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Homeland Security Stole Michael Arrington's Boat 812

Posted by Soulskill
from the keeping-'murica-safe dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Michael Arrington, founder of TechCrunch, lives near Seattle and bought a boat there. He ordered it from a company based near him, but across the border in Canada. Yesterday, the company tried to deliver it to him, and it had to clear customs. An agent for the Department of Homeland Security asked him to sign a form. The form contained information about the boat, including its cost. The price was correct, but it was in U.S. dollars rather than Canadian dollars. Since the form contained legal warnings about making sure everything on it is true and accurate, Arrington suggested to the agent that they correct the error. She responded by seizing the boat. 'As in, demanded that we get off the boat, demanded the keys and took physical control of it. What struck me the most about the situation is how excited she got about seizing the boat. Like she was just itching for something like this to happen. This was a very happy day for her. ... A person with a gun and a government badge asked me to swear in writing that a lie was true today. And when I didn't do what she wanted she simply took my boat and asked me to leave.'"
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Homeland Security Stole Michael Arrington's Boat

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  • DHS (Score:5, Interesting)

    by parallel_prankster (1455313) on Friday February 22, 2013 @10:22AM (#42979673)
    I dont remember the last time we had a dept that was so pathetic, inefficient, useless, corrupt and annoying as the Dept. of Homeland Security. Why do these people even exist? I dont feel any safer with them being around at all. Just yesterday there was an article in Slate about how insecure airport perimeter security is. http://www.slate.com/blogs/crime/2013/02/20/airport_diamond_heist_it_is_shockingly_easy_to_breach_perimeter_security.html [slate.com]
  • by czth (454384) on Friday February 22, 2013 @10:31AM (#42979823) Homepage
    A distinction without a difference; and it's no difficulty for them to also plant drugs on the boat and then keep the proceeds of their theft.
  • Re:so what? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 22, 2013 @10:44AM (#42980027)

    I disagree. Many years ago, (2002 or 2003), myself and two friends went to Canada. One friend was French, carrying a proper passport, etc.

    When crossing into Canada, the customs official could not have been more cordial. He asked all three of us to come up at once (we were walking). Had a quick chit-chat about why we were going to Niagara Falls, checked our friend's passport to make sure everything was good, and wished us well.

    Coming back was a completely different experience. We assumed the process would be the same, so we all started up to the customs agent at the same time. He jumped back from his seat, unholstered a pistol, and started shouting commands at us. (3 young college kids). After that, we received the 3rd degree on how two Americans could be friends with a Frenchie, etc.

    CBE officials are power hungry... end of story.

  • by sensationull (889870) on Friday February 22, 2013 @10:50AM (#42980081)

    the US is a totalitarian state now run by the corporations and paranoia merchants who exist to fuel wars. I would not travel there with any electronic device as I would be more concerned about them messing about it or taking it at the border than if I was going to China. Seriously it has to have killed of a bit of tourism if nothing else with the mental border policies. Sure Israel blows up laptops it does not like but at least they have provable reason. I've picked flights to avoid the US as a stop over simply because I don't feel safe traveling there with electronics, not that I have anything to hide but I don't think that matters anymore.

    Call me old fashioned but I just don't want to be irradiated and have all my electronic devices seized and violated at the whim of some random overpaid security guard with a bad attitude.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 22, 2013 @10:56AM (#42980177)

    I know it's a little off topic and few are likely to read an AC's post anyway :), but I have a story of government bureaucracy bullshit related to the U.S./Canadian border.

    Years ago, I tried to cross the border to get into Canada from the U.S. I had been arrested about a year before or so on a minor charge--interference with government operations. Basically some asshole cops were abusing their power, arresting kids outside a music venue, throwing them into the ground, and one of them threw his elbow into me on his way over, knocking me back. So I stood my ground. When he told me to move back, I told him that I wouldn't because a) he hit me on the way over , b) I hadn't moved since this whole thing started, and c) what they were doing wasn't police work, it was plain and simple bullshit. (Btw, one of these cops was later thrown in jail for murdering his young boy lover, and the other gets in trouble periodically for beating up high school students.) So I got arrested. After they let me go, amidst much snickering as they filled out my charge sheet or whatever on their rinky-dinky circa 80s mainframe system (it seemed), I went to court (not the real court, mind you, the misdemeanor court) and pled guilty so I could just get out of there. I paid $150 to someone behind a window and left.

    So flash forward to when I'm trying to cross the border, and the Canadian border/police officer tells me that I have a felony terrorist offense on my record and they won't allow me in. And I'm like, "What?!?!" Well, there's a felony in Canada with the same name as the misdemeanor that I stupidly pled guilty to. I tried explaining this, and my explanation was along the lines of "So these asshole cops were abusing their power, and I was resisting it," all while the cop I'm talking to is obviously taking these (future murderer and disgraced) cops' sides. So I had to sneak into Canada. I'm not sure, but I suspect that to this day, I am still not allowed into Canada. It's something I could maybe fix with a lawyer, but I'm not rich and I'm stubborn about this bullshit.

    So yeah, I'm pretty sure this all happened because of the 9/11 mess, Patriot Act and such. Screw bureaucracy. Screw all of these new government institutions and laws put in place since 9/11 that are just obviously fucked up (TSA, I'm talking about you). And of course, confiscating this guy's boat is bullshit, but as he said, he is rich and he will get it back. How many people have shit like this happen who aren't rich and don't have a popular blog and slashdot to publicize it? I'm guessing far too many.

  • by UnknownSoldier (67820) on Friday February 22, 2013 @11:01AM (#42980247)

    They didn't steal it, he "voluntarily surrendered" it.

    When the TSA goon confiscated my toothpaste I calmly asked him "Why are you confiscating my toothpaste?"

    He corrected my misunderstanding. "We are not confiscating anything. You are voluntarily surrendering it."

    At that point there was no point in arguing with someone so brainwashed that they are forced to play lawyer semantics to "Take something that doesn't belong to them under the threat of duress."

    God help us all.

    --
    "Only a coward uses censorship."

  • did him a favor... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by circusboy (580130) on Friday February 22, 2013 @11:11AM (#42980387)

    honestly, if Coastal Craft's construction is as bad as the grammar on their website... DHS may have saved his life...

  • Re:Just sayin'.... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Artful Codger (245847) on Friday February 22, 2013 @11:15AM (#42980463)

    It's kind of a tough call. On the one hand, if you sign off on something government-y that's technically false, that can boomerang on you later on. On the other hand, since the US and Canadian dollar are within a percent or two of parity, the discrepancy is trivial, so any future correction would be trivial. Me, I'd have probably STFU and signed.

    But I could only afford a used boat.So maybe I don't understand...

    The flaw in the system seems to be the inordinate amount of power in one agent's hands. If the agent had to call a superior to do the seizure, and explain the stupid reason... I bet the matter would have evaporated at that point.

  • Re:so what? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kraut (2788) on Friday February 22, 2013 @11:34AM (#42980715)

    Having crossed a fair few borders in my life, the US ones are without a doubt the most unpleasant ones.Worse even than the former East German one (albeit on a West German passport... I'm sure with an eastern block passport they would have been even worse).

    It's odd, given that on the whole the US is full of friendly people trying to be helpful... all the assholes seem to hang out at the border and at airports.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 22, 2013 @11:44AM (#42980867)

    A bit of background: I'm Canadian, white, from a mediteranean background, professional infosec guy.

    I've been to Israel, and eastern european countries, and been in places where where suicide bombers have detonated themselves and killed and maimed scores of people.

    I advise corporate entities about the risk of going to "questionable jurisdictions" such as China and other IP thieving countries, but the US is increasingly becoming problematic if you seem to not fit the profile.

    I've been better treated by Mexican, Polish, Czech, Cuban, and Israeli border control than the US DHS, and this before and after 9/11.

    The common thread seems to be understanding or risk, incompetence (of a person/dept) and training. The US DHS seems to be afflicted with all three: understanding of risk is flawed, the people hired to safeguard the country seem poorly selected (google those articles of DHS hiring people whose previous work experience was McDonalds) and poor training.

    Israeli's have some of the best training, and they try to avoid using the dumbdumbs for border and customs (they can work on courtesy but that's something else).
    Even in a rural Polish town's airport, you'll have military clad types with full auto weapons on display, but even they understand the situation.

    You don't get that feeling when you enter Uncle Sam's domain, and it doesn't make sense, and it doesn't make anyone safer.

  • Re:so what? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by garyebickford (222422) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (cib73rag)> on Friday February 22, 2013 @12:38PM (#42981561)

    Actually the parent is correct. The vast majority of boats really are owned by Joe and Sam the carpenters down the street. Go to most boatyards or marinas, and you'll be able to meet them. Some marinas are definitely gold-plated, but in most cases it's a Bud Light crowd.

    Interestingly, in most cases also, the folks in boats don't care how much you make - I've had many a beer sitting around a fire with a guy who owns a $1million + catamaran on one side and a guy who cleans houses for a living with a 25 foot fishing boat on the other. They've known each other for years, and they're both welcome any time on the other's boat. And they both dislike the 'boat snobs' who think the size of their tool makes them important ;) Boat people mostly respect each other because of their common interest - even with the mostly-friendly dichotomy between 'rag-boaters' (sailors) and 'stinkpotters' (power boaters).

    There's a Creedence Clearwater song about "people on the river". It's mostly true.

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