US Immigration Searching Cell Phones: A Reader’s Shocking Story

Filed Under: Advice

Folks, I want to offer my unequivocal apologies for the way this was presented, and thus how it came across.

My intention was not to make this sound as though I believed every detail of the story — it’s obviously outlandish (at best), but also came from someone who has been reading and commenting for a few years. I wanted to be empathetic to the reader (and any unstated issues which may be a factor here) while still emphasizing “know your own limits,” but didn’t do as good a job as I’d intended of communicating all of that. I’m sorry.

Still, there’s no excuse, and I promise to do better with stuff like this. I’m leaving the post up for now, because I think there’s value in the discussion (both the sharing of experiences at immigration and the criticism of me). The conversation seems to have run its course, so I’m turning off comments on this post.

I get a lot of reader emails, most of which ask pretty straightforward questions. Then I get some emails that turn into something much bigger than I was expecting, and this is one of them. You’ll want to read this.

Let me note that this is very political, but also 100% travel related, so hopefully we can turn off our pro and anti Trump rhetoric for the comments section of this post, even though it’s included in the post itself (since I want to share the reader’s full account of what supposedly happened).

The only way to do justice to this story is to just share my full correspondence with this reader (which he has given me permission to do). He has asked me to leave out certain details, which I’ll of course honor.

The main reason I’m sharing this is because I think there’s a moral to the story, that sometimes it probably makes sense to just follow your gut if you’re uncomfortable about a situation.

Anyway, here’s the original email I received from a long-time reader about five weeks ago:

I have a question about your travel? I used to travel a lot but after trump got elected I stop traveling because of us customs searching phone and laptops and harassment by agents/thugs. So my question is given how much you travel and the nations you visit does your phone and laptop get searched at the boarder even with global entry (I have global entry) and what to do you do if it happens (I have confidential documents on my laptop and they can not be searched ever). And can you prevent this from happening I also have bad anxiety and really do not want this to happen.

Here is a link to the Washington post story that scares me.

I responded to his email at the time as follows:

Can’t say this is anything I’ve ever seen or thought about, and even looking at the article, only 0.007% of people are being searched. I think we all have some stuff on our computers or phones that’s “confidential,” though unless it poses a national security risk, I can’t imagine they’d care, in the unlikely event they do search your stuff.

So I can’t say I’ve worried about this at all, and given how few people this impacts, I wouldn’t be too worried.

Yesterday I received another email from this reader, related to our new OMAAT commenting guidelines:

I have been a long time reader since 2008 when your blog was founded and I am writing this email about your ridicules new comment policy I understand you not wanting to be insulted and agree with that but when you have political post about the f****** president/dictator you should allow uncensored comments on those posts. Trump is a horrible person who has ruined travel for me and just to give you an example since this would not be allowed on you blog sadly anymore because of your new rules. I used to travel a lot and your blog gave me good ideas and I got hundreds of thousands of dollars of value based on redeeming points for hotels on flights based on your blog however after the dictator/trump came in I only traveled once and I was arrested coming back into the country because i REFUSED to have my phone and computer searched by customs for no reason and I spent over 500k and lawyer fees fighting my case so I would not go to jail and to keep my work files private and what makes me angry is that a fews weeks ago I wrote you about this policy and YOU said that I would not get searched but instead I got arrested and because of that I will NEVER read your blog again and tell my friends not to do also and because of your f****** up comment policy by saying i have to support a dictator and if i say anything nasty about him (he deserves it) I will get banned from you site. I understand banning debit and others but by censoring important political comments and supporting a dictator and getting a longtime reader arrested based on your advice is just pure wrong. I am sad to say that a good blog is lost today and hope you apologize and change the policy so a good blog can be saved.

UM, WOW. Forget him no longer reading the blog due to our commenting policy, there’s a much bigger story here.

Suffice to say that I was shocked to have received the above email, so I asked for more details on the situation, and he shared the following:

Me and a friend were coming back from a weekend in a eu nation and Flying biz class on a eu airline and both of us are born us citizens with global entry but he has an American last name and I don’t so when we got off the plane everything was normal (I also never have problems the tsa) and we went to the global entry kiosks and we both were cleared just fine and we walked to customs exit control and a immigration cop ask for are names before we got in line and once I told him my name he told me I could not get in line and would have to go to secondary and once he said that I panicked and told him that I would have to call someone I was meeting after landing we stepped out of line and I gave my computer bag to my friend with the American name who went through fine and after I saw him go through I went into line the cop hauled me to an interrogation room off to the side and yelled and at me get unlock my f****** phone in violation of the 4th amendment and I entered a panic code that would wipe my phone forever but my data would be safe in the cloud after I did this he got mad and cuffed me to the table and got some other cops who screamed at me for 10 minutes since my friend saw that I was going to have problems he called my super lawyer to come anyway 30 minutes later after the f****** thugs/cops had tried to convince me to like trump my lawyer said that he could get me released but they are going to send me letter charging me with obstructing justice after I left the airport jail cell I went home and my friend gave me my computer back and I was able to fix my phones by uploading data from the cloud so at the end of the day customs never saw any of my data and will NEVER see it but I ended up with a nasty letter from the federal prosecutors office charging me with obstructing justice my lawyer did ended up making it go away( I am not a lawyer and don’t know how he got it dismissed but he told me that it violated the 4th amendment) but it cost me a fortune and I know if I ever travel again I will get harassed and because of this I now am seeing psychiatrist and taking prozac and probably will never travel internationally again and will have to let my points expire.

I’m going to ask that everyone be civil in the comments section both towards this reader and the political situation at hand, though I have reasons I’m sharing this story.

First and foremost, I’m not a lawyer, and when I share my perspective on things, that doesn’t constitute legal advice. There’s a disclaimer about that on the blog, but I think it’s always worth reiterating. People often accuse me of using the term “in my opinion” too much, but I guess I can’t say it often enough.

More importantly, though, I think this story is a good reminder of knowing your own limits. I’m going to assume this story is true (even if the timeline and the $500K in legal fees leaves me scratching my head), and if that’s the case, everyone has to know their own limits.

For example, if you go into a trip absolutely terrified about having your phone searched, immigration may very well sense your nervous energy. So while only 0.007% of people might have their phones searched, you’re much more likely to have that happen to you if you’re going into the situation scared.

If you’re someone who deals with anxiety related to travel, getting medication before you travel might be a good idea, rather than going through a situation like this. Just make sure your medication is legal in the country you’re traveling to.

What a story/situation…

I’m curious, has anyone else had their phone searched when passing through US immigration?

  1. Ben, I respect your blog and tips. I don’t think this should have been published because I don’t believe this story for an instant. The 500K in legal fees sounds like a gross exaggeration as well as his super lawyer coming to the rescue. I have zero issues with the politics of OMAAT or comment policies but this post seems reactionary and there’s no way this story is true the way it was told to you.

  2. I am an immigrant from India, with an Indian Passport, have been traveling in and out of US for more than 15 years at least 5-6 times a year.

    My family and I have never had any issues whatsoever. Never under Bush, Obama or Trump.

    Furthermore, now I even have Global Entry as an Indian Passport holder, which has only been made possible under the Trump administration.

  3. I have Global Entry and have never encountered anything except professionalism on my many returns to multiple ports of entry. CPB was already searching a very tiny percentage of phones prior to the current administration and I’ve not seen substantiated evidence anywhere – and I read a lot – that there is some massive surveillance and/or phone unlocking demands at ports of entry. Obviously if you are under suspicion for illegally immigrating that’s a different situation.

    Based on the rants above and how they are written I unfortunately am struggling to take this as seriously as I would a report that is written in a matter-of-fact way, e.g. “This is what happened at X airport at Y hours on Z date.” And so on.

    And yes I have stamps in my passport from a number of countries where they definitely might ask questions if they saw them. You just politely answer the questions in a matter-of-fact apolitical way the same as you do when entering any other country.

  4. One place where the commenter is mistaken is assuming they have 4th amendment rights at the border. Unfortunately, you do not. Every time you cross a border you subject yourself to potential search of everything you are carrying, including electronic devices. Sorry…

  5. Uhhhh, maybe I’m a tech dinosaur or my phone is just fully of really boring stuff so I’m not worried about its contents being stolen, but who has a “panic code” for “wiping” their phone if they don’t have things to hide.

    If I put myself in the shoes of a border/customs official and I ask to see someone’s phone and it’s been taken back to factory mode with no data I would consider that extremely suspicious.

  6. Ben — I can tell you that in light of the 500k in “legal” fees there should at least be a record on Pacer (the federal court online docket, even if partially sealed by court order) of an obstruction action. You should request before giving any credit to this story. I’m happy to search Pacer if you want me to.

  7. Lucky, similar to Matt. I am a big fan of (most of) your posts. But this one rubs me the wrong way and not because of the politics implied. The story sounds like it came from a distressed person and I am sorry to see you have published it. While I no doubt believe people have harrowing experiences at the airport, this is a very one sided way to tell the story. Also, I would suggest you rethink the clickbaity headline.

  8. I have never had my laptop/phone searched but I did learn something from the general counsel for a medical university. She informed me that police can lawfully ask you to open your phone using fingerprint recognition, but not to input your password. Given the confidential nature of her work, she has disabled this feature on her phone. I don’t know how TSA compares, but due to the confidential nature of my work (HIPAA), I also turn off fingerprint recognition on my phone before going to the airport. Better safe than sorry.

  9. $500K legal fees?
    super lawyer?
    the TSA cops tried to convince him to like Trump?

    Sounds like he’s trying to pull some kind of scam – like trying to blame you so you’d compensate him for the $500K, perhaps?

  10. This def sounds like a “fake email.” Why would you publish this without any sort of verification?

  11. The writer’s story sounds like (at the minimum) a highly redacted account of what happened, perhaps with some exaggeration and hyperbole thrown in for good measure. He clearly hates the current president (which is his right) and is thus holding him personally responsible for something that he has nothing to do with, really. Furthermore, not knowing the whole story, it’s impossible to comment on these claims. I will say that the author’s nearly incomprehensible writing style doesn’t do him any favors.

    One note about dealings with immigration/customs authorities: the current president makes little difference until you get to higher levels of government (such as embassy/consular staff). And, that said, we have had to deal with US consular staff based in a Latin American country to obtain a visa for an elderly family member. Our interaction with them in 2012 was horrible, they were rude as could be. Same consulate in 2019, different people – couldn’t be nicer. By the author’s standards, that would make Obama a bastard and Trump a prince. So take it all with a grain of salt.

  12. I have global entry never and I travel everything never have issue. But dont listen to them, I always like your post and I always like how you share your though about travel and not jsut to give travel tips. You have my respect.

  13. As an Argentine, reading the way it’s written, it tells me either the person was uneducated or they are not US Citizens. Come on. On average, Americans rarely leave the country, yet this guy travelled to Europe and doesn’t know how to write properly in English.

    I don’t trust his story. However, I do know from friends that have had similar problems and had to stay 24hs in the airport (horror.) Trump has indeed given unstable people authority to abuse their power.

    I consider myself republican in thoughts yet I despise Trump. I wouldn’t insult him, because he’s president of a nation where I live and I worked hard to be here. But I do dislike him so much.

  14. I always breeze right through with no problems at all. It doesn’t seem as if the R or D before the current president’s name makes any difference.

  15. Gosh Ben. Did you actually believe a line there? Looks’s like my 9 y.o. Brother in law stories.

  16. Been I love the blog and have been reading for years upon years, and I am also shocked you published this. Everything about it screams redflags/fishy.

    For a “US born citizen” it reads like someone who just learned English last week. Even if there is truth to it, why bother. It’s not your fault this idiot is in a sticky situation, even if he was “following” your advice.

  17. I have global entry and I travel every month never have issue. But dont listen to them, I always like your post and I always like how you share your though about travel and not jsut to give travel tips. You have my respect.

  18. Whether or not the story is true, there is a lesson to be learned here. It’s always a good idea to know your rights, even if you have nothing to hide.

    I’ve visited parts of the world most American’s avoid (Iran, Congo, DPRK, etc.) and although I have Global Entry is still get the dreaded “SSSS” from time to time and have been detained/questioned upon re-entry.

    Basic things like turning off Face-ID or allowing your phone/laptop to be wiped with a number of incorrect logins can at least give you some peace of mind that your personal info (hopefully) won’t land in the government’s hands. A decent lawyer probably doesn’t hurt either.

  19. Sounds like b*ll*cks to me.

    Don’t get me wrong, the fact that the US border operatives can ask for your passwords is utterly insane… but this sill sounds completely fake.

  20. This is a bunch of BS. It is all 100% made up lies by someone with a massive President Of the United States Donald J Trump derangement syndrome. If President Of the United States Donald Trump was an evil nasty dictator then the silly person and all the Democrats would be in a gulag.

  21. I’m originally from Australia and live in the US on a work visa. I have several friends that have been pulled into interrogation rooms on arrival and had the phones and laptops searched in the past 2 years. The officials even going as far to read text messages and even asked on of them if they were a lesbian and about their sex life trying to uncover information. It’s getting worse.

  22. The grammar and general style of the quotes in the article make me somehow doubt that those were written by people capable of spending 500k on legal fees and traveling the world for super important and confidential business all over the world.

  23. There are some reasons to be suspicious here. And my guess is that there is some embellishment going on here.

    But if you’re interested in putting in some work, there is definitely something that a travel journalist might light to write about on this subject when it comes to the intersection between border policies and other sources of law. For example, lawyers have to be careful when crossing borders if they travel with devices that contain information that they are obligated by other laws (or bar rules) to keep confidential. The same is true for government contractors, etc.

    USCBP is supposed to have some policies for these kinds of situations but they can get a bit dicey. Some state bars have helped lawyers out by giving them a very solid blueprint about when they will not be found to have acted unethically in responding to CBP requests — but it’s complicated and you have to do things in a precise order and risk angering CBP agents who don’t completely understand the rules or who think you’re trying to create difficulty.

    Long winded way of saying that there really are interesting issues here from a privacy, technological and inconsistent laws perspective that could make some good content if you’re interested in following up.

  24. It’s common enough that my company has a policy regarding what to do in this situation. I’ve never encountered it myself, but there does appear to be profiling since some people encounter it on a regular basis. The 0.007% probability would only apply to a particular person if it was random

  25. I’m going to assume this story is true

    Why? There are sufficient red flags (some of which you seem to recognize) that I’d want more than an anonymous email before I believed that this, or anything like it happened to this person in this instance (there are, I believe, actual documented cases of people being asked to unlock their phones at the border).

  26. This story is off and the author is obviously up to no good. He is a good reason of the see something, say something phrase. Erasing your phone to avoid having it seen is shady.

  27. Yep, happened to me before (US CBP searching my phone). I’m sick of the harassment from them (and I’m a white Australian/European male). But honestly, they have always been thugs since way before Trump came along so I don’t think it has anything to do with him.

  28. Wondering if you did any work to verify some of the details of his story…. the email is so poorly written that it’s hard to believe that someone with anything past a high school education wrote it. His own politics are on display, which makes wonder if his objectivity can be trusted.
    I’m also questioning the editorial decision to publish this. It seems like it’s unnecessarily provocative with no real benefits to your readership.

  29. $500,000.00 in legal fees would be 500 hours of work even at $1000.00 an hour, for a non-case that “went away.” That’s BS.

    Tried to convince him to like Trump? That’s BS.

    No reason to believe this story, even if one is inclined to believe that ICE can act like thugs at ports of entry (and have both before and since Trump).

  30. I too question the legitimacy of the email. Two things — first he is somehow attempting associate his experiences with your clarification of commenting practices. I don’t see why they have anything to do with each other. I think he would have every right to share his experiences in comments IF they were relevant to the orignal post.
    The second issue is how he had to refuse to let CBP search his devices. If you your devices contain content that cannot be looked at, then don’t travel with those devices. Use a burner phone for calls; take a tablet with nothing but a few apps you need to use. That seems like a much better choice than deciding you can’t leave the country.

  31. Are you sure this isn’t Debit with a new IP address and e-mail? This guy mentions your ridiculous new comment policy (non-sequitur), the cops/thugs tried to convince him to like Trump (not likely). I think you might be being trolled.

  32. I don’t believe any of that story. I go through US immigration at least eight times a year and have never had an issue after clearing the GE Kiosk. I occasionally get a random SSSS and go through secondary. No Immigration Officer has ever done anything more than search all my luggage and ask me questions. As a single female traveling alone internationally they usually question why I’m alone which I find rather sexist but I just go with it and there are never any issues. Even if one were to believe his story, why would you wipe your phone if you have nothing to hide?

  33. I do not mind that you posted the story, but it probably would have been best if you researched and did the write up yourself. A year or two ago, there were lots of stories that customs were searching cell phones on certain people of interest upon re-entry. It would be helpful to know whether it is still going on. Unfortunately, the story the person gave just does not sound reasonable. It paints the situation like customs is full of Trump lovers who are going after him because he is not. I cannot stand Trump but I do not believe everyone at the TSA is a card carrying MAGA fan. $500k in legal fees after 30 minutes in customs security and release? I do not buy it. How is it obstruction of justice if he deletes his own data? How would they even know? He could make up any excuse if they do not find any data on his phone (it is a gift for his daughter, etc). Lastly, you are not responsible. You rightly pointed out the odds. It is not only your opinion. It was the data.

  34. I think you just published a story from Jussie Smollett. Ben, you should know better, just based on the deranged tone of the email. Come on.

    Even likely Trump supporters defend the 4th Amendment above Trump. Heck, I know – had a particularly bad day once, and after going through security to get to my flight, had TSA randomly show up at my gate and start asking everybody in the boarding line to open their bags for inspection before boarding.

    After a week of particularly terrible business meetings and just wanting to go home to family, I said to the friendly TSA agent, “the 4th Amendment says I don’t have to show you anything. I already went through security.” Probably stupid, but the agent just shrugged, took their dog and moved down the line.

    Stop being like CNN/MSNBC and posting Fake News.

  35. I’ve read this blog since 2008, have been very supportive of the content and growth all along, but this post is just a bridge to far. When a blog reaches this size and reach it is incumbent upon the administrators to ensure they are not spreading fake news. A cursory read of this story leaves many more questions than answers. This should never have been published without a rigorous review of the facts and substantial evidence. I have long dismissed those who have stated this blog is getting worse but this is causing me to strongly rethink that stance. Try to to better Lucky, for your longtime readers if nothing else.

  36. Lucky, echoing many of the comments stated above, you probably should not have posted this. I don’t understand how you could accept this tale at face value just like that. This story sounds totally absurd, is virtually unreadable, and is entirely uncorroborated.

  37. I’m happy that there are more than 190 other countries I can visit while this insane behaviour in the US goes on. I have been several times to the US and always loved it. But the stories I hear now of bad treatment of several of my friends visiting the US makes me stay away until there is a serious change of policy. And as a person who work in the travel industry I do not recommend people to visit the US either. Or even fly with US carriers when going elsewhere. Why be treated like shit when you are welcomed in so many other places?

  38. Ordinarily an extreme fan of this site and all topics, but not this one. I fail to see what was expected to be accomplished with posting this.

    This is exceptionally disappointing in all respects given the outlandishness of what was written and claimed. This is political tripe at it finest.

    Good Day Sir.

  39. I currently commute in/out of the US every week, and have been doing so for 12 months now. I primarily enter via Houston, Atlanta and Orlando. Over the last 9 months US border control has gone fully rouge in my opinion. Every entry permit is down to officers own mood and rules he/she make up on the spot. Normal standard procedure that I have been instructed to follow by my lawyer, and his understanding of the immigration laws, are not followed. I’m constantly being asked for documents that I should not need to produce on port of entry. My I-94 is consistently incorrect, when reconciled against my immigration documents. Lately my lawyer found it necessary to provide me with written instructions on which steps to go through when illegally detained in customs, and he also equipped me with a written note to hand over to customs/police officers, to ensure that if I get detained, that I don’t “disappear” in the system, as he put it. Though I’m not personally convinced 100% that the description by the reader is 100% accurate – I would not be surprised at all, if it actually is.
    Personally I travel with 2 laptops and 2 phones. One set is private, the other is work. Yes, I have had my private phone and laptop searched at point of entry. Work laptop and phone they avoided, when I made them aware that if I unlocked the devices, they would gain access to documents and files that would require me to report such access to a number of government institutions, not limited to the USA.
    I guess I can sum it all up to the reply I got, when I recently asked for the reason to a request for a document that I should normally not show at port of entry. The reply was simply “We do things differently now, – do you want me to cancel your Visa and deport you!? –
    Well, Welcome home!

  40. I call B.S. on this story. BTW, if handed your laptop to your travel companion, he or she would be in the interrogation room next to yours. To add, if you have nothing to hide, why panic delete your phone?

  41. Could anyone actually read the last block of quoted text? I don’t mean to be overly pedantic with grammar but the lack of punctuation made it completely unintelligible. Given this rant, I could see how any interaction with TSA or CBP could escalate rather quickly.

  42. The story is nonsensical but the themes are valid.

    Broadly speaking, I would agree with the ‘super-lawyer’ that searching an electronic device is indeed a violation of the 4th amendment. However, that does not stop you being caught up in the airport answering nonsense questions for hours and hours. Surely the best solution, not just for this but in general is to ensure confidential documents or whatever, are securely kept OFF devices. Accessed via the device yes, but not on the device itself. Travel with a burner phone if you are worried about it. Yes you should absolutely not have to do so, but unfortunately this is the political environment we are in. It’s just reality. The best and only way to try and change it is to lobby your representative and for gods sake vote in 2020.

  43. Sounds to me as if you are dealing with a person that has a bigger problem with your new commenting policy that with the TSA or the US government.

  44. Your comment policy sure has gone over well. Better to have just said something like “we will be more active in policing distasteful comments” and left it at that rather than opening up the can of worms you did. And then to follow it up with multiple overtly political posts right after makes a lot of sense.

  45. @nick

    Why is that suspicious? A smartphone these days usually has more information on your day to day routine, work information, and private life than your place of residence. Many articles on cybersecurity blogs and even mainstream journalism recommend backing up your phone and then clearing it before crossing a border if you have sensitive information on it. There’s quite a few things off with the story, but having a wipe-code on the phone is not one of them.

  46. I really like OMAAT and trust @Lucky’s perspective and feel that his posts are very thoughtful.

    But… I’m going to lean to the commenters’ consensus on this one. The e-mailer’s story just doesn’t feel right and at a minimum several elements sound exaggerated. He spent how much on legal fees? He now refuses to travel internationally after a single incident? He is now on prescription meds to deal with the psychological trauma of a single incident of being pulled into secondary? He was born in the U.S. yet writes English as a second-language speaker? His swearing and description of Trump sound more like rants than reasoned discourse (I don’t like trump, but to repeatedly talk about him as a f***** dictator in a professional e-mail exchange is off). The way he now says he’ll “NEVER” read your blog just because you expressed an opinion on a single issue which seemed contrary to his experience…

  47. I have a friend that has their computer/phone searched periodically at immigration even though they are a US citizen, but has a last name that profiles poorly. It’s very possible that the above story happened in some way, shape or form.

  48. I got pulled over yesterday coming back from Cancun. Been asked about my travel history and was told that they had a false hit on me. Was cleared to go in less then 5 minutes.
    Not a positive experience, but officers were courteous and polite. I do know that once it a while there is a bad apples in immigration(Especially based on the news), but overall they seems to be OK.

  49. One Mile At A Time has just gone all The Points Guy.

    Don’t ever, ever turn into The Points Guy.

  50. It takes 2 hands to clap. I don’t believe any person would be subject to this type of “Gestapo” behavior unless he/ she was belligerent/ non cooperative first. Besides, there are too many holes in the narrative for this to be a true story. For example: $500K in lawyer fees; unless you go to trial, there is no way to rack up that kind of legal bill. Another example: he was pulled aside to secondary but still somehow managed to give his laptop to his travel companion; how do you do that without someone noticing? I’ve been pulled aside to secondary before and there is no opportunity to do that :-/ Also: if you wipe your phone before handing over to authorities, you’re automatically going to arouse suspicion. What’s so confidential on there? Your bank account numbers? Some nudity? Client information? Medical records? None of this is so private that it’s worth going to jail over :-/

    I’m very surprised that you posted this email thread without adding some editorial doubts.

  51. The story is strange but I can %100 confirm that phones and computers are being searched. I have Global Entry but had my green card stolen so would have to go to secondary upon reentry for almost a year while waiting for it to be replaced (wait times are insane).

    While in the secondary room people would have their phones and computers searched and decisions whether to admit them or start a deportation case would be based on what the officer found. Unfortunately, people do not always know their rights and would hand over there phones and computers.

    The crazy part is they did not even do this in private they did this is a room of up to 30 people waiting to be seen by an officer and would put peoples personal info out there and ask personal info about their contacts, messages, and emails. They even asked a guy to login to his Venmo and PayPal and looked through his pictures as they suspected he was working illegally from what I gathered he was a student that had a side job.

  52. Yes IOS has a Panic feature in 11, and there are a ton of apps out there.
    Many I may not know about and some that are not official.

    But after searching both IOS and Android apps, I do not find 1 that does what the email describes.

    Even if there was one, Data is not truly gone and would be recoverable.

  53. I do not have any troubles with US immigration, customs or flight attendants because I absolutely refuse to enter the US or transit through US territory nor do i fly US airlines any longer. Not since Trump became President but since George W Bush already.

  54. I don’t understand why you are providing a platform for this reader, given the way and tone they approached you (let alone the claims they make).

  55. I have traveled through customs / immigration on a number of occasions during Bush, Obama, and Trump. I have never had an issue with customs / immigration. This was using both Global Entry and not. I will say that my outward appearance is white and male, which I 100% believe is entrenched in privilege.

    I too believe that there is likely gross exaggerations in the story, but I also believe that in every story there is a grain of truth. And that the issues brought up in the story, have a number nuances and levels to it.

    First, If you have a “Other – including: middle eastern, Mexican, etc.” last name and/or outwardly appear so, I would not be shocked if you are investigated more thoroughly than others due racial / religious persecution.

    Second and the most shocking is that the inconsistencies in immigration/customs is drastic, especially with the constantly changing protocols and laws. Every agent feels like they can due as they please. Plus, with the way immigration works, people feel that they are unable to defend their legal rights, because the immediate answer is “well we can deport you instead”.

  56. The email is (probably) garbage, but the issue is a real issue. How large or an issue? I don’t know.

    The emailer links to a WaPo story about the rise of cell phone searches at the boarder and recently an Apple employee was stopped at the boarder and was harassed because he refused to unlock his company iPhone.

  57. Have considered this in the past. Have no problem snapping either my notebook or phone in half if needed, everything backed up. Would make a statement of what I’m willing to put up with.

  58. I don’t think this story should have been published without verifying actual facts, even if it is true.

    It’s pretty outlandish, and you can tell that the author had a bone to pick first, then divulged the details of the story. If he divulged the story first, saying: “I’m frustrated at your policy, because I have a story to share” that would be different from what he did, which was: “I’m frustrated at your policy, because generically, Trump has ruin travel”. Then when you pressed him, he’s got an irresistible incentive to exaggerate and embellish.

    I’m a huge fan of your blog and I read everyday. But I feel like you need to tighten up the content curation process. I’m sure you ask your fellow editors to take a look at this and get their honest input on whether a story needs more time to be worked on or not, but this seems like a bad call to publish right now.

  59. @Nick – Wiping your phone is not necessarily shady. Based on recommendation from the US Government, the company I work for have the policy that always comply with officers’ instructions, and report back through relevant channels. BUT, if possible at all, wipe phone and laptop if not in the US and the officer wants to gain access.

  60. Not that I believe every word of the story, but it doesn’t surprise me that things like this are happening at borders across the country to many travelers nowadays. I also wanna share my experience with CBP, even though my experience wasn’t as extreme.
    A little bit of context first. I moved to the US as a student when I was 16. Finished high school, college, grad school, was on a work visa for a few years and then moved to Canada last year for a new job. I have NEXUS since I travel between Canada and US very often nowadays for work. So I’ve been on all kinds of visas: visitor, student, work… I definitely noticed this shift in attitude and change in procedures from CBP officers in the past couple of years.
    So here’s the story. Around thanksgiving last year, I drove into the US via the NEXUS lane in Buffalo, NY. Officer asked why I was travelling alone, questioning why my wife and kids aren’t with me. I said I was travelling for work and he sent me into secondary screening. Usually when I get sent there, which happens a lot more often nowadays comparing to a few years ago, I sit in the waiting area and an officer calls my name, I get a couple of questions and they let me go. But this time, the first officer didn’t like my answers (he asked why I was working for a US company in Canada. I said my company wanted to expand business in Canada and sent me to assist with that effort) and sent me into a separate area for questioning with another officer. This time it was more of an interrogation and they asked to see my two phones, my work laptop, and access to my car. They opened up my bags and went through my emails and asked a series of questions that were completely unrelated to my immigration status or visit to the US, but I guess they can ask whatever they want and I had to answer. My anxiety level went way up at this point, but I know there wasn’t anything I could do. I do find the whole experience to be very humiliating. After the interrogation, I was sent back outside to the waiting area and a supervisor called my name. I asked him what was the reason I got sent here and he said almost the same thing as in the OP. “We are doing things differently nowadays” was the answer.
    Another time I got pulled into secondary screening at Toronto airport pre-clearance facility last month and I went through the NEXUS lane with my printout from the Global Entry kiosk. The officer asked me if I had any fruits and vegetables and I said I don’t think so. He looked at me and asked “you don’t think so?”, and I got sent to secondary…
    So honestly, I am sure I’m not the only one with these experiences. I definitely feel the shift in how CBP officers do their jobs. Some of it is definitely due to the change in immigration policies and the government’s attitude towards immigrants. There’s probably some degree of racial profiling as well. Every time I’m in secondary screening, most, if not all, of the people in the waiting area are minorities. As my coworker once said, being white helps.
    Just my two cents

  61. This is such a bizarre post. Clearly the author of the email is unstable, which makes me think his story is somehow embellished or at least skewed from his perspective (esp. if he was agitated and not in his right mind).

    Assuming, his account is true… Why was he walking around with such sensitive information for a weekend trip to Europe? Or was the information not really sensitive and this whole ordeal was an exercise in principle and he is wasting all our time?

    At the end of the day, you are at the mercy of the people in charge of security. The UK is just as strict on people entering their country if they think you are trying to immigrate for work. A friend of mind got detained in London because she had a list of work contacts at EMI in her backpack.

  62. Oy… as a number of commenters have pointed out, there’s something that seems a bit fishy about this. Lawyers are expensive, but it does seem a bit ridiculous to be paying $500k for a bs charge.

    No need to be overly repetitive with what others have pointed out, but there are broad powers of search at the border, and while arguing nuances of the law you will have missed your connection. Professionals who routinely handle sensitive client information will know about traveling with a “clean” laptop. The US is not the only country that does this sort of thing.

  63. Born a Muslim in India and living an atheist life. Plus me being a homosexual gay man , I never pressed a panic button nor tried to hide anything while being frisked at security. Just One point – why would anyone erase or try to hide data from authorised personal unless something is illegal and unauthorised. Just my 2 cents worth of thought.

  64. Agree with most others. Ben, did you make any effort to verify this story? For example, ask for a copy of the letter from the federal prosecutor? Do any sort of search related to the criminal charges?

    Or did you just assume it was true so that you could post it?

    Given how far-fetched the entirety of this seems (I once dated a girl like that), I’m surprised by the posting.

  65. This post could be an April Fool’s joke.
    I am regular reader and am shocked that you would publish something so audaciously false/ exaggerated. I respect your editorial judgement less for publishing it. You need to do better quality control.

  66. I’m assuming (hoping?) this is not a native English speaker. Still, the poor grammar makes the emails very difficult to read and indeed to find credible.

    I agree with the other comments that question your giving him a platform. I would suggest having him allow his “super” lawyer to speak directly with you on the matter so that you can better suss out the truth from the hyperbole and grammar mistakes. (And to verify that it’s actually a lawyer if you are able to speak to them.)

  67. I am going to also agree with Matt. I do not think this was a well-rounded story. We only have this person’s account and he’s obviously very emotional which usually does not bode well for accurately reporting the event. I have always found your political references fairly well balanced – on some I have agreed wholeheartedly, on others I strongly disagreed. But you strike a balance without going off on rants that are all too common on the Internet (reference how people on both sides were quickly trying to politicize the horrible fire at Notre Dame). I applaud you for that. Though I read your blog and write my own on my international and travel experience, the reality is I do not travel internationally more than once a year so saying this has never happened to me is a meaningless data point. I appreciate that you will sometime comment on political news that impacts travel, but I do not think this post rose to that level.

  68. Ben, you should send your BS detector in for servicing.

    So much in this article JDLR. $500,000 for a what he calls his “super lawyer” for an obstruction of justice issue? Perhaps you might request a copy of the supposed correspondence the federal prosecutor sent him. I cannot tell if he was actually charged.

    Moreover, as i read the chronology, your correspondent contacted you five weeks ago with a generalized concern, declaring that he had suspended travel on account of a policy he does not like. But the story has changed radically, only now disclosing an incident at the border (recall that he had suspended foreign travel) that has left him on prozac?

    And whatever people may think about the President, the declarations that he is a dictator should provide you another red flag?

    And you would think that, at some point in his supposed ordeal he would have learned from his supposed half million dollar lawyer that the 4th Amendment does not apply at the border.

  69. There are several red flags to this story (none of which involves his anti-Trump ranting, which is his Constitutional right):

    1) The grammar is so bad (one gigantic run-on sentence) that it’s unintelligible. I see a lot of poor writing these days, but I have a hard time believing a “US-born citizen” would be THIS bad.
    2) The DOJ doesn’t mail you a letter stating that you’re being charged with obstruction of justice, a serious felony. If the feds really wanted to charge him with that, he would have either been detained and arraigned on the spot, or a federal marshal would have shown up at his door later with an arrest warrant.
    3) 500k in legal fees? Even if you’re running up $1,000 an hour at Gardere, I just don’t see that being realistic for a rinky-dink POP (p*ssing off the police) charge.

    That’s enough for me to call fertilizer on this story, though maybe it’s based on a kernel of truth somewhere.

    FWIW, I’ve made several international trips both before and after Trump took office – never once been bothered aside from the occasional “what was the purpose of your trip” questions. Though if they want to search my phone and waste two hours of their time looking at cat videos, more power to them.

  70. What is this shit? Seriously, Ben? Remove this story and admit you made a mistake.

    Don’t assume the story to be true- remember, it makes an ASS out of U and ME.

    By saying you are not political, and then publishing some nonsensical story that you don’t even verify, you are directly interjecting yourself into politics.

    For the record, I hold an overseas passport. I travel in and out of the US on a monthly basis. I got screened for secondary twice – one under the Obama administration after PTY MR and one under the Trump admin after a trip from CAI. I was nice and respectful and was in and out. Clearly, this story is from an insane person that was combative with officers (if that even happened, which I doubt).

  71. I have not seen or read any evidence that Trump is directing that there be more searches or that passengers’ phones be subjected to more searches. Trump has lots of problems but I see no evidence that if Hillary were in the White House that customs would be a nice experience.

    I also avoid bringing my cell phone to certain hostile countries. I only bring it to Australia, Japan, Singapore, Canada and Western Europe. Never to Russia.

  72. I call BS.
    And good riddance to this dude!
    You’re better off letting him take his DYKWIA attitude elsewhere.
    His story just REEKS of s**t he doesn’t want anyone to know about him.
    Which is not to say that common sense, courtesy and data security shouldn’t be top of mind at international border crossings.
    But then travelers with things to hide and rotten attitudes are exactly the ones most likely to be detained by customs and immigration.
    Clean hands make a happy life, and this guy sounds about as far from “happy” as anyone you’ve interacted with in the history of OMAAT.
    I’m on the fence whether you should have published this, this way, btw. A valid topic, but a dubious “datapoint” to lead with.

  73. Ben, why would you give this person any validation by publishing this? It adds no value to the blog, and if anything makes me question the quality of the content. This is very disappointing.

  74. This poster sounds totally delusional. It sounds made up and this poster can’t even write coherently so I don’t believe his story. Also, if he DID spend $500,000 in legal fees (which I don’t believe for a second) it leads me to believe he probably is engaged in an illegal activity.

    After all, most intelligent, educated people can write coherently. If this poster can’t and they have that much money to spend on legal fees and they were that adamant about wiping their phone, most likely they are engaged in an illegal activity.

    This sounds like fake posts.

  75. This story: 77 comments and counting

    Recent article on Ink Business Preferred: 6 comments

    “Should You Tip Housekeeping”: 159 comments

    “Portland Aiport Loses Priority Pass Restaurant”: 17 comments

    “American Lied To Me…”: 189 comments

    “Transferrable Points Currencies…”: 18 comments

    I think its safe to say you know EXACTLY what you’re doing 😉

  76. Ben, Ben, Ben. Just when I started to read your site instead of TPG (because of his obsession with click-baity controversial pieces such as this), you go ahead and double down with this garbage. Disappointed.

  77. I had time to kill in a hotel room recently and watched multiple episodes of “Border Security: America’s Front Line” which is a (sur)reality show obviously made in very close cooperation with CBP. A number of the filmed interactions involved officers accessing a traveler’s cell phone, including texts. In one episode the traveler was Dutch and the officer called on someone who spoke Dutch to translate. The point of the search was to find indicia (needed to use at least one lawyerly word LOL) that the Dutch traveler (who was really hot, but that’s not relevant I guess) was trying to use the visa waiver program to come to the US to work for 90 days. He wasn’t suspected of terrorism – narcotics – trafficking – child porn or any of the other global horribles, “just” of the intent to work without authorization.

    Point is, the fact that these searches happen seems beyond dispute. But whether it happened to the guy who emailed Lucky, and in the way he described it, seems highly unlikely. Which makes it unfortunate to use such a questionable story to address a topic of real and serious concern.

    Many foreign visitors to the US fear if not loathe their encounters with US immigration. Maybe rightly so, I’m not in a personal position to have had their experiences. But I have experienced other countries’ immigration agents many, many times, and have been extensively interrogated in Sydney for no apparent reason. Every single piece of ID on me was examined, I was asked about my use of my middle names (I do not have names that would profile badly), why I only had a cell phone and not a landline, and (yes, really) my views of the Iraq war (this was during the Dubya presidency). I have also been “told” by a British immigration agent that I was using a course I registered to take in London as a pretext for a job search, apparently because where I was staying was a residential address and not a hotel. Neither officer was rude or belligerent, but they sure seemed small-minded and obtuse to me. I remained polite and cooperative throughout, though I did demur about Iraq that I try to avoid political discussions as much as possible. At the end of the day, visiting another country is a privilege not a right, and I tried to maintain that attitude throughout. But it did give me some perspective when I hear about arbitrary CBP agents.

  78. Pushing back on Bgriff’s assertion about 4th Amendment concerns (he believes these rights do not apply at the border), a U.S. citizen retains all their constitutional rights when interacting with CBP officers. The border search exception does not invalidate the 4th Amendment at the border; nor does it remove the right to privacy which multiple Supreme Court decisions have affirmed within it. The border search exemption only changes the doctrinal definition of reasonable search, and still constrains the actions of border agents within the framework of the Amendment. In 2014, the Supreme Court held in Riley v. California that a warrantless search of a cell phone incident to arrest (a search which does not require probable cause) violates the 4th Amendment privacy right, as it does not fit the purpose criteria for which such a search is allowed. There is currently a circuit split over the application of Riley to the border. The 9th Circuit and the 4th Circuit have both held that the search of electronic devices without probable cause at the border is unconstitutional. The 11th Circuit has held that such a search is always constitutional. This split is likely to be resolved at the Supreme Court in the coming years, and while that outcome is not yet part of the legal corpus, all the circuits agree that there exists some form of 4th Amendment protection at the border.

    This is all aside from the significant 5th Amendment protections which exist in relation to law enforcement compelling the production of passwords in service of a search. These protections are not diminished at the border.

  79. I travel 8-12x a year in and out of USA to just about every continent there is and myself or my wife have never had a problem nor ever asked to open phone or iPad/laptop. I think this is someone with Trump derangement syndrome and you played right into their hands by posting this.
    This is exactly how fake news gets started and you should of investigated a little before posting.
    Long time follower and you are my favorite blogger, please don’t let politics get in the way which i have seen your biases over the last 2 years

  80. I’m calling foul on this story… for now.

    Fully believe that this could happen, but think we need a more reliable witness before I believe that it IS happening.

  81. I got stopped at the border, trying to drive in with my uncle’s car (registered in Canada). I had a notarized letter from him allowing me to drive his car (into the US inclusively), and was supposed to be allowed in because Canadian cars can come in for up to 30 days. I am a born US citizen, this was about 4-5 years ago. The cops stopped me, took all my belongings, and held me in the waiting room for like 4-5 hours… In the meantime they searched the car, did some “investigation”, and then a guy who IDd himself as a “Special Agent…” i think of CBP, asked me to unlock my phone as it would significantly expedite the time that I would get out… Having been there for 3 hours now, being somewhat scared/worried, thinking that I have nothing to worry about, and having a long multi-hour drive from Niagara back to college in Boston, I unlocked it. They spent the next 3 hours going through all my whatsapp messages, images, texts, etc. going back years. They ultimately determined that I was trying to bring in the car to sell it because I had mentioned it in passing to my dad in a text several months back as an idea, and denied the car access. They let me go, but car had to stay at the border, and after hiring a lawyer for $2500, they finally released it back to my uncle to take back into Canada, and said if it ever came to the border again then they would permanently confiscate the car. CBP is a big group of bullies. They do catch some good things but theres a permanent abuse of power, and I’m always worried at borders now too.
    I got Global Entry in the meantime, and all the person at the interview mentioned was that there was an ‘incident’ on my record trying to bring in a car that wasn’t mine… She concluded that I was probably just being young and stupid and that she would let me get GE despite ‘that’ (despite what exactly IDK because I didn’t do anything illegal).

  82. Ben,

    ‘Don’t get me wrong’, this is the worst piece you’ve published since since that Nick Jonas debacle.

  83. Dumb Q – it’s mentioned in here that the reader emailed Lucky. How do you email/contact OMAAT?

  84. This is complete BS story

    Probably had laptop and phone full of kiddie porn

    I have been to China twice in past year and never bothered at Global Entry

  85. Ben, love your blog, but sorry to say I agree with many other comments – you’ve been trolled. A native born US citizen who also happens to be a frequent business traveler is likely to have a much better command of the English language than your email correspondent. This story is just as fake as the pizzagate conspiracy theory.

  86. I have nothing on my phone/PC I would be not willing to share with anyone. Legal or not, it’s easier to show it especially if you don’t care at all.

  87. It just doesn’t read like an honest account. More like someone driven to derangement. They should spend more time with family and friends and less on politics.

  88. It’s starting at Obama, nothing to do with Trump even it would upset some Trump againsters.
    If you enter US at LAX/DTW/JFK, you deserve it!! These airports search for phones and laptops much more often than other airports.
    Don’t into Trump into discussion because you hate him.
    Brain is really useful, you should use it more often.

  89. No body else to blame but himself and I repeat himself for being unintelligent, probably he has something to hide in his phone. Regardless of you like the law or not but if this is the law this is the law. What don’t he understand period. I would bet any money he will still reading this blog.

  90. Nothing to do with who is President. In 2015 during Obama’s presidency, On jetway for flight to Seoul, 2 custom agents were randomly asking passengers how much in cash they had. The guy was just quickly looking at hand bag and let go but the women was evil. We were just 2 of us and a minor child. When I told her we have $300 in cash. She continued asking us all kinds of personal Qs, searched our bag, her wallet, even shaking the car seat. it was 10 minutes of abuse, power trip and humiliation while all others were walking to board. In the end, she asks us to write our name and she wrote our passport name on a blank piece of paper. It ruined our 14 hour flight. so damn rude and evil. I made sure to not question her because we feared we will miss our flight. I filed complaint online on CBP website and ofcourse they said they will look in to it and never heard back. We are americans with zero criminal record or anything with law.
    similar power trip incidents happened at US canadian border when returning from toronto.
    Nothing new. They should go after unlawful foreign citizens and anyone are doing wrong. not harass innocent travelers.

  91. I love bad television. Some of my favorite shows include Border Security (there are American, Canadian, and Australian versions) and Border Patrol (the New Zealand version). All of them show officers requesting access to phones and searching through text messages, emails, etc., to make immigration decisions. Therefore, completely independent of if it’s right or wrong to do this, I would not consider this activity limited to the US and be prepared for it at any border crossing.

  92. I enjoyed the drama, even though like everyone here, I think the stories were probably “alternative facts”.

  93. Did he leave out the part when he & his friends rode away on unicorns & were chased by werewolves? Seriously, this was like bad fan fiction.

  94. This statement is not credible, and due to that, everything else is not credible either: “I spent over 500k and lawyer fees fighting my case so I would not go to jail and to keep my work files private “

  95. This person obviously has issues. The way they rant about unrelated issues isn’t helpful to them.

    You never said he wouldn’t get searched just the chance of it was very, very small.

    I’m betting that he missed out a whole load of details such as why the CBP wanted to search his phone in the first place and that would start from his attitude to the officers in the first place. Also suspicious that they let him give his bag to his friend – surely they’d have wanted to search that was well.

  96. I think I saw one period in that entire thing. This sounds like an angry rant about our president, much less a real story about a real thing. “and yelled and at me get unlock my f****** phone in violation of the 4th amendment and I entered a panic code that would wipe my phone forever but my data would be safe in the cloud after I did this he got mad and cuffed me” nothing about that comes across as real. It actually comes across as paranoid schizophrenic.

    Personally, I would have vetted the story in some form or another (no need for anything thorough) before sharing.

  97. I notice there’s a LOT of comments on this article, and so this might get lost… but I’m happy to share my 0.007% side of the story.

    As background, I travel a lot to the middle eastern region for volunteer relief work through NGOs and so I get the SSSS a lot, and often ‘randomly’ get selected for questioning as well. I go to places like south east turkey and afghanistan and had tickets to go to iraq as well before elevated terrorist activity right before my trip canceled that one.

    To date, I’ve been taken aside after my plane landed, twice. First time the officers were waiting for me right at the gate as I got off. Went through an hour long interview and they just let me go. Second time, my passport was flagged as I was going through immigration and was brought to a place where more than half a dozen officers stood in close proximity as one searched through all my bags, took out all the electronics (phone, tablet, cameras, SD cards, etc) and took them to be mirrored after requesting that I unlock all my devices.

    To be fair, I *do* have a lot of security sensitive NGO material on my devices to hide, though not from the US government. (I’m not going to say what other governments). They told me they would simply confiscate my electronics unless I unlocked it for them and that it obviously wouldn’t look good for me if I didn’t comply so making a split decision I just simply gave them my passwords – I had no interest in ending my travel-heavy career. After about 40 minutes, the agents came back with my electronics and told me I could go.

    For the OP, $500k sounds potentially excessive, if it were $50k honestly I think that’s very reasonable. I had a separate issue with the US government (eventually I was vindicated from the suspicions they had and my situation resolved), which involved a lot of lawyer work. Thankfully I was able to use in-house lawyers – if not, I think I would have been hit with ~$20k legal bill given how many hours and weeks it took.

    As another commenter has pointed out, our 4th amendment does not apply when entering a US port of entry from an international origin.

    Also, yes, I am a US born US citizen.

  98. What a lot of ‘bull’
    This guy should be locked up
    His insults are disgusting
    Probably made up the whole story as he has nothing else to do

  99. I think my favorite part was when he said the cops tried to convince him to like Trump. Seriously though, this reads like a Buzzfeed article. Everyone knows there are no 4th Amendment protections at the border. It has nothing to do with Trump.

  100. Dear Ben,
    I have not been searched. However, my understanding is that Customs has a legal right to search all electronic devices that cross the border. Many business people who have confidential information to protect handle this is the following: They take a blank computer out of the country, and download their needed data from the cloud overseas. Then they use their information overseas. Before traveling home, they upload all the content to the cloud. Then they erase the computer. They travel through US Customs with a blank computer, which they graciously open and show to Customs. They have then complied with all applicable laws.
    I am not a lawyer, but anyone concerned can check with a privacy lawyer before they travel to confirm that this is accurate.

  101. I really can’t believe this is posted. So after being asked to go to secondary screening the guy took out his phone to make a call which is extremely suspicious as well as against posted signs usually saying no cell phones. And then he gave his bag to his friend. Also extremely suspicious.

    On a related note this past week the global entry kiosk I was using wouldn’t print a receipt and froze. I tried to use another one and it wouldn’t work because the first one had already registered me. So I was told to just get in the line and the agent was pretty much a jerk to me and asked me a million questions – as if was somehow my fault that the kiosk broke.

  102. CBP was acting like thugs and detaining and yelling at people well before Trump, it just more media coverage now because the press can report it as thuggishness in “Trump’s America”

    This guy didn’t get arrested for refusing to allow a search of his phone. He handed his friend his computer bag to take through customs for him, which shows bad intent. Then he tried to destroy data/evidence AFTER he was in the inspection area. This is no different from someone flushing drugs down the toilet or ingesting them after entering the inspection area.

    He should have deleted the data before arriving in the USA or simply refused to give his password. Handing data to someone else on arrival and deleting it after the cops select you for a search is asking for trouble.

  103. Clearly, this is Debit working to get some screen time here after he was shown the Ban Hammer…and now he’s looking for a 500k payday because his mom needs to move on with her life and that’s hard to do when you have a 32 year old high school dropout living in the basement eating all the Doritos and playing xbox all day.

    On a more serious note, there is no way that story is true. Any real super lawyer would have called the White House to have the whole thing sorted out in a few minutes and the detained global entry user would have been released in record time, and given an $8 food voucher for the troubles.

  104. I didn’t believe this story for a minute. For one, there are way too many grammar mistakes for someone that was “born in the USA.” I’m not the grammar police – I’m just saying that if you want people to take you seriously, use proper grammar. I felt like the whole story was one long sentence. Also – super lawyer? $500K? Riiiiiiiiiiight…..

  105. As a libertarian I believe the state has no right to search out computers/phones without a warrant. Both dems and reps share blame because they support the two party control freaks the sooner you wake up and demand changes the better

  106. My (European) company has a policy for four years now that we are no longer allowed to transfer through the US unless there is no other connection possible and that certain departments may not take their work devices on travel through the US – they get specialised loaner notebooks and phones for the trip. Beside that everyone gets advised to comply with the officer and call a emergency number of the US branch office asap.
    This policy was introduced after three very high profile cases where top managers got their devices ‘searched’ without them being allowed to be present during the search. (Once at LAX, twice at JFK)
    There are some rumours that some confidental information got leaked to a competitor very close to the US government – but personally rumours are rumours for me.

    Additionally since Trumps rise we avoid sending staff of Arabian or Levante decent to the US – but not because of customs but rather as we had a very unpleasant run in with a local LEO in South Carolina. Dude’s born in Iran and was handled rather rough by a local PD (and called a few slurs) with direct reference to Trump.

    (Ah,and, a customs officer threatened to search my phone once – but didn’t as his boss stopped him )

  107. I’m a naturalized US citizen with a Muslim last name. I’ve been to 18 countries and 40 cities in the last 3 years, including Egypt and Morocco. The worst that’s happened to me is for a long period of time, TSA was always opening my checked bags.

    There’s a simple way of avoiding problems at customs: don’t be an a-hole. Even when TSA officers are having a power trip, just suck it in, smile, nod your head, be polite and get to your destination.

    I was once leaving Montreal to return back to the States. I’m in the global entry line, and there was a second line specifically for crew. The border officer kept calling crew people ahead of global entry people and the man in front of me got angry and yelled at the border officer.

    The border officer yelled back at him, then called him up. He then walked the guy to another room. I don’t know what happened in that room, but the next time I saw the man, his face was red and he was buckling his belt. My guess is that his being an a-hole earned him a strip search.

    Bottomline — there’s no winning arguing with officers of any kind.

    This story you shared, if wholly true, was someone stupid enough to argue with the customs officers. He’s left a lot out of this story, which I’d guess is mostly his actions that contributed to the scenario.

  108. This post makes me yearn for the good ole days when you just swooned over a Sean Mendes photo. That was journalism.

  109. Nothing did change in air travel security procedures since Trump was elected. Also, no airport has Trump portraits on walls in the arrival halls, while in the Obama-era it was everywhere. Who is the dictator then?
    You can hate the POTUS, but having this kind of anxiety, just because you don’t like him, is really a thing which has to be treated by a psychiatrist.

  110. Any “born us citizen” would manage to type this with at least one period.

    Total farce here Ben. I wouldn’t give it a second thought. Just a hater trying to get a rise.

  111. @Teresa
    Most people assume a Medical University would have little to hide. I know of cases where biological cultures were illegally smuggled into the USA, there is a clear question pertaining to that on the entry form.
    I find it disturbing that a medical university would have expert legal advice on how to thwart (what I believe to be) legal searches at the border. You should remember that these institutions would not exist without huge financial support by Federal and State funds.
    Yes, salary, benefits, travel and the entire institution would be gone in months without the government you pay experts to help you thwart!

  112. Just when I thought the site was going to improve i was sadly, proved wrong. I travel internationally a great deal of time as do other counterparts from work. Just reading the dramatic statements made by the writer caused me to think, with this kinda of DRAMA written what was the VISUAL like at the airport. I agree with the abundant travelers who call out the BS. It also didn’t escape me as to how the President was at fault for it. GEEEZ LOUISE…. stop the silliness please! They can pat me down, open my briefcase, ask to see my phone and take blood sample if THAT is what it takes to keep me safe in the skies.

  113. I think it is in the state of mind of the traveller. Look some customs folks are idiots, almost all are normal. Been over to the States many times, and occasionally I meet an arrogant type. I just smile, let him have his say, and think you are a power hungry little p**** and that’s it. Once you get into the Trump stuff, you’re head is messed up, and you are giving out bad energy. I got insulted by a fool when Obama and Clinton were in, you get ordinary folks, and you get idiots. The troubling thing is, something about this guy’s mindset is allowing certain individuals to confront him. It’s a mental attitude. 30 years ago I came rolling off a Virgin flight into Orlando absolutely plastered with a friend, could barely walk. The customs guys said they hadn’t seen anything like us in their lives, two hysterical drunken Scots. In theory we could have been arrested for something, but they saw what was inside us. Please view these guys as humans the same as you, and you’ll get the same respect back, it works xx

  114. I have never had an issue entering the USA (UK passport holder). Always found the staff to be pleasant, or at the very least well-mannered.
    This tale, if accurate, does raise a data protection issue. If one’s phone contains personal details of others, which is almost certain, then allowing someone else to view it without the express permission of the data owners is a breach of GDPR. GDPR has a global reach.

  115. If I an add …I’m not sure if people realize this but Canadian customers, EU, Mexico, Australian, NZ etc reserve the right – if they want to – to search our computer and phone. “Trump” has nothing to do with this as this has been going on since President Obama was in office. I also think the original story is bizarre and untrue.

  116. Ben, as other commenters have pointed out, it’s highly unlikely the reader’s story can be trusted.

    It is your responsibility to conduct some verification or look for at least some signs of credibility. By publishing this article, you have failed in that and have failed your readers.

    Of course, I remain a supporter of this blog. I just hope to see less of this kind of content in future.

  117. I work in Human Resources, and am heavily involved in immigration work in the High Tech field, so believe I do know just a little about what I’m talking about…. Just so everyone understands, CBP/ICE have been searching electronic devices at the border for a long time, long before President Trump was elected. But no one ever complained under Obama (or at least the media did not publicize it then!). I have a friend who works for a company that is a contractor to NASA, they are not allowed to take any electronics with them when they leave the country, because of this potential for company secrets to be compromised by CBP. I was shocked that this was legal, because, well, 4th Amendment, right? I asked our immigration Counsel (attorney), and he said it was absolutely legal and there’s not a darn thing you can do about it. I think, in this writer’s case, what he did was the best option, enter a code to wipe your phone, then reload from the cloud. But do know that if you do that they will be pissed at you and you’ll get yelled at. Maybe arrested (or at least held). Because people are human and when you do that they’ll think you have something to hide. Passing your computer to someone else is also a brilliant move in a stressful situation. Because if you keep it, and refuse to unlock it for them to browse through, they can keep the computer and you won’t get it back. Maybe for months. Maybe longer. I would love to see statistics on how many threats they’ve found doing this kind of search. I think that would be very informative.

  118. Wiping your phone with a panic code is going to set off every single alarm bell any border agent has. That was stupid. Moral of the story: whatever you don’t want any border agent anywhere to see delete it before you meet them.

  119. This is obviously an attention seeking compulsive liar and you’ve just played right into his hands and given him what he craves most, a platform and some attention. I feel I’ve just wasted 15 minutes of my life for reading it. Sorry Ben, but bad call on your part.

  120. I could hardly believe this story.

    All the people I know of never had such awful experience, so far.

  121. Unfortunately when crossing the border back into the US you don’t have full protection of the Constitution

  122. Got profiled and searched flying NRT-ORD.but used it as a learning experience and I gladly showed the officer my cell phone pics and my tablet pics..You see I’m an older white male and I fit the profile of someone going to Asia to orey on young boys..The officers were cool and so was I joking about their job..

  123. I keep going back to this guy’s mental attitude and asking what is it about him that is bringing on these attitudes towards him, when everybody else just walks through. Thinking about this another way, while customs folks have been diverted towards this bad-energy argumentative cynical individual, they could be allowing real offenders in. Best thing he could do is shut up and stop wasting their time, they are not interested in him.

  124. Lucky, It’s been a rough few days for this blog. In the future I would recommend running stories like this past an editorial board before posting. Your reputation is all you have. Could anything posted by Debit or other banned commenters possibly be crazier than this? He spent $500,000 to stay out of jail because he used his panic button to erase his cell phone data before his super lawyer showed up at the airport 30 minutes later to save the day????? Is it possible that this site has been hacked and our level-headed Lucky didn’t actually post this? Or is this the beginning of paybacks from the hacker community for your recent institution of commenting standards? Yikes!

  125. @2015_car_incident

    I was harassed a couple of times headed north from the US into Canada. On the way to a 3-day trade show, driving a motorhome with an enclosed trailer, I was asked the usual questions and responded that I had no guns, no cigarettes, and about a dozen bottles of wine. The agent in the booth acted shocked that I had so much wine (she would’ve been more shocked to find out how many bottles I started the trip with). She said that wasn’t allowed and then firmly admonished me for not knowing the rules about alcohol when traveling internationally. I asked her what the rules were and she said she wasn’t sure. I knew it wouldn’t help to start laughing hysterically, so I contained it. Anyway, I was directed to a parking spot for an inspection. After a few hours on a bumpy road and several cups of coffee, my first priority was the restroom, which is where I was finishing up when they pounded on the coach door. They scoffed at the possibility I could be taking a piss and accused me of flushing drugs (in a sealed system?). I resisted the temptation to invite them to feel around in the tank to confirm their suspicions. Two women that were clearly more infatuated with each other than they ever were with any man proceeded to ransack the motorhome. They opened the oven door to check in there three times – the door is clear glass. When they opened the spice cabinet they weren’t the least bit curious about the containers of white powder (for the record, it was cream of tartar). I could’ve hidden dozens of weapons and cases of cigarettes in all the places they didn’t look, but they got all puffed up with their best “Gotcha!” pose when they found the bottles I told them about already, in the location I said they were. They had to put them on a cart and proudly display the find to the rest of the staff. As it turned out, there were 13 so I was accused of lying because apparently “about 12″ doesn’t include the possibility of 13. Next, in the trailer, they never asked what was in all the unmarked crates, some as big as 6″x6″x6”. But they found a small cardboard box with bank records almost a decade old that I intended to sort and shred while I traveled. That was enough for them to decide I had all my “worldly possessions” with me and I was trying to sneak into Canada permanently. It was May and snowing. At home, it was in the mid-80s. What are the odds I would stay there and freeze any longer than necessary? Nonetheless, they marched me off to immigration. An officer there, with more active brain cells than the two I was being harrassed by, after looking at a letter from my rep stating he could get me a discounted room rate, decided I was who I said, doing what I said I was doing, and sent me on my way – with a sealed trailer that had to be unlocked by a Customs agent upon arrival at the show venue. When I mentioned the experience to someone with more experience crossing the border they explained that it simply retaliation because the US Customs harrassed the southbound travelers, so the CBP simply started responding in kind with visitors headed north. I kept the wine, by the way, after paying duties. Thankfully they had no idea what good wine was and how much it cost, so the expense was minimal.

  126. Ben , the upside – this generated a huge amount of commentary, the downside – don’t walk into these traps and start publishing this stuff. We love the trip reports and your stories, don’t give people oxygen with any other agenda.

  127. I have an unlocked phone for use on foreign travel. I use webmail in a private browser window and leave a “sacrificial” Yahoo email account on the phone which is used for signing up for things that need an email address but I don’t want to give my good address. Feds can look all they want but has not happened so far.

  128. Searches will obviously happen to a small fraction of those entering so the claim that you are not being searched is not relevant. I have never been searched, despite being brown and traveling to India often. Though one time when coming back from Costa Rica via Houston, it was amazing watching all the white missionaries get waved through while myself and my brother were taken to secondary “randomly,” so “random” that everyone in secondary was brown-skinned. And the shock on the agent’s face when my passport said I was born in Illinois. “YOU were born in Illinois? Go to secondary.”

    The refrain that if you have “nothing to hide” you shouldn’t worry should not be a license for sweeping government surveillance. In fact, you have no idea if you have something to fear or not, because you do not know what the government does with the data it collects. If the government keeps secret what it is collecting about you or why, you cannot correct potential errors. And if you know anything about our justice system, you know that errors are common. If you are a conservative, just look at the IRS and the claims that the IRS targeted conservative groups during the Obama years. If you were working for one of those groups, would you want the federal government searching your computer, and then data is kept in a central database? No you wouldn’t.

    As Kafka so chillingly illustrates in “The Trial,” the prospect of unwarranted government pursuit is terrifying. If you don’t fear for yourself, you should fear for our society. Living under the constant gaze of government surveillance can produce long-lasting social harm: if citizens are just a little more fearful, a little less likely to freely associate, a little less likely to dissent – the aggregate chilling effect can close what was once an open society.

  129. Ben some basic journalism courses are in order here. You have damaged your credibility. In America you can still gain redemption by admitting an error.

  130. You ain’t Seen Nothing Yet ….
    My phone was ‘held Hostage’ by an Ultra’ takeover of the free’ WiFi on the international flight…i saved the unwanted Radical posts while @ 35,000 ft with my phone turned off in
    ‘Flight Mode’ so How could this occur? I continued to receive Radical Tea’ postings after landing..I informed the airline as well as the WiFi provider
    The airline responded, the WiFi provider did not…NO POLITICAL ‘organization’ should hold passengers HOSTAGE !!! On an enclosed aircraft @ 35,000 feet !
    As I have retained these Rabid posts and time when illegally posted..
    This is only the BEGINNING , these Political Terrorists will be held accountable and the site, which now sends ‘advertising’ to flagrant dishonest money laundering…
    Has anyone else experienced same ….

  131. Watch the netflix series Boarder security America’s front line and similar show about New Zealand. The search of cell phones is standard practice to determine lies. The NZ show highlights silly Americans pontificating about pot policy in NZ versus pot legal states. You guessed it so you smoke pot ? Yes the pothead person is on the next plane back to USA. The stupidity of the people at the boarder security stop is beyond funny. You can not fix stupid proved again and again.

  132. Ben,
    Anyone, who uses the object pronoun, “Me”, incorrectly, instead of the subject pronoun, “I”, does not deserve to be featured in this blog. And when that transgression is compounded by an almost complete absence of commas, things really have gone too far. You should delete the whole of this article immediately.

  133. For the OP, $500k sounds potentially excessive, if it were $50k honestly

    $50k is chicken feed for a lawyer. American justice doesn’t exists because legal fees are never $50k or lower, except for maybe small claims court where you represent yourself.

    At a minimum, legal fees are $100k for a straight forward, simple matter.

    Lawyers can make $1 million a year if they have a well known name locally and can get business.

  134. If you are an American citizen and don’t like tell your representatives to stop it. If they don’t vote for someone that will stop this nonsense

  135. I’m Canadian travelling on CAD passport and I am a US PR aka Green card holder. I’ve had Canadian immigration seize and search my phone at YYZ in the past. While likely a violation of my charter rights in Canada, I have nothing to hide and thus did not object. If you’ve nothing to hide why cause a scene.

  136. Sorry you fell for this obvious prank.

    @ Derek – you have no idea about legal fees. $500K is more than most murder defenses cost, including a 2-3 week trial.

  137. someone is Paranoid and blaming it on President Trump.. totally over the top… He needs to take his medicine!

  138. why does anyone need to have a phone on vacation in the first place? i travel overseas 3-4 times a year and always leave my cell phone at home, why do i want to be bothered with a cell phone when i am traveling.

    also, most people that are put in a position of power regardless of race, color, ethnicity, sexuality, etc… the power goes to their head and they think that they are all that, just check out the stanford experiment.

    i am neither for nor against our dear leader, but i have not gotten searched when he has been president, and when mr bush was president, i was the only “white” american guy on the plane who was searched when i was coming back from europe, they did get some foods from me, hehehehehehe

  139. Gee some people can be dicks. Even if certain details here sound exaggerated or confused, it’s highly unlikely that this is entirely made up. Some CBP agents have become much more aggressive since 2016, feeling like the gloves are finally off. I’ve encountered them and, as a non-citizen US resident alien, I’ve been redirected to secondary screening SIX times.

    After Trump was elected, during the chaos at the airports, my New York immigration attorney told me not to travel with anything I didn’t want agents to see. You don’t have fourth amendment rights at the border. They can search anything they want, as is the case in most countries. They’ve never searched my devices, but I’ll bet if I exuded a nervous energy in the secondary screening room instead of calmly reading a newspaper, they would’ve. And you can’t wipe your device in front of them and not expect them to get suspicious! Why not wipe it before you get on the plane?

    The whole situation at CBP is needlessly confrontational in a way that US citizens don’t see, especially if they have global entry. The solution is not to never travel. It’s to take precautions before you do, and to not give agents cause for alarm. It sucks, but it doesn’t suck as bad as imprisoning yourself inside the United States.

  140. Hi lucky,
    My husband works for Princeton University, and has told me that there is an official policy when traveling to China, they are not allowed to take their computers or cell phones, but rather are given new computers with no information on it to use for specifically that trip. They are told to keep only the information specific to that trip on the computer. They are expected to get a different cell phone from the one being used outside of this trip.
    This is for sure a real issue. It’s for sure an official policy at Princeton University, and probably at most other universities.

  141. Ben, I realize you are a blogger and not a journalist but really. This is so clearly a scam email. Further, as egregious as one thinks about cell phone searches they are quite common in many countries. I have had both my laptop and phone inspected in Canada and my emails read through on two occasions. A friend of mine a few years ago also had his emails scoured over and was deported as they discovered he was loosely working in Canada guiding on rivers without a work permit. He was also banned for a year from entering Canada.

    I don’t believe this story for a second and I fear it does damage to your blog as a whole to have it here. But, it’s your blog, so whatever.

  142. Do yourself a favor, when travel abroad, get a cheap phone and load nothing but essential on it.

  143. This policy has nothing to do with Trump’s administration. It’s been happening for years, and it’s just the DHS agents who use their job as a power trip. It’s right up there with agents banning you from the US for life if you admit to having smoked marijuana.

    It’s never happened to me, but there’s heaps of stories about this happening to Canadians entering the US if you search the Canadian media.

    This particular commenter seems to be exaggerating a bit, and he certainly demonstrates that if you have nothing to hide, don’t resist the authorities, or you’ll just make your situation even worse.

  144. Natural born Americans use punctuation!

    Total scam – can’t believe I fell for your shameless clickbait Lucky.

  145. Publishing something like this from someone with mental health issues is incredibly irresponsible and possibly dangerous to his mental health. In case it’s not true and he’s lying or delusional, you’ve done a great disservice to him by legitimizing his claims.

  146. @ Lucky…. hahahahahahahahahaahaha

    This story – and variations of it – have been around long before Trump took office. (When Obama was in office, they were quickly written off as racist.)

    I am SHOCKED you fell for this. Why would you do that?!?!? No verification? No talking to a lawyer to confirm the story? THINK ABOUT IT!!! This would be HEADLINE NEWS if true. Wow you got suckered.

    You really should remove this entire thread and story and issue an apology. YOU GOT SCAMMED!

  147. This sad post highlights the difference between bloggers and journalists. A journalist would never publish this without independent verification (perhaps multiple verifications) while a blogger would just run with it.

    It makes me wonder about some of the other things published here in the blog, if blog management would run such a “story,” which does not even pass the “sniff” test.

  148. I think I figured it out. Lucky just got some new comment moderation solution and posted this outlandish post to test it out. Do I win the prize? A free business class ticket would be nice.

  149. Actually, we have all the right credentials, and were subjected to extra searches and everything short of a complete cavity search at the Frankfurt airport on a stopover on the SIN-JFK Airbus 380 First Class flight because a young policeman “kind of felt like it.” We were released when the station manager from Singapore Airlines intervened in our behalf when the Singapore Airlines chaperone alerted her about what we were being subjected to.
    My point?
    Abuse of authority and people with uniforms and badges on power trips is a universal problem.
    Also, since a whole generation of my family was literally killed by Nazi Germany, made this a particularly difficult episode to stomach.
    It is also hard to let people freely throw around the “Hitler” and “Nazi” epithets because somehow believe they are more right that whomever might be elected President.

  150. I personally have no experience where US BP searched into my laptop / phones but I’m not surprised that it is happening. I can believe 50K in legal fees but half million (500K) – sounds nut.

  151. Posting craziness won’t sell more credit cards and will result in a lose of credibility of you very informative feed! This is a sad turn of events for your operation which is highly regarded……

  152. Jay, if you are frequently traveling between Canada and the USA, and you answer the question about having fruit or vegetables with’ I don’t think so’, the most polite way to respond to you, is : ‘wrong answer, you deserve Secondary.’

  153. I think you could make a lot of sandwiches with all that baloney. And what is he saying is an “American” name? McDonald, O’Neill, Chen, Schmidt, Moreno, Chen, Sarraf, on & on?

  154. Like many other commenters, I’m very disappointed to see this post. Ben is much, much smarter than this – so he’s either trolling us, trying to prove a point/test something, or had too many glasses of Krug.

  155. @DOCNTX
    Wow!, I was always under the impression that the SQ passengers did not go through any security between flights.
    Did you accidentally exit the secure area? I would imaging most shops are closed, the airport supermarket is not open all night.

  156. Ben, why are you wasting our time with such douchebag ?
    This douchebag should be arrested by the FBI for not complying with the Homeland Security rules and hiding possible crime evidence.

  157. Though my experience isn’t exactly the same as the one in the post, I do have an interesting story about a situation that I deem to be inappropriate. Back in December, I was boarding an Aeroflot flight from Miami to Moscow. While walking down the jet bridge, I was pulled aside by a marshal who showed his badge and asked for my passport. He proceeded to question me a lot in front of other passengers, which was quite embarrassing. He asked when I was returning from Russia, and I explained to him that I live and work there and that I didn’t have definite travel plans yet with regard to exactly when I would come back to the USA. He told me that wasn’t the right answer and again demanded a date of my return. I calmly showed him my Russian visa, directed his attention to the expiry date, and said “sometime before that date.” I was being serious, but he accused me of being sarcastic. He then asked what I do in Russia. I told him that I’m a teacher, and again directed him to my Russian visa that clearly states my visa type as a “преподаватель” (teacher) visa. I assumed that would be it, but then he directly asked me if I am associated with any Russian government entity, to which I just laughed at him and asked if he was serious. He said he was and that it was his duty to question me about it. I asked if I was randomly selected, or specifically targeted, but he refused to tell me. He let me go, but I made it a point to politely tell him that I thought his actions were unacceptable.
    Has anyone else ever been stopped and questioned while boarding an aircraft?

  158. Lucky, I am surprised you are this gullible. There are enough red flags in that story for a Soviet military parade. Unless you have hard evidence that something like that actually happened to the guy, you’re doing everyone (and yourself) a disservice by giving this troll a megaphone.

  159. Validity of this blog just dropped in my eyes. How could someone who writes so poorly be able to afford $500k for a lawyer….

  160. @Lucky — I’m quite shocked that you would post this. It doesn’t pass the sniff test. I accept that there may be elements that are true, but it’s so wildly problematic that publishing it seems a mistake to me. The issue of phones and computers being checked may be worth discussing, but surely there could have been a better story to introduce the topic. Indeed, a fair percentage of posters are – like I am – more concerned with the veracity here than the issue, so it seems less than ideal.

  161. Lucky, I think you did only post this because you want to see more comment/activity in your blog. I see 0% useful info in this and my personal intention would be to stop reading this blog. This post does not help me a bit in planning and executing my travel. The post is also ridiculous and 100% made up. There are easier ways to upload info from your phone if there is a need.
    Furthermore, recently I did not see much of a travel advise coming from OMAT and this is a big disappointment.

  162. Why would you even consider posting this? The ridiculous amount of comments would be the only reason.

  163. I’m starting to lose any sort of respect for this blog as Ben refuses to address this or refuses to take it down. We all make mistakes, but this is, especially in light of his demands on us recently, a bit of a slap in the face of the community he touted and I have believed wholeheartedly in.

  164. Appears like complete BS from someone with possible mental/delusional problems and everyone here knows it. I’m disappointed that you engaged discussion with this unstable person, completely fell for it and found it newsworthy/trustworthy enough to publish. Seeing all your negative reader backlash, doesn’t it make you now question your own sensibility and judgement?

  165. US-Canada dual citizen of mixed race here. The only time i ever had my laptop/personal items searched was entering Canada as a 21 year old college student (10+ years ago). I now travel internationally often to/from the US and it’s always been smooth through immigration with global entry (knock on wood).

  166. I don’t think Lucky is nearly as smart as many of you would like to believe, honestly. There have been several instances where he shows a lack of common sense or general wisdom. He’s not even the most insightful writer on his own blog. The frequent spelling errors and typos (basically every post off is contains corrections by commenters) don’t help either.

  167. People who are born us citizens and can afford legal bills of half of a million dollars don’t have problems spelling the word “ridiculous”. The story is ludicrous and the grammar is ghastly.

  168. “Though I have my reasons for sharing the story.” Given the comments here, I’d say it’s time to either admit a mistake or share and justify those reasons. In either event, the readers are owed an explanation.

  169. @Stuart I’m totally with you. I’m a dedicated reader of this blog but this article has made Ben and all of OMAAT go down so much in my eyes. And @Tiffany to only bother to reply to one comment with your correction about the number of Trump picture hanging without addressing the serious credibility concerns about this article is disgraceful. I don’t want to say I won’t visit the blog anymore because I do love the advice and product reviews. I probably will instead though just first head over to BoardingArea and then only click over here if it’s a worthwhile article.

  170. Folks, my unequivocal apology for how this came across. When I wrote this I didn’t think it would come across the way many of you interpreted, so my apologies for that, because your perception is reality. Not that it’s an excuse, but I was jetlagged yesterday, so maybe my brain wasn’t quite working properly.

    I publish about 10 stories a day, and some of them I don’t get quite right, and this is obviously one of those. All I can do is apologize and say I’ll do everything in my power to do better in the future.

  171. I think the problem here is with anxiety, not the system. Anxiety appears when you want something to be, that isn’t. Or when something is, and you don’t want it to. be.

    This person obviously struggles with the current situation. It produces great anxiety and only furthers his suffering. If we learn to accept the current situation (and I don’t mean ‘accept’ as labelling it as “a good situation”) but rather “accept that the current situation is happening”, then the anxiety will disappear and events will flow more smoothly.

    Just them look at your phone and/or laptop. As long as you don’t have child pornography or plan to blow something up, then the only harm is in your mind.

  172. Lucky – No need to be so apologetic, it’s just an error of judgement (the jet lag explains why that seemed believable to you!).

    Just thought I’d reassure as I’m always so quick to point out when you’re wrong – only fair!

  173. Like a few people said, this crap is kind of universal. I’ve been to the US a few times, the last one just a week ago, and for the first time I went to a secondary line. They asked me a few questions and let me go. They were not rude at all. Sure, it sucks. I staid at the airport a good extra hour because of that but that’s the world we live in these days. And there will always be the idiot among the professional ones, that’s in the U.S. and everywhere. Just comply and don’t look like you have something to hide. I know border police does the same here in Portugal with some foreigners.

  174. Well, so many comments. The patient in the story should have visited a psychiatrist in the first place. When you receive such communications, simply throw them away

  175. IF there is any substance to this tale (a) the bloke should pull himself together and stop this snowflake behaviour of prozac and psychiatrists (b) if it never occurred before Trump came to power it clearly is a direct result of his foreigner phobia and (c) his actions of wiping the phone were perfectly justified as the TSA agent/cops could not be trusted viewing his confidential business information.
    One question; how many times were the officials polite enough to say please of thank you. My suspicion is zero as US airport officials appear to have dropped these words from their vocabulary.

  176. Lucky, you should consider taking this entire story down and stop the continued spread of this misinformation.

  177. Lucky:The story in the mail maybe not true.But your readers can figure it out slowly or quickly.Especially after so many smart comments.
    On the other hand.Many commenters shared their experiences at the border.These are very useful informations.There is no chance we can learn these things without this post.

  178. @ Lucky –

    Thanks for responding back. Usually I am not one for pulling stories, but this is clearly B.S. You should strongly consider updating it… or rewriting it to state… ‘this person says…’

    As you can see by the posters here, it is widely accepted as mostly or completely fabricated.

    Get in touch with the person that wrote you, ask for the lawyer’s name. Ask for the court name. Do some research and maybe right a follow-up story about getting scammed.

    Great job setting standards on commenters. How about setting some standards on stories you publish that come from readers. aka – Without verifiable details, you don’t publish them!

  179. @Lucky “I was jetlagged yesterday” is NO excuse for posting absolute rubbish. it has affected your credibility.

    If your brain isn’t working properly then just don’t publish at all or get Tiffany to read it first to ‘sense’ check it – especially on something like this – because this post made you look like a prize plum.

    It wasn’t that “I publish about 10 stories a day, and some of them I don’t get quite right”. You got this one totally wrong.

  180. Long time lurker and very obviously a fake article with unnecessary political bias. Delete.

  181. @ ChrisC — And I’ve acknowledged that and have apologized. I got one of the thousands of stories I publish every year wrong. What would you like me to do, nail myself to the cross?

  182. Okay folks, we’ve all taken our turns bashing Lucky for this post (myself included) but it’s time to forgive and forget. He has apologized and admitted he’s not perfect and I respect him for that. How many times do we each make mistakes in life on a monthly, weekly or even daily basis? Ours are normally not highlighted and put on public display though. Don’t let this get you down Ben. You’ve helped far many more people with your articles than you have hurt.or disappointed with just this one. I forgive you.

  183. I don’t believe the US should be allowed to examine phones and laptops of US citizens without a search warrant. You should be presumed innocent. I don’t have anything to hide but I do think protection of rights is important and each one you willingly give up, leads to further trouble down the road.

    For non-US citizens I think things are a bit more involved. I still think there needs to be some reasonable evidence that the person may be committing a crime before searching their laptop/computer/etc.

    While I have my doubts about the emails, I don’t see any big deal to post this story. Many people are not aware of the lack of rights you have at the border, and the consequences of not acceding to the whims of border agents, some of which aren’t the most knowledgeable people of what they are actually allowed to do.

  184. The arrogance and sanctimonious holier than thou attitude of many of the posters here is breathtaking. Sure maybe Lucky should have clarified that this is an unverified story, but I for one didn’t wholly buy the story, neither did I dismiss it out of hand. The truth is always in the middle somewhere. So many other folks chimed in with their experiences at US borders, that in itself makes this thread of some use. I just can’t stand all the posters who pontificate about not wanting to read this blog just because they don’t think Lucky matches their ‘standards’. You know what, if you think this post has lowered Lucky’s standing, feel free to not return to the blog. He has already apologized, so if that doesn’t satisfy you, I don’t know what will. At the end of the day, this is a personal BLOG, not a newspaper where journalistic integrity has to be maintained. SMH.

  185. However you feel about the article, the real [email protected]*k up in how this went down is three-fold:

    1.) It came on the heels of the new commenting guidelines, making Ben and those associated with him seem as though those guidlines only applied to people who they disagreed with.

    2.) In conjunction with that, OMAAT can get a little holier than thou about “professionalism” (see: Bonvoy/TPG snark) and then he posts, most find irresponsibly, contradicting that.

    3.) Ben’s apology is literally a classic “sorry you feel that way”. You just don’t apologize in that manner.

  186. @ Loyalist — Apologies; at the time of that particular comment and my response to it the sentiment was much more mixed, and in that context there hadn’t been much where it seemed like a reply from me would be helpful. I was wrapped up with a sick doggy in the evening, then came back to a much-changed tone and sentiment, and to where it seemed best to let Ben address things. I’m sorry that it looked like I didn’t care otherwise, that truly wasn’t the case.

  187. @Lucky — I commend you for apologising and admitting it’s a mistake. Anyone can make one, and the percentage you make, I think, is extremely small. However, at what point is it prudent to pull a post? Would you not just on principle? There may be the odd useful story or piece of advice in the comments, but cumulatively do they outweigh the deficits of this post? I think not, but I fully respect that it’s your decision either way.

  188. @ Mr. Wise:

    “At the end of the day, this is a personal BLOG, not a newspaper where journalistic integrity has to be maintained. SMH.”

    You set a very low bar for OMAAT. Its even a bar behind which Ben would not hide. Nor is it merely a “personal blog”. By design, it is a blog whose posts are intended to encourage reliance and induce readers to make substantial decisions. And that is fine. But that raises the bar – and I am certain Ben gets that.

    I do not know how Ben will manage this. I would suggest a separate post acknowledging that he took this one hook, line and sinker despite red flags identifying either hoax or substantial embellishment if there ever was a kernel of truth inside the story. Further, if Ben intends to publish similar stories, he would be well advised to seek corroboration from third parties or documentary evidence, such as an arrest report, or correspondence from a prosecutor. A “victim’s” inability to provide such should be telling.

    As a general matter, the more shocking the story, the more rigorous one needs to be in vetting it.

  189. President Truman had a wonderfully simple technique. He would not post his letters immediately after writing. Instead, he would wait for a whole day and night to pass, so he could reconsider it without emotion/tiredness. Only then, if he still felt the same about the letter, would he finally post it.

    DO: Publish more product reviews for airlines and hotels and locales.

    DO: Cut down on too numerous cc ‘reviews’.

    DO: Refrain from junk like this. Nick Jonas (2018) should have been a dire warning to you!

  190. @jfhscott, fine I will accept I set the bar too low, and you’re probably right, even Ben would disagree with my statement. I guess I was trying to point out that people can’t expect Ben to do an editorial review as this isn’t a newspaper. But a few caveats would have definitely helped, at the beginning of the post preferably.

  191. And with reference to sanctimonious posts, see that of Shaun’s above mine. Not even a request or a please, just three statements with a DO in caps no less. As if this is Shaun’s blog…

  192. Frankly, many of the comments here are offensive. Yes, the story might well be embellished/ fantasy/ whatever, but, FFS, the guy has acknowledged that it isn’t his best piece, written under difficult circumstances, and yet people still want to crucify him. Judge by the 99% he does well, rather that the rare rubbish piece.
    Who among us has not suffered from impaired judgement after a period of travel? Too mean.

  193. @Lucky it fills me with joy to see you have rethought this and even take a brave step and apologized. Bravo!

  194. @Abe: Really??? Based on what you say that? My entire family has three different citizenships (born in the US from American immigrant parents each with different citizenships) and it is very helpful to travel almost anywhere without requiring a visa. None of us had ever had an issue when entering or leaving the US. Yes, our Global Entry application shows 3 citizenships and when entering the US through a GE kiosk we just print the paper and leave. Not once we spoke with any officer to check our passports, phones or ask any questions.

  195. Definitely better to have vetted this more carefully before publishing but the outrage in many of the comments seems more intended to prop up government agents. What is described in the post has happened and is happening.

    It’s like with the mentally ill, until you personally know someone, you dismiss it or call someone mentally ill crazy. Or with the opioid crisis. Now because it affects white America, it’s an addiction and a mental health issue. But when it was crack cocaine, it was those low life’s in the ghetto and we used the criminal justice system to deal with it. Until border and airport searches start affecting white America in large numbers, it won’t be dealt with by politicians or the Supreme Court.

  196. Lucky, your readers/commentators are right, PULL IT.
    99.9% of your articles are magic, this one was a horror story about a poor paranoid soul with bad energy. I am not a psychologist or parapsychologist, but people like that do for some reason have the weird power to attract negative reaction from others.
    Yes we know there’s the odd customs guy who is arrogant, and thinks he’s great, but this scene we are analysing is no better than a doorman at a nightclub with some strange guests wanting in.
    Lets call it a day now PLEASE, this is bunging up our mailboxes with irrelevant nonsense now!

  197. This actually began during the Obama Administration with warrantless laptop computer searches. To be more precise, it was institutionalized during the Obama years and roundly criticized by the ACLU during that time period. The program was piloted as early as 2008 under President Bush, the Customs and Immigration people saying that they needed neither warrants nor probable cause to search electronic devices from persons crossing into the US through Customs. In fact, the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed suit in 2008 over the practice, but lost. The Obama era CBP then expanded the practice. Now, they’re apparently further expanding the program to include some domestic flights, although CPB won’t actually directly answer questions about the process nor necessity.

    In short, this isn’t solely a Trumpian act. It started long ago.

  198. Many countries allow border agents to check phones and laptop, this is not limited to US, like Canada, Australia and Europe. The expectation of someone that travel often, is at some point they might be asked to hand over your phone or laptop, so be prepared for it.

    As for the story, it seems he didn’t like getting his phone checked, which is understandable. Then he blamed on Trump for it, because his disdain for him, and made up the rest of the story.

  199. At least admit… if he’d made the same accusations with “Obama” in place of “Trump”, we’d never be reading it on your blog.

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