Boy scouts detained, searched by gun-wielding border agents in Alaska

Signage from the Alaskan border
Signage from the Alaskan border
Signage from the Alaskan border

ALASKA-CANADA BORDER — A group of boy scouts on a back-country excursion were detained, searched, and threatened with arrest after one scout took a photograph of a border patrol agent.  The Scoutmaster says that one of his scouts had a gun pointed directly at his head during the 4-hour ordeal.

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The incident occurred earlier this month, when Iowa-based Boy Scout Troop 111 took a drive up to Alaska to do some camping.  Their passage through the American border left the scouts traumatized.

As the four van-loads of scouts and leaders went through a federal checkpoint crossing into Alaska, one of the boys, eager to document his trip, got out his camera.  When a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agent witnessed him taking pictures, things grew hostile.

Agents forced the occupants of the van to exit and submit to an extensive search.  They seized the boy’s camera, deleted the pictures, and threatened the minor with imprisonment.

“The agent immediately confiscated his camera, informed him he would be arrested, fined possibly $10,000 and 10 years in prison,” said Jim Fox, Scoutmaster of Troop 111, in an interview with KCCI.

Meanwhile all of the occupants of the van were having their personal belongings shuffled through by federal agents.  Hostilities peaked when one scout reached for his luggage without permission.

“[The boy] hears a snap of a holster, turns around, and here’s this agent, both hands on a loaded pistol, pointing at the young man’s head,” Mr. Fox recalled.

Besides having their rights and privacy violated, and facing a near-death experience, the troop had its trip delayed unnecessarily for 4 hours.  Eventually, the 18 scouts and 3 leaders were allowed to drive off into Alaska and pursue their camping trip.

While there was no legal basis to threaten the boy with fines or imprisonment, U.S. Customs and Border Protection is apparently defending the detainment, telling KCCI that the picture was taken at a port of entry, which is federal property and a place where pictures are not allowed.  In other words, it was a place where the U.S. agents can ignore the constitution and suppress the freedom of speech.  The agency is also attempting to deny that a gun was drawn, which should be interesting, given that they are going against the credibility of a troop of 2 dozen boy scouts.

The fanatical suppression of photography can be better understood after realizing that the federal government inundates its agents with anti-terrorism propaganda, frequently demonizing innocent behaviors including taking pictures.  As one 2012 DHS/FBI release stated, “Terrorists and criminals may use photos or videos of potential targets to gain insight into security operations and details of facility operations, including traffic flow through and around facilities, opening times, and access requirements.” The document went on: “The following activities are consistent with suspicious photography: Photography or videography focused on security features, including cameras, security personnel, gates, and barriers.”

It is a foregone conclusion that abuses like this will only accelerate as politicians prepare to further militarize the border and advance the scope and power of enforcement agencies.  Be careful what you wish for.


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