On Nov. 9, 2008, the Bloomington resident videotaped a short road trip from his home to the Mall of America. Van Asten, now 66, planned to send it to his fiancée's family in Vietnam so they could see life in the United States.
As he headed down an escalator, camera in hand, mall guards caught sight of him.
"Right away, I noticed he had a video camera and was recording the rotunda area," a security guard wrote in a suspicious activity report.
Van Asten, a one-time missile system repairman for the Army, was questioned for approximately two hours, records show. He was asked about traveling to Vietnam and how he came to know people there. The FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force was alerted. He was given a pat-down search, and the FBI demanded that his memory card be confiscated "for further analysis."
Authorities were concerned about his footage of an airplane landing at Minnesota's nearby international airport. They also worried Van Asten was conducting surveillance of mall property.
Exhausted and rattled, Van Asten had trouble finding his car after the ordeal was over.
"I sat down in my car and I cried, and I was shaking like a leaf," Van Asten said in an interview at his home. "That kind of sensation doesn't leave you real quickly when you've had an experience like that."
No news as to what Homeland Security is doing about these clear and present dangers.