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Sad face: U.S. accused of detaining and turning away two European travelers for Twitter joke

Marilyn Monroe's crypt at Westwood Village Memorial Park.
Marilyn Monroe's crypt at Westwood Village Memorial Park.
Photo by The Horror via Flickr Creative Commons

Two European travelers, Leigh Van Bryan and Emily Bunting, claim they were detained overnight after landing at Los Angeles International Airport last week, questioned by Department of Homeland Security agents, and then refused entry to the U.S. because of apparent jokes made by Bryan on Twitter.

The 26-year-old Irish citizen was reportedly flagged for tweeting that he was going to "destroy America"and dig up Marilyn Monroe during his visit, the Daily Mail reports:

Bar manager Leigh, from Coventry, and Emily, 24, from Birmingham, were then quizzed for five hours at LAX before they were handcuffed and put into a van with illegal immigrants and locked up overnight.

Federal agents even searched his suitcase looking for spades and shovels, claiming Emily was planning to act as Leigh's 'look out' while he raided Marilyn's tomb.

They spent 12 hours in separate holding cells before being driven back to the airport where they were put on a plane home via Paris.

Emily said: "The officials told us we were not allowed in to the country because of Leigh's tweet. They wanted to know what we were going to do. They asked why we wanted to destroy America and we tried to explain it meant to get trashed and party. I almost burst out laughing when they asked me if I was going to be Leigh's lookout while he dug up Marilyn Monroe. I couldn't believe it because it was a quote from the comedy Family Guy which is an American show."

In an unverified document posted by the Daily Mail, and quoted by The Sun and the New York Times, agents appear to awkwardly explain why Bryan was questioned:

Mr. Bryan confirmed that he had posted on his Tweeter Web site account that he was coming to the United States to dig up the grave of Marilyn Monroe. Also on his tweeter account Mr. Bryan posted that he was coming to destroy America.

The FBI's "social media analysis" profiling efforts include the development of an application that can "instantly search and monitor key words and strings in all 'publicly available' tweets across the Twitter site and any other 'publicly available' social networking sites/forums," according to a recently released document, explains the New York Times. It was not immediately clear if the detainment was related to this initiative.

Late Monday afternoon, The Department of Homeland Security provided the NYT with following statement via U.S. Customs and Border Protection:

Based on information provided by the LAX Port Authority Infoline – a suspicious activity tipline – CBP conducted a secondary interview of two subjects presenting for entry into the United States. Information gathered during this interview revealed that both individuals were inadmissible to the United States and were returned to their country of residence.

CBP strives to treat all travelers with respect and in a professional manner, while maintaining the focus of our mission to protect all citizens and visitors in the United States. CBP denies entry to thousands of individuals each year on grounds of inadmissibility, some of which include: improper travel documents, prohibited activities or intent, traveling under the Visa Waiver Program without qualifying for participation in that program, smuggling of contraband or prohibited goods, criminal activity or history, immigration violations such as prior overstay, attempting to gain entry with fraudulent documents or posing as an imposter, and national security concerns, among others.

We recognize that there is an important balance to strike between securing our borders while facilitating the high volume of legitimate trade and travel that crosses our borders every day, and we strive to achieve that balance and show the world that the United States is a welcoming nation.