back to article NSA man: 'Tell me about your Turkish connections'

“Excuse me, sir, may I see your passport?” You have to give credit to white-collar Americans, even the seven-foot Richard Kiel cosplay US government thug in front of me: they are so polite. The odd thing was that I haven’t reached the States yet. I haven't even boarded the plane. In fact, I am still at Heathrow and had been …

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Your mugshot was constructed..

.. by a British plumber.

Have a nice weekend :)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Your mugshot was constructed..

It could be worse..

" at which point I’d be gunned down by a leather-gloved sniper hiding in the shadows at the back of the royal box"

...as opposed to being shot in the head on a London Underground tueb train.

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The chocolate is still shit, though.

As are the soft drinks. Bloody corn syriup.

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Re: The chocolate is still ****, though.

He could have been a bit more polite about it (when in Rome/Baaaston and all that), but I agree.

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Re: The chocolate is still shit, though.

Reminds me of this: http://satwcomic.com/always-watch-your-drink

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Re: The chocolate is still shit, though.

Ugh. Shitty American chocolate:

There's PGPR (polyglycerol polyricinoleate) which is why KitKat bars taste/feel like motor oil.

Then there's butyric acid in Hershey's bars. It is present in, and is the main distinctive smell of, human vomit. It's why they have that faint taste of vomit and the rubbery feel.

People give me that stuff and wonder why I trash it instantly. "But I thought you *liked* chocolate!?" I do... that's not chocolate.

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Re: The chocolate is still shit, though.

Yes, NO E476 for me please!

Stick to proper chocolate like something from Lindt.

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Coat

Re: The chocolate is still shit, though.

Historically i believe Mr. Hershey used sour milk to make chocolate, specifically to differentiate from American made. I'm not sure what they do to it nowadays...

Like so many things, we are biased by our first exposures in life. I too crave a little bit of childhood when Terry's easter eggs, and wine gums are concerned. In Oxford there is a co-op on Walton St which was perilously placed between my college and my flat - that way leads to calorific despair....

But America is a big place and there is some *awesome* chocolate made here "european style", if you want to think like that... "endangered species chocolate" (www.chocolatebar.com). Genius marketing because the chocolate tastes almost as good as their mission statement....

I'll get my coat...

P.

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Gimp

Re: The chocolate is still shit, though.

.....do you really, really have to come over to America? ....isn't there somewhere else you can visit?

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Re: The chocolate is still shit, though.

When the firm you work for sends you to the middle of nowhere for six weeks on site, not really. If it could have been done remotely they wouldn't have paid for a plane ticket.

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Do you suppose it's suspicious...

That for years I was in and out of the States every other week or so, up to and around 9/11, but haven't been back since 2001... and I have a native Navajo uncle?

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Trollface

Re: Do you suppose it's suspicious...

Not only suspicious. I'd certainly say you are a TERRORIST!

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Anonymous Coward

Being 'So Polite' while they throw you in jail

for daring to step off the kerb, sorry sidewalk when there was no moving traffic in sight....

'Jaywalking is Felony, punishable by a year in Jail, SIR!'. ***

The wonders of the USA.

Smile please, give us your finger prints and don't even dare to talk back to the Immigration Officers even when asked a direct question as it could be used in evidence against you.

*** I'm not exaggerating here. This was shouted at me less than 3 months ago.

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Re: Being 'So Polite' while they throw you in jail

I got dragged off to a private chat, when I wasn't sure of the address I was staying at.

They also don't get humor at that point, nor the fact I could of just put down any old hotel name and it wouldn't of been an issue. Hey Ho, there were no rubber gloves involved and didn't miss my flight so i didn't mind all that much.

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Jaywalking - an artificial crime

I always wondered what the hell "jaywalking" was, and why most countries have no concept of it. Turns out that it was more or less invented by the US automotive industry - apparently it was their way of fighting back against negative publicity when the first cars started killing pedestrians on the roads.

The BBC ran a brilliant article about it: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-26073797

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Re: Being 'So Polite' while they throw you in jail

> for daring to step off the kerb, sorry sidewalk when there was no moving traffic in sight...

That's because most Americans are too stupid here to actually look before they cross the road. You would not believe how many people in Orlando die that way. It's even worse because they've started turning off road lights at night because they can't afford the electricity.

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Re: Jaywalking - an artificial crime

I used to think that Jaywalking laws served no purpose. Then I had to drive around Sleaford a few times. In a really badly planned town I can see them being useful.

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Re: Being 'So Polite' while they throw you in jail

I think it is also because half of them have an arse the size of a 3-seat sofa and would cause untold damage to the flimsy cars if struck.

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Re: Jaywalking - an artificial crime

<sleaford rant>

"Re: Jaywalking - an artificial crime

I used to think that Jaywalking laws served no purpose. Then I had to drive around Sleaford a few times. In a really badly planned town I can see them being useful."

The only planning in Sleaford revolves around the Grammar being kept as far away as possible from the(*) High School.

(*) Boys Grammar & Girls' secondary high school for the unfamiliar.

Worst place in the country for getting stopped by traffic police. Been stopped in Sleaford more times than I've ever been there (almost). Last time was "for driving at dusk with spotlamps on".

Slightly embelished (but not much), 'tis the weekend..

Me: they're not spotlamps.

Him: Yes they are.

Me: (whatever) It's not dark.

Him: It is now.

Me: How did you see them from behind?

Him: You've a tail light out.

Me: (tries to get out of car but pushed back in) to look.

Him: It's an offence.

Me: What is? Now it's dark I can see them in my mirrors.

Him: Number plate light.

Me: Not a tail light then?

Him: Got ID?

Me: (had enough at this point so getting sarky) Yes.

Him: Care to show it to me?

Me: Nope. Never carry my licence with me. It got stolen once. Had no end of hassle off you chaps because of it.

Him: You do know I can arrest you for that?

Me: Explain.

Him: Get out of the car

Me: Can't. You won't let me.

Him: I need to know this car isn't stolen.

Me: I've told you my name. Has my car been reported stolen? I ought to be the first to know!

Him: Have you any ID?

Me: I've got a wallet

Him: Show it to me.

Me: (resisting urge to ask how he knows it's not stolen). Need to get up.

Him: Is this your credit card?

Me: (it really did go on like this for quite some time)

while(adinfinitum) #Terry Prachett

do

Him: Is this your <whatever>

done

Me: (leaving it until last) oh, & my advanced drivers thingy.

Him: Thrusts all my bits back at me. Does u-turn & just fucks off. Not a word.

It was mildly asmusing because he stepped into the road. We're just before the boy's grammar school, Ledenham side (where he picked me up). A couple of young lads caned it past out of town, "wanker" was all I heard. Pretty much figured that out for myself chaps!

As an aside, I was on crutches with 15" of staples down my stomach, a knackered knee & shoulder. At no point did he ask if I was capable to drive.

</sleaford rant>

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Don't generalize

It's a big country, and customs as well as local laws vary considerably. In Boston (the US one), jaywalking is not a felony, it's a way of life.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Don't generalize

Don't you mean Baaaston?

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Happy

Re: Don't generalize

Yeah, with our drivers, you take your life in your hands every time you cross the road...at a crosswalk, or otherwise, so jaywalking really doesn't have any significance.

// watch the cabs -- most drive like they're still in the old country

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Re: Don't generalize

My one trip to Boston was thoroughly enjoyable, especially sitting in a bar watching the Patriots romp home to a big win while being amazed how easy it was to speak to people without starting a fight.

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Re: how easy it was to speak to people without starting a fight.

Only because the local team won that day. Try avoiding one as an outsider when the local team loses.

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Pint

What wonderful City?

Hi Mr. Dabbs,

Sounds like you landed as far east in the US as possible. If you get another chance to visit the US, go west young man, it gets a bit nicer. Have a pint!

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Re: What wonderful City?

The incident was in Lexington. I'd like to try the West Coast, if only to see if people really do live in funny mock castles like I saw on Columbo in the 70s.

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Anonymous Coward

What wonderful society - North America

I might actually be convinced to give up voting rights to live in a free country.

Because that's what we have here in North America. Voting rights, and tremendous restrictions on daily activities. Jaywalking. Foolish speed limits. Drinking laws. Walking on the grass. Militarized policing. You name it.

I've been around the world a few times, and other places (not North America) typically have more day-to-day freedoms. Even if they're a military dictatorship. It's weird.

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Headmaster

Re: What wonderful society - North America

I think, it´s weird that 43% of US citizens don´t understand that every no vote is two upvotes for the existing system that takes away their daily-life-freedom with sometimes most bizarre laws. Go and vote for the liberals or the greens or whatever just to express your unhappiness with the reps or dems. If you don´t vote you give two votes to the ones you don´t want. two- nil for the ones you don´t like if you don´t vote. one-one if you vote against what you don´t want and win a vote against them even though your chosen party does not stand a chance to be elected. The 43% of non voters like in the last elections could make a difference if they only could get there arses up to vote for anything against what is not what they want.

simple, isn´t it?

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Pint

Re: What wonderful society - North America

I recently discovered that in America, it's generally illegal to drink alcohol in public!

Forget any other restrictions . They are pale by comparison!

America and Muslim countries are together on this one!

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Re: What wonderful society - North America

"Re: What wonderful society - North America

I recently discovered that in America, it's generally illegal to drink alcohol in public!"

Same here in most city centre's. Trouble is you can't tell when & where so methinks the secret is to just get bladdered & not give a shit until the 'morrow.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What wonderful society - North America

I grew up behind the Iron Curtain and then I lived a couple of years in the Land of the Free (among many other countries). The U.S. of A felt strangely familiar to the old country: the love for everything military, the universal hatred for the government, the hollow patriotism and the potholes.

Arriving at JFK I usually catch myself whistling 'back to USSR'...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What wonderful City?

Yes, Mr. Dabbs, we'd love to have you visit our lovely West Coast sometime. One problem though - it seems you're not good looking enough. Since our average IQ can be calculated by summing the IQ of the top 5 YouTube music video stars (Miley, Shakira, your dreaded Wil.I.Am, Psy, Demi) and dividing by 6, we need a different way of judging your worthiness in our smiley faced state. Maybe if you looked like our favorite 007, Pierce Brosnan.

On metadata - I suspect you're being associated with the cumulative search terms used by all of your followers. I just searched for 'puppies frolicking in grass'. Good luck, you bestialitiy pedo drug addict!

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Re: What wonderful City?

Was that Lexington, Ky, or Va or Ma... so many states have the same city names! In any case they are in the eastern US. And yes, people do live in funny mock castle style house in parts of SF. I had an old colleague that moved there and he shared one of those McMansions...

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ZSn

Tennessee

Well you were lucky. I was once stranded for a month in the middle of deepest darkest Tennessee. The problem was I was a student with *no driving license*. Big problem. I was dropped off in the middle of town with a load of sweaty washing and a rough idea of where the laundromat was. However it was across the road and there is no pavement (=sidewalk for the Americans out there). I nearly got run over a few times jaywalking as there were no pedestrian crossings either.

Funny enough the town was strictly segregated, not sure how because there seemed to be no laws to that affect, but there seemed to be an invisible border straight through the town. The laudromat was in the 'coloured'' part of town and I was the only white face in there, they were all very helpful there, but did seem to treat me like a novelty in there. Especially with a British accent. It was all very strange and I felt like I'd jumped back to the segregation era and it was only 20 years ago. I certainly hope that it has improved.

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Re: Tennessee

Cleveland

1983

The place I wandered to they claimed didn't have "white guys". One Black dude wanted to buy my brown jeans that had leather edging on the pockets etc. On Monday back at office (elsewhere in Ohio) they were amazed that:

1) I wasn't injured or had anything stolen

2) Car was intact when I when I returned to it.

I was last in USA in 1989. I've no desire to return as I hate long haul flights, security and can't afford to visit the more interesting to me bits such as Mountains and National Parks. Four long business trips has stated my curiosity for US Cities.

Keep up the good work Dabbs.

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Be as vague as humanly possible

When asked ANY kind of question by a US govman, make an effort to be as vague and uninformative as possible. That's not because of some tinfoil-hatted theory but because they are almost all poor sods who failed the interview to enter Wallmart security. They just follow the script, and they have keywords that they have to followup on. To avoid inadvertently muttering one of these, always be as vague as possible, avoid multisyllabic words, basically avoid saying anything that you would not find in a "my first book of words" book (and make sure to avoid the more complicated ones in these, too).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Be as vague as humanly possible

If the trick questions from the government agent are occurring at the far end of a distant flight, then do not hesitate to respond roughly as follows:

"Sir (or Ma'am). I'm sorry, but I've been up for 36 hours straight getting prepared for this trip, packing, traveling to the airport, hours and hours at the airport, a very long flight. So, I'm mentally exhausted. I'm having difficulty following the mental gymnastics of your quadruple-negative tricky questions. Now... what is it exactly that you'd like to know?"

I used this once (perfectly honestly) and it worked wonders. Buddy Agent backed right off (verbally) and was instantly more accommodating. We worked through the information he needed and everyone was happy-happy.

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We know, you know.

> Yet I have often wondered at that peculiar question...

> “Tell me about your Turkish connections.”

It's simple enough. All it means is that they already knew who you were, where you had been and that information had triggered a request for a spook to "spook" you at the airport with a seemingly random (ha!) check. They already had your description. They already knew you'd been to some place that shared a border with Iraq. The "stop" wasn't random and the question about Turkey was a pre-planned, gentle reminder for you, that you were on their radar.

Your answer was irrelevant as the message (we know you) had already been delivered. That's all it was about.

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Re: We know, you know.

You have a naive, almost childlike, belief in the competence of government organisations.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: We know, you know.

"You have a naive, almost childlike, belief in the competence of government organisations..."

Not so... I have a friend who was in the TA, who volunteered for a tour to Afghanistan. His sister had (several years before) spent some time studying in South America, and had travelled to Columbia and then Cuba on a (valid) ID from the country she was studying in. Didn't have her UK passport. Pre-9/11.

Said friend was called for a security review before being allowed to go on tour. The only question was 'So, tell us about your sisters Columbian connections, and who she met with in Cuba...'

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Re: We know, you know.

Some years back, at the immigration desk I got asked "Have you been to <some US city> on such <date>", I said no, and the guy just said "OK thanks, enjoy your vacation".

I never knew what prompted such a specific question, and the guy did not seem much bothered by my anwser.

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Big Brother

Re: We know, you know.

1. There are no coincidences, to think otherwise is folly.

2. The police rarely ask questions they don't already know the answers to.

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Re: We know, you know.

Some do.

I went to a meeting for a grant application in a Country whose name I'd rather not mention to random strangers on the Internet. I'm sure various agencies know exactly where and when.

They asked a lot of questions about my boss.

They knew everything. Every trip by everyone.

The Interviewer was only prepared to admit he was NOT with the Commerce people.

It was interesting what he claimed they suspected us of. It seemed plausible even to me. In the end he told me and my colleague that either my boss was very clever or very stupid. By implication us too.

We voted for "Stupid".

My colleague was "taken away" from home that night and questioned more. He wouldn't tell us what the questions were and couldn't say where he was taken.

You only hear about stupid stuff!

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Re: We know, you know.

@ Bob Wheeler

At the other end of the world, I entered Russia for the first time a few years ago. Got to immigration, and a nice lady in a big green hat peered down at me from a lectern-type thingy.

"Passport."

I hand it over. Nice lady riffles through it, looks at me, riffles through again.

"Do you spik Russian?"

"No."

"Excellent. Welcome to Moscow."

And that was it. The passport was full of visas and worrying entry stamps - north and south America, most of the -istans, India, Middle East, Far East... I got around a bit for the Beeb in those days.

On another occasion, at the Tajikistan/Uzbekistan border at three in the morning, I recall the taxi driver arguing with the border guard about whether the bribe for entry should be one or two dollars. I was carrying fifty thousand dollars in cash... actually, that was quite fun since I had declared it all properly on arriving at Tashkent, and the customs guy had asked to touch it. He said he'd never seen so much money in one place.

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Re: We know, you know.

>> The police rarely ask questions they don't already know the answers to

How would they like it if I walked up to a policeman while holding a big watch and asked the time?

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Re: We know, you know.

Better idea, ask a rozzer the time whilst standing somewhere like Parliament Square, where of course there's a bloody great clock. Bet you a pint they remain oblivious and look at their watch.

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Re: We know, you know.

That's the whole point.

Just like oddball job interview questions. It's not about what you answer, it's about how.

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Alert

Re: We know, you know.

"I was carrying fifty thousand dollars in cash..."

There's a story there ^^

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Re: We know, you know.

@Pete2

You'll never be a politician. That made too much sense. Have another upvote!

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Re: We know, you know.

"The police rarely ask questions they don't already know the answers to.

How would they like it if I walked up to a policeman while holding a big watch and asked the time?"

Can you prove you own that watch Sir? Or, if all else fails, accuse you of being a Time Lord - "were you aware sir that the carrying of personalities within a fob, is contrary to section 7 of er,, (mumble).

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