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Leader of Pirate Party of Canada held at U.S. border, called a ‘terrorist’

Don't crack wise with these guys—or forget your inhaler.


Miles Klee


Posted on Sep 6, 2013   Updated on Jun 1, 2021, 7:10 am CDT

Travis McCrea, who serves on the Executive Council of the Pirate Party of Canada, admittedly made a few mistakes the last time he crossed the border into the U.S. at Buffalo: He made lame jokes in an attempt to be friendly, he had a bronchitis-related coughing fit, and he assumed his civil rights would remain intact.

All that won’t necessarily get you arrested, or even detained, but it does mean the border patrol agents can force you to sit and answer questions for two hours while your car is subject to an illegal search—under threat of worse punishment. Such an abuse of power is laid out in McCrea’s “Open Letter to US Border Patrol (CBP),” a GIF-studded dissection of an encounter whose audio he claims to have recorded.

McCrea gets held a lot at the border, he says, which perhaps explains why he’s now so cavalier about it happening. His troubles may stem from his political affiliation: although his party concerns itself with intellectual property law, network neutrality, citizen privacy and government transparency, it does have “Pirate” right in the name.

The letter is a series of tongue-in-cheek apologies, and in a section titled “Sorry That I Was Unable To Answer Your Questions,” McCrea depicts the unfocused grilling:

I didn’t want to be rude, I know that if you came to my house I would expect that you would answer basic questions that I would ask of you — nothing too personal or anything, just “tell me more about your political beliefs” and “is your political party a violent extremist organization”, just friendly conversation because “I am interested in the party personally, and just want to know more”. You expected me to be more forthcoming, and when I rudely didn’t answer your questions I could see you were getting upset at me.

I also should have been paying better attention to both officers who were asking me questions. When one told me he was done with me and that I should go sit back down, I should have known that by going to sit back down I would be acting suspicious to the second one who didn’t tell me to go anywhere.

I should point out that when I did answer questions, they always just lead to more questions and more questions. When I didn’t answer any questions I was able to go sit down, so I thought you were trying to subtly tell me you wanted less information. Again, I am not good at reading people so I am sorry for that.

Ultimately, the border patrol proved unable to either discover anything incriminating in McCrea’s vehicle (not surprising, as he now expects to get searched at every crossing) or get to the bottom of his potentially transgressive political ideology. Maybe that one guy really was just curious! All the pressure and boredom of guarding the U.S. border from people with opinions can really make a person think.

Photo by Jeff Lee/Flickr

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*First Published: Sep 6, 2013, 2:40 pm CDT