Tourists deported from U.S. for Twitter jokes (Updated)

Two U.K. tourists landing in L.A. were detained and deported because of tweets joking about "diggin' up" Marilyn Monroe and "destroying" America.

According to DHS paperwork, Leigh Van Bryan was matched to a "One Day Lookout" list, placed under oath, and ultimately denied entry and put on a plane back to Europe.

"[He wrote] on his tweeter[sic] website account that he was coming to the United States to dig up the grave of Marilyn Monroe," DHS officials wrote on his charge sheet. "Also on his tweeter[sic] account Mr. Bryan posted that he was coming to destroy America."

Interviewed by highly-respected British newspapers such as The Sun and The Daily Mail, Leigh Van Bryan says that the tweet — "Free this week, for quick gossip/prep before I go and destroy America" — referred merely to partying. Added a friend: "He would not hurt anyone. He is gay."

Bryan has now made his Twitter account private, thereby ending the DHS's ability to track his terror plans.

UPDATE: Ted Frank says we're "racial profiling" in this post. [Via Glenn Reynolds]

"Boing Boing correctly points out (via Alkon) that this is silly—but the reason we know this is silly is because you and I and Boing Boing are racially profiling."

We've run countless posts similar to this one, about detained travelers of all ethnicities — but this one involved racial profiling!

We know the deportation is silly not because of Van Bryan's innocuous whiteness—that's in your head, Ted—but because the methodology is dumb. It's silly because search alerts for keywords on Twitter will never catch a terrorist on his way to the airport; it will merely impose pointless burdens on travelers regardless of national origin.

This poses an interesting question: of all our posts on DHS shenanigans, why was it this one that got noticed today by some conservatives? Actually, it's a boring question: it's because it offered them an opportunity to project their inclination toward racial profiling onto others. It creates the impression that everyone is at it regardless of agenda, and that inconvenience to innocents is therefore the price of our collective failure to recognize that racial profiling is common sense. "We want [the] DHS to have the flexibility to detain hypothetical Islamic fundamentalist Mohammed Abbasi if he were to make a similar threat on the Internet that is less likely to be a joke," writes Frank.

On the contrary, I don't want the DHS wasting its time on any of this nonsense.

(Frank also mistakenly attributes the non-sequitur "He is gay" quote from Van Bryan's friend to us. Why? Perhaps, like the DHS, his attention is tuned in to the wrong things.)