An Irish national was detained and questioned for five hours by Homeland Security agents after landing in Los Angeles, before being sent back home. Leigh Van Bryan’s detention was for a tweet he had sent to a friend prior making his outbound journey to the USA, that was picked up by the US Department for Homeland Security.
The 26-year-old had tweeted to his friend: “Free this week, for quick gossip/prep before I go and destroy America.” Mr Bryan and his friend Emily Bunting were apprehended as they arrived at Los Angeles International Airport before being put on a flight back home.
Despite protesting that they had taken the wrong meaning from his message, Mr Bryan said that “The Homeland Security agents were treating me like some kind of terrorist.” By ‘destroy America’ he had obviously meant he was going to party hard, ‘paint the town red’ etc, but in the post 9/11 climate of global terror, countries can be understandably twitchy when a perceived threat is picked up by their security surveillance.
ABTA, which represents travel companies in the UK, warned holidaymakers of the dangers of talking about upcoming trips in ambiguous terms: “Posting statements in a public forum which could be construed as threatening – in this case saying they are going to “destroy” somewhere – will not be viewed sympathetically by US authorities,” it told the BBC.
It just goes to show, social networks can be a lot of fun, but they can also get you into trouble. This isn’t the first time someone has landed in an awkward or damaging situation due to an errant tweet. In 2010 Paul Chambers was found guilty of threatening to blow South Yorkshire’s Robin Hood Airport “sky high” after venting his frustration about the closure due to snow.