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New US Border Check Tool: Google
Boing Boing, LSD as
Therapy? Write about It, Get Barred from US from The Tyee covers how
Canadian psychotherapist Andrew Feldmar was denied entry into the United States
after being pulled aside during a border crossing for a random check. One of
those fancy explosive sniffing machines then get him stopped? Metal in his
shoes? Failure to use the proper
approved plastic bag for liquid items? No — the screening tool employed was
The Blaine border guard explained that Feldmar had been pulled out of the
line as part of a random search. He seemed friendly, even as he took away
Feldmar’s passport and car keys. While the contents of his car were being
searched, Feldmar and the officer talked. He asked Feldmar what profession he
When Feldmar said he was psychologist, the official typed his name into his
Internet search engine. Before long the customs guard was engrossed in an
article Feldmar had published in the spring 2001 issue of the journal Janus
Head. The article concerned an acid trip Feldmar had taken in London, Ontario,
and another in London, England, almost forty years ago….
The official said that under the Homeland Security Act, Feldmar was being
denied entry due to "narcotics" use.
OK, actually maybe it wasn’t Google. A search for his name brings up the
article referenced on
both Google and
Ask, in the
top results. The story’s author talks earlier about the border guard having "googled"
Feldmar doesn’t doesn’t specifically say Google itself was used. But it’s a
pretty safe bet it was Google.
Perhaps using Google during border checks isn’t a new technique, but this is
the first time I’ve heard of it. It makes sense in some cases. Back in 2003,
when a News Of The World reporter
got a job at
Buckingham Palace, there was much criticism that a Google search for his name
(he used his real name) would have revealed his true employment.
Still, it’s kind of scary to think what you’ve discussed on the web — now
accessible through search engines — could find you landing in legal hot water.
In this case, though Feldmar wasn’t convicted of a crime. Just having admitted
it was enough. From the story:
"Admitted drug use is admitted drug use," says Mike Milne, spokesman for
U.S. border and protection, based in Seattle. Milne said he could not comment
specifically on the Feldmar case, due to privacy issues, but he quoted from
the U.S. Immigration Law Handbook section which refers to "general classes of
aliens ineligible to receive visas and ineligible for admissions" to help shed
light on the clauses that may have ensnared the Vancouver psychotherapist.
"Persons with AIDS, tuberculosis, infectious diseases are inadmissible,"
Milne said. And then there is Section IV. "Anyone who is determined to be a
drug abuser or user is inadmissible. A crime involving moral turpitude is
inadmissible and one of those areas is a violation of controlled substances."
If there’s no criminal record, as in Feldmar’s case?
Not necessarily the criterion, Milne said. You can still be considered