Twitter Terror: UK Pair Barred from United States Over Jokey Tweet
Two UK tourists were arrested, detained for 12 hours and then sent home after U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents misinterpreted one traveler's tweets containing British vernacular and a “Family Guy” reference as a terrorist threat.
According to The Daily Mail and photographs of Customs paperwork obtained by the independent British news agency Small World News Service, Leigh Van Bryan, 26, and Emily Banting, 24, raised suspicion of being terrorists of Bryan's tweets about "destroying America" and "pissing people off on Hollywood Blvd and diggin' Marilyn Monroe up."
Banting told The Daily Mail that when U.S. officials asked why the pair intended on destroying America, they "tried to explain it meant to get trashed and party."
The comment about desecrating Marilyn Monroe's grave is a reference to the TV show “Family Guy” and, somewhat ironically, inaccurate: Marilyn Monroe's remains are in an above-ground crypt at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery.
Still, it didn't stop agents from searching the travelers' luggage for shovels.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection released a blanket statement about the incident that concluded with: "We recognize that there is an important balance to strike between securing our borders while facilitating the high volume of legitimate trade and travel that crosses our borders every day, and we strive to achieve that balance and show the world that the United States is a welcoming nation."
Small World News Service obtained a copy of Bryan's charge sheet, which, if accurate (the New York Times reports that Small World News Service is known for paying sources for stories and photos), contains the hilarious blooper of calling it a "Tweeter website account," which is presumably not a reference to an account with the defunct electronics retail chain.
Maybe this is nitpicking an already ludicrous situation, but I think authority figures with the ability to detain and deport should know what they're talking about, or at least know the real name of their sources.
Nevertheless, there's a lesson to be learned here, folks. If you're planning international travel anytime soon, keep your nose -- and Twitter feed -- clean, and if you are detained, make sure your arresting officers are hip to American cartoons.