Customs targets activist


An Australian citizen passing through airport customs on August 6 came under invasive scrutiny because she wrote "activist" as her occupation on the landing card. Jessica Markham, who works for the Californian-based East Bay Local Clean Energy Alliance, was returning to Australia for three weeks to visit her mother.

At customs, her computer was confiscated and its contents retrieved, including her contact details, passwords to secure bank accounts, messages to loved ones and grant proposals to foundations. In her account of the incident, Markham explained: "One official told me that I was being searched because of the APEC forum scheduled for September ... despite the fact that I had a plane ticket that had me returning to the United States on August 22 ..."

Markham noted: "According to the Australian Customs 'Protecting our Borders' brochure, customs aims to secure Australia from potential terrorist threats, yet 2005 Federal anti-terrorism legislation explicitly states that 'advocacy' or 'protest' is not terrorism."