Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
United States Government Music Security Transportation

US Customs Destroys Virtuoso's Flutes Because They Were "Agricultural Items" 894

Posted by samzenpus
from the this-one-time-at-customs-camp dept.
McGruber writes "Flute virtuoso Boujemaa Razgui performed on a variety of flutes, each made by himself over years for specific types of ancient and modern performance. Razgui has performed with many U.S. ensembles and is a regular guest with the diverse and enterprising Boston Camerata. Last week, Razgui flew from Morocco to Boston, with stops in Madrid and New York. In New York, he says, a US Customs official opened his luggage and found the 13 flutelike instruments — 11 nays and two kawalas. Razgui says he had made all of the instruments using hard-to-find reeds. 'They said this is an agriculture item,' said Razgui, who was not present when his bag was opened. 'I fly with them in and out all the time and this is the first time there has been a problem. This is my life.' When his baggage arrived in Boston, the instruments were gone. He was instead given a number to call. 'They told me they were destroyed,' he says. 'Nobody talked to me. They said I have to write a letter to the Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C. This is horrible. I don't know what to do. I've never written letters to people.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

US Customs Destroys Virtuoso's Flutes Because They Were "Agricultural Items"

Comments Filter:
  • by cold fjord (826450) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @08:26PM (#45841159)

    I never thought of flutes as an "invasive species."

  • Surely not (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @08:28PM (#45841179)

    Another whistle blower!

  • by CajunArson (465943) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @08:29PM (#45841185) Journal

    He's obviously a denialist and he got off easy.

    The wood that he unscrupulously and capitalistically exploited for his burgeious profit contraption could have reduced ALGORE'S carbon footprint if he hadn't murdered it for his own selfish amusement. I'm just disturbed that this 1%er scum wasn't thrown into our enviromental reeducation camps for his crimes against science.

  • by Bartles (1198017) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @08:29PM (#45841189)
    ...and recognize this for what it is. Fascism.
    • by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki@NOsPam.gmail.com> on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @08:31PM (#45841203) Homepage

      Oddly I was going to say something similar. Right along with tossing in a Gestapo and STASI remark, since both of those governments organizations, did exactly this type of thing.

      • by Bartles (1198017) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @08:33PM (#45841235)
        The Gestapo and STASI only wished they had the ability to do what the NSA does.
        • by amiga3D (567632) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @08:41PM (#45841325)

          Imagine the Gestapo with today's technology. It's coming.

    • by thepainguy (1436453) <thepainguy@gmail.com> on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @08:36PM (#45841261) Homepage
      Beware of people whose only marketable skills are their loyalty and their ability to follow rules to the letter.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @09:09PM (#45841579)

        Beware the people with the uncanny ability to seek out and use those types of people.
        They're the dangerous ones.

      • by Almost-Retired (637760) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @09:17PM (#45841635)

        Yup, and come the revolution they will be first in front of the wall.

        What I don't get is the almost PETA rabidness of some who have posted above blaming this person. Do society a favor and see if you can win a Darwin Award with your inherent stupidity.

        As an artist in my own right, I have no clue how long it took him to find all these reed's, dry, carve and seal them into musical instruments that could then be used to convey the proper sound for a piece of music composed in the time of Herod or before. What I do know is that they will not do that to me for free. There would be a payback that would make the front page.

        This is the same stupidity that has been harassing the Gibson Guitar people for the last decade, but they did know about the import restrictions on Rosewood, and had the permits, but some ass hole didn't get the fucking memo. Repeatedly.

        I face much the same thing when I have to fly because I am a television broadcast engineer, who often has to pack up his tools and go someplace to resuscitate a tv station or their transmitter. I can't take my tools, several thousand dollars worth, with me to the job via anyplace that takes me past a TSA checkpoint, so now the stations who need my talents have to send their corporate airplanes to come and get me and bring me home. Or I have to drive, which could be a 5 or 6 day each way trip to some of the places I have been since I retired 11 years ago. That is bull shit, the finest stuff, which if applied to an Iowa cornfield and matched by 30+ inches of rain, will grow 220 bushels to the acre.

        So when do we take our country back folks? Seriously, I'd like to see it on my watch, but since I'm on my 80th circuit around this star, there might not be much time left for me to watch.

        So sign me "Seething mad at the magnitude of the idiocy, Gene"

        • So when do we take our country back folks? Seriously, I'd like to see it on my watch, but since I'm on my 80th circuit around this star, there might not be much time left for me to watch.

          What do you expect us to do with our lives that you did not do with yours? It's not like we haven't seen how the Civil Rights movement ran its course, the Privacy Rights movement will probably play out quite similarly. The racists who fought against abolition of slavery raised their children, who would die ~30 years after them and continued the tradition of hate into the 1900's; When those sewn deep with the seeds of hate had died or had a foot in the grave, and the following generation had grown up with the unignorable repression still in place did the Civil Rights movement succeed. You see, it only takes a few bad apples to spoil the bunch.

          Now our enemy is not hate, but fear. Fast cars and Fast food kill 400 times more people every year than 9/11, but our government used the event as to manufacture consent for a "War on Terror" instead of a war on the far more dangerous Automobiles, Happy Meals, The Flu, Bathroom Falls, Lightning, etc. Now using the systems built on your watch our governments can fabricate and plant evidence in our homes remotely. They're so scared they even lie to congress to "protect" we the people from even knowing the extent to which their safety net smothers us. They've been proven liars now so no evidence they present can be assumed legitimate, and enemy spies use our data stores as treasure troves, as Snowden demonstrated was far more than feasible -- Yet they will still fear, and demand to protect us. Who do you think taught these scaremongers this fear that they seek such protection? It was your generation got us in the state we're in now. [wikipedia.org] I'm sorry, but the fearful watchers of the world don't get to see things change for the better because they they watched in grateful fear when things were changing for the worse in the name of protection. [wikipedia.org]

          When our children grow up and you & your children are your age, that is when we'll be able to make permanent changes about this: When the ones who have lived with the knowledge and unignorable proof of their despotism grow up and take the reigns. It's not like we haven't seen how these parasitic cold-war spying systems kill their hosts, how the body must become resistant to the euphoric power-high and overdose on the despotic poison the fear drug is laced with. When the state of the system itself becomes more fearful than any pathetic threat. After your generation dies, and the scared little tyrants you raised have become as powerless as you.

          If you my accusation unfair, then you hypocritically ignore how unfair it is to grow up our children in brave homes with little freedom of privacy; They will end the mess you wrought. Your only hope to see the change is that enough of the more technically and politically inclined folk grew up knowing about the ugly Omnivore and its descendants, and about what the counter intelligence programs did to silence civil rights and anti-war movements. Unfortunately we were shunned, ridiculed, name called and bullied as Nerds and Geeks. Our children on the other hand...

          • by Almost-Retired (637760) on Thursday January 02, 2014 @07:50AM (#45844373)

            Nah, I've watched the progressive loss of our freedoms since the 1940's. And I've railed against it since. Dec 7 1941 was an eyeopener for me when I saw my father & grandfather crying after we'd heard the evening news on Grandpa's battery powered radio. They understood what it meant. But we rallied, did without, and whuped their butts in about 5 years and change, then taught them how to do business. 9-11, had it not been the demolition job it was, should have resulted in our ruling the middle east. But the stage was already set when Truman flew in and fired Mac because he wanted to stop the Mao driven Chinese on their side of the river. That, quite likely would have been one we lost fair & square.

            But Ike was right, when he warned us, everything we've done since has been designed to entrench the military as a standing, and uncontrollable draw on the treasury.

            One thing is glaringly obvious today, and that is that the present tyrannical situation could be a major source of energy just from the likes of Thomas Payne, Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson's spinning in their graves. Its intolerable to me, but my kids grew up with it, as have their kids, and now my great grandchildren. And it makes me sad because of the things I got to do that they will never be able to do until our Constitution and Bill of Rights are restored to be the final law of the land. Like T. Jefferson said, "the tree of liberty needs refreshed with the blood of patriots and tyrants from time to time, and God help us if we go 20 years without it." The much needed reset, will not be bloodless. Will I live long enough to see it? I'd toss a quarter and call it heads, but some SOB would invent a law that says he can legally catch it and run while its in the air.

            Sigh....

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @08:43PM (#45841341)

      I was going to say it wasn't Fascism. But It is. I was going to say it was just overly complicated rules in-forced by under trained, under paid people who can't understand them while having irreversible consequences. But I realized that pretty much sums up Fascism.

    • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @09:36PM (#45841815) Homepage Journal

      ...and recognize this for what it is. Fascism.

      Do you mean "authoritarian police state" or fascism [econlib.org]?

      I know, Sex Pistols and The Young Ones, but say it with me: "Authoritarian Police State". To not call it by its proper name is to give it a pass.

      You have to admit that you live in an police state before you can do something about it.

  • by moosehooey (953907) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @08:30PM (#45841197)

    He shouldn't have had them in his checked baggage, since it's well known that checked bags often get lost. If something's that important, it should be in your carry-on.

    • And how is this relevent to the discussion? So instead of having a pretty note in the suitcase he gets to battle the border in person? And that is an improvement how?

    • by circusboy (580130) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @09:25PM (#45841719)

      the unfortunate thing (that I have learned to my regret) is that certain things are not allowed in carry-ons and will be confiscated anyway. and you *have* to check them. any useful tools for example. I've nearly had pliers and screwdrivers confiscated, (and that was before 9/11.)

      one entertaining example (from 2004) was the day I traveled with a devil stick, (juggling toy,) that looks a bit like a disassembled pool cue. at the checkpoint they asked me if it was a pool cue, I said no and they said okay, but if it were a pool cue they would have had to confiscate it.

      now mind you it looked just like a pool cue, weighed about the same as a pool cue, made out of similar wood to a pool cue, but because it wasn't actually a pool cue, they didn't have to confiscate it. if it had been in checked baggage, it wouldn't have been an issue. but it probably would have broken.

      due to traveling with some odd juggling toys on a semi regular basis, I have taken to writing long, detailed notes to the TSA, explaining what all my props are and leaving it in the suitcase with the props. I have never failed to get a 'your bag has been searched note' and I haven't lost anything, (yet.) incredible pain in the ass.

      on the other hand, I was once driving back into the US from Canada, where I had bought a flute to play. (normal metal type of flute.) and I nearly got penalized and the flute confiscated for not declaring the flute as a 'commercial object'. oddly, they said nothing about the 10 packs of peanuts that it was sitting on when they found it searching my car. I'm beginning to think Customs just has a thing for flutes...

      • by Rich0 (548339) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @11:54PM (#45842709) Homepage

        One tactic I've heard of in the US is to buy a part to a gun (something small and convenient like a grip or a trigger or something). Then get a nice big lockable gun case and place it and everything else you care about inside. Declare your "gun" at the counter (gun parts are treated the same as assembled weapons). They will direct you to someplace to have your luggage screened in your presence, and then you lock it up and keep the key (which doesn't have to be TSA-approved). The case will generally not be opened outside of your presence.

        You'll still need to pay any fees you'd pay for other checked bags (by weight/size/number/etc), but you'll avoid having your stuff go missing on you. While the TSA doesn't mind your valuables disappearing they don't like the idea of having guns used in crimes traced to them, so gun cases are exempt from the "we can cut/open any lock" policy. The airline probably feels the same way and will probably give the case extra care - even if just to make sure it is secured/etc.

        The reason you use a gun part and not a gun is that while parts get the special treatment from the TSA, they're usually exempt from local gun control laws (though obviously you need to check).

        None of this will do you any good for international travel though, which is what the original article pertained to. I'm sure there is lots of paperwork around importing/exporting weapon parts from the US, and that is probably nothing compared to what most other countries would impose.

  • by GameboyRMH (1153867) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {hmryobemag}> on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @08:31PM (#45841205) Journal

    ...that going through US customs could ruin your life. DON'T DO IT.

  • by OFnow (1098151) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @08:34PM (#45841243)
    Many musical instruments are made of wood. So I guess they are all at risk if the owners come to the US.
    • by Bob9113 (14996) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @09:18PM (#45841643) Homepage

      Many musical instruments are made of wood. So I guess they are all at risk if the owners come to the US.

      Not to mention silk, cotton, and wool. Everybody get naked! All of a sudden I feel like going to the airport could be fun again. :)

      • by Tom (822) on Thursday January 02, 2014 @05:05AM (#45843889) Homepage Journal

        Uh... no.

        When you think of "naked women", you think photoshopped models. Go to the airport and look around, and this time try hard to not overlook all the women of no interest to you (age, with children, etc.) and also all the fat, bald men.

        Now you have a much better mental image of what "everybody get naked" really means. If you're not puking yet, that is.

    • by jd2112 (1535857) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @09:47PM (#45841905)

      Many musical instruments are made of wood. So I guess they are all at risk if the owners come to the US.

      One of these days a customs agent is going to destroy a Stradivarius or other similarly rare instrument. Anyone who has a Stradivarius most likely is famous and/or wealthy, meaning they have (or know people who have) sufficient political connections to make said customs agent's life a living hell long after they leave government employment.

      • by phantomfive (622387) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @11:38PM (#45842619) Journal
        Interestingly, famous cello players have problems too [wsj.com]. They typically carry their instrument with them (who would dare check in a Stradivarius), and usually buy an extra seat on the plane for the cello.

        But now some airlines are not allowing that, and even if you buckle up your cello, they won't let it fly with you. It's a tough problem for cello players.
  • by flightmaker (1844046) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @08:38PM (#45841279)
    Each and every day that I read /. I become even more relieved than the day before that fate smiled on me by not making me a citizen of the USA, and not giving me any compelling reason to visit.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pauldl63 (636292)

      Each and every day that I read /. I become even more relieved than the day before that fate smiled on me by not making me a citizen of the USA, and not giving me any compelling reason to visit.

      My sentiments exactly.

  • by n3r0.m4dski11z (447312) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @08:40PM (#45841309) Homepage Journal

    and I never once have regretted that decision. Wouldn't go to dubai either for similar reasons. Toxic culture. I do feel sorry to anyone living there and do hope you are armed.

    • by thegarbz (1787294) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @09:31PM (#45841765)

      Funny, last time I went to the states they nearly refused to let me in because of an "Arab" stamp in my passport. Well I did fly Emirates, and I did have a free hotel in Dubai since it was a 9 hour stopover the first time.

      By the way I feel safer travelling through Dubai than the USA. The culture may be toxic but at least it is a local and well known culture. Don't want to end up in jail, don't pretend western laws apply in Dubai.

      The sad thing is the same comment about western laws these days can be applied to the USA.

  • Has he checked Ebay? (Score:4, Informative)

    by ebonum (830686) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @08:49PM (#45841411)

    TSA agents have been know to do unscrupulous things.

    • by jythie (914043)
      That is actually a rather disturbing but realistic possibility. It does not help that the TSA has "cover your ass" at its core, so even if the people responding were not involved in theft, they are still likely to play along with the "destroyed" story.
  • Very weird story (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cowwoc2001 (976892) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @08:52PM (#45841435)

    He should definitely be compensated.

    • by tftp (111690) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @09:20PM (#45841671) Homepage

      Razgui says he had made all of the instruments using hard-to-find reeds.

      How does one compensate for a dozen of instruments that were hand-made by the player from rare materials? You can't go to the nearest store and rebuy the lost instruments. How long will it even take to make them again? Can the player even do it?

      Worse still, will the Customs destroy a Stradivari violin just because old Antonio neglected to attach a US-approved sticker that lists all used woods and where they were finished?

      • by jd (1658) <.imipak. .at. .yahoo.com.> on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @10:30PM (#45842189) Homepage Journal

        Rare materials. Well, rare reeds can be harder to find than gold, so let's put a $1000 raw materials price per ounce of reed used.

        Time. Hand craftsmen are incredibly rare. Those skills are expensive. IT can charge $120/hr for skills twice as common. Using that as a guideline, let's say $240/hr for the skills.

        If we assume it takes one year to make a flute, then the combined cost is roughly half a million per flute, so $6.5 million so far. I will assume QA would mean some flutes have to be made again from scratch. Let's assume a 50% rejection rate at the virtuoso level, which doesn't seem unreasonable given you're making the best of the best with uncontrolled materials. This raises the price to $9.75 million.

        But provinence matters. These instruments had established history, the main reason a Strad is worth ten times anything with identical acoustics. We don't have enough history to bump the price up that much, but doubling sounds fair. This gives us $19.5 million.

        I would start by taking the money out of the TSA official's paycheque and bank account, with the remainder seized from TSA funds. If the funds are insufficient, continue to the next department up.

        I would further require the TSA to publish a public apology as a full-page announcement in every newspaper, artisan journal and music journal. Finally, I would require all TSA officials involved in any way with the harassment to serve 250 hours community service.

  • by Kardos (1348077) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @08:59PM (#45841487)

    ... or stolen?

  • by hessian (467078) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @09:04PM (#45841535) Homepage Journal

    That's what happens when you hire fast food workers into bureaucratic roles and give them absolute power over other people.

    • by NoKaOi (1415755) on Thursday January 02, 2014 @12:14AM (#45842799)

      That's what happens when you hire fast food workers into bureaucratic roles and give them absolute power over other people.

      That is seriously not fair. You are pretty lumping a whole group of hard working, well-meaning people in with a job position that is at the absolute bottom of society. You really should have more respect for fast food workers.

  • Why I Stay Away (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rueger (210566) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @09:07PM (#45841559) Homepage
    I lived and worked in the US for a few years prior to 9/11, and travelled to many parts of the country. I still have a lot of good friends down there, and surely there are a lot of places that I'd love to visit again.

    The problem is that since I moved back to Canada there have been a seemingly endless series of stories like this. Whether it's Mahar Arar being grabbed and shipped to Syria for torture and imprisonment; Jacob Appelbaum being detailed by US customs with no reason and no explanation; innocent people who are having their laptops and phones seized and copied with no warrant or explanation, or who are quite simply harassed at the border on the whim of any customs agent. - it just seems to be happening more and more each year.

    Being innocent (whatever that means to Homeland Security) is no protection. All it takes is one renta-cop with a bad attitude.

    To my American friends: I am honestly terrified by the thought of crossing your border, and I am not alone.
  • by MacTO (1161105) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @09:09PM (#45841577)

    An important sentence was left out of the summary, which explained that customs mistook the instruments for pieces of bamboo. Judging from the photo accompanying the article, the confusion is almost understandable. It looks like a home made instrument that may or may not have been prepared properly given restrictions on agricultural products. (Example: they may not have been concerned about the bamboo per se, but rather invasive insects that may be in it since the reeds may not have been treated.)

    The moral of the story is to verify that the stuff that you're taking across the border is actually legal for import or export. After all, it could have been much worse for this man. I would imagine that charges could have been pressed if they so desired.

    • by geekmux (1040042) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @09:50PM (#45841931)

      An important sentence was left out of the summary, which explained that customs mistook the instruments for pieces of bamboo. Judging from the photo accompanying the article, the confusion is almost understandable. It looks like a home made instrument that may or may not have been prepared properly given restrictions on agricultural products. (Example: they may not have been concerned about the bamboo per se, but rather invasive insects that may be in it since the reeds may not have been treated.)

      The moral of the story is to verify that the stuff that you're taking across the border is actually legal for import or export. After all, it could have been much worse for this man. I would imagine that charges could have been pressed if they so desired.

      (From TFA)

      "Razgui, who’s been performing with The Boston Camerata since 2002..."

      Perhaps another important sentence you overlooked. Had I been flying back and forth, performing in the same city for over a decade, I would have ZERO reason to suspect any wrongdoing. And assuming someone should know better is like assuming someone should know the 2014 tax code before they go shopping at the mall.

  • by khym (117618) * <matt AT nightrealms DOT com> on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @09:11PM (#45841593)
    Do they strip naked anyone who's wearing natural fiber?
  • by HighOrbit (631451) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @09:33PM (#45841781)
    I used to work in a port. We once received an automobile from Thailand in a 20 ft shipping container. The auto was tied down with ropes and the ropes were tightened by twisting with shafts of bamboo (which, by the way, is about the crappiest way to tied down a car and very non-standard). When we opened up container, the bamboo was riddled with holes from some kind of Asian woodborers that had chewed their way out during transit. Anyway, we had to call the Department of Agriculture inspector (this was before the ag inspectors were merged into customs) who had us fumigate the whole container.

    So the moral of the story here is, based on experience, if I opened a box with reeds full of holes originating from a foreign land , I'd burn it too.
    • by evil_aaronm (671521) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @10:31PM (#45842197)
      Did you know if the holes were made before leaving the foreign port, or during the trip? If not, you're just like the knee-jerk agents in this article. Did you check with the owner of the vehicle? If not, why not? That's kind of the point to this article: some faceless bureaucrat, who will never be held responsible, just decided to trash someone's property. Couldn't they have asked the guy about it before assuming the worst and destroying something priceless? Don't you see a problem with that?
    • by thegarbz (1787294) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @10:45PM (#45842273)

      I bought some nice wood carvings into Australia a few years back. Customs noticed. They quarantined the items at the airport and said I'll get them back in a month after they had been fumigated due to what appeared to be signs of worms in the wood. They were couriered to my door 3 weeks later.

      THAT is how things are supposed to work, without the wholesale destruction of property that occurred in this case.

    • by Nidi62 (1525137) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @11:00PM (#45842371)

      I used to work in a port. We once received an automobile from Thailand in a 20 ft shipping container. The auto was tied down with ropes and the ropes were tightened by twisting with shafts of bamboo (which, by the way, is about the crappiest way to tied down a car and very non-standard). When we opened up container, the bamboo was riddled with holes from some kind of Asian woodborers that had chewed their way out during transit. Anyway, we had to call the Department of Agriculture inspector (this was before the ag inspectors were merged into customs) who had us fumigate the whole container. So the moral of the story here is, based on experience, if I opened a box with reeds full of holes originating from a foreign land , I'd burn it too.

      I currently work in an air cargo facility. I've had CBP have me help them while they looked for 15-20 just to see if 1 wooden skid that the freight was on had markings that indicated it was heat treated. Every skid used has to have those marks, and any shipment using wood has to have documentation that is was heat treated and adheres to US, Canadian, and Mexican laws. Having seen this firsthand, I am really not surprised that CBP destroyed the flutes, however if I didn't work where I do it probably would never have crossed my mind that they would do it.

  • by przemekklosowski (448666) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @09:47PM (#45841899)
    Polish pianist Kristian Zimerman had his Steinway grand piano seized by the TSA twice: the fist time around they destroyed it, the second time they just detained it for a week: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krystian_Zimerman [wikipedia.org]
    No, they didn't confuse it with a vegetable---apparently Zimerman recently modified his instrument and the piano smelled of glue. As a result he ended up travelling with just the mechanism, fitting it by hand to the boxes at concert halls he plays in.

I'm a Lisp variable -- bind me!

Working...