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Posted by on Jan 5, 2010 in Breaking News | 19 comments

Breaking: Michael Yon Detained at Seattle Airport?

Picked this up via Twitter from several people (H/T Ed Morrissey) but it seems that Michael Yon, independent photojournalist who has done a ton of work in Iraq and Afghanistan, was detained and handcuffed at Seattle airport for not answering pressing national security questions such as… how much money he earns?

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.

Very strange. Even if you’re into profiling, Yon would hardly fit one you’d be interested in. Of course, his passport, by now, doubtless has a list of countries stamped into it which could give an inspector pause, but that’s no excuse. Very, very strange. I expect this one will be high profile enough that you’ll see an apology coming from the government.

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  • Zzzzz

    Even if you’re into profiling, Yon would hardly fit one you’d be interested in. Of course, his passport, by now, doubtless has a list of countries stamped into it which could give an inspector pause..

    That’s just it, though. The profiling advocates have the silly belief that terrorists are easy to spot, that if you just round up all the muslimy guys with beards from certain countries, you’ve solved the problem! That is willfully naive. Profile Arab looking guys with beards, and they shave, wear western clothes, or recruit women. Profile people from certain countries, and they recruit people from “safe” countries, like the US. They aren’t video game villians. They don’t behave predicitably so you can shoot them. Yon had a passport suggesting he had visited a lot of Al Qaeda territory, and he didn’t give them a good enough explanation of why. That is a valid reason for them to be suspicious. I think they should have treated him respectfully, but then I am a liberal. I don’t assume all suspects are guilty, and therefore, am not a part of the waterboard-and-ask-questions-later crowd.

  • youmustbejoking1


    What? And how far does THAT go in your view? How about “Have you ever voted for a Republican” or “Is your daughter still a virgin?” Are those ok as ‘cooperation tests’? At what point are we entitled to say myob? Test my cooperation by asking serious questions relevant to security.

  • akw

    Why shouldn’t they ask him how much he makes? He tells them that he’s an independent war journalist who has a passport filled with stamps from half a dozen countries that are rife with terrorism and corruption. They want to find out if he’s telling them the truth about what he does for a living and why he is traveling. He could be a drug runner, a money launderer, a terrorist, or any number of other things. You and Yon are incensed because you know that he was telling the truth about what he does for a living. They were simply trying to obtain enough information to satisfy their commitment to refusing entry to people with undesirable professions or backgrounds. Either we protect our borders by giving our law enforcement officials the tools and the latitude to do their jobs, or we don’t. I prefer the former.

    • nate_w

      You do realize Michael Yon has an AMERICAN passport, right? How, exactly could he be “refused entry” to the USA?

      This illustrates why the USA didn’t get the Olympics: we have the very worst, least professional, most arrogantly, inefficiently obnoxious border agents in the world. I’ve been to Saudi Arabia, to China, and throughout Africa, and my border experiences there were better than when I came home to America.

      • celticdragon

        That issue has been raised a few times, and the IOC rep from Pakistan raised it himself when questioning the delegation from Chicago.

        I do think that the difficulty in getting into our country has made us persona non grata for the purposes of getting another Olympic venue in our lifetime.

  • mrmeangenes

    Michael Yon is one of “the good guys”, as far as I know; and I can’t imagine any reason he would be treated in this fashion.

  • $199537

    I like Michael Yon a lot, but we probably should wait until there is more info available before making judgments. This has an air of “do you know who I am?” about it.

    • casualobserver

      You’re right about us not having every fact, unfortunately, I don’t imagine TSA is going to release the video tape voluntarily……so, I don’t expect we’ll ever know all aspects.However, if that truly was the behavior officer’s question, he/she ought to be made to retake the 16 hour training course. The questions are not supposed to actually piss people off precisely because inducing emotional reactions to the question obfuscates the slight tells that people exhibit when they lie.

  • mrmeangenes

    From what I’ve read-so far- Yon was “hooked up” by TSA, then released by the police – as there was nothing with which he could be charged – under anybody’s code.

    Keep in mind the particular TSA screener might not have been particularly well suited for his job.

  • dduck12

    How many of the terrorists have had U.S. passports? And is it true he was actually stopped because they thought he was related to that well known terrorist Joan Rivers. If they wanted to a real rise out of him they should have asked him what he thought of our security guards.

  • It isn’t uncommon to be asked questions that seem to be from left (or right) field. I’ve traveled extensively and have been asked all kinds of seemingly weird questions. Someone with something to hide may show signs of nervousness, pupil reactions or other clues that would trigger a closer look. We don’t have all the facts and can’t really judge this, but he could probably have defused the situation with a comfortable but not informative response like “I do alright but they could pay me better.” For all we know, Yon’s passport record could be flagged for some reason. In any case, reacting as a prima donna with an angry NOYB response is arrogant and stupid. Customs and Immigration officials are looking for someone working from a script, or who is nervous about being questioned.

  • civil42806

    Wouln’t it be a lot easier if the TSA officials simply got rings we could kneel and kiss, then move on. Please, the idea that I would have to tell a TSA official how much I make in order to get back in the country is a frigging joke. If they have questions about my passport, then pull me aside and be done with it, don’t make the show of the handcuffs so they can show how they are protecting the country. Please a bunch of GS-7 idiots that couldn’t make it in the baggage handling area.

  • DLS

    “The questions are not supposed to actually piss people off precisely because inducing emotional reactions to the question obfuscates the slight tells that people exhibit when they lie.”

    Unless, perhaps, they don’t care if you stay or if you get angry and give them an excuse to deny entry.

    (Canadian officials versus Californian visitors in the 1980s…)

  • waldowaldo

    It used to be that we had an expectation of privacy. To the best of my knowledge, we still have not repealed the Fourth Amendment, and we have a right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures. How much money I make is none of the TSA or ICE’s business. I do not object to answering relevant questions. I seriously doubt they have the training to use such reaction questions appropriately, and please do not start in about “microexpressions”. The studies supporting Paul Ekman’s work is tenuous at best.

  • Lit3Bolt

    It seems when white warbloggers are detained, it’s time to cry foul and the government has gone too far and apologies must be made. Suddenly, one of “them” isn’t detained, it’s one of “us.” What a *yawn* outrage.

  • Yon updated his Facebook page and says it was Custom agents, not TSA who detained him. Yon is wrong about being arrested. Having cuffs placed on you does not mean you have been arrested, nor does having having your Miranda rights being read to you. Law enforcement officers frequently detain individuals without arresting them.

  • didyouknow

    This is brought on by the so called underpants bomber who didn’t even have a passport

    • dduck12

      I think he did have one.

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