At the Jackman, Maine, border crossing into the United States, I get interrogated about what I have in my car. And not just the three juicy Canada-bought clementines, either.

“What is your relation to these children?” brusquely demands the young border guard who examines my two daughters’ passports and my own.

They do have their mother’s last name, and they do look somewhat Asian. I’m white. Maybe he’s curious. So I don’t give him any lip.

“I’m their dad.”

“Where is their mother?”

“At home, I guess.”

“Do you have a letter with her permission for you to travel with them?”

Seriously?

“I wasn’t aware that I needed any such thing,” I say. “Are you telling me I do?”

He clearly doesn’t appreciate even that tiny bit of pushback.

“Never mind. Follow me into lane one, please. We’re going to have to search your vehicle. Please give me your driver’s license.”

I hand it to him, then park the car in the area he indicates.

“Now please get out of the car and follow me inside.”

I grab my iPhone off the dash, hit the record button, and tell him politely: “For my protection, officer, I’m now recording what’s happening.” He stays silent. I step out of the car, and without warning, he physically attacks—that is, he wrestles the phone from my hand, twisting my arm in the process. I’m stunned.

“Officer, I do not give you permission to take my phone.”

“I don’t need your permission!” he barks. “Get inside and sit on the bench. With your kids.”

He disappears. With my phone.

Inside the building, I ultimately get a lecture from two other border patrol officers—friendlier, but not by much—about why recording is not allowed.

“If you upload it or share it in any way, people are going to know what kinds of questions we ask,” one of them says.

That makes no sense, I say. “As a journalist, I can tell the world, in writing, what questions you ask. In the U.S., anyone has that right. That’s certainly not against the law. What’s the difference between that and recording the conversation?”

A moment’s hesitation.

“Officer safety and security.”