It's basically the same position you should always take with a police offer who is trolling (as opposed to performing actual police work) - Always refuse to answer anything but the most basic questions such as your identity, always (always) refuse to consent to a search.
The reality is that while personality flaws and broken power dynamics may (but almost certainly won't) cause border police to charge you with some crime if you misstate "business or pleasure", absent any demonstrable intent of comitting a crime, you're unlikely to see the inside of a courtroom on such a charge, let alone be convicted. For instance, in the original post: saying you were in Antwerp for pleasure isn't going to get you a "Bureau of Prisons Number" without the satchel of smuggled diamonds.
I don't want to be misconstrued here; I'm glad we have crazy douchebags like this guy to stand up for our rights to refuse to answer questions, especially dragnet-style questions explicitly intended to trip criminals (and whatever collateral innocents come with them) up at the border.
But having said that, there's an element of the social contract at play here. The exact same logic this guy is using suggests that he also shouldn't answer the questions of police investigating crimes in his neighborhood. "Have you seen this man? We think he just shot up your neighbor's car."
Our society doesn't work if the police get absolute authority over us, and our protections against authoritarianism will degrade if people like this guy don't occasionally stand up for them. But society also won't work if everyone routinely refuses to cooperate with the police, who are dependent on our support to get the important stuff in their charter done.
I highly recommend "Cop in the Hood", a sociologist's writeup of a year spent as a Baltimore East Side patrol cop, for insight into all the crazy dynamics at play here.
I believe this is different. In this case, true, you have no legal obligation to answer a cop's questions when he is investigating a crime. But I do think you may possibly have a moral obligation and answering his questions is part of your civic duty.
However, I don't really see any such obligation here when they are treating you as the suspect. There is no concrete reason for them to suspect you in the first place, other than their blind, blanket suspicion of everyone.
However, I don't think they have a blanket suspicion of everyone.
It's pretty clear to me that people like the border patrol, or anyone else who has a similar job of trying to find that needle in the haystack, the one person they should rightfully be suspicious of, is looking for certain telltale signs: dark skin, non-affluent dress and/or nervous behavior.
How would you rather the border patrol act? Keep in mind there are various types of illicit behavior that are not desired within society--this is a fairly inevasive method all things considered.
They certainly act as though they are suspicious of everyone.
If you're not going to be suspicious of everyone, which subset of them should you be suspicious of?
You must be of the opinion that laws are too lenient and that the additional bully tactics used by cops, etc., are actually in the interest of the general public b/c they help to correct for insufficiently strict laws.
If you don't believe this, then what is the nature of your argument that we should just comply with their wishes? Politeness? Tradition? Respect for authority? Humility?
I'm not repeating this in every comment because it feels tiresome, but, like I said, I'm glad this guy is out there pushing the frontiers of our civil liberties, but I still think he's a bit of a douche, and I still think his arguments don't make much sense: his fear of the consequences of answering "business or pleasure" seems irrational compared to the powers the border police already have to search his luggage, the files on his computer, and his body cavities without a warrant.
Incidentally, the principled stand this guy took for not answering questions seems a bit hollow when you consider that, semiotically speaking, he pretty much answered their question: "yes", he said, "I am very much worth your time to scrutinize further."
Consider how comfortable a person is when speaking to a telemarketer compared to a police officer or border patrol officer.
That we must grovel before those in uniform is a clear sign that they have too much power.
Of course his behavior was irrational if he was someone trying to smuggle in contraband. But it was rational if he's someone who feels that his rights as a law abiding citizen have been compromised by the re-entry procedures and seeks to make a point.
I don't think the world was in danger of people taking the OP's argument to the witness situation you describe, and thus I don't need that caveat was necessary.
Be thankful that we have the right not to answer questions, and, yes, be thankful that crazy guys like this are out there demonstrating that right. But then remember the social contract and your obligations as a citizen; if the police are asking a reasonable question, you should answer.
I guess they only want to intimidate you and get you talking for a quick psychological profiling. And the OP responds like I wish everyone with nothing to hide did.
And that doesn't mean entrance lines would take forever. Police adapt their routines to the available time and resources.
Quite importantly in this particular scenario, a police officer is not the same as a federal officer. Lying to a police officer is not a crime (at least usually, you may want to check your local statutes).
Can't really argue with anything else you said either - at the end of the day, I'm just hoping that we can fight a standing action on our rights to privacy, freedom from unjust search, etc... I see this guys response to these encroaching requests as a minor battle in a never-ending war. Ironically, I'm actually in favor of Full Body Emission Scans for people getting on airplanes, for the explicit search for explosives - so I might even be to the right of you on that topic.
And, as a fan of The Wire, I'll certainly track down "Cop in the Hood". Thanks.
I think this is going a bit too far.
Can you come up with any reasonable way that "Hello, how are you?" and a smile can be used against you? This way you're polite. If this could be used against you in some way, why would you believe that any laws or rules would be obeyed?
On the other hand "None of your business" can be used against you. Saying that, you're being unreasonably aggressive in your conversation.
With that said, "Hello, how are you" sounds fine (to me). But "Business or Pleasure" is a question that is fraught with legal peril.
This notion that answering "just visiting" to that question is some kind of pernicious legal tripwire seems like a fantasy, especially considering the fact that the border police can search you without provocation or cause if they really want mess with you.
I really don't understand that.
How is that not like my saying, "Well, sure, theoretically I should be hashing the passwords in my database, but practically speaking we can't expect that it's going to matter anyway."?
You are making an allusion to the perennial controversy over "theoretical" vs. "practical" vulnerabilities in my field. That's an interesting point, but unfortunately not a valid one.
In security, "theoretical" vs. "practical" is a fig leaf used (mostly) by vendors to avoid facing up to their responsibilities after having shipped flawed products. Calling something "theoretical" shields people from culpability, mostly in public relations, but clearly isn't actually an assessment of the real-world impact of most vulnerabilities. It's spin.
But the fact that the words "theoretical" and "practical" can be used as spin doesn't mean the concepts of "theory" and "practice" are inherently spin; the reality is quite the opposite. Outside of computer security, we'd be well advised to use those words more; our adhesion to the notion that all theoretical threats are practical is probably a major component of the "security theater" trend that has us all getting electronically strip searched in airports.
I recently had a close friend go through the court system on multiple felony charges. That particular introduction to the legal system was eye-opening.
The real flaw in this argument is that as soon as you mark yourself out as "that guy who's being a dick" you attract a lot of attention, and you're more likely to wind up in court on some other charge.
For instance, there's a very high probability once you've started being a dick that they'll decide to thoroughly search your suitcase. Have you accurately reported the value of all goods acquired overseas on your customs declaration form? If you haven't (or even if you have but they feel like quibbling over the value of some of those goods, or if they suspect that some of the goods acquired in the US were acquired overseas) then you could potentially wind up getting charged over that.
But doing the right thing can also get you into trouble. Just as Pascal Abidor.
With software, you can have the computer try millions of times to go after that one crazy race condition. Meanwhile, your average crazy bomber generally has one chance to get it right before everyone on the plane attacks and subdues him.
I wonder if he would try another experiment where he actually answers the questions as asked, but instead makes his tone sarcastic, etc. I bet he's pulled out of line just as quickly for cooling down, even though legally he’d have complied.
I'm not sure how they could actually prove that, save you telling someone else you're tired and angry.
This happened often enough, and his lawyer always advised him to not say a word, but especially when he'd been drinking, the act of getting him to talk long enough to say that he was invoking his right to silence would usually reveal that he'd been drinking.
To mitigate it, he printed a laminate card, that he kept in his wallet, which very respectfully and politely invoked his right to silence. When pulled over, he would simply remove the card from his wallet and hand it to the officer.
I don't know that it ever got him into or out of any trouble, but at least he had a routine, and it prevented him from talking unnecessarily.
Perhaps the author could have made use of something like this?
In the real world behavior like that causes police to treat "refusal to talk" as "guilty". Stories like this post are very far from the norm.
Yeah, it really was that stupid. Because he had not specifically stated that he was using that right, they kept badgering him. The judge declared it legal since he didn't protest it at the time.
What this guy did was just to sit almost-silent in an interview room for a couple of hours until eventually the cop managed to prise a confession out of him (for what it's worth, the charge was murder and there was a lot of other evidence in addition to the confession, you can look it up). What the murderer's lawyer wanted was to have the confession deemed inadmissible (and hence a new trial, which was unlikely to result in a different verdict due to the overwhelming other evidence but would at least line the lawyer's pockets a bit more) on the grounds that sitting there and not answering questions for a couple of hours should oblige the police to stop asking questions.
"And finally, the court's conservatives used their 5-4 advantage to rule that suspects must break their silence and tell police they are going to remain quiet if they want to invoke their "right to remain silent" and stop an interrogation, just as they must tell police that they want a lawyer."
It's possible, but extremely unlikely.