Usually, people forget their receipts. Lloyd Carney remembered his -- and he later wished he hadn't.
Carney had just disembarked a flight from the U.S. to the Middle East when airport security noticed something: a receipt for 500 rounds of armor-piercing bullets in his bag, mixed in with a smorgasbord of ID cards and passports.
That's all it took for the guards to haul him off to a windowless room, where he remained for the next 26 hours, Carney said.
He was no terrorist or spy. At the time, he was an executive at Juniper Networks, based in Sunnyvale, California. And, like much of his travels around the world, he was in the Middle East on business. Carney, now CEO of Brocade Communications, wouldn't say which country he was in because of the sensitive nature of the incident.
The story of his detention, which happened a decade ago, shows the global disparity in security stringency, which can range from tepid to tyrannical.
Carney, a hobbyist marksman, said the receipt was for an online purchase that was erroneous. He ordered regular bullets for target practice, but was sent the armor-piercing kind instead. He planned to call the vendor once he landed, which is why he brought the receipt.
Security wasn’t buying it, and the guards demanded to talk to the person that Carney was meeting in their country. He gave the name of a Briton whom he’d worked with for years.
Reached by phone, the guy made a wisecrack about Carney using multiple aliases -- he thought the call was a joke.
“They thought I was a spy – what kind of spy would have the same name on all their documents?” he said.
Carney was finally freed after the U.S. and British embassies intervened, he said. But the fallout didn’t end there. His friend’s house was searched by authorities. The joke was on him.