US Homeland Security using Twitter to sieve out unwanted tourists

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By a Newsnet reporter

Holidaymakers are being advised to watch what they tweet if travelling after two friends were refused entry to the US on security grounds after the US Department for Homeland Security picked up on their undesirable tweets.

Prior to travelling to Los Angeles on holiday, 26-year-old bar manager Irish national Leigh Van Bryan, wrote a message to a friend on Twitter, saying: “Free this week, for quick gossip/prep before I go and destroy America.”

In another tweet, Mr Bryan said he would be in LA in three weeks time, annoying people “and diggin’ Marilyn Monroe up”.

The Irish national and his friend Emily Bunting were met upon their arrival at Los Angeles International Airport and interviewed for 5 hours by Homeland Security agents.

After the interview, Homeland Security’s stated:

“Mr Bryan confirmed that he had posted on his Tweeter website account that he was coming to the United States to dig up the grave of Marilyn Monroe.

“Also on his tweeter account Mr Bryan posted he was coming to destroy America.”

Mr Bryan was prevented from entering the US and sent directly home.

Mr Bryan said: “The Homeland Security agents were treating me like some kind of terrorist.  I kept saying they had got the wrong meaning from my tweet.”

Another man Paul Chambers, also fell foul of the Dept of Homeland Security because of a tweet in January 2010.

Mr Chambers was fined £385 plus £2,600 in costs after tweeting that he would blow up snow-affected Doncaster Robin Hood Airport “sky high!” if it didn’t reopen in time for him to be able to see his girlfriend.

The US Customs and Border Protection agency said in a statement that it tried to maintain a balance between “securing our borders while facilitating the high volume of legitimate trade and travel that crosses our borders every day and show the world that the United States is a welcoming nation”.

Trade association Abta said holidaymakers should never do anything to raise “concern or suspicion in any way”. 

Abta added: “Posting statements in a public forum which could be construed as threatening – in this case saying they are going to “destroy” somewhere – will not be viewed sympathetically by US authorities.

“In the past we have seen holidaymakers stopped at airport security for ‘joking’ that they have a bomb in their bag, thoroughly questioned and ending up missing their flights, demonstrating that airport security staff do not have a sense of humour when it comes to potential risk.”