Update: Homeland Security Does Not Think Death Cab’s Guitarist Is Too Edgy
Following up on the “Chris Walla’s hard drive got confiscated at the border” story: the Department of Homeland Security said that the drive didn’t have the necessary paperwork to come back into the country, and that any insinuations of there being a political element to the drive’s seizure were incorrect; the confusion seems to have stemmed over whether or not the drive’s contents were actually a commercial product or not. Walla–who actually now has the files to finish the album, which comes out next year–shot an e-mail to The Daily Swarm explaining things more fully, including a quirk about what was and wasn’t confiscated from the courier who tried to bring his stuff across the border:
The drive was just, and only, a drive, as I understand it – unmarked and unremarkable in every way. I’ve never seen it, I don’t know; but I very much doubt the drive had a ‘fuck Bush’ sticker affixed to the top, or even so much as a jpeg rendering of that sticker stored inside. It’s most likely that the the drive was seized because the courier went to a sub-optimal crossing point for commercial goods, and seemingly impossible that it was confiscated for any reason that would resemble a first amendment violation.
The curious bit, to all of us, was that the drive was confiscated but that the tapes (13 – 10″ reels of 1/2″ tape; clearly for professional use) were returned to Canada with the courier. This says to me that you can conduct any kind of cross-border business you’d like, as long as the border agent doesn’t understand or can’t imagine how or why an item would be related to any kind of commerce. It also says to me that I need to be more careful when I take my laptop across the border, apparently, because the working (formative, unmixable) version of the record was contained on it both going into and leaving Canada, and it could just as easily have been that. My Mac has a 120 GB hard drive in it, fully a third larger than the one in limbo, and my ‘personal’ and ‘professional’ lives are hopelessly intertwined on that machine.
I have not been in contact with US Border Security in any form regarding this issue – in a way, I’m a third party; my name may never have been uttered during this whole fiasco for all I know. Barsuk assures me unequivocally that US Border Security has not made an effort to get in touch with them, and I have no reason to disbelieve them; we have a pretty awesome working relationship of ten years now.
I do now have the files I need to complete the record. That much is true, and is very important. Barsuk, Warne and Zeitgeist Management have done everything they can do to ensure that much happened, but the drive is still in a black hole, and US Customs and Border Security is still an unnavigable swamp.
The incredible irony of this whole thing is that a border crossing wasn’t actually necessary (though it did seem convenient) for the transmission of these files from Canada to the States. Record producers use FTP servers all the time to upload tracks to one another – I mean, for fuck’s sake, Warne could theoretically have AIMed the entire record to me. From a Starbucks in Tokyo, if he wanted. The world doesn’t do all its business on physical drives, and you can bet that the next time I need to get a record into, or back from Canada, no portable hard drive will be involved.