What the Security State Hath Wrought

A citizen of a Western European country, who works in the United States for a fast-growing Internet startup company, writes today:

In many of your TSA related post, a key theme is the illusion of security through ineffective and "invasive" means. Seems like there is more of this going on in the broader "security" world.

-A young British couple was sent back from the US after some ill-advised but innocuous tweets;

-Muslim man gets arrested for using term "blow away the competition" in a text message

It's one thing to have Google and Facebook data mine your life to make money for themselves. It's another thing if innocent communication gets you in trouble with a humorless bureaucracy without adequate recourse.

The fact that as a green card holder I seriously hesitated before hitting "send" on this message means something I think.

The stories my correspondent links to are quietly incredible. About the latter episode, which took place in Quebec, today's news story describes what happened to a telecom salesman named Saad Allami:

On Jan. 21, 2011, Allami sent a text message to colleagues urging them to "blow away" the competition at a trade show in New York City.

According to [a lawsuit for damages he has filed], he was arrested without warning by police three days later and detained for over a day while his house was searched. During his detention, a team of police officers allegedly conducted an "intrusive" four-hour search.

"The whole time, the officers kept repeating to the plaintiff's wife that her husband was a terrorist," the filing reads.

The British couple, shown below in a photo via ABC, got in trouble for a slangy use of the word "destroy" in a Tweet. The ABC account says:


"Free this week, for quick gossip/prep before I go and destroy America," one of the tweets read. Bryan told The Sun [in England] that in this context "destroy" just meant party.

"The Homeland Security agents were treating me like some kind of terrorist. I kept saying they had got the wrong meaning from my tweet but they just told me 'You've really f***ed up with that tweet, boy'," Bryan told The Sun.

There are a lot more details in The Sun's account -- and with all allowances made for the imaginative potential of UK tabloids, it is worth a look.

Yes, we need to be "safe." It is worth noting what we are giving up in the name of safety. Think about the last line in the note from my European friend.