Thursday, May 15, 2008

Vigilance & Vigilantes

Two men, each dealing with a foreign country. One is arrested but manages to send a text message, "arrested," the other, trying to enter the foreign country legally, is perhaps the victim of a problem in translation, resulting in detention.

The man sending the text message was out in 24 hours. The man lacking an interpreter is still held 10 days later.

The guy using his cell phone as a Get Out of Jail Free card is an American student arrested in Egypt. Using his cell phone enabled James Karl Buck to send text messages to his Twitter account. Twitter accepts text messages of up to 140 characters and can forward the messages to other cell phones while simultaneously making the message visible on the Twitter website. Buck's "arrested" was enough to alert his friends and start a series of interventions that seem to have produced his release 24 hours later.
On his way to the police station, Buck took out his cell phone and sent a message to his friends and contacts using the micro-blogging site Twitter.

The message only had one word. "Arrested."

Within seconds, colleagues in the United States and his blogger-friends in Egypt -- the same ones who had taught him the tool only a week earlier -- were alerted that he was being held.

The other poor sod is an Italian with "fractured English" trying to visit his American girlfriend. The ICE guys at Dulles International Airport thought Domenico Salerno had expressed fear of being killed if he returned to Italy and wanted political asylum. (Asylum? From Italy?) Despite being within shouting distance of his girlfriend at the airport and the efforts of Senator John Warner. Mr. Salerno remains in Federal custody, and is obviously handling this poorly, “He’s just really scared,” Ms. Cooper said in an interview last Thursday. “He asked me if Virginia has the death penalty.”

Neither of these detentions seem to be reasonable, in light of known facts. I do, though, find it embarrassing that Egypt, fercryin'outloud, is quicker to release people than the "land of the free and home of the brave."

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