The Joy Of Being Detained By U.S. Customs and Border Protection

I’ve had a shitty morning.

After a really fun day yesterday in Waterloo at Communitech, which is really impressive, I woke up at 4:30am to make my 6:30am flight from Toronto to Chicago on my way to Little Rock, Arkansas where I’m speaking at the launch of Startup Arkansas. I was going to run the Little Rock Marathon on Sunday but I’m undertrained and – while I could get it done – decided I wasn’t ready to deal with the physical and emotional recovery cycle given all the work I’ve got going on. So I bailed on the marathon, but since they’d organized the Startup Arkansas event around my schedule and managed to procure me a number for the sold out marathon, I decided to go ahead and fulfill my commitment to that.

At 5:30am after checking in and getting my boarding pass, I slammed into the wall of US CBP. I’ve been through the Toronto checkpoint a few times and it’s always a long line that moves slowly. I got to the front by 5:45am so I felt like I had plenty of time to make my 6:30am flight.

As I waited for my turn, I noticed the CBP agent whose line I was in was moving slowly. The guy two people in front of me took about three minutes to clear – he had to take off his hat, then his glasses, and had to do some fingerprint thing on the scanner that I can’t remember ever having seen used before. I didn’t really think much of it, but I noticed it.

When it was my turn, I said a polite hello to the CBP agent, gave him my passport and customs form, and waited patiently. He handed me back my customs form and said “Put your correct address on this.” I looked down and noticed I had written my P.O. Box in Eldorado Springs as my address, since that’s my address. I responded “That’s my correct legal address.” He responded, “Do you live inside a P.O. Box?” I said, as politely as I could, “No.” He then said “Is your house inside your P.O. Box?” I said, “No, I have a house a mile away, but the P.O. Box is my address – at least that’s what the US Postal Service says.” By this point I realized he wanted a street address and not a P.O. Box, so I said “I’m sorry, I’ll write down the house address I have” which I proceeded to do.

I stood there quietly for about a minute as he typed stuff into his computer. He then handed my passport and my customs form to me after scribbling something illegible on it, handed me a yellow card, pointed at a room, and said, “Go into that room.” I asked whether there was a problem and he said more forcefully, “Go into that room.”

I did. It was a bigger room with about 10 CBP people. There were about 5 non-CBP people. No one acknowledged me as I walked into the room. I went up to one of the CBP people and said, “I was told to go to this room – can you tell me what I need to do?” He responded, “Give me your documents and go sit down over there until called.” This time I asked “Can you explain what’s going on?” The response was “Go sit over there until you are called.”

At this point I got anxious. I went and sat down. I sent Amy and my assistant Kelly an email telling them where I was. I tweeted that I had been detained by CBP. I started looking up flight information on my iPhone and a different CBP agent barked at me, “Sir, you must turn off your cell phone in this room.” So I did.

I looked at the clock. It was now 6:00am. I resigned myself that I was going to miss my 6:30am flight. At 6:15am I heard someone from the other end of the room call “Feld.” I got up, took my bags, and went to where that person was. He told me to put my bags down and stand in front of him. He proceeded to empty out my bags and go through them carefully. After he packed them back up, he typed a few things into the computer, asked me a few routine questions, including where I lived, which I answered more precisely this time with a house address, explained that the postal service wouldn’t come to deliver to my house, so I had a P.O. Box as the US Post Office that I used as my address. He stamped my forms, handed them back to me, and pointed at a door and said, “Go through there.”

I had no idea whether things were about to get better or worse. I asked him politely, “Can you explain why you are detaining me.” He responded with “Because you are traveling to the US.” I said, “I was asking why you’ve detained me for 30 minutes.  Specifically, what was the reason?” The CBP officer said, “Because you are traveling to the US – we don’t have to give you a reason.”

I quietly picked up my stuff and went through the door he had pointed at. It led me back to the security area, in front of the long line to go through the xray machine, but behind the CBP checkpoint. So apparently I had now cleared customs, but still had to go through security.

It was 6:25am at this point. No way I was going to make my flight. I took a deep breath, realized my heart rate was high (probably over 100), and I was extremely anxious. I went into mellow shut down mode as quickly as I could, just soldered through security, and got to my gate. At the point the normal absurdity of air travel took over and even though I was on a United / Air Canada codeshare, the gate agent for the flight I missed (Air Canada) wouldn’t help me, the United Global Services people couldn’t figure out how to change my ticket, and ultimately I wandered over the gate that I figured out with the United Global Services person was my replacement flight, where the gate agent there was very helpful and soothing for the first time this morning.

I’m now in Chicago waiting for my flight to Little Rock. Given the flight times, I’ve got a lovely three hour wait, which I’m filling up with a long blog post to empty my head, all the phone calls that Kelly scrambled to reschedule, and some email time.

I’ve been awake for 7 hours. I’ve managed to get from Toronto to Chicago. My heart rate is back to normal. I feel fine but the 45 minutes of CBP stress, which was minor compared to what I know a lot of people face, sits with me in a very bitter way. CNN is in the background with the talking heads blathering on about sequestration and all the problems it, and our government, are creating. And I remember that getting into Canada on Wednesday took me literally five minutes, was pleasant, and welcoming.

What a shitty morning.

  • AlphaMonkey

    I am so sad to read this Brad. I try not to travel through it anymore. Just remember that yours was a story of how a North American resident and US citizen was treated. Often it is worse for those of us who are neither. One of the biggest issues is arguing with the officials who have no idea that the rest of the world use a different date order for official documents (spent several hours in Nashville before I found someone who was prepared to believe that my documents were not expired because they were in dd/mm/yyyy order). I have also had the joy of spending unscheduled hours in LAX, PHL, and Denver (i wasn’t even going to Denver) because my daughter and I have different surnames. It has to be hurting the US economy.

    • I know – however bad it was for me is just a taste of how non-US citizens are treated. It’s disgusting and we – as Americans – should be ashamed. I at least am.

  • karensd

    Damn. Truly sorry to read this post, Brad. Perhaps though, with your audience, maybe someone will listen. You’re not the first to note the difference in experiences crossing the border between Canada and the US. Even though I’m actually American and Canadian (by passport) personally, I feel like every time I leave the US and cross that imaginary line back into Canada, I can actually breathe easier.

    • Totally get this feeling. The contrast is so dramatic.

  • Gingerale

    Sorry, I’m dreading my next ordeal

  • I was held in Dublin last week. Similar experience, but I, for some reason, went to the airport early for that trip and was able to make my flight.

    “What do you do for a living?”

    “Design.” This is technically untrue, but has been how I answer that question. Since I’ve been a nomad for 2.5 years my address is technically true (where I pay taxes) but really not where I have my stuff (I don’t have any).

    “and what do you design?”

    “Do you really want to know? I can get pretty geeky, but websites.”

    “and what do you design in websites?”

    “well, I look at the best steps startups can take to maximise customer development through design process and marketing channels… somewhere in between interaction, graphic and ui design.”

    “So how is that design? Did you just say you did marketing? Why didn’t you list that?”

    “I help make the marketing more effective, you could say. I didn’t list that, among other things I do, like writing a book, because it isn’t what I focus on right now.”

    “What is your book about?”


    “ok, sit over there.” after 20 minutes “welcome to the United States.”

    Just… well… odd.

  • It’s terrifying when you know you have absolutely zero control in a situation. Even more terrifying when its your own government doing it to you. That sucks, man.

  • Well if I were you, I would go get a massage at some point! Well worth the $$ to relieve all the stress

  • I understand that we need to be careful when letting people into the country, I just wish the CBP agents were trained or incentivized to treat people with compassion, like fellow human beings.

  • this is why i don’t go to the airport high

  • Allison Bergamo

    What a rough day! I’m sorry, Brad. Safe travels home. Hope you enjoy your weekend.

  • André Thénot

    This kind of nonsense is infuriating. These are bad processes designed to make people *feel* secure (not doing anything for real security), enforced by agents that are abusing their power, and with no consequences to their abusive behavior. I wish there were a way to make this stop, or at least introduce some check and balances. Perhaps a way to publicly shame those agents would be an idea…

    Congrats on keeping your calm, though!

  • Peter

    Brad – I’ve been in “that room” in the Toronto airport myself. We were travelling back to Boulder after visiting my family in Toronto, and my wife made the mistake of having a banana in clear sight as she handed the customs agent our declaration form. Fresh produce is a no-no and will get you pulled in every time. Same routine as you were subjected to, but the agent we spoke to inside the room was much more pleasant and we had plenty of extra time for the diversion. It sounds like you caught a bad agent on a bad day. The experience can definitely ruin your day.

  • That really sucks… so much for CBP’s pledge to travellers…

    Did you get the guys name. You should definitely file a complaint. Doubt it’ll amount to much but if these guys are never called to account, nothing will ever change.

    Here’s hoping future international trips don’t lead to new painful border crossings…

    • It’s interesting. I was staring at his badge while we were talking but I was so anxious that I didn’t write it down, and couldn’t remember it a minute after I left his presence.

  • fwmiller

    Holy Crap! I can remember just a few years ago flying to Calgary and you didnt even need a passport. Now we’re thinking about taking the kids to Vancouver this summer for vaca and we have to get them passports and go through this? Maybe we should skip Vancouver and start our vaca in Seattle instead…

  • That’s awful. Have you tried I’m not sure if that would have helped in this situation but anything to minimize the “discretion” of the border officials is welcome in times like this.

    • I’ve been trying to get TSA Pre but it’s been so difficult to get my interview scheduled on a date that I’m around because my schedule changes so much. I had a date and ended up being somewhere else on the interview date than DIA. Changing it is so hard that I’ve just given up.

      • Ana M.

        Brad – if you’ve been approved try stopping by any interview center at any airport that has Global Entry. When I went in for my interview at JFK there were a few folks who popped in and got taken care of promptly even though they didn’t have an appointment.

        I feel your pain: as someone else noted, just imagine if you were a foreigner, didn’t speak English well, or were a woman. That last category guarantees you inane and insulting questions every time especially if you’re traveling alone.

        • I will give it a try in person at the airport.

          • Definitely get Global Entry. It’s a game changer for international, and gets you into TSA Pre automatically.

        • +1 to this suggestion. They can do it at Seatac. I have the Nexus Pass version of Global Entry which helps with Canadian border crossings in particular. When I upgraded my Nexus Pass to Global Entry, the CBP agent on the phone actually told me to just stop by before my next flight. A slightly different use case, but I’d think attempting to drop in would have a positive expected value.

  • Wow that sucks Brad. Canada can be awesome but sometimes at the border things just get nutz. Hope the rest of the trip gets better.

    • Nolev

      Canada is awesome. These are US border patrol agents. Not Canadian!!

      • Agree. The Canada side was flawless and polite. This was all US CBP.

  • takingpitches

    Brad, that gets my heart rate up. I bet he was trying to make you miss your flight. I would definitely file a complaint here:

    If you call your Congress person (Jared Polis?) and have his office file the complaint, you will definitely get a response, although they are supposed to respond to all complaints:

    • I agree. We just took a bunch of our startups down to DC to meet Pelosi, Polis and a number of other people in congress and the senate and one thing I learned — Leverage your congressmen or congresswomen after you’ve filed sometime to force through a response. They can’t lobby on your behalf but they can step in *after* you start the process.

  • These guys just love their power.

    It strikes me as un-American to treat people like this, no explanation, no words of you are here for secondary screening, just complete A-holes.

  • Facebook User

    Last time I came back through the US from Mexico, we forgot to throw our lunch leftovers away on the plane and there wasn’t a trash can before CBP. I honestly answered that I had an apple core or something and we got thrown to the back room, where we essentially stood for 45 minutes until I got to talk to a person who then waved us through.

  • Anthony Reinhart

    Shitty indeed. My wife (an Aussie) and I go through similar hassles every time we fly to the U.S. from that airport. It always feels like an attack on our dignity, since we’re no threat to anyone; just people trying to get somewhere. It’s no consolation now, but the Waterloo Region airport has flights to Chicago. It takes about five minutes to get through security and to the waiting area, and the people are nice. Maybe next time you can fly back from there. Thanks again for coming; we had a great time with you.

  • I got the bozo-agent experience on the way into CAN at YYZ – had the wrong visa for my trip. Buying the ‘right’ one didn’t change any aspect of my trip or activities – it simply delayed me by over an hour + enriched whatever agency was collecting the fee.

    (big ups to my driver, who WAITED for me outside even tho I couldn’t answer his repeated calls to me)

    I’ve described this in detail elsewhere, so I’ll simply summarize it as Kafkaesque.

  • I’ve had some similar experiences when …. let’s just say i my ex-wife caused me to “involuntarily lose” my official green card, and during the (*year* long) wait for a replacement I only had an ink-stamp in the passport.

    I got pretty familiar with “Secondary immingration” at LAX as every time coming back I’d get pulled into some back room where you seemed to have zero rights and zero information about what was going on.

    It was so bad that the “officials” wouldn’t even tell you what to do, so if you didn’t see the sign behind the counter telling you “put your passport here” then you’d sit in the room for hours not knowing why they weren’t calling your name.

    The crappy thing was every time I finally got called up, they asked a couple of basic questions and let me on my way, it just usually took a couple of hours to get to that point.

    Seems like there must be a better way, but no, there’s not “an app for that” I guess.

  • M.St.

    For the next time: because US immigration at YYZ is on the Canadian side (before you get on the flight) you have the right to leave the immigration area at any time (and go back into Canada). They can’t really detain you indefinitely.

    • But presumably I’ll have to deal with them again at some point since I’m trying to get into the US.

      • StevenHB

        And they’ll flag you for having bailed.

  • Appeos

    Sad story, Brad, but all too common these days.

    I was detained at Orlando airport on Christmas Day, after travelling from the UK all day with my family. After a couple of hours I was interviewed by a CBP guy who took my whole family history including full names of my parents and my siblings, where we were all born, occupation, all previous trips to the USA, etc.

    I was pretty anxious, but kept my mouth shut as I didn’t want to make it worse. We just wanted to get to Disney for Christmas.

    Eventually, the CBP guy says to me “You know why you’re here, right?” I thought that was a trick question, but ventured “Random search”. He said, “You have four flags against your name, on our terrorism list.” I was quite shocked about that, as I’m not a terrorist, and have a very common British name. Also, I always assumed that a real terrorist wouldn’t fly under their own name anyway, but this wasn’t the time to be smart and humiliate the agent with logic.

    I kept quiet and after a long delay he said I was free to enter the US. My wife and daughter were terrified and it was all quite stressful and pointless.

    • Terrifying. Thx for sharing your story as I process my emotions.

  • I’ve been sent to the back CBP room at the Toronto airport with no explanation, most recently in 2006. The worst part was after I got out. I sat down at the waiting area in front of my gate and had to endure a half-hour where an elderly couple who had been behind me in the original CBP line carefully watched/stared at me, expecting me to somehow be of danger to them.

  • Apparently this kind of thing is happening completely WITHIN the USA as well. Here are some clips of people resisting

    • Incredible video – worth watching from beginning to end.

    • holy catnip

    • takingpitches

      oh snap — amazing!

    • great video, and yes the last clip is the best…

    • Helluva thing. People “just doing their jobs”? Seems like a kind of policing-herd mentality.

    • Amazing video. What strikes me is how mindless the people are who are doing the interviewing and checking. They may have intelligence – but the script and protocol does not. So they are just filling time and justifying their existence by appearing to be diligent, and the rights and convenience of people simply traveling within the U.S. are the collateral damage. It would be interesting to see a similar video from the agency, where they shine light on the good outcomes that are happening. What are they finding? Human trafficking? Real terrorist threats? It would be very interesting to know exactly what the yield is that’s outweighing the cons. There should be a burden of proving performance (like a board meeting).

    • Amazing. Thanks for the link.

  • Brad, my Canadian friend traveling from Toronto Pearson airport to the US gets hassled quite frequently in a similar manner. One of his suggestions was to use Porter Airlines, which files to a different Toronto airport (actually closer to the city), to avoid the hassle.

    • Thx for the suggestion – ill try it next time.

      • Also, do you have the Global Entry Program already? That seems to help quite a bit.

        • laurayecies

          I just enrolled in Global Entry – my last two entries back into the US were much faster.

  • Scott Griffiths

    Brad – Try Global Entry ( it’s a long bunch of paperwork (online) but gets you Platinum Treatment. If you’re a United 1K member they’ll cover the $100 / 10 year fee. If not pay with your Platinum Amex and they’ll reimburse it for you automatically.

    Additionally once you’ve been cleared for the face to face interview about 90 days later you’ll qualify for TSA Pre-Check (no more taking sports coats, shoes or laptop off domestically for free). For this TSA program make sure your name on United Frequent Flier matches your passport EXACTLY (e.g. middle initial & “.” or full middle name) and you’ll magically qualify for this wonderful program.

  • NotRealNameToNotBeDetained

    This is a small aspect of the biggest completely crazy fear of terrorism that the US government and media are spreading in the country.

    This is turning the Country in a police state extremely fast, and I must say I’m happy to see that Americans are suffering the consequences too. Maybe this will make everyone realize how fucking stupid this situation is.

    Every time I go through security and am told I can’t carry water and have to remove my shoes I ask why and the staff just dumbly sits there, having no idea what to say. “You just can’t”.

    It’s the smallest thing, but it makes you realize how brainwashed we all are to this stupid shit. It hurts any reasoning mind to have to do things that don’t make any fucking sense.

  • Get a Nexus Pass. Best move I ever made.

  • That sucks. Props to you for keeping your cool. Our first impulse when treated unfairly is to object, which of course would have been the absolute worst thing to do.

  • Brad, what happened to you is “standard entering process” for entering the US for millions of people. If you have a passport from certain countries, you *always* go through this room (it’s called secondary check or something). They also sometimes mark some “special cases” to go through this process and that’s what happened to you.

  • Brad, so sorry to hear about your experience. Glad you got out of there. A member of the Boston entrepreneurial community was detained for days.

    • Yup. I was in the mix on getting that horrific situation resolved. And Katie Rae was absolutely heroic.

  • Brad, I’m truly sorry to hear of your ordeal. Frankly, my experience suggests this has nothing to do with post 911 heightened security and everything to do with an omnipresent desire to unnecessarily exercise power and authority. Like you I travel a lot and can quickly recall your experience in Toronto no fewer than four times over that past 17 years (time as 1k or equivalent status) and twice coming back through Miami. I’ve never experienced anything similar while returning through ORD, LGA, SFO, IAD, LAX, or SEA. Perhaps the issue is local supervision.

  • Thank god you were not born Indian, Brad. 🙂

  • Jeffrey Hartmann

    That completely sucks, I hope the rest of your day rocks and you get to relax when you finally get to Arkansas. I’m sure if you shift some calls around the world would understand, bad travel experiences just take a bunch out of you in my experience and its not worth pushing through the stress.

    I absolutely hate being detained by CBP, last time my wife and I came back from Brazil they stopped us because they didn’t like us. I think she had some extra stamp in her passport from when she first was waiting for her green card and we got her passport stamped so she could travel in an emergency. They kept harping that the Oklahoma DHS shouldn’t have stamped her passport and since there was something outside of normal procedure they treated us like we had fake papers. At least in your case you didn’t have Amy with you, that is a completely unique stress that I absolutely hated. I was super afraid that they would say my son and I were good, but Adriana couldn’t get back into the US. Traveling to and from the US when you are not a US citizen just plain sucks. I really wish someone would do something to fix this once and for all. They are just so unhelpful and unemotional, it is never a fun experience.

    I had a bad airport experience in Montreal going to Steamboat Springs ages ago and seems that the Air Canada / United can never figure out how to reissue the tickets properly. I’m really surprised they still have this issue. Perhaps you should bring it up with the airlines since you travel so much.

  • Marcus Aurelius

    And you are white! You simply have no idea. Count your blessings

  • Sorry for your experience Brad, I’ve been thru this once and it does suck. And yes, non-citizens are subject to an oder of magnitude worse treatment. Once my mother-in-law (70 and not in the best shape, after a 20+ hour trip) was held in SFO for over 7 hours. And they would not let anyone to even go and be with her, a horrifying experience.

    I do find though that this is not unique to the US and In every country we are basically at the mercy of the border agents and sometimes you run across the person that’s having a bad day, or life!

    • The US customs are an order of magnitude worse than any other country

  • Luckily a tame experience, i’ve been handcuffed and locked up for 6 hours 🙂

    I have figured out that it all depends on which airport you go through. For eg. I have entered through SFO 50+ times with the address on my customs form nothing more than an illegible scribble (not to mention that I used visa waivers for 6+ years), while in JFK they made me refill the entire form twice until they could read it all out and stopped me for half an hour. LAX is pretty lenient as well.

    I now always plan my trips around entering and exiting via SFO, I won’t touch CBP anywhere else. They just aren’t friendly and they always look like they are itching to take you out (not the best first impression for new visitors to the USA).

    What I think is happening is there are factions within the CBP on how effective these stops are. Some supervisors (such as at SFO) have given up on enforcing the letter of entry regulation while others want to teach you a lesson for talking back when they ask about your address.

  • Doesn’t it seem reasonable that in any security process, one of the criteria on their list of objectives would be to allow innocent parties to maximize their odds of still making the flight? The offense isn’t so much that they selected you, but that you sat there for an arbitrary amount of time, unaddressed.

    My recent inconvenience was far less than yours, but traveling with a two year old and four year old is massively stressful. My wife was searched, along with our possessions. The TSA agent took her sweet ass time, making small talk completely irrelevant to the situation, fraternizing with people around her, and every item that she checked was handled with complete inattention. It’s impossible when you are on the receiving end of that to not look at that person / process with extreme contempt. My observation has been that on the whole, the rental car agents are infinitely more competent than the agents in TSA.

    • I occasionally try to come up with rude things that TSA might stand for. Your story about their apparent attitude towards your situation kind of suggests TSA = “Tough Sh**, A**hole”. lol.

      • Yup – that’s part of what is so maddening. They knew what time my flight was since they had my board pass. I lost an entire day because of the madness.

  • I thought these kind of things only happened to blacks and other suspicious looking people. Now I don’t feel so bad for all the years of harassment I was subjected to while crossing the border. BTW I know someone that ended up in CBP jail/detention center for three days because when they asked him “what is your name?” he replied “Mickey Mouse”.

    • I got the blue glove treatment for looking too anxious about locating my boarding pass while going through the process of putting everything through the scanner. Turned out I had absentmindedly handed it to my wife who went on through and spent the next 10 minutes wondering where I had got off to…

  • Mohamed Khan

    I go through this secondary check every time, but I am usually prepared for it, I go to the airport early, and I always have my readings in physical form because of the “no electronics” rule. It usually takes more than 45 minutes for me.

  • Nathan Stephens

    Sorry you had to go through this Brad. I don’t think I’ll be visiting Canada anytime soon.

  • Peter

    One day when we are visiting distant planets and the local aliens there give us a proper working over before letting us arrive, we will remember how we used to do this to our fellow humans as we merely moved between our tiny little countries back on earth.

    • We are so puny in the universe. The machines are just laughing at us. The dogs have it correct – it’s easier to figure someone’s intention out just by sniffing them.

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  • Your first mistake was leaving Canada…

    Immigrants are a large part of what made America great. Unfortunately US government policy is now driven by terrorphobia. This unbridled fear is rapidly corroding our country’s foundation.

    I am a US citizen who decided to become a permanent resident of Canada. What I found in Toronto is an inclusive society free from the heavy shackles of hatred; I was also delighted to discover an ocean of opportunity up north. I hope your CBP experience does not deter you from future visits.

    “Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

  • Then imagine what it’s like to go through this, knowing that if these people decide to send you back to your own country, they can do it without any explanation. No reason at all. On your dime. Even though you’ve got all the right documentation and everything is in order. It’s a horrendous process and I come out in a cold sweat every single time I come through the border.

  • 9/11 was an inside job. if the american people lack the maturity to face this fact and make the necessary changes they deserve they tyranny they get.

    • Perpetrated by occupants of the planet earth, yes.

      • We need a lot more @fakegrimlock friends to help us find our way.

        • Once upon a time I worked as a structural engineer. The idea that someone could surreptitiously prepare a building of any size for a controlled demolition (one 911 truther theory) is so ludicrous it’s hard to quantify. I haven’t had the heart to even find out any more about what they think.

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  • alex

    There is a daily 6:20am flight to Chicago directly from Kitchener with American Eagle. No CBP there, very relaxed and you can show up at the airport at 5:40am or so.

  • RobEDarling

    Brad – so sorry you had trouble travelling back.
    PS – We absolutely loved the time you spent visiting/sharing with us (HYPERDRIVE and community) at Communitech!

  • I saw kind of the same thing happen to a coworker, only the interaction was with a medium-ranking member of the security force at a uranium enrichment plant in Zelenogorsk, RU, which is about a 2 hour drive from Krasnoyarsk. The co-worker had realized belatedly that he had a fairly trivial piece of camera equipment, a lens doubler, in his vest. He panicked and tried to hide it in the van we were in (the occupants get out and are screened in the entry building, the van goes through a separate process with only the Russian driver in it, then we join it again afterwards). The upshot of the episode was that the equipment was sent to a lab in Moscow to be thoroughly dismantled (rendered unusable) and checked for any kind of spy equipment, and the offender picks up the tab. Cost him a couple of thousand dollars and expulsion from the Highly Enriched Uranium Transparency program (part of Megatons to Megawatts). Our anxiety level went up during the incident, one never quite knows if the Gulag is still operational, or if any of the rest of us might have been implicated in some way.
    The locations of those kinds of facilities are still regarded as secrets, even though I can find the entrances to the various buildings I worked in over there quite easily on Google Earth. And besides that, a few years after the inception of the program in 1993, one of our officials gave one of theirs a gift of a photo taken of his facility by a U.S. spy satellite in about 1964. But they were still adamant about it to the point that you couldn’t even wear an electronic watch into a plant because it might have some kind of gps unit or something in it. Funny thing, that– my electronic watch had hands instead of numbers on it, and they never asked me about it. lol.

  • The real lesson here is honesty. If you would just move into your PO box, this whole thing could have been avoided.

  • Cw

    Brad, This happened to me in April 2010 . I have a canadian passport, born and raised in Canada . Went for a vacation to the US and was detained for 3 hours at Pearson in Toronto, missed my flight, etc. I have hassles usually going to the US since this event but not as much in the last year . I usually always get SSSS on my boarding pass (secondary screening), means they pat me down twice or check my carry-on twice (not a big deal), but as a caucasian female who has been to the US many times and never lived outside of Canada, it was daunting I was sent to that room for three hours and have had issues or delays ever since .