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Things are getting freaky in the Land of the Free™. Sent in by someone on Facebook.

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Group participation: what's wrong with this picture?

I ordered some video-editing software from Hitfilm in the UK which also comes with some instructional videos. So a few days later I get a call from FedEx saying that the DVDs were being held at US Customs until I filled out a Video Declaration Form, which she said was now standard practice. Now I'd never heard of this before, so I called back to ensure that this was indeed FedEx and not someone phishing for information. Had them email me the form.

This is what the form said:

'I/we declare that the films/videos contain no obscene or immoral matter, nor any matter advocating or urging treason or insurrection against the United States, nor any threat to take the life of or inflict bodily harm upon any person in the United States.'

Now the first clause I can kinda see, though 'immoral' is weird and there's no standard definition of obscenity in the US, but let that go. What made my eyebrows go up my forehead and down the other side was clause two. So I called back the nice lady at FedEx - who was only following instructions given to her by customs - and asked what this was all about.

Apparently - and this is only her understanding of the situation - this is a new thing being done by customs and Homeland Security with FedEx, UPS, and other carriers to make sure that films and videos with ideas or stories that were at odds with the United States Government didn't get into the country, as it was a form of terrorism (as further elaborated upon in the third and final clause). She added that some DVDs showing Occupy events in London and elsewhere had gotten bounced because of the concern that these were being used to coordinate activities here (as if with the Internet people actually need physical DVDs for that sort of thing but that's neither here nor there).

Under this new stipulation, if V for Vendetta had for instance been produced in the UK (instead of just filmed there) then importing it into the US would be considered subject matter 'advocating or urging treason or insurrection'. And if you lied about it on the form, you could be held liable for this.

So there are now very literally guardians at the gate ensuring that the wrong sorts of ideas, movies, or DVDs are not allowed into the country without investigation and/or prosecution. And most pernicious of all, they don't actually define what they mean by advocating treason or insurrection, any more than they define what 'immoral' means. It's whatever they decide it means, so you could be breaking the law without knowing you're doing it, until they decide you're doing it.


Postscript: Arrested for Twitter Jokes?

On January 23, 2012, Mr Leigh Van BRYAN, a 26 year old male citizen of Ireland, arrived at Los Angeles International Airport on board Air France Flight #AF-72 from Paris, France.

Mr BRYAN presented his Ireland passport and completed form
6059D; and applied for admission as a WT under the Visa Waiver Program as a visitor for pleasure.

Mr BRYAN was referred for being a match to a One Day Lookout.

During secondary examination, Mr BRYAN was placed under oath and his sworn statement was taken by CPB Officer Wahmann, Mr BRYAN confirmed that he had posted on his Twitter website account that he was coming to the United States to dig up the grave of Marilyn Monroe.

Also on his Twitter account Mr BRYAN posted that he was coming to destroy America.

The worst week of my life.
 - Emily Banting

See Also
Mail Online: UK tourists arrested in US on terror charges over Twitter jokes

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