• 10 Brief Responses to 700 Comments About Refusing to Answer Questions at Passport Control

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    by Paul Karl Lukacs: I Am Detained By the Feds for Not Answering



    Phuket Island,

    My post about
    refusing to answer questions from Customs and Border Protection
    officers when re-entering the U.S. has resulted in a lot of debate.
    My thanks to everyone who joined the conversation, including the
    authors of the more than one hundred posts that called me a douchebag.
    Let me address the major points raised, although there are multiple
    issues – such as the fine distinction between CBP’s immigration
    powers and its customs powers – that I need to truncate or
    elide to keep this response from becoming a law review article.

    (BTW, I’m
    blown away by the hubbub. In the last three days, this blog has
    received more than 75,000 hits. The original
    post currently has 175 comments
    , while the
    Boing Boing report has 172 comments
    , the Consumerist
    article 312 comments
    , and the
    Reason piece 121
    .) (Update: The Hacker News section of ycombinator
    has 104 comments

    1. A U.S.
    Citizen Cannot Be Denied Re-Entry To Her Own Country.

    A federal judge
    in Puerto Rico – a territory sensitive to the rights and privileges
    of its residents’ U.S. citizenship – said it best: "The
    only absolute and unqualified right of citizenship is to residence
    within the territorial boundaries of the United States; a citizen
    cannot be either deported or denied reentry." U.S. v. Valentine,
    288 F. Supp. 957, 980 (D.P.R. 1968).

    So, while some
    commenters worried – or advocated – that a citizen who
    refused to answer CBP questions would be denied re-entry to the
    United States, the U.S. government does not have the power to prevent
    a citizen’s re-entry.

    2. (The
    Right To) Silence Is Golden.

    This is principally
    about the right to silence. CBP officers are law enforcement (pictured),
    who can detain you, arrest you and testify against you in criminal
    court. You place yourself in jeopardy every time you speak to them
    about anything.

    CBP officers
    are not your friends. CBP officers treat returning U.S. citizens
    as potential criminal defendants. You should likewise treat them
    as if they were corrupt cops on a power trip, targeting you to goose
    their arrest statistics. The best way to protect yourself against
    their depredations is to refuse to speak to them or to answer their

    3. Any Misstatement
    To A Federal Officer Can Result In Your Arrest.

    If a federal
    officer claims you lied to him, you can be arrested and charged
    with the crime of making false statements. You do not have to make
    the statements under oath (which would be the different charge of

    This statute
    – which is referred to as Section 1001 and which
    can be read here in all its prolix glory
    – is the reason
    why Martha
    Stewart has a Bureau of Prisons number

    The only way
    to immunize yourself against a false statements charge is to refuse
    to speak to federal officers.

    you ask, “what about telling the truth?” Doesn’t
    work. If, in the course of your conversation, you mis-remember something
    or speak inarticulately, you can now be arrested. Innocent mistake?
    Prove it in court after being jailed, charged, tried and paying
    for a lawyer.

    Cardinal Richelieu
    is alleged to have said, “If you give me six lines written
    by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in
    them which will hang him.” That’s also how the false statement
    charge works. Any cop or prosecutor can concoct a “lie”
    from your statements.

    The only
    way to protect yourself from a false statement charge is to refuse
    to speak to federal law enforcement officers.

    the rest of the article

    27, 2010

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