My personal experience with U.S. Border Patrol

By Joe Otto

I am a threat.  This email is not about any loss of freedom you are about to experience but is about the lack of freedoms you currently have.  The following account just happened to me, personally, as I recently crossed the border from Canada to the US.  Many of you do not know me, but I am one of the founders of Conservative Daily.  As a founder, I set out to create an environment where we could fight for freedom, fight for better moral and ethical direction, but even more importantly fight to hold those in positions of trust and power accountable.  Every day, we research, draft and develop new ways to fight against the bureaucratic nightmare that we face as a nation, and to reveal the shame many that we call leaders have brought to our great nation.I went to Canada to attend the Malibu Young Life Camp, a camp that is the definition of God’s paradise.  The camp sits on the Princess Louisa Inlet, and has some 5500 visiting campers a year.  It is a Christian camp that seeks to give teenagers a week of fun, faith, and fellowship.  A week, that as I discovered, brings people back some fifty years later. We were there to help get the camp back in order for the forthcoming summer season, which as it turns out, led me to 6 days of very hard labor laying about 30 tons of slate for a pathway to one of the newly donated buildings.  I would complain, but the truth is, no matter how sore my knees are (or the rest of my body for that matter), the friendship and fellowship we experienced this week made it all worth it.We headed back to the US through the CBP (Customs and Border Patrol) station at Aldergrove.  I was traveling with my in-laws, as this was my first time at Malibu “volunteering”.  Now, I am a regular traveler with a passport that reads of trips to Africa and the Middle East.  I have worked on several projects in pretty controversial areas, and with sometimes very controversial people.  I do so, to seek understanding, and to seek peace.  My motivations are never about money and do not put me in any situations where I could or would compromise the US or our standings on foreign policy or domestic policy regardless of how right or wrong I may see the current direction.A couple of years back, I made it onto a list.  I have no idea how I made it to that list, or what prompted their adding me to the list, but nonetheless, I get "special" treatment, every time I re-enter the US.  The agents are always courteous and respectful, and they are always just as stunned as to why I would make it on anyone’s list.  Normally, I answer their questions and after about an hour, I am free to go.

This time, though… this time it was very different.  This time, they searched the car we were riding in three times.  They interrogated me four times.  They took my wallet, and made copies (in plain sight) of every credit card in my wallet.  They took my computer, and made copies of the contents of my entire hard drive, including intimate letters between me and my wife, emails, pictures, and other writings and documents.  They went through my cell phone, and disappeared into a “lab” in the back after asking me if it was password protected. They gawked over the three of us (my in-laws as well) as they all poured into the “lab”.  Several of them pointed at us over and over again as other agents (12 or so in total) came in to watch as they interrogate their suspect.

Suspect of what?  Maybe they discovered that I in fact did some charitable work in Malibu.  Or maybe they discovered that every year, my wife and I donate a wedding on the 4th of July to an active military couple as a symbol of our gratitude toward all the men and women who serve our great country.  Maybe they discovered that I am a father of two honor students, or that I am the volunteer (unpaid) Executive Director for a Non-Profit that the IRS has taken two years to neither approve or deny.  Maybe they discovered that I am a founder of Conservative Daily, and that I stand for our rights under the Constitution.  Maybe they do not like the many times I spoke (albeit respectfully and honorably) about the loss of those rights and the lack of accountability of the "middle management" of our government.  Not just our federal government but our state and local municipalities as well.  Maybe someone on the other end of the state department has deemed me a threat, because I stand for you, as you stand for your neighbor.  Maybe they just figured out that Americans are waking up from a deep slumber of complacency and inaction.

Any way you interpret what they did to me, they personally violated my rights as an American, and they did so with reckless impunity.  As I watched my mother in law become increasingly concerned as they searched the car a second time, and then a third.  They watched as they took me into a room and after three hours attempted to sneak my computer bag back into the car.  My computer does track transfer or copying of files, and they could have been smart enough to realize that most people want to know when people are looking at their private information.

Over the years, I viewed the questions and answers that I have endured when re-entering the US as a minor inconvenience.  I had not been concerned and I certainly have not let them control my emotions.  I have learned to carefully space my final flight home in the US long enough to accommodate this inconvenience. They were not going to get me angry or upset, for a certainly have nothing to hide.

Now, I see it quite differently.  I see what they did as an escalation of things to come.  A new barometer of what they see as acceptable.  Violating our Constitutional rights is the new norm.  The law states that you have no recourse, as they can decide whether you have a right to sue.  Then when you do sue, you have to prove damages.  After wading through the legal implications and bills associated with holding them accountable, the reality is you may not be able to sustain the fatigue of the fight.  Neither can most of us afford it.

This brings up a whole new dynamic concerning your rights as an American.  You have freedoms, until someone violates those freedoms, and then you are supposed to have options.  What options do you really have?  They will issue a memo denying wrongdoing, and you will cry foul.  They will call you a delusional person with a victim complex, and you will fight, until you realize that fighting alone… is lonely.  It is tiring, and it is depressing.  Then they will say that when you were 21 you got arrested in a bar for fighting, or you got three speeding tickets, so obviously you’re a demon, who is trying to act innocent.  Then they will say, you have been divorced, so you have to be bad.  Or that you once went fishing without a license so we know what type of guy you are… Then the white noise of what really happened will be overshadowed by warts you really do not have, and what will be left, is you, holding the bag, wondering if the fight was ever worth it.  By the way, I was not arrested for fighting in a bar or fishing without a license, although the other two things are accurate.

This is a story, I wish everyone would read.  This is not a story of the IRS forcing me to close my business because of ridicule and persecution, but that could happen now.  This is not a case of Obamacare destroying my ability to make a living, but this does happen.  This is not even a case of injustice because I was beaten by authority.  This is a case of social injustice, an invasion of privacy and a theft of information.  This is the essence of our loss of freedoms as Americans.

When does it stop? And where does the rabbit trail lead?  The definition of what happened to me, just yesterday is what each of you should be afraid of.  I am not going to ask you to fax congress, or write a letter on my behalf.  I am sharing this with all of you.  1.6 million people across the US who get our message so that you can understand the big problems are daunting but the ones you do not see, those are the ones that you should be afraid of, because those are the ones that take your freedoms long before big new laws have a chance to.

In the next two months we will be launching a campaign across the US with coalitions and partnerships with organizations that stand for those freedoms.  We are going to ask people to stand at intersections, at grocery stores, and in public places telling about stories that have little meaning individually but collectively paint a picture of our country that we all need to see.  Obama is a bad president, but our government is so big, and out of control, that if we do not stop it, and replenish and replace our leaders, we will face a certain future that is devastating and tragic.

So stand with me, forward this to friends, and join me as we stand, together.