Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
[flagged] Another US visa holder was denied entry over someone else’s messages (techcrunch.com)
59 points by jbegley 19 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 52 comments

I flagged this article, and I am happy for someone to explain if that isn’t the correct action.

I flagged it for the reason that the headline purports to know something tech crunch can’t possibly know: the reason the individual was denied entry.

It’s clear that the CBP says whatever they are saying, and it’s clear the individual has a different version of events.

That’s all that’s clear from this as far as I can tell, yet tec crunch is asserting this is a particular pattern they have somehow discovered.

This feels beyond biased in to deliberately misleading.

There's no need for a he said she said. Techcrunch got the report, in which the border guards focussed heavily on the image.

Techcrunch looked into the image:

>It was an image from 2009 of a child, who had been murdered and mutilated. Despite the graphic nature of the image, TechCrunch confirmed the photo was widely distributed on the internet and easily searchable using the name of the child’s murderer.

The border guards did not do any examination of the image, and appear clueless as to how Whatsapp works. Anyone who's used it knows that it autodownloada images by default.

Further, anyone familiar with whatsapp usage in south asia knows that viral whatsapp forwarding is common there.

Nothing there relies at all upon the story of the man turned away. It's all in the border report + techcrunch's search of the image.

This is relevant for travellers who use whatsapp. Any meme forwarded to you could be grounds for visa revocation, even by a loose connection.

Whether or not it was the sole reason, the CBP document certainly made significant note of the "possible terroristic images" on his phone.

This seems to be a rather significant story for our age - border agents can search your private email and messaging history, then judge you based (at least partly) on content that you might not even know is there.

Do you know for certain that every image you've ever received in every messenger is "safe" in every context? I sure as hell wouldn't let anyone dig through my phone. They can steal ("confiscate") it first.

This issue is very much on-topic for HN.

> I flagged it for the reason that the headline purports to know something tech crunch can’t possibly know:

That's a reason to suggest modifying the HN headline from the source headline to something more accurate for the factual content; flagging is for a story that is out-of-bounds for the site, not for suboptimal (including clickbait, editorializing, or outright misleading) headline on an otherwise appropriate story.

True, but I'd argue the non-clickbait version of the story is out of bounds for the site. "Some guy says CBP lied about why they denied him" doesn't exactly lead to deep discussion.

HackerNews covers far more benign examples of someone's privacy or rights being violated. I'm not sure how this is somehow out of bounds on the site compared to discussions about YouTube deleting [x] videos and so forth.

> True, but I'd argue the non-clickbait version of the story is out of bounds for the site.

That's fine; I wouldn't argue that it is improper to flag this as off-topic (I may or may not agree, but it's a reasonable opinion in any case, and an appropriate reason for flagging.)

The article demonstrates clearly and objectively that the person was denied entry after an image was found on his phone. That’s of interest to anyone with a phone who travels to the US.

I’m personally horrified that dubiously educated, low-wage bureaucrat thugs can cancel granted visas based on dubious evidence and personal bias. Even if you can’t “prove” that the image was the reason for the denial here, it’s repulsive that it’s a possibility.

I mean, it's pretty much par for the course with US and global media these days. Stir up outrage for the clicks...

All the people here trying to throw CBP under the bus, did you read their report?

If I have a 'terroristic' picture on my phone and I try to cross a border, and at the same time I tell CBP that I want to work in my cousin's gas station so that he will be freed up to do other things, it is reasonable to think that CBP might exercise their right to decline to admit me.

Commenters who are saying that CBP are lying: if its he said / she said, I am going to believe the person without the dead baby image on their phone. Not the person with the 5 year visa who wants to be away from their wife and child for three months for 'vacation'.

It seems a bit weak to me to call CBP liars absent any evidence (and here there is none) that they have lied.

Mainly what I want to say is about the dead baby image: if my 'friend' sends me that photo, we are having a talk stat about good judgement, he is not sending me any more photos, I am probably blocking him, and that photo is getting deleted.

And if I have that photo on my phone and I choose to tell some bullshit story about child safety PSAs etc, and about my cousin's gas station, I have to expect that discretionary decisions are not going to go well for me.

A few too many question marks here. A message with a dead child from an acquaintance he met at Hajj? A 3 month visa to travel with his wife and child who weren't with him yet? But he was visiting his relative who owned a business...

Surely he can see why this looks bad.

So.. at this point nobody should try coming into the U.S. with a non-clean-wiped phone, eh?

Don't travel with electronics. It'll ask just as many questions of why you have a wiped clean phone or laptop. In this story they were simply looking for justification to deny the guy and they found it. I'd gauge that the border guards here would use clean electronics for the like as 'you must be hiding something'.

How long until you can't get a US Visa if you don't have a facebook account? You need to have one, so they can snoop it. If you say you don't have one, you must be lying.

About now by the looks of the new social media reporting requirements. You don't have a FB account? No US visa for you!

Might want to clean your phone if you have photos of dead children on it.

Or, from the other story, facebook friends with politics the border agent doesn't like.

Or, who knows. It's not like there are rules written anywhere.

In a positive turn of events, Ismail Ajjawi has now been granted a new student visa and can attend classes at Harvard as planned:


Unfortunately large portions of the US government operate outside of civilian oversight. (TSA, CBP, NSA) etc. At this point foreign governments should probably be advising their citizens to take a burner phone to the US.

Completely unrelated to the article, dealing with TechCrunch (Oath's) cookie privacy notes is an absolute nightmare. No (clear) way to opt out of them. Sad.

Firefox + uBlock Origin will do the trick.

> The officers asked Dakhil if he wanted to claim for asylum, which he declined.

Interesting. They are denying him a tourism entry but also asking him if he wants to stay indefinitely.

Mods: unflag this. This is a prime example of ideological abuse of the flagging system.

Crossing any border with pictures of dead children on your phone is plain stupid regardless of the recent idiotic U.S. visa policy.

You do not control what is on your phone.

Any app/website can put whatever it wants on your phone and you would have no idea.

The document states he claimed he was going to work at his relative's gas station, which seems plausible. This is a visa violation, and would get you denied from basically every country in the world.

The article clearly addresses that issue. What's that weird line of reasoning anyway? Should CBP cancel all Visas for people that have relatives owning businesses in the US?

Edit: since that other thread contains similar stuff. Can we please agree to read articles on volatile topics before commenting people?

Did you read the text of the article? He vehemently denies that he was going to work at his relative's gas station.

One line of questioning focused on an officer’s accusation that Dakhil was planning to work at a gas station owned by his cousin — which Dakhil denied.

“They totally changed this scenario,” he said, rebutting several remarks and descriptions reported by the officers. “They only disclosed what they wanted to disclose,” he said. “They want to justify their decision, so they mentioned working in a gas station by themselves,” he claimed.

Read the report of the officers, Techcrunch intentionally put it at the end of the article to bury it, but there are two sides to this story and the report is quite plausible:

"[] stated that he was not sure how much he would get paid or how many hours per day he will work. [] stated that by working at one of the gas stations, this would free [] of the responsibility and allow [] to work at a different gas station."

There's a lot of detail in that statement that lends credibility over what Dakhil says.

Yes because without any corroboration we should trust people just because they passed a job entrance test. There is nothing that makes CBP any less likely to have all the human flaws of everyone else. Why isn't there video that could be shown to show actual evidence that they claim? They control every part of the entrance process but somehow never seem to have any evidence of anything. I can tell you that this isn't all that much detail to fabricate nor is it something that probably isn't boilerplate for them for certain violations that they want to claim. Police reports are wildly similar based on the type of violation that's claimed because they know the specific words that need to be said for legal reasons whether or not those events happened. It's why you get cases where the only crime is resisting arrest. In what world is not wanting to be arrested for no reason a crime?

It just lacks plausibility. Ismail Ajjawi doesn't come across as illiterate, and certainly would have been aware of seeking work on a student visa being grounds for denial of entry. Besides being general knowledge, it would have come up several times during his visa application process.

Here[1] a NZ journalist, who tried to come for work on ESTA visa waiver shares the horrors of CBP nazis not understanding that it's hard to get J-1 visa and denying entry. This proves that being literate is not enough to understand requirements of various visas.

[1] https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&object...

Your priors are wrong. You should assume CBP is lying until definitively proven otherwise.

Right, and that's contradicted by the document, which says he told CBP a detailed story about how and why he was going to work there. Maybe CBP is lying, but I don't think it's fair to just assume they are.

It is more than fair as CBP makes inaccurate statements about what people say all the time even in easily verifiable cases (i.e. they have claimed that a three year old admitted entering the US to look for work). See:


Why not? The presumption for US citizens is supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. There's literally no evidence presented to support the CBP. There's no rules defined publicly, so it's literally secret police type rules that they can make up on the spot from public perception.

Edit: I'm aware of the fact that this isn't a US citizen, however there's no standards to define what the rules are and absolutely zero ability for accountability to the people that they are supposed to be protecting.

Tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are

Edit: I'm not condoning or arguing against the CBP decision, just pointing out that their line of thinking is not novel. It has been around since the times of Socrates.

A lot of (young) people seem to quickly add people to their contacts or friend list after barely having spent time together. And those usually never get removed as most apps conveniently hide infrequently used contacts in the default view.

What’s the alternative to that? Not ever getting to know anyone?

The social advice older people tend give younger people in the US is often extremely self destructive and isolating.

Well my point was actually just that because someone is on your friends list on facebook doesn't actually mean you had any interaction with them in the last decade or even remember who that is, let alone sympathize with anything they post to their timeline.

But to answer your question: How about just not adding everyone you meet at a party at 3 am to your Facebook while drunk? I don't see how this prevents you from meeting people IRL. People managed to get to know each other before social media just fine.

Bonus chatter: When I was almost done with college I had a new flat mate who just started his bachelor's and joined him once or twice when he went out. Usually during college time you don't care about or notice age that much. But suddenly I was surrounded by a bunch of 19 year old freshmen at a BBQ and everyone was constantly checking their phones and messaging people who weren't there. Suddenly an age gap of 6 years that was never an issue before made me feel like a freaking grandpa.

So if someone responds to your comment with something objectionable, you'll be ok with people using that to restrict your rights and privileges?

Viral whatsapp messages are common in south asia. Receiving a message doesn't mean it's from a friend.

I'm not condoning or arguing against the CBP decision, just pointing out that their line of thinking is not novel. It has been around since the times of Socrates.

Sure. But they're bungling the heuristic. It's equivalent of seeing viagra ads in an email spam folder and accusing someone of intent to smuggle drugs.

Tell me what subreddits you subscribe to and I'll tell you who you are.

Most of my subscriptions are ones I accidentally clicked while scrolling through r/all

That's a short list


I have friends who are Indian, Hispanic, white, black, Muslim, and Jewish. Some of them despise the President. One feels pretty strongly against Brexit. Another one is a staunch defender of Palestinians and believes Netanyahu is a crook who will continue annexing settlements in the West Bank to appease hardliners in order to stay in power.

What does any of this say about whether I should be allowed in the US?

You sound like a candidate for a drone strike /s.


What are you talking about? You might be associated with individuals who posted content that may appear questionable. You may have a connection of a connection on social media who wrote something questionable altogether. Where does the association end?

FYI software at the border to inspect phone content simply parse the file system and copies over all files for further analysis. It also transfers all emails and more text analysis. Anything flagged by filters get shown to the operator who may be surprised to see so much crap on a visitor device.

No, we do not "raise one eyebrow" because someone was born on the wrong patch of dirt. That is a shameful and disgusting approach for the "shining city on a hill" to take.


It doesn't matter — it is so obviously wrong to discriminate based on country of origin that I can't even believe we're having this discussion.

(And yes, I'm aware that consular posts do it all the time, issuing fewer visas to people from the wrong countries. States suck, and state violence sucks.)

Applications are open for YC Winter 2020

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact