Customs Returns Items to Boston Reporter

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(AP) Customs agents have returned most of the 55 items confiscated from a Boston Herald reporter when he returned home after reporting on the Iraq war.

The items were taken from Jules Crittenden when he arrived at Logan International Airport on April 19. Customs inspectors also had seized items brought home from Iraq by other civilians and U.S. service personnel last spring.

In a decision dated July 17, Customs officials said they were returning all the seized items with the exception of a painting of Saddam Hussein and some military gear that was issued to Crittenden as an embedded reporter, the newspaper reported Tuesday.

“I’m happy about the decision,” Crittenden said Tuesday. “The only thing that they withheld was the painting and that’s something that’s still in dispute.”

The Herald‘s attorney, Jeffrey Hermes, said he also was pleased.

“I think it reflects a change in policy with regard to Iraq and the changed circumstances there, and an understanding that the regulations put in place following the Gulf War are no longer appropriate under the current state of affairs,” Hermes told The Associated Press.

Kevin Downey, acting port director for the Customs Service in Boston, said he could not comment on the matter because it is still pending.

Crittenden said the items seized included personal camping equipment and military equipment that he didn’t have an opportunity to return. He said some seized equipment, such as a laptop computer and body armor, was owned by the Herald.

He was not fined or penalized.

The painting retained by Customs was a 4-by-6-foot color canvas of Saddam, which Customs valued at $800.

“Where I found this, paintings of this kind had no value,” Crittenden said. “They continue to be destroyed by GIs and Iraqis to this day.”

Hermes said he was not sure why the painting was withheld.

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