Surprising: CBP Admits They Made A Mistake And Reinstates Global Entry

A few days ago, Andrew wrote a post about being careful what medications you take out of the country. This was based on a post by Free Travel Guys, where someone encountered a CBP officer who was clearly on a power trip. The passenger was carrying some expired Xanax and Ambien with him when departing the US (which isn’t illegal), and was approached by an aggressive officer who insisted that these were opioids, and that he was either stockpiling them, or had obtained them illegally.

After a confrontation, the guy was allowed to board his flight, only to get a notice four days later saying that his Global Entry had been revoked. What an incredibly frustrating experience.

The general problem when dealing with any sort of a matter of “national security” is that there’s not much transparency in the process. So since participation in the Global Entry program is a privilege, they can take it away for whatever reason, and typically won’t let you know what that reason is.

Well, I was happy to learn that sometimes even the CBP makes things right when they messed up. Free Travel Guys has an update on the situation. After the incident he took the following steps:

  • Filing a Freedom of Information Act to find out what led to the revocation.
  • Filing a complaint with CBP’s Office of Field Relations regarding officer conduct.
  • Filed a request for review with CBP’s Ombudsman.
  • Wrote the article linked above to bring attention to this issue.

And the conclusion to that, just days later?

Today I was just contacted by a CBP Global Entry Program Manager with an update to my case. When I spoke to him, he noted that my original post had caught the attention of CBP in Washington D.C. and that had prompted a review of my specific situation, which he had personally reviewed. The agent said that after reviewing the situation, he concluded that my Global Entry privileges had been revoked for an invalid reason, apologized for the inconvenience, and told me my Global Entry clearance had been reinstated effective immediately for the remaining length of my original approval.

Wow, I’m very impressed. Not just because Global Entry was reinstated, but because they also admitted the mistake they made.

While not quite as good, I actually also had a good experience getting my TSA Pre-Check back earlier in the year. In January I seemed to get on some sort of a government watchlist, given that I was subjected to additional security screening with every single flight I took (in the form of getting “SSSS” on my boarding pass). I began the appeals process of requesting a redress number, and much to my surprise, within a few weeks the issue was taken care of.

SSSS

Comments

  1. This is not really good. It means that those who can embarrass the agency through their blogs gets a fair hearing while everyone else does not. A system that worked would give everyone a fair hearing.

    That the mechanism for getting results is to have the higher ups in Washington get nervous their bosses will see their screw ups on the Internet shows just how broken the system is.

  2. @Endre, the Ombudsman office is the one responsible for fielding and addressing concerns and complaints such as this one. It’s their sole purpose it exists. @Steve, I agree. One of the points of the original post is that it shouldn’t take 6 months for anyone to receive (or hope to receive) a response. Plenty of people have their clearances removed for legitimate violations, but this just wasn’t one of them. Also your member of Congress can help cut through some of the red tape if you write/call him or her with a specific concern, so this is one additional avenue I was planning on using, which ultimately I didn’t have to resort to.

  3. Interesting info. Thanks. I’ve had global entry for 6 years or so and I do 15-20 intl trips per year so it’s been great. However, the last 4 times I’ve come back in the USA I’ve had to go to the agriculture inspection area. I’ve asked an officer why as I’ve had no reason to be flagged this way and he only said “if agriculture wants to see you, they can”. When I’ve gotten to agriculture the officers there seem confused as to why I would be there. Has anyone had this happen? I’m leaving to Japan today so I’ll see if this trend continues upon my return but I suspect it will.

  4. That’s great
    I also thought it was not fair what they did to him since he did not break any rules
    Who looks at the expiration dates of their bottles when they travel
    Great that cbp agreed that mistake was made , anyone can make a mistake

  5. Great, so if a CBP officer abuses his power on you, you’d better hope you have a popular blog to make it embarrassing for them.

    I hope that the outcome would have been the same without the blog post, but who knows?

  6. When returning from Japan, I indicated that I was over my duty-free alcohol limit, having brought an additional litre of sake. The agent told us that we would have to go to Agriculture for additional questioning and inspection, but to wait for her to escort us. Another officer came by and asked what we were waiting for. When we told him, he asked what we were declaring. When I told him that we had a total of 3 litres of liquor between the two of us, he proceeded to lecture his colleague that this was not a valid reason to inconvenience us and sent us on our way.

  7. I also agree with Steve above. CBP will hardly ever admit or fix a mistake, unless the media or a popular blog embarrasses them publicly. For the vast majority of people who make legitimate complaints after CBP makes a mistake, they do nothing.

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