Tuesday, 22 June 2004

Marshmallow mis-arrest showcases risk of reliance on DHS watch lists

A pre-school teacher’s aide from Wyoming erroneously included on a USA Department of Homeland Security watch list of people wanted on outstanding warrants for Federal crimes was arrested on arrival at the Port of Miami last week, on the basis of a year-old citation, which she had paid , issued by a ranger at Yellowstone National Park for leaving a bag of marshmallows where they might attract bears into a campground.

“Improper food storage” is no joke in a place where bears are a serious nuisance and potential danger. Campers are required to use bear-proof containers or hang food out of animals’ reach. Park rangers in Smokey the Bear hats are, among other duties, law enforcement officers. Like the District of Columbia, national parks are federal reservations where even a parking ticket is a federal offense. And both Yellowstone and Yosemite National Parks have ther own resident federal magistrates .

But if this is any indication of the accuracy of DHS records of the issuance and revocation of federal warrants, I’m afraid to imagine how many people are likely to be included on DHS watch lists on the basis of outdated, invalid, or inaccurate records of warrants from the tens of thousands of state and local courts.

This wasn’t US-VISIT . Hope Clarke was a citizen of the USA, so at least she was brought before a judge (in handcuffs and leg shackles) for a hearing, and was released and allowed to go home, after only a day in a holding cell. Had she been a citizen of another country, she could have been denied passage to the USA, held longer before seeing a judge, or summarily deported without any chance to plead her case in court. And this is the same watch list the DHS intends to use as part of CAPPS-II to prescreen all airline passengers for “serious” crimes. Like failing to protect your marshmallows, I suppose.

Link | Posted by Edward on Tuesday, 22 June 2004, 13:58 ( 1:58 PM)
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