Twitter and Facebook present unique challenges and opportunities for law enforcement. They can provide insight into illicit communication between terrorists… or they can give Homeland Security a reason to flip out over a joke.

Two British friends were locked up and shipped off of US soil for tweeting what was clearly a joke. Of course, security threats need to be taken seriously, but in this case, it looks like the Department of Homeland Security has egg on its face.

UK outlet The Sun reports that Leigh Van Bryan and Emily Bunting arrived at LAX from the UK only to be treated like terrorists and subsequently kicked out of the country – and barred from re-entry without explicit permission from the US embassy in London.

Apparently, Homeland Security had its eye on Van Bryan since he had tweeted months before his trip:

“Free this week, for quick gossip/prep before I go and destroy America? x”

And even after hearing protestations from the pair that “destroy” is slang for partying, they were held for hours and then kicked out of the country.

Van Bryan told The Sun that he and Bunting were held by armed guards at LAX, interrogated for five hours, and then handcuffed, thrown into a van with illegal immigrants, and put behind bars overnight. After 12 hours in separate holding cells, they were put on a flight back to the UK.

And here’s another strange detail: Van Bryan had also tweeted “3 weeks today, we’re totally in LA p****** people off on Hollywood Blvd and diggin’ Marilyn Monroe up!” before heading to LA. It might be in bad taste, but this strange tweet was a reference to a joke from the Fox TV show Family Guy… a joke that US officials apparently didn’t find all that funny.

Agents reportedly suspected that Bunting was going to act as Van Bryan’s lookout while he raided the deceased film star’s tomb.

And – if you needed another reason to roll your eyes at this overzealous muscle-flexing from these US officials – the screenshot from The Sun shows them referring to Van Bryan as posting on his “Tweeter website account”.

(Top image: cardiae via Shutterstock)