Exclusive: Homeland Security Harass Haiti Relief Delegates
14 Jan 2010
Delegates from a non-profit organization returned to the U.S. after spending a few days in Port-au-Prince, to only face the United States Homeland Security and serious scrutiny.
by Anai Rhoads
http://www.anairhoads.org/ -- Delegates from a non-profit organization returned to the U.S. after spending a few days in Port-au-Prince, to only face the United States Homeland Security and serious scrutiny.
James Jordan and Chuck Kaufman, from the Alliance for Global Justice, were invited to Haiti on a delegation to investigate the situation of Human Rights in Haiti. The trip was said to be sponsored by the Latin America Solidarity Coalition.
Jordan arrived in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida on Spirit Airlines, while Kaufman traveled on Delta flight 436 to New York Kennedy International Airport. Both men had connector flights to their office in Washington, D.C. on 07 January.
Passengers were given the okay to release their seatbelts and begin pulling out their bags from the overhead storage. As the passengers lined up to wait for the doors to open to disembark on their way to customs, a flight attendant suddenly ordered everyone to return to their seats.
The attendant called out "James Patrick Jordan" and asked him to come to the front of the plane. (Note: He flew as James Jordan, not by his full name).
Two agents from Homeland Security waited for Jordan and quietly escorted him through the doorway to the plane. It was there that he was ordered to put his hands up against the wall and spread his legs.
"They then kicked my legs apart farther and proceeded to pat me down. They asked me if I was willing to cooperate and walk with them without any problems. I said I was, and they then escorted me to the holding/processing facility of Homeland Security. On the way, I asked them what was going on and they just said I would find out soon,” Jordan told AnaiRhoads.org.
At the detention area, Jordan was ordered to wait. After approximately 30 minutes, two individuals (one in uniform, the other without) arrived to escort him to yet another room. They men began searching Jordan's carry-on bag and asked if he had other luggage.
Once Jordan's entire luggage was present, the men sifted through his belongings.
"The search was very thorough," said Jordan. "I was carrying a notebook and several folders regarding Haiti and one folder regarding a project I am working on regarding prisons in Colombia and the situation of Colombian political prisoners and prisoners of war.
"They also looked at my camera and my cell phone and went through all the contents of my wallet. Actually, they went through everything, looking at each of my books, my clothes, a bag of trail mix and so on."
The initial questions revolved around Jordan's delegation in Haiti. Jordan explained that the focus of delegation was to investigate the situation of Human Rights in Haiti, and that it was sponsored by the Latin America Solidarity Coalition.
"They wanted to know about my work, and I told them that two of us [Chuck Kaufman] were there representing the Alliance for Global Justice (AFGI) and that, specifically, I worked with the Campaign for Labor Rights, a part of AFGJ," said Jordan.
The men questioned Jordan about his co-worker, Chuck Kaufman, asking about his flight. Jordan said he did not have that information. After being asked to give names and other information regarding the other delegates, and not getting the information they sought for, the topic was dropped.
During this time, the officials made it clear to Jordan that he wasn't at risk of being arrested, that it was all part of a random search. However, these officials knew to call Jordan by his full name.
"Certainly we were traveling at a time when there was heightened security and tension due to the recent bombing attempt on a flight that happened on 25 December," said Jordan. "However, I also note that they called me out off the plane by my full name, rather than pulling me randomly from the line going through customs. Also, no others, coming back from the delegation, encountered problems, except for Kaufman."
Jordan was asked several times how often he went to Washington, D.C. Jordan explained that he went there randomly, when there was some sort of special event or when there would be a board meeting for the AFGJ.
"They were very interested in the folder I had about the situation with the Colombian prisons. I am working on a project to advocate for better conditions at La Tramacua prison in Valledupar, Colombia - a prison that is very overcrowded, rife with violence and intimidation aimed at the political prisoners and imprisoned guerrillas, where inmates do not have access to sanitary toilet facilities and have access to drinkable water only 10 minutes a day," said Jordan.
The officials read through Jordan's notes, where he had information about the relationship the U.S. Bureau of Prisons has in advising and restructuring this and other maximum security prisons in Colombia.
Jordan was asked about his work with Colombia and he explained that we worked with Colombian farmers and political prisoners, but that he did not directly work with the farm animals. They sought after every minute detail - how many times he visited Colombia. Jordan told them that it was part of his job, aside from two trips to visit family there.
"They wanted to know where I had been and how often I had gone other places or met with farmers. I told them we mainly visited in Bogotá and that I had visited Cali and had visited two cooperative farms and some tourist attractions outside Bogotá," said Jordan.
Everything Jordan had, was searched, questioned, photographed and scanned. He says he was reluctant to seek legal counsel, for fear of appearing guilty of crimes he did not commit.
"One major concern I have, having never gone through this experience before, is that I really did not know what my rights were. They said they were not arresting me and that they were going to question me and get me back in time to make my flight. I did not know, then, if I could ask to be released immediately and I did not know if I needed to or could request the presence of a lawyer."
Although Jordan states that the interrogators were, for the most part, polite, he considered the process intrusive, uncalled for and intimidating.
"I am assuming that I'm wearing a big target these days and that any information contained in my emails and so on is no longer private. That said, I can say quite honestly and forcefully that neither myself, Chuck or the AFGJ are involved in anything illegal."
The whole process for Jordan’s interrogation lasted nearly four hours.
Kaufman returned from a delegation to Haiti 07 January on Delta flight 436 to New York Kennedy International Airport.
"After running my passport, an Immigration officer directed me to another official who escorted me to the Secondary Passport Control office. There, I was directed to take a seat," said Kaufman.
After a wait of approximately a half an hour, an officer called Kaufman's name and searched his belongings, examining page by page the extensive notes he had taken during the delegation and the papers, business cards and other materials he had gathered.
"He asked me what countries I had visited on this trip and I answered, Haiti. After looking at a print out of protocols for taking victim testimony he asked me if genocide was a problem in Haiti. I answered that human rights violations by UN troops were a problem," recalled Kaufman.
When the official discovered a pack of matches in Kaufman's bag, he said, "They let you on with matches?"
"I raised my eyebrows," said Kaufman.
Approximately 8:00 pm, the officer handed Kaufman his passport and immigration form and told him he was free to go. Right before Kaufman left, the man stopped him to ask another question, "Do you know a Patrick Jordan James?" Kaufman responded with, "I know a James Jordan." The official asked what the relationship was between them.
"I hurried through the empty baggage claim to the exit and handed my immigration form to the officer there. He took it and said asked me to follow him. He led me by a different route back to the same office I had been in.
"I sat again. At one point I asked for water and an officer went out and filled my water bottle. At another point I asked to use the bathroom and an officer accompanied me there and back. By this time I was the only one left in Secondary Passport Control."
Kaufman says that officers came in periodically and the officer in charge told them to clock out. The officer in charge told him, "There seems to be some confusion. We're not altogether sure why we're holding you. We're waiting for a call from Washington."
The telephone rang and a short time later he gave Kaufman his passport and said, "You're free to go." Kaufman asked if he needed his customs form and the official replied, "We took care of that. You're the last person left in the whole building."
Kaufman did not take note what time he was finally released.
The delegates left Haiti just six days before Tuesday's tragic earthquake, which practically wiped out the areas they had visited. An estimated 100,000 men, women and children have been killed, along with further destruction of their land. Millions are now in even more precarious predicament and aid, albeit streaming in, hasn't put a dent in their relief.
I had the pleasure of Jordan's company in D.C. after his detention by the TSA and Homeland Security on the 7th. The stories and photos he shared with us about his trip to Haiti are now everlasting. The faces of children, in attendance a makeshift classroom, which was so battered that coming to school on a rainy day was impossible, to the women who suffered extreme violence.
Just when I thought the people of Haiti couldn't possibly suffer any more, an earthquake comes in to finish the job.
Please donate to organizations that don't stand to profit from this tragedy - share your money to those who have a clear conscious. Many aim to bulk up their salaries or have political agendas.
Two notable organizations, which openly spoke out against the U.S.-sponsored, directed the coup and occupation, are Haiti Action Committee and Haiti Reborn.
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