyed, professional, born in NC (and both of sides of my family go back to the 1720s in eastern NC); I look more CIA or FBI than al Qaeda or Red Army, for chrissakes. My passport stamps? Canada, Iceland, UK, France, Belgium, Mexico, Netherlands, Switzerland, Belize, Bahamas. I spent 3 and a half hours in a harshly lit barren room while strangers fondled every item of my luggage and personal effects out of my sight, missed my connecting flight, and, after being released at 11:30 p.m., wound up spending $250 out of pocket (which was and IS a LOT of dough for this self-employed guy, at least when it’s unexpected) for a hotel until I could fly home to Texas the next day. I have grown more libertarian and anti-Leviathan ever since.

    Is it any wonder that the country with the highest per capita rate of incarceration in the world has become a police state for all of us pre-criminals?

    1. Is it any wonder that the country with the highest per capita rate of incarceration in the world has become a police state for all of us pre-criminals?

      Three felonies a day.

      1. That is so 2009. It’s like, five, now.

  8. I don’t think Paul Karl Lukacs accomplished anything. Sure he was within his rights, but we’d be deluded to think he tuaght anyone any lessons, and moreover, he’ll probably now be part of a statistic used to increase the power of border goons.

    1. Yeah. The only way to fight government expansion of it’s authoritah to quietly acquiesce to it. That makes ’em sit up and take notice.

    2. Fuck yes, he accomplished something. We just need a couple dozen more like him, doing the same thing every day, to make a difference.

      1. Until one of them actually is someone who we need to know why he’s been out of the country. Then when all those body bags are filled with the miscellaneous parts, we can say: “At least we showed them who’s boss.”

        How is this attitude different from the security goons’. Both are being rude and unreasonable in an effort to demonstrate their superior political power.

        Is there a law that requires a student pilot to explain why he wants to learn to fly, but not land, a plane? Is it illegal for him to say: “Because I hate Americans. Death to America!”?

        1. chickenshit conformist.

        2. Great idea. That will foil them.
          Q: Why were you out of the country.
          A: I was planning some terror attacks… er…, uhhh… Dammit! I always fall for that question!

          If we don’t get them with that one, the “did you pack your own luggage” question will surely trip the bastards up.

          1. Sorry to interrupt this “screw the pigs party” but the fact is that a well-designed, and brief, interview process is probably the MOST effective security screening technique. Certainly a lot better than the “take off your shoes while we take naked X-rays of you” nonsense.

            Ask the Israelis, who I daresay know a thing or two about dealing with terrorists. They even managed to stop a plane bomber who didn’t even know she was about to be a plane bomber, simply by detecting inconsistencies in her interview and pulling her out for additional screening.

            Frankly I’d rather have somebody ask me how long I was in China than strip search me or paw through my luggage.

            1. Um, aren’t we arguing about someone coming into the country, i.e. someone getting off the plane? Unless the guy is carrying a friggin bomb on him (in which case, why wouldn’t he have just set the damn thing off over water, thousands of miles from land?) of what possible use is questioning him?

              If TSA thinks he carrying contraband, then search him and his stuff. Unfortunately, they don’t need a warrant. If they’ve P.C. that he’s committed a crime, then ask him about the crime he’s supposed to have committed. But if he’s not carrying contraband, and there’s no evidence he’s committed a crime with extraterritorial jurisdiction—kiddie-diddling, that sort of thing: then it’s none of their damn business what an American citizen is doing overseas.

              Again, for the neo-conservative hard-of-hearing: When we have a terrorist problem like Israel, where guys are walking into the local Dunkin’ Donuts and blowing themselves up, then you can start emulating Israeli security practices and paranoia. (‘Course, I guess it’s not paranoia if Hamas really is out to kill you.) We don’t have that threat level in this country. Until we do, this sort of interrogation and harassment is a make-work program and a fetish for the camouflage car ribbon set.

              1. Well, I guess we fundamentally disagree on the scope of the problem. I agree that making people take off their shoes at the airport is silly. But if you really don’t think we face any kind of terrorist threat in the United States then I don’t think we have a common ground to have this discussion.

                I think if you ask a New Yorker whether we have a threat level you might get a different answer. I don’t think there can be a reasonable debate that there are people in the world who would love to blow themselves up in our Dunkin’ Donuts shops. There are various reasons why, for the most part, they haven’t done much of it yet.

                How many terrorist attacks do we have to have before you would be o.k. with customs agents asking people entering the country a couple of questions? One a year? One a month?

                The fact is a simple, brief, interview process is a reasonable and relatively non-intrusive screening method that has been proven to be effective when properly executed. I don’t think you or Mr. Lukacs would prefer body cavity searches would you? I’d much rather they ask me a couple of questions than paw through my stuff, personally.

                And, frankly, if you think that answering a few simple questions at the border is a big deal then I suspect you really haven’t traveled much. You’ll get far worse (potentially much much worse) from some other countries.

                I’ve traveled into and out of the country on numerous occasions. I’ve never had them ask me more than maybe 5 questions, never delayed me more than a minute or so. The questions they asked generally didn’t exceed the level of information that most people post on their Facebook status these days.

                If you want to think of it as “harassment” and rant about the “goons” then that’s fine, you have that right in this country. But since we DO have a threat level some level of security is unfortunately necessary. A brief interview is both effective and relatively unobtrusive.

                Perhaps we just disagree on that, and that’s o.k. too.

                1. but the threat is nothing that such precautions as we take upon disembarking a plane would have any positive impact on.

                  BSChorr- you can’t give them an INCH. A brief interview, a brief interrogation as to why you traveled somewhere that is not instigated by some other suspicion, is a sign of totalitarianism.

                2. I think the point that most people here would disagree with you on is how much of our freedoms should be surrendered in order to decrease the supposed threat.

                  “You’ll get far worse (potentially much much worse) from some other countries.”

                  This line of reasoning is pretty awful. Examples why –

                  ‘If you think being jailed for being a homosexual is bad, you must not travel much. You will get worse, (possibly far worse) in different countries’

                  ‘If you think the government intervening to prevent the construction of a new mosque/church/synagogue is bad, you must not have traveled much. These people would be treated worse (and possibly far worse) in other countries.’


                3. Also look up William Worthy.

                  In the words of the Kingston Trio- “It could happen to YOU.”

                4. 40,000 people die on US roads every year, more than were ever killed by terrorists.

                  Do you think that before somebody drives their car onto the road, he should have to pass a short two minute interview by a TSA agent?

                5. Bscore… I believe that America has always had a ‘threat level’ of some kind. You speak as if 9/11 is the only act of terrorism… terrorist attack happen with more regularity than you seem to be accepting in your argument. The guards and TSA are labelled as goons because of their extreme reactions to ‘a lack of courtesy’… although perhaps you feel better about your safety when a 12 dollar an hour checkpoint thug has the power to detain you locked in a room for several hours because … ‘they don’t like you personally!’

                  I mean, wtf!

                6. We have a VERY low “threat level” in this country. I would much rather have a terrorist attack in this country here and there than have our freedoms stripped away.

                  You are missing the crucial piece-The big problem is not the fact that there is a screening process, it’s that he wasn’t able to say “I am going to choose not to answer any questions” and have the TSA (all of them are goons or goobers or both, btw) say “That is well within your rights. Welcome home, Mr. ______” That should be the exchange, but it isn’t. Instead, we have detainments, harrassment, and conduct that wouldn’t have been tolerated even 30 years ago.

                  We are talking about fundamental rights to silence, they are not chips in a utilitarian argument that you can weigh and decide what is acceptable and what is not.

                7. No amount of terrorist activity is ever an excuse to give up our constitutional rights.

                  The fact that you think that it’s okay to give up your rights means the terrorists have already won.

              2. Wouldn’t you rather not get to that point? Wouldn’t it be better to show a harsh face to incipent terrorism before our weather reports include the chance of a shower of miscellaneous body parts and shrapnel?

                1. NO. I would rather not succumb to the fearmongers.

                2. I find little similarity between the United States’ terrorist risk and Israel’s. Leaving out lone nuts like the VaTech shooter, the Fort Hood shooting, and the nut at the LAX El Al counter, the U.S. has suffered four devastating terrorist attacks since the mid 90s: the World Trade Center bombing, Oklahoma City, the D.C. snipers, and 9/11. That’s it. There have been assorted idiots following those attacks, e.g. Richard Reid, the clowns who thought they could blow up JFK Airport via the fuel pipeline, Underwear Bomber, etc… Nothing that an entrance interview would have disrupted.

                  Compare that to the weekly rocket attacks, mortaring, and suicide bombings the Israelis have put up with and tell me again with a straight face that the terrorist risk is in any way similar. (Now, if we decide to bomb Iran, it might indeed get a little hotter over here.)

                  Grilling Mr. Lukacs, or you, or me, won’t prevent another attack. The security measure implicated in the OP, quizzing U.S. citizens about their business, upon return to the U.S., would not have stopped or even hindered three of the four attacks I listed. (I’ll give you the 1 in 10,000 chance that McVeigh’s bomb may have been hindered, if the right questions were posed to Terry Nichols when he got back from the Philippines.) Searching peoples’ baggage might stop the smuggling of contraband, but Customs/DHS already has that right and I don’t dispute the legitimacy of that power. Much.

                  I’m disputing the need to hold someone who isn’t guilty of anything other than informing DHS that his/her foreign travels are none of their business. Which they aren’t. As noted elsewhere in the thread, how other countries choose to interrogate their returning citizens, is irrelevant to discussing how things should be in the U.S. For one, we have a Bill of Rights that most countries don’t. Again, absent evidence of smuggling contraband or P.C. for committing something like sex with children, it should be, and used to be, none of the Government’s business what I do in another country. If the police have evidence that I’ve been committing terrorist activities in another country, then charge me with such. Or have an actual detective conduct the interview, not some fat-assed, 8.50 per hour, polyester-clad drone, reading from a script, who wouldn’t recognize Adam Gadahn if he walked up and introduced himself. The procedure is a waste of everyone’s time, is make-work for an otherwise unemployable segment of the population, and is calculated to force us to get used to the idea of being subjects within our country, not citizens.

                  For crying out loud, if you wanted an existential threat, we lived for more than 40 years with the threat of nuclear annihilation within 30 minutes, and yet didn’t seem to find it necessary to turn the country into an armed camp. Or grill every returning American citizen like they were a KGB sleeper.

                  “A harsh face to incipient terrorism,” You’ve got to be kidding me. Did you write that yourself, or pull it from some DHS blog? Take your “we need to give up some of our liberty to show a harsh face to incipient terrorism” shtick back to LGF or anywhere else that “dhimmi” is a commonly used word.

                  When did this country turn into a bunch of people scared of the AQ boogeyman? Show me some domestic explosive caches, show me some suicide bomber brainwashing cells, show me some plots that didn’t come straight from the mouth of the Government agent(s) who infiltrated the group, and I’ll concede you have a point with security. Again, start seriously screwing with Iran, and we might start seeing these things appear in the U.S.

                  But until then, you can buck up, stop fearing a terrorist behind every falafel shop, and the Gov’t can start following the damn Constitution like they’re supposed to.

                  Sorry for the length.

                  1. World Trade Center bombing, Oklahoma City and 9/11 were all inside jobs.


                    1. Pearl Harbor was an inside job, too!!

                3. Wouldn’t it be better if we didn’t treat everyone like a potential terrorist?

                4. absolutely not. 100% no.

                  I’ll keep my rights, thanks though.

          2. There’s the story of Groucho Marx being asked the purpose of a trip by a customs officer. Being the joker he was, he said “Smuggling!”

            Apparently, he and his minor son were thoroughly searched afterwards.

    3. He accomplished the demonstration that our security apparatus is unconscionably stupid.

      Stupid security is just as bad, if not worse, than no security.

    4. You can’t get to a tipping point without people willing to tip. And I don’t mean 20%.

      1. 15%?

        1. 5% of everyone going through airport screening absolutely and noisily refusing to take off their shoes would end that practice in a single day.

          1. Hell, 100 libertarians all hitting the same airport at the same time, gumming up all the lines, with camera crews conspicuously present and filming — no more shoes taking off.

            1. When will you be organizing this libertarian protest? Will you be live-blogging it?

              1. “You might have missed something, officer. Try a little higher. I can take it, sir. Have a nice day!”

            2. Yahbut, in this land of only about 300 million people, where are you going to get a 100 libertarians?

  9. My home airport has back-scatter scanners at all security points now. Going through this morning I noticed they had hidden, behind a post, the sign notifying passengers of their right to refuse. (The notice is very inconspicuous anyway – meant to be overlooked.) I refused, got my pat down per normal, then complained about the sign. The TSAr matron in charge assured me they’d look into it.
    During this whole time, I was the only person to refuse the scan.
    Very, very discouraging.

    1. The signs are small while they work on alternate, larger versions that are invisible to hot-looking people.

    2. It might be an interesting tactic to refuse the scanner, but offer to walk buck naked through the airport instead. Tell them you’re not willing to be exposed to the radiation.


      1. Then ask where their state license as a Radiology Technician is.

      2. That would be fun. I really don’t care who sees me naked, but unnecessary X-rays are a bad idea.

  10. I have been seriously hassled at the Canadian border. I’m a Canadian citizen, and the Canuck goons once detained me for over an hour, searched my car without allowing me to be present during the search (me: “I’d like to be present during the search.” Goons: “We’ll have to check into that.” Which of course they never did and proceeded to ransack my property and root through my suitcases on the hood of my car), and threaten me (me, politely & calmly: “Why am I being detained?” Goons: “Do you want us to show you what being detained is like? It won’t be pleasant”).

    So, kudos to this guy for taking one for the team. Even something as benign as questioning these bullies is not easy.

    (Oh, and my favorite part of my little adventure was when they finally let me into the country where I was born, they instructed me not to act so “suspicious” next time. Welcome home, indeed.)

    1. You had it coming. You moved to the US, which makes you a traitor.

      1. Now I’m thinking of ways to seem even more American just to flaunt my Canada-deserting ways. Maybe one of those delightfully tacky flag t-shirts sold at Wal-Mart.

        1. You need one of those translucent flag-and-eagle decals for your truck’s back window. You do drive a pickup, don’t you, dearie?

        2. truck nuts

        3. T-shirt is not tacky enough- you need the American flag denim shirt and a “These colors don’t run” belt buckle. A plug of Redman is a bonus.

          1. What about an american flag fish eating a canadian flag fish?

            I’d buy that.

    2. Similar thing happened to me at the Peace bridge crossing, when I was going with a bunch of friends to a beach house owned by the parents of one of them (I was in college at the time). Goon ordered us to the side of the road and told everyone to get out of the car, then they proceeded to root through everyone’s stuff looking for whatever they wanted to keep out of Canada (Vermont maple syrup, maybe?). Permission wasn’t asked, it was just “pull over and let us search through your shit or you are going to jail”.

      I also got hassled a little at the Buffalo crossing going back into America:

      Guard: What is in the trunk, sir?
      Me: A bag with a change of clothes in it.
      Guard: What is in the trunk, sir?
      Me: Clothes?
      Me: Clothes?

      He didn’t go any further, just let me cross. Glad he didn’t, cause I totally would have caved at the time.

      1. Guard: SIR, WHAT IS IN THE TRUNK?

        You: Your mother’s corpse if you ask again.

      2. Watching Andy Griffith the other day. Barney got a WWI style motorcycle and gear at an auction, and he decided to use it to patrol and terrorize the town with his petty brand of law and order. After he fined Aunt B for jaywalking she complains to Andy about the little twerp and suggest that they could do what she once saw in a movie where French Resistance types used a wire line across a road to decapitate Nazis. Andy suggest that they don’t want to kill him. Her eyes moved side to side saying that she indeed wanted to.

        There a lot more Barney Fifes out there today than fifty years ago and far fewer Aunt B’s.

    3. What’s unpleasant Canadian detention like? No back bacon with your breakfast?

      1. You have to listen to the Quebeckers.

    4. Dagney, you let a couple of Canadians intimidate you? Are you also scared of toy poodle puppies and dandelions?

    5. My wife and I often travel between the US and Canada (living in Detroit gives us plenty of opportunity) and we agree that the US and Canadian border guards compete in obnoxiousness. We’ve collected lots of stories we tell our friends later. Admittedly, the only time I was really detained was when I was alone and showed the US guy my wife’s passport (whoops). They were actually pretty nice about it, considering that we have different last names.
      But arrogance and rudeness is multinational.

      1. The last time I crossed into Canada it took me a minute. Guard asked me why I was visiting. I told him I was buying beer that I couldn’t get in the States. He laughed and waved me through. Totally obnoxious.

  11. “Son, you got to get yore mind right.”

    1. I actually said, “my mind’s right, boss” to TSA once. He looked at me like I was crazy. No sense of humor.

      1. “What we have here is a failure to coe-mue-nee-cate.”

  12. It’s like a time-out, except for adults and administered by the government.

    I agree that questions like this are completely ridiculous for citizens re-entering their own country. It doesn’t matter why I went to country ‘x’, I’m home now. Also, anyone who is actually involved in a crime will simply lie. In fact, I’d bet anyone who answers along the lines of “I went there to smuggle drugs, child slaves, illegal weapons, and prostitutes” is probably also lying.

  13. Just for the record, the last time I flew into LAX, on the way out of security, I asked one of the guards working there which way it was to another terminal.

    She told me she didn’t have to answer any of my questions.

    1. Nahh, she would have had she known.

      Since she is a federal employee though she couldn’t have found the other terminal with a map, GPS and a Sherpa!

      1. little too close to home, fish.

        1. BTW, name exaggerated for the purpose of humor. There is a grain of truth there, but not much of one.

  14. My usual converation on reentering:

    Border flunky: What countries have you visited?

    Me: China, among others

    Flunky: Business or personal?

    Me: Yes

    Flunky: What were you doing?

    Me: Outsourcing American jobs

    Works every time.

  15. We just need a couple dozen more like him, doing the same thing every day, to make

    refusal to answer passport-control questions a standalone arrestable offense. “Cunning plan,” etc.
    You know what’ll work. Do it or don’t. Don’t screw around.

  16. Well done!

  17. “It took half an hour and five federal officers before one of them acknowledged that I had a right not to answer their questions.”

    I take it the other officers were disciplined.


    1. Only the one who admitted it.

  18. Threadjack, Jack.

    Castro admits Commushitism doesn’t work.…..del_castro

    This will work out fine for Cuban goons looking for work as I’m sure the TSA will happily snap them up.

  19. “I’m Not Going to Be Interrogated As a Pre-Condition of Re-Entering My Own Country”

    It doesn’t matter what he does, the fact is he was interrogated, and he will be interrogated again and again, every time he passes through customs.

    1. In one sense, yes.

      In another, no.

      Because, while he was questioned—and at length—he refused to accept the power relationship that they tried to impose.

      Now, don’t kid yourself, they made it cost him in time and inconvenience.

      But there is a psychological component to this, because power is a social convention as well as a fact on the ground. Mr Lukacs lost on facts, but won on social convention.

      Was it worth it? You’ll have to ask him.

  20. I wanted to do this the last time I entered the U.S., but was tempted to add an f-word to my reply. I didn’t because I had a connection to catch–which is probably why most people cooperate.

  21. His real mistake was not also demanding relief from interrogation as a Post-condition as well.

  22. I guess it won’t happen again – he’ll be added to the no-fly list.

    Jokes aside, this is both an outrageous waste of taxpayers’ money and unconstitutional.

  23. I remember being asked such questions when entering the UK once, and I couldn’t understand the guy’s accent, except the part where he said “Look I’m speakin’ English.” Not from my perspective. Put me in a bad mood all day.

    Oh, cute Howard Roark impression though. Really.

  24. This has nothing to do with the TSA. The fact is that custom officials have always had shockingly draconian powers to investigate everybody and everything that crosses the border.

    For example, they’ve never needed a warrant to do a cavity search. I just wish when they wrote the 4th amendment and put down “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures,…” that they had added, “oh yeah, cheeks, lower intestines and vaginas too”

    This all dates back to the times when tariffs collected at seaports were the primary sources of revenue for national governments. Since only a minority of citizens traveled overseas we simply didn’t pay much attention to it.

    1. That was also why the custom’s agent typically had the biggest house in town.

      1. That’s true. During Colonial times the post of Customs Inspector was much sought after because it made smuggling so much easier when you could bribe yourself.

  25. I would also note that the TSA agents don’t really give a crap about where you were or what you were doing. The rote questions are just there to force an interaction with the agent. What they’re really doing is looking for clues in body language or speech patterns that might indicate somebody is up to something. They use it to filter out people for more intensive searches.

    The Israeli use a similar system to vet airplane passengers. They use female college students for this because intelligent women are keen intuitive observers of body language. Sometimes they ask utterly nonsensical questions and observe responses. If the security chick doesn’t like the look of you, you can’t get on a plane.

    None of this has any bearing on whether citizens should be questioned when coming home but I think it important to understand what is really going on.

    1. They use female college students for this because intelligent women are keen intuitive observers of body language.

      Prove it.

      1. Prove what? That they use females? That the females are college students? That intelligent women are keen observers of body language? That such observational skills are the reason they use those women in that role.

    2. They use female college students for this because intelligent women are keen intuitive observers of body language experts in bullshit. Sometimes tThey ask utterly nonsensical questions and observe responses. If the security chick doesn’t like the look of you, you can’t get on a plane give her money and she changes her mind.

      1. I would seriously advise against attempting to bribe any Israeli involved in security. They take their jobs rather seriously.

        That happens when you are under constant attack from people with the same mindset as those who wiped out your grandparents generation.

    3. I’ve been through the Israeli system totally shitfaced at 5am after being up all night drinking. ‘Are these your shoes, sir?’ Me: ‘Shit. I hope so. Did someone else put their shoes in my bag?’ She let me on.

      1. … and you weren’t a risk were you?

        The system seems to work. Preventing false positives is just as important in the long run as catching every bad guy. A system that produces to many false positives soon breaks down.

        1. True, Shannon. Israeli security has made it a very low-terror zone. Why, it’s been decades since a bomb has gone off in an Israeli cafe or some act of terror has happened. Clearly, the Israeli faith in the power of the mad-dog diplomacy state to keep them safe is well-placed!

    4. They employ magical techniques that only truly informed, educated experts can understand… in the tradition of the latest magical technological advances like phrenology, astrology, and divination.

  26. Traveling outside the borders of the United States is a privilege, not a right.

    1. It may be a privilege to *enter* another country due to that country’s laws, but the 9th amendment would sort of suggest that it can not be a privilege under American law.

    2. Up yours, you toad-sucking apologist for @ssholes in uniform.

    3. And this is why I say most Americans wouldn’t even know the difference between living in China vs America these days.

      1. Jake, I was born and raised in the US, but now live in China and you’re absolutely right.

  27. This just shows how really stupid the agents are. They should have told the guy to step back and made him sit in the holding area until he complied. Yes, you have the right not to answer any questions but they have the authority to not let you into the country.

    1. Are you suggesting that we, the TSA, an organization created by the people’s body, the Congress of the United States of America, are a bunch of knuckle dragging fascist who would abuse the authority that has been granted us? Sir, step to the side, we will need to interview you further. You don’t seem to be very pro-American.

      1. If the actions that are taken are within the legal scope of authority then it isn’t an abuse of authority. Exactly how is supporting the Customs view anti-American. If anything I should be let right through.

        1. Sir, that is for us to decide.

        2. On the contrary.

          Refusing a citizen entry to the country out of pique is abuse of authority whatever the law may say.

          The fault lies in the emotional state of the “authority”. If he/she/it relies on “liking someones attitude” to control their entry he/she/it is out of line.


    2. Hi!

  28. While being detained, Lukacs learned that he is listed in a government database as a guy who thinks “there’s some law that says you don’t have to answer our questions.”


  29. I’m going to make an exception to my anti-security feelings, and just be glad it happened to someone who works for this magazine. It was very well deserved. Eat it you little whiny bitch, next time you may want to use full sentences.

    1. next time you may want to use full sentences.
      reply to this

      Not always necessary, even in proper English.

    2. I’m going to make an exception to my anti-security feelings, and just be glad it happened to someone who works for this magazine.

      Well, good to see that it does not take much for you to discard your principles. When it comes time, I expect you will be a quisling with the others.

  30. I still have a dream that you stage a mass protest by having several hundred people going through the customs/border check at the same time, and every single one of them puts up this kind of legal resistance.

    1. It will require significant planning, and an ongoing effort, but this is exactly how to handle both this, and the TSA goons at the boarding gates too!

  31. While I admire his courage and commitment to his fifth amendment rights, the idea that CBP does this: “They’re Keeping Records. A federal, computer-searchable file exists on my refusal to answer questions” is ridiculous.

    I cna tell you, as someone who works for the government, we could only dream of that type of efficiency.

  32. Makes me wonder – is there some kind of substance that you could paint on, say, your chest or undershirt that would show up on the full body scan machine, but would not be readily visible based on just a visual inspection?

    What I’m thinking of is painting the words “Fuck You” or some other similar snarky comment on your chest or undershirt so that when they do the full body scan, the person operating the machine off in the little hidden room somewhere sees it. Then they radio down to the TSA agent to pull you aside. They take you to a little room and ask you to open your shirt and there’s nothing there.

    Or hell, even just use some material that shows up on the machine – even if it is visible to the naked eye.

    Paint a smily happy face on your chest with the caption, “Have a nice day, TSA asshole!”

    1. If it’s millimeter wave RADAR, you might be able to get a structured “shadow” on the image with foil. If it’s backscatter x-ray I’m wondering whether painting oneself with barium salts might do it.

  33. I think everybody hates the Customs people in their own country the most. Never had a problem at US border crossings, but coming back home to Canada? Holy old bald-headed #$%& . . .

  34. The annoying thing is that Lukacs was questioned while the Christmas Bomber, who was on a no-fly list, wasn’t.

    That would be profiling. And I bet Imam Rauf would tell us that questioning the most likely terrorists would anger Muslims and ‘allow extremists to win’

    1. I am pretty sure he was questioned quite thoroughly by US border control people.

  35. Yap yap yap. What are the EXACT rules we have to obey when we re-enter the USA? If the border folks are breaking the law or exceeding their authority, then sue them for redress, either as an individual or as a group (e.g. IJ).


      It’s called Google learn to use it.

      1. Why bother when you can do it for me.

        But ya didn’t, moron. That document doesn’t clear up anything. Did you even read the post that started this whole thread? LOL

  36. But we need the state!

    Don’t we???

  37. It appears that most of those posting on this topic don’t travel much. The questions asked are pretty standard fare when entering any country. If your paranoia makes you feel refusing to answer is a reasonable choice, have at it. On the other hand, rational people just answer the questions and get on with life.

  38. To me this article makes Lukacs sounds like a belligerent ass.

    He needs to learn to pick his fights better. This wasn’t a case of the brave citizenry standing up to a sinsiter Big Brother-like invasion of privacy. Some stooge asked him what he was doing in China. Simply saying, “Vacation” would have been enough to get the guy through. Its not like he was told to drop his pants. He was asked a simple question and chose to be an ass rather than simply answer it.

    There is a big difference between standing up for your rights and just being an asshole, but based on a lot of the comments I read you guys are ready to erect a statue to this schmuck.

    1. I agree with you, Pick Your Fights.

  39. It’s not just the US, I flew back home to London a couple of years back from a week in Canada. Customs asked me why I was in Canada and then asked me why I had come back to the UK. I was actually confused by the question, I just looked at her for a few seconds and said ‘umm, because I live here?’

  40. What a loser. Oh NOES – the guy at the airport asked me a question and I actually had to talk to someone. That’s interrogation!!! Somebody help me so I don’t have to talk to strangers. Just GROW UP and answer some simple questions and stop feeling self-important.
    Anyone who has legitimately been through an interrogation would realize how silly and childish this is.

    1. I second this comment.

  41. This guy is just an ass. It was obviously far more effort to argue than to say “Holiday”

    He was just trolling looking for trouble. I personally wish he’d been held longer.

  42. this dude’s a loser. Sorry, you can’t have all your freedoms, that’s implicit when you live in a country with other people. They don’t know what you were doing and neither do all the other Americans.

    1. If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen.

  43. Look, I asked this same question when in law school at Berkeley in a constitutional law class. (“Why do we have to go thru so much bs when returning back into our own country?”) Simple answer: none of the constitutional protections apply at the border when trying to enter. None. The government can do as it wishes until it’s satisfied that you are indeed “safe” to let in.

  44. Just tell them honestly that you were there for Sex/Drug Tourism and get the whole issue over with.

  45. I don?t think many of these haters have done much international travel. Leave the country, and then get asked a lot of stupid questions from a holier-than-thou immigration officer about “why did you spend so much time in that country? are you working there? how are you able to afford this? what kind of work do you do? how much money do you have in the bank? — no you don?t have to answer my question, you can come around to the back office and talk to some other people..” And americans don?t understand why the rest of the world hates us? Perhaps because millions of foreigners (and americans) are getting the same condesending treatment every day, simply for traveling to the US or because they have a US layover.

    It?s not always about what you do, but how you treat people. US customs/immigration doesn?t seem to understand or care about this, and is pissing off a lot of people. That?s why this sort of thing happens.

  46. Oh come now, folks. You shouldn’t employ the “refuse to answer” strategy. You should employ the “too much information” strategy — garbage in, garbage out.

    I’d be like “well, I was there for tourism, and I noticed that my feces was a very different consistency on the ground versus in the air, due to the dietary differences. On United, it was more like clay, but in China it was much fluffier.”

    “On the ground, I started by walking out of the airport. The fare from the airport to the city was 100 yuan, and the train had these strange greenish-blue seat covers. When I got on the train, I noticed how much more cushioned the seats were than on Amtrak. You know, the “regional” Amtrak and not the Acela, which is significantly more comfortable. Anyway, the train made this very loud humming noise when it took off, and they served tea. The tea tasted rather unusual, like a combination of Lipton and green tea…”

  47. none of the constitutional protections apply at the border when trying to enter

    Actually, one of the more important constitutional protections is the right to enter and leave the country as one pleases. The government cannot do anything to prevent a US citizen from lawful entry. Most of their “logic” about the immigration queue being a “constitution-free zone” is yet another authoritarian “innovation” that has absolutely no basis in law.

    1. I’m amused by the “constitution free zone” thinking. Here would be my reply.

      If the constitution does not apply here, then the federal government has no jurisdiction here, and you, my dear federal officer, have no authority here.

      It’s that simple.

  48. Walking through the border (1986) at Nogales with my brother and dad, we took separate lines to get through quicker.
    The questioning went something like this:
    Him: What are you bringing back from Mexico?
    Me: A blanket and a bottle of coffe liqueur.
    Him: Who are you with?
    Me: My brother and my dad.
    Him: Why did they use a different lane than you did?
    Me: We wanted to get through faster.
    Him: What are they bringing back?
    Me: My brother has a blanket and a bottle of vodka. And my dad has a bottle of coffee liqueur.
    Him: How many bottles is that total?
    Me: Three.
    Him: And you have how many?
    Me: One.
    Him: And they have?
    Me: One each.
    Him: How many is that total?
    Me: Still three.

    This went on for about five minutes with him asking me over and over and over how many bottles each of us had, and making me give him the total of three each time.
    I shudder to think of what would have happened if I slipped up and gave him a different answer.

  49. Those aren’t female college students working for the Israelis – those are female Army members doing their required national service. I was flying El Al to Israel and was interviewed at JFK by a female soldier who asked the usual questions about who packed my bag, purpose of the trip, etc. I was traveling with a Jewish tour group and when she was through asking questions she said something to me in Hebrew, which I didn’t understand. Incensed, she yelled at me “Didn’t you go to Sunday School???”

    Sheesh, tough requirement to get on their plane!

  50. I recently had this exact same issue in SFO, except that it was because I refused to go through the “nude” body scanner when going through security. It delayed me for ~30 minutes, a bunch of people came over, took me aside, did a whole bunch of random tests. Others were going through the standard metal detector, but it’s because I was in the line going through the nude scanner and refused that I had to jump through those extra hoops with them.

  51. thank you for publishing this

  52. This is ridiculous. Of course the customs agent has the right to ask you a simple question. That was not her interrogating you, that was you being a rude prick.

  53. Finally, US citizens stand up for their rights. The rights for freedom to travel and to mind their own business. Gives some hope for the rest of us.

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