Two British tourists say that some of their local slang landed them in an Los Angeles jail and on the terrorist watch list after their use of an English slang word in a tweet was apparently misunderstood.
Following a telephone tip off to US Officials, when Leigh Bryan and Emily Banting stepped off the plane at LAX, the Border Patrol was waiting.. “I kept saying this is a mixup, someone is going to come in a minute and say, oh no, sorry, this is stupid.”
They say Border Patrol Officers began grilling them about a Tweet Leigh sent to friends before their trip. It read: “Free this week for a quick gossip/ prep before I go and destroy America?” They tried to explain “destroy” is British slang for partying hard. “If you’re hungry and you go in McDonalds, you say I’m going to go ‘destroy’ a McDonalds.. or if you are going out to a night club, say the nightclub was called ‘Caesars Palace’, to get drunk, you say you’re going to go destroy Caesars Palace.”
And there was another contentious Tweet. It read: “Three weeks today, we’re totally in LA, p-ing people off on Hollywood Blvd and diggin’ Marilyn Monroe up!” Leigh says it was a joke. Border Patrol Agents didn’t see it that way. After midnight armed guards came in, cuffed them, put them in a van and drove them away. ‘I kept asking him where are we going? Because we were getting further and further away from the airport. He turned around and said we were going to downtown LA and my heart just dropped because I know that can be the roughest place of Los Angeles.”
Held at a detention centre with with inner city criminals, they got a quick lesson in life on the inside. “They make you do this with your top (indicates making food basket with his sweater) and they put all the food there. And this Mexican man goes mine, mine, mine and pushed this carton of apple juice at me and I just went, ‘really? I went, ‘Can I have a blanket or something?’ and the only thing he offered me was an orange jump suit, which I said ‘no thank you’.
The next day they were picked up and sent packing on the next flight home. Officially, the Department of Homeland Security says they were denied entry because their visa waiver paperwork wasn’t in order. A senior US law enforcement official tells CBS News that the decision “was not solely based on tweets.”
It’s still unclear who called in the tip to Los Angeles International about two British 20- somethings with no criminal record, a call that began a night of what they consider pretty harsh treatment. “And despite all these bad experiences, you still want to go to the United States? Yes, I love everything about America.”
But with a permanent black mark against their names — it may be a struggle to get back in.