Flying internationally as a convicted terrorist, Part I
This was it: My first international flight while on The List. This was going to be good.
Before buying my ticket, my first move was to call the Iceland consulate. This is how it went, virtually verbatim:
“Hi, I just had a question about any rules you might have about restricting entry to people based on their criminal record.”
“I’ve been convicted of a crime and I just want to be sure I won’t be turned away when I fly into Iceland.”
“You should be fine.”
“Ok, but can you tell me what kinds of criminals are not allowed entry?”
“We don’t…. We don’t have any rules like that.”
“None? I mean… what if I killed someone?”
“We don’t have any restrictions.”
A little property damage a thousand years ago and my country has me branded as an enemy combatant. But Iceland? Pull up a chair old friend, you’re always welcome…
Security was actually plain toast this time. I knew the real drama would happen at reentry.
I was wrong. It came sooner. Because they always figure out a new way to make it weird…
Of course, it was just the calm before storm. An hour later, two men approached me at the gate. It wasn’t TSA. It was Customs.
“Mister _____, answer a few questions for us.”
This presented an unexpected mental puzzle. Here was the math I did:
They couldn’t keep me from leaving the country. That’s impossible. The US government wants me to leave the country. Forever. So remaining silent had zero downside, all upside.
Then there was the question of who they were asking their “questions” for. I kind of wondered if this was just Phase One of Iceland customs. The outsourced, extensional, pre-arrival phase, done at the request of Iceland. So maybe this exchange was of consequence. It was an expensive ticket.
“How much money are you traveling with?” one of them said.
“I don’t know. I didn’t count.”
“Give me a number.” He had his pen and pad at the ready.
“Five hundred dollars.”
“Is that the total amount?”
“Are you traveling with anyone?”
“So there’s no one you’ll be traveling with who has money that you might be using?”
This was getting weird. It is well established in court documents that the “terrorism” that got me on The List cost under $100. The government should know there is no relationship between my available funds and my ability to do damage. I am a model for low-budget terrorism.
“And what do you do for work?”
“What kind of entrepreneur?”
“I buy low and sell high.”
“Do you have a store?”
“I utilize many channels.”
“Give me one.”
This guy’s pen was hovering eagerly above his pad.
“Where on the internet.”
“Everywhere. The internet is a big place. Everywhere.”
“Give me a website.”
He actually wrote this down. And I actually had some Adwords campaigns running, so it wasn’t exactly a lie.
You know that rationale people use when they’re being interrogated by people trying to do them harm, and they cooperate on the justification that “I didn’t tell them anything they didn’t already know?” Well I don’t like that. Bottom line: If someone’s interests at that moment are in direct conflict with yours, and they’re asking you a question, the information you give can only be used to hurt you. So it pained me to say as much as I did. Which, really, wasn’t much.
The two Customs agents left.
And that $500 I had on me? Well… If a terrorist can bring down his return flight with international bootleg pressings of obscure 80’s hip hop records, the TSA had a right to be concerned. Because goddamnit, I was going shopping…