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Homeland Security Stole Michael Arrington's Boat 812

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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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 22, 2013 @11:18AM (#42979627)

    in the years that I imported horse manure.

  • by TrentTheThief ( 118302 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @11:21AM (#42979665)

    Vote from the rooftops

  • DHS (Score:5, Interesting)

    by parallel_prankster ( 1455313 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @11:22AM (#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. []
    • Re:DHS (Score:4, Insightful)

      by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @11:59AM (#42980223)

      they exist because of scared soccer moms who think that perceived security is worth anything, as long as their snowflakes are 'kept safe'.

      really, that's it. fear controls and every leader since the beginning of time knows that.

      you can get anything if you keep the population in perpetual fear.

      that's it. it security theater for most of us who see this. it was never meant to be anything real. no one in upper levels truly would believe this is an effective thing; BUT they also would be hung upside down if some 'thing' happened and they didn't show that they did 'all they could' to stop it. so, its an excuse, too, a CYA move.

      no thinking person believes the BS; but thinking people are not in charge...

    • Re:DHS (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @12:02PM (#42980267) Journal

      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.

      The DEA.

  • LOL ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @11:23AM (#42979689) Homepage

    "It's just paperwork, it doesn't matter"

    So, a government functionary with a minor Napoleon complex who just wants to get on with the fun parts of the job then?

    This is what happens when you give stupid people that much power.

    • Re:LOL ... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Nyder ( 754090 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @11:49AM (#42980075) Journal

      "It's just paperwork, it doesn't matter"

      So, a government functionary with a minor Napoleon complex who just wants to get on with the fun parts of the job then?

      This is what happens when you give stupid people that much power.

      This is what happens when you give anyone power without having balance and checks to keep them in line.

    • This is what happens when you give stupid people that much power.

      This is what happens when when you give anyone too much unregulated power. And that power needs to be regulated by a true democracy. Intelligence becomes more of a factor when it comes to working the democracy.

    • Re:LOL ... (Score:4, Informative)

      by Jawnn ( 445279 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @12:37PM (#42980777)
      This is what happens when a fearful and ignorant populace allows their rights to be ripped away from them in the name of "security". I am loathe to play the Nazi card, but the empowerment of previously powerless, disenfranchised, and yes, often stupid people was played out the same way in 1930's Germany. If we, as a citizenry, do not turn out every one of the bastards who brought this level absurdity to our lives, we deserve everything we get.
  • by BBTaeKwonDo ( 1540945 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @11:25AM (#42979733)
    As TFA notes, he will hire a lawyer and get it back. The only variable is when; my guess is that within two weeks, he'll be sailing around. However, if the government accuses the boat of being the proceeds of a drug transaction (very unlikely, since there was no cash or drugs anywhere around) it will take longer. But "stole" makes for a much better headline than the truth, "confiscated", doesn't it?
  • by hessian ( 467078 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @11:31AM (#42979829) Homepage Journal

    Guess what happens when the victim isn't rich?

    We never hear about it, and the agent seizes his boat and profits.

    Corruption is a very real threat!

    So what if this guy is rich? The point is that if they'll do it to rich people, they'll do it to anyone, except little people have no ability to retaliate.

    • by BetterSense ( 1398915 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @11:51AM (#42980107)
      Dealing successfully with the ironically-named 'justice system' (where 'successfully' is defined as 'minimal loss of wealth/immediate freedom/future earning potential/continence' is based on two key factors:

      1) Do not appear to have anything confiscatable
      2) Flatter their ego

      Stupid people care about the law. They think that if they obey the law, they will be ok. The fact is, the law really doesn't matter. Cops don't know the law, they just enforce it. The most important thing is to not get involved with the police, and if you do, to not get arrested. If you get arrested, you have already lost.

      The law only matters after you are arrested. But even then, you will end up plea-bargaining to an unrelated charge anyway. The idea that you will stand up before a judge and he will see that you were in compliance with the law and you will achieve some kind of 'justice' is pure naivete. Even if the case is dismissed, you lost.
  • by guanxi ( 216397 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @11:32AM (#42979841)

    He writes:

    itâ(TM)s to highlight how screwed up our government bureaucracy has become.

    If true (we should hear the other side), it's nothing new in the history of governments or the United States. Not that it shouldn't improve, but the good old days never were.

    That's the essential point to understand that if you want to improve things: The problem isn't current bad apples or lack of morality or a temporary increase in corruption; it's the universal, eternal nature of humanity and their institutions. Ignoring that fact is like designing a bridge and ignoring gravity. There are solutions, such as transparency, but it's not a matter of replacing the current 'bad' apples with a new batch -- they will be human too.

    • by pla ( 258480 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @11:53AM (#42980117) Journal
      but it's not a matter of replacing the current 'bad' apples with a new batch -- they will be human too.

      We don't want to "replace" the current crop of losers - We want to burn down the whole fucking orchard.

      The security theater has gone on for about 11 years too long now. End it.
  • Really? (Score:3, Funny)

    by jcobol ( 221484 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @11:38AM (#42979925)

    I'm sure Arrington, with his long history of reporting the facts, is telling us the entire story. And if he is? It couldn't have happened to a nicer guy . . .

  • by AntiBasic ( 83586 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @11:45AM (#42980035)

    They told me if I voted for Romney, we'd see DHS continue with abuse power... and they were right.

  • by sensationull ( 889870 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @11:50AM (#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 @12:44PM (#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.

  • by stimpleton ( 732392 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @11:53AM (#42980135)
    He'll get his boat back. More worryingly this was the third attempt at delivery. It broke down *twice* before and had to return to the manufacturer when attempts were made to deliver. A bigger entity really does not want him to have his boat! Boats breaking down is serious. You evade storms in a working boat.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 22, 2013 @11:56AM (#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 Quimo ( 72752 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @12:25PM (#42980591)

    I think regardless of how in the right the DHS rep is they handled it poorly. If they don't have the authority to change the form fine. If they must seized the boat fine. Explain the the gentleman why you are unable to make the changes and why you must seized the boat. Then let them know what the next step is to get things sorted out. Most people are fairly forgiving of inconveniences if they know why they are happening.

    This just smacks of a functionary that enjoys being a pain. As for the DHS agent this is probably not going to go well for them. Even if it doesn't cost them there job it will probably result in a demotion.

  • by BobSutan ( 467781 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @01:10PM (#42981217)

    Name names. This thug needs to be held accountable for her abuse of public trust and power.

  • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @01:12PM (#42981247) Journal

    Since the CAD is currently weaker than the dollar, having declared it in USD instead of CAD would be adverse to the government, which actually makes it easier. (It depends on the exchange rate at the date of export, but based on today.)
    (Rulings adverse to the importer entered after Dec 2004 actually HAVE to come from a formal protest.) []

    19CFR 173:
    Â 173.1 Authority to review for error.
    Port directors have broad responsibility and authority to review transactions to ensure that the rate and amount of duty assessed on imported merchandise is correct and that the transaction is otherwise in accordance with the law. This authority extends to errors in the construction of a law and to errors adverse to the Government as well as the importer.
    [T.D. 70-181, 35 FR 13429, Aug. 22, 1970, as amended by T.D. 79-221, 44 FR 46830, Aug. 9, 1979]

    Â 173.2 Transactions which may be reviewed and corrected.
    The port director may review transactions for correctness, and take appropriate action under his general authority to correct errors, including those in appraisement where appropriate, at the time of:
    (a) Liquidation of an entry;
    (b) Voluntary reliquidation completed within 90 days after liquidation;
    (c) Voluntary correction of an exaction within 90 days after the exaction was made;
    (d) Reliquidation made pursuant to a valid protest covering the particular merchandise as to which a change is in order; or
    (e) Modification, pursuant to a valid protest, of a transaction or decision which is neither a liquidation or reliquidation.

    Â 173.4a Correction of clerical error prior to liquidation.
    Pursuant to section 520(a)(4), Tariff Act of 1930, as amended (19 U.S.C. 1520(a)(4)), the port director may, prior to liquidation of an entry, take appropriate action to correct a clerical error that resulted in the deposit or payment of excess duties, fees, charges, or exactions.
    [T.D. 85-123, 50 FR 29957, July 23, 1985]

    Â 162.23 Seizure under section 596(c), Tariff Act of 1930, as amended (19 U.S.C. 1595a(c)).
    (d) Seizure under 19 U.S.C. 1592. If merchandise is imported, introduced or attempted to be introduced contrary to a provision of law governing its classification or value, and there is no issue of admissibility, such merchandise shall not be seized pursuant to 19 U.S.C. 1595a(c). Any seizure of such merchandise shall be in accordance with section 1592 (see  162.75 of this chapter).

    As I understand the circumstances, on importation he performed what's called 'prior disclosure' - (Â 162.74 Prior disclosure.) identifying orally or in writing to the customs officer of the violation, before an actual investigation was begun. In this case the importer is supposed to tender any potential penalties/duties (in this case, none, since the import value was actually LOWER than declared) .

    And finally:
    Â 162.75 Seizures limited under section 592, Tariff Act of 1930, as amended.
    (a) When authorized. Merchandise may be seized for violation of section 592, Tariff Act of 1930, as amended (19 U.S.C. 1592) only if the port director has reasonable cause to believe that a person has violated the statute and that
    (1) The person is insolvent,
    (2) The person is beyond the jurisdiction of the United States,
    (3) Seizure otherwise is essential to protect the revenue, or
    (4) Seizure is essential to prevent the introduction of prohibited or restricted merchandise into the Customs territory of the United States.
    (b) No seizure if prior disclosure. Under no circumstances shall merchandise be seized under the authority of 19 U.S.C. 1592 if there has been a prior disclosure of the violatio

  • This happened to me (Score:4, Informative)

    by Jmc23 ( 2353706 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @02:21PM (#42981989) Journal
    going the opposite direction. I just notated on the form which information was false but that the agent insisted I needed to sign it regardless of whether it was true. They didn't seem too happy about that but let me through anyways.

Experience varies directly with equipment ruined.