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FISA and Border Searches of Laptops 421

Posted by kdawson
from the not-giving-up-my-keys-no-sir dept.
With the recent attention to the DHS's draconian policy on laptop searches at borders, a blog post by Steven Bellovin from last month is worth wider discussion. Bellovin extrapolates from the DHS border policy on physical electronic devices and asks why authorities wouldn't push to extend it to electronic data transfers. "...it would seem to make little difference if the information is 'imported' into the US via a physical laptop or via a VPN, or for that matter by a Web connection. The right to search a laptop for information, then, is equivalent to the right to tap any and all international connections, without a warrant or probable cause. (More precisely, one always has a constitutional protection against 'unreasonable' search and seizure; the issue is what the definition of 'unreasonable' is.)"
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FISA and Border Searches of Laptops

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  • Old school (Score:5, Funny)

    by IceCreamGuy (904648) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @08:23AM (#24478327) Homepage
    I have a teletype connected to a tin can that crosses the border with a long peice of twine, connected to another tin can connected to a modem.
    • by Fred_A (10934) <fred@@@fredshome...org> on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @08:37AM (#24478447) Homepage

      I have a teletype connected to a tin can that crosses the border with a long peice of twine, connected to another tin can connected to a modem.

      That seems to fit the "definition of unreasonable" quite nicely.

      • Re:Old school (Score:5, Insightful)

        by fyngyrz (762201) * on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @01:52PM (#24483189) Homepage Journal

        The summary speweth forth:

        ...the issue is what the definition of 'unreasonable' is

        The fourth amendment gives the specific definition of reasonable:

        Probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, a description of the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized, which in turn forms the basis for issuing a warrant, and the warrant itself is the legal pivot upon which the authorization of the federal government to search, or not search, turns.

        The states must follow suit because the 14th amendment says "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States." Local jurisdictions must follow suit because they must comply with the laws of the state they exist within.

        Any argument about "reasonable searches" not being explicitly defined in the 4th amendment is entirely sophist. The 4th goes into very specific detail on exactly that subject, and was written by people whose primary interest was limiting federal power. You can't say that the conditions required for a reasonable search aren't laid out in there. You certainly can't say that the terms for an unreasonable search are laid out in there -- those aren't unreasonable terms, they're reasonable terms.

        With the specific and explicit definition of what 'reasonable" is right in hand, given by the constitution itself, the definition of "unreasonable" is crystal clear: everything else.

        Now, if congress wants some other definition of "reasonable" in there, then amazingly enough, there is a mechanism specifically provided for them to get that accomplished; that is article V, Amendment. There is no other way they can legitimately effect such a change.

        They can, however, assert unauthorized power by simply making unconstitutional legislation, just as they have with ex post facto laws, the inversion of the commerce clause, various kinds of censorship, and an entire laundry list of other unauthorized power grabs; and in such an effort, they will continue to enjoy the support of the executive and the judiciary, because after all -- they're all part of the same system, and all benefit from accruing additional power.

        It is very important that we, as citizens, remain cognizant of the difference between the authorizations of power made by the constitution, and the naked grabs for unauthorized power made by oath-breaking members of the executive, congress, and the judiciary. What little power we have -- essentially that of "throw the bums out" with regard to our own members of congress, and the executive -- should be used whenever we detect such unauthorized activity.

        The problem is that most people don't bother to read the constitution, and are wholly unaware that the federal government has widely violated its constituting authority in many areas; there's an almost impossible obstacle to overcome with regard to informing the public as to just how far outside the lines the federal government has extended itself.

    • by sm62704 (957197) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @08:49AM (#24478537) Journal

      "Little Frog Legs" and I use smoke signals. Peace, man!

    • Re:Old school (Score:5, Interesting)

      by xalorous (883991) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @09:22AM (#24478807) Journal

      My laptop has a sticker on it that says "Property of Exxon-Mobil" and a bar code that looks very official. It has never been searched at the border.

  • About 5 months of this nonsense left at the time of this post, and all these wacky rules can be repealed after that, thank goodness:

    http://politicalhumor.about.com/library/blbushclock.htm [about.com]

    • You wish... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Silver Sloth (770927) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @08:28AM (#24478371)
      Much as I agree that there will probably be a change in course, rights, once take away, are very slow to return. I can foresee that a new president keen to lose his 'inexperienced' image would be reluctant to take that strong a stand against the powers that be at Langley, etc.
      • Re:You wish... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @08:40AM (#24478475)

        Much as I agree that there will probably be a change in course, rights, once take away, are very slow to return. I can foresee that a new president keen to lose his 'inexperienced' image would be reluctant to take that strong a stand against the powers that be at Langley, etc.

        Except that you've NEVER had any rights when it comes to custom's searches.

        Sorry, you can't blame this one on Bush. As much as you'd like to.

        • Re:You wish... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by iminplaya (723125) <iminplaya.gmail@com> on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @08:51AM (#24478547) Journal

          Sorry, you can't blame this one on Bush. As much as you'd like to.

          But the indefinite detainment we are now subject to we can blame on Bush, or more appropriately, the people that voted for him. Before all the hysteria, it I was clean, they had to let me go. Not any more. Pretty soon they'll be able to hold me for not having a laptop for them to search. They'll think I'm hiding something. That's like being told I should carry some cash on me so the mugger has something to walk away with, otherwise he'll get pissed and just shoot me. Every border crossing is turning into a mugging.

          • Re:You wish... (Score:4, Insightful)

            by superdave80 (1226592) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @10:47AM (#24479915)

            "But the indefinite detainment we are now subject to we can blame on Bush" ...and completely irrelevant to the topic, which is search and seizure when entering the US. Please go to a relevant story to bash Bush.

            Who are the morons modding this as 'insightful'? What is this, moveon.org?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        In general, you're absolutely right about the problem of getting rights back once forfeited.

        However, I suspect that if the US did permit arbitrary low level staffers to intercept and redistribute any information crossing the border that they wanted to, that permission would be revoked fairly quickly as the rest of the world started rerouting the Internet to guarantee not going via the US.

        Of course, it would never come to that. Businesses and public figures concerned about the dangers to themselves of sensit

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by LaughingCoder (914424)
      Interesting point. While this administration seems focussed on taking away our "rights", the next administration (assuming Obama wins) will probably be more interested in taking away our "treasure". Sadly, as another poster mentioned, "rights", once lost, are restored very slowly, if ever. Likewise, taxes rarely disappear once they are put in place. Choose your poison.
      • by jacquesm (154384) <.moc.ww. .ta. .j.> on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @08:42AM (#24478501) Homepage

        the best taxes are the ones that are labelled 'temporary', those are most certain to never disappear.

      • by forgotten_my_nick (802929) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @08:44AM (#24478515)

        "he next administration (assuming Obama wins) will probably be more interested in taking away our "treasure"."

        Actually I hate to be the one to break it to you but your treasure is already gone. what is likely to happen is your going to get the bill for it by the next president.

        • by houghi (78078) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @09:11AM (#24478695)

          Yes and the other party will not stop pointing out how the Democrats increased taxes (to pay for it all) and people will buy into it electing Republican again in 4 years who then will continue to rape your rights and take your money. (Democrats and Republicans can be easily changed above)

          As long as people do not start voting for an alternative, there will be no alternative. If you say that voting for an alternative will not work, please repair your democratic system before you try to export it.

        • by currently_awake (1248758) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @09:16AM (#24478741)
          your laptop contains copywrite material, that you probably don't own. under us law you need the copywrite owner's permission to copy this. the border agent is violating copywrite law when he/she images your drive. if you have a login then that counts as a copywrite protection device, and that means a dmca violation as well. i'm surprised nobody has taken this to court yet.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Ihlosi (895663)
            if you have a login then that counts as a copywrite protection device, and that means a dmca violation as well.

            You haven't been reading the other /. articles today, have you ?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        the next administration (assuming Obama wins) will probably be more interested in taking away our "treasure".

        It's Bush that has taken away our "treasure", by spending upwards of $500bn on a useless war. We will be paying for that for decades to come.

        If you look over the last 50 years, it's clear: Republicans are bad for the economy and are fiscally irresponsible.

        If you want fiscally responsible policies, vote Democrat.

        • by jwiegley (520444) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @11:23AM (#24480429)

          If you want fiscally responsible policies, vote Democrat.

          Right... that'll help. Social Security, Welfare, Medicare and Medicaid exceed the entire military AND discretional budget (not just the Iraq war) and all are horribly broken.

          • Social Security: 1935, FDR... democrat
          • Welfare: 1935, FDR... democrat, reformed in 1996 by Bill Clinton... democrat AGAINST the democratic party's wishes for longer terms and more funds. (thank the universe for little miracles.)
          • Medicare and medicaid: 1945 proposed by Harry Truman... democrat, signed 1965 by Lyndon Johnson also... democrat.

          Get your ignorant head out of your knee-jerk, liberally biased ass, do some actual fact finding/checking and come to the realization that ALL big government is wasteful, inefficient, deceitful and corrupt.

          By the way... the interest on our national debt alone matches half of the figure you spew for the Iraq war. This expenditure is 100% waste every year that buys us *nothing* and it's all the result of f*ucked up presidential/congressional/senate decisions for the past eighty years. During which time no party other than democrat or republican has been in power.

          if you really want fiscally responsible policies... vote them all out of office and start taking care of yourself for a change.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Abcd1234 (188840)

            that ALL big government is wasteful, inefficient, deceitful and corrupt.

            In the US. Oddly, the rest of the world seems to manage just fine. Just compare various health statistics versus total expenditures... the US is dismally low, in terms of health performance, yet spends the most per capita, while countries around the world who spend less on a universal, government run system consistently outperform the US across a broad range of categories. I know, this flies in the face of your libertarian fantasy wo

          • by Rob the Bold (788862) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @12:09PM (#24481253)

            Social Security, Welfare, Medicare and Medicaid exceed the entire military AND discretional [sic] budget (not just the Iraq war) and all are horribly broken.

            Think how many countries we could occupy if we weren't wasting all our money on social programs!

            [I]f you really want fiscally responsible policies... vote them all out of office and start taking care of yourself for a change.

            Since you make the "start taking care of yourself" suggestion in contrast to the "knee-jerk, liberally biased" programs such as Social Security, Welfare, Medicare and Medicaid, I'll just say that you and I -- and everyone else -- were born naked and helpless. We depended on others to provide us with food, shelter and clothing until we could provide for ourselves. The condition of our births was in no way a result of any planning, effort or desire on our own parts. We did not earn the ability to take care of ourselves through our own virtue or labors, and our continued good fortune is only partly within our own power to ensure.

      • by Maxmin (921568) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @09:52AM (#24479147)

        "Tax and spend" meets "borrow and spend." Who do you think will be paying for the Bush years, a leprechaun with a pot of gold?

        It's not that the Bush admin had zero interest in being the party of balanced budgets, they had negative interest! Pushed the throttle all the way, man - he robbed you, me and everybody else. Record deficits, and do you think the Bush tax cuts would somehow never come home to roost? The perfect setup, "We Republicans cut your taxes, and look what the Democrats did they raised taxes." Well, duh.

        Republican politicians know their constituency; people like you have short memories, no sense of history, and will vote 'em right back in to rob us all over again.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by ScentCone (795499)
          Republican politicians know their constituency; people like you have short memories, no sense of history, and will vote 'em right back in to rob us all over again.

          OK, so how do you explain the fact that the Democrats, who run both houses of congress and who are completely in control of budgeting and spending and the raising of money, have no interest in reigning in spending? The president DOESN'T MAKE THE BUDGET. He only signs it after both houses of congress do what they want to it. So, you've got Nancy
          • by Abcd1234 (188840) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @11:32AM (#24480559) Homepage

            OK, so how do you explain the fact that the Democrats, who run both houses of congress and who are completely in control of budgeting and spending and the raising of money, have no interest in reigning in spending?

            Well, in their defense, if the house passes a spending bill the Pres doesn't like, he just vetoes it and then cries out that the dems don't want to support the troops.

            It's a shitty situation, and the dems are partly responsible, but they have an extremely slim majority (and can lost in the Senate to a filibuster), and a remarkably belligerent president to deal with, so it's hardly fair to blame it all on them.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      This won't stop anytime soon. The reason the law got enacted was because someone with kiddy pics got stopped at customs.

      I see the latest update in this is that your mobile devices can seized.

      http://www.wmexperts.com/featured/can_customs_seize_your_windows.html [wmexperts.com]

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      About 5 months of this nonsense left at the time of this post, and all these wacky rules can be repealed after that, thank goodness:

      http://politicalhumor.about.com/library/blbushclock.htm [about.com]

      You do realize that most of these rules are at most rewordings and formalizations of what was already policy in 2000?

    • by limaxray (1292094) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @09:39AM (#24479013) Homepage

      You're kidding yourself if you seriously think Obama or McCain are going to so much as lift a finger to change this. Both of them believe in rule by the government, for the government. Why the hell would they want to fight to gain the powers of the US president only to give them up to the people?

      Plus I assume you are referring to Obama, but lets not forget he voted for FISA. We as a people need to figure it out that charismatic != honest and to take whatever either candidate says with a very large grain of salt. Remember, they only care about your vote and will gladly promise you the moon to get it. You'd think we would have learned this with President Bush II promising us a classical conservative utopia yet delivering a neo-conservative hell, but I guess we're all a little slow on the uptake.

  • WWJTWU (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @08:27AM (#24478365)

    What Would Jesus Think Was Unreasonable?

    • Re:WWJTWU (Score:5, Funny)

      by Ihlosi (895663) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @08:35AM (#24478427)

      What Would Jesus Think Was Unreasonable?

      "And if they take your laptop, give them your digital camera, iPod and cellphone, too." (Mt 5,40, paraphrased)

    • Re:WWJTWU (Score:5, Funny)

      by Hognoxious (631665) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @08:37AM (#24478439) Homepage Journal

      What Would Jesus Think Was Unreasonable?

      Purely a guess: getting nailed to a log just for suggesting that people should try to be a little bit nicer to each other.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by adpsimpson (956630)

        Offtopic? Seems pretty ontopic to me - he was, after all, the supreme political dissenter during one of the most brutally oppressive periods of history. And used words like "neighbour" and "friend" about brown, white and black folk all equally.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Chris Mattern (191822)

          Seems pretty ontopic to me - he was, after all, the supreme political dissenter during one of the most brutally oppressive periods of history.

          Oh, come on. The Romans weren't angels, but there have been lots of worse oppression than what you got under the Empire of Tiberius. Even Caligula's terrors were inflicted on the aristocracy in Rome; he didn't wreak all that much havoc on the average citizen in the provinces. You want to know what Pontius Pilate's only entry in actual history is? He took down the

    • Re:WWJTWU (Score:5, Funny)

      by elrous0 (869638) * on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @09:23AM (#24478829)

      If Jesus was here today, I know EXACTLY what he would do.

      He would scream "Metal carts, pulled by unseen demonic horses! Iron mountains!" in Aramaic, then go hide somewhere.

  • My interpretation of TFA (and not necessarily the policy/practice) is that the Government reserves the right to decide which information can cross the border into the US, whether by electronic or physical means. Presumably, this would include subversive and seditious materials, i.e., those that strongly challenged the administration.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      My interpretation of TFA (and not necessarily the policy/practice) is that the Government reserves the right to decide which information can cross the border into the US, whether by electronic or physical means. Presumably, this would include subversive and seditious materials, i.e., those that strongly challenged the administration.

      And the land of the free begat the great firewall of America?

    • by BitterOldGUy (1330491) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @08:49AM (#24478533)
      From here [cnet.com]: At a Senate hearing in June, Larry Cunningham, a New York prosecutor who is now a law professor, defended laptop searches--but not necessarily seizures--as perfectly permissible. Preventing customs agents from searching laptops "would open a vulnerability in our border by providing criminals and terrorists with a means to smuggle child pornography or other dangerous and illegal computer files into the country," Cunningham said.

      In our (as a country) fear of Terrorism and our fear for the safety of our children, we are slowly strangling ourselves of our vitality. Soon, we as a country will be like scared little children hiding under our beds from a thunderstorm. And in the meantime, the rest of the World will eventually pass us by.

      • by Danse (1026) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @09:09AM (#24478675)

        From here [cnet.com]: At a Senate hearing in June, Larry Cunningham, a New York prosecutor who is now a law professor, defended laptop searches--but not necessarily seizures--as perfectly permissible. Preventing customs agents from searching laptops "would open a vulnerability in our border by providing criminals and terrorists with a means to smuggle child pornography or other dangerous and illegal computer files into the country," Cunningham said.

        What I want to know is who exactly "smuggles" child pornography around on a laptop. They may have it on their laptop, but they're not "smuggling" it into the country. They more than likely downloaded it from someplace that's already accessible to anyone in the country anyway.

        You may be able to prosecute them for it, but it's not going to save any children. Anyone that wants it will just hide it better, and you'll end up arresting people that have a suspect image or three in their browser cache that they've probably never even seen. This is just more bullshit fear-mongering to further strip us of our liberties.

      • Aren't there easier ways of bringing in naughty pictures and files than sneakernet?

  • The gov agrees. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WK2 (1072560) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @08:32AM (#24478399) Homepage

    The government agrees that they should have the right to investigate each and every connection that goes in or out of the United States, no warrant required. It's impractical to actually watch every connection in real time, or to store them all, but they certainly believe they should have the option to investigate whichever connections they choose at a whim.

    • I wonder what this will eventually mean for the US economy (espeically the tech sector). For quite some time there have been some niche data services to promise your data won't be stored in the United States, but this seems to almost be a standard requirement for any such service now that at least deals with confidential data. Heck, even Microsoft now offers the option with thier Exchange Hosted Services services to allow you to choose to only have your data stored in data centers located outside the US.
    • infowar Let's Firewalls Ermes Defcon hope Leuken-Baden Saudi Arabia $400 million in gold bullion they're 9/11 COSCO BCCI SSL underground watching Agfa JPL Clinton sweep KGB Steve Case the USCOI CIA LABLINK diwnright keyhole Al Jazeera connections espionage USDOJ UNSCOM and SRI lynch Rule not Psix BCCI event security USDOJ false SCUD missile cybercash positives! UOP Albright However, Bellcore BLU-114/B Ft. Bragg it Leuken-Baden follows SDI Aladdin that eternity server covertddd^&*dd3video9(33#&*d[NO
  • Just stay calm, don't be nervous, don't look at their faces, and don't say anything..

  • No offense, but... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by apodyopsis (1048476) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @08:34AM (#24478411)
    No offense, but the ridiculous visa situation, warrant less searches and other issues certainly will secure the US borders.

    After all, any country is safer if nobody wants to go and visit it anymore.

    "I want everyone to remember why they need us" - liberties and freedoms that are eroded in the name of security and protection never seem to return once the threat is lifted again, and each one is another step on the path to Totalitarianism.
    • by GeckoAddict (1154537) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @09:32AM (#24478939)
      Seriously... if you look at the happenings over the last few years, I'd say the US Gov has taken V for Vandetta as a guidebook on how to create an all powerful government.

      We already have our own versions of unlimited surveillance and a 'black bag' type system if they think you're a terrorist.

      While I don't support the theory that the US gov did 9/11 themselves... given their actions so far it's not that far of a stretch to say they may have held back from preventing it in an effort to give themselves more power... or at a minimum are using the situation to their advantage.

      Terrorists goal is to disrupt life, and make us change our way of living because of fear. I'd say that we're letting them win every time we remove another freedom due to fear.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by shliddle (1337091)
      Actually, that's not true. The only people who won't visit are the nice, law-abiding people willing to spend lots of Euros, Yen, Pounds, etc. Therefore, the Criminal-to-Tourist ratio will simply go up.
    • by Hektor_Troy (262592) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @10:32AM (#24479707)

      "I want everyone to remember why they need us"

      That quote becomes a lot more sinister, when you write it the way John Hurt says it in the movie: "I want everyone to remember why they need us". He's not emphasising the "need" part - he's emphasising that they need "us" i.e. THAT particular regime.

      It's not that we need a government - it's that we need THAT particular government.

      The comments leading up to the final chapter, are just as sinister:
      "The security of this nation depends on complete and total compliance. Tonight any protester, any instigator or agitator will be made example of." - Sounds vaguely familiar. Maybe not while coupled together, but I've certainly heard these two sentences, or very similar ones, from prominant politicians.

      Of course the full rant by John Hurt leading up to your quote is very scary and familiar in its whole:
      "What we need right now is a clear message to the people of this country. This message must be read in every newspaper, heard on every radio, seen on every television. This message must resound through the entire interlink. I want this country to realise that we stand on the brink of oblivion. I want every man, woman and child to understand how close we are to chaos. I want everyone to remember, why they need us!"

      Again, sounds vaguely familiar. Even sounded rather familiar the first time I heard it in the movie. Yet, I can't for the life of me figure out quite why that is.

  • Unreasonable (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sm62704 (957197) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @08:37AM (#24478437) Journal

    Since the Supreme Court has said that the Constitutional limits on Copyright, "for a limited time", that "limited" means whatever Congress says it means, then it follows that "unreasonable" means whatever Congress says it means, too.

    The cops opened my unlocked garage and "had a look around", I guess that's reasonable. They searched my car because it was parked outside a dope house (I had no idea; my passengers were collecting money owed them by a slumlord they were cleaning houses for) as well as my person. I guess that's not unreasonable, either.

    Why is it they had to amend the Constitution to outlaw alcohol, but not other drugs?

    The Supreme court, in effect, says that the Constitutuon is meaningless. We, the people, no longer have any rights. And you can bet your wife's ass that they're already reading your mail and seeing who you connect to on the internet. The people running things today don't believe in the rule of law.

  • Encryption is especially going to work when the data is only crossing electronically. They can keep it as long as they want, and it won't do them any harm.

    Remember folks, if there is just one person (you) or two person's who share an alternative safe means of correspondence, then TrueCrypt works well. Otherwise, GNU Privacy Guard [gnupg.org] or similar systems work just as well (assuming that everyone involved knows how to use them).

    • by Ihlosi (895663)
      Encryption is especially going to work when the data is only crossing electronically. They can keep it as long as they want, and it won't do them any harm.

      And that's exactly what they'll do - keep it as long as they want. Who said they want your data ? Maybe they're just after your shiny new laptop/camera/iPod/etc.

      • Data crossing electronically only? I'm not about to visit the USA, so they aren't going to get my not-shiny, not-new laptop or camera (no portable music player). Screw 'em.
        • by bhima (46039) *

          As it happens I *am* about to go the US. And I am taking an encrypted USB memory stick and my iPod and this whole thing has me fairly nervous. The best thinks I have going for me is that I am a US citizen, and I can speak passable English. So I hope they (the TSA in Atlanta) will continue their previous habits of being bigoted and spending more of their time on suspicious looking people (whatever in the hell that means). The last time I went there they were generally being assholes to everyone around me

    • by skeeto (1138903)

      Sssshhhh!!! The DHS boneheads might hear you!

      Just like IRC and Usenet, when it comes to the DHS the first and second rules about PGP is that you don't talk about PGP. If this is your first time at the key signing party you have to sign.

  • by slashqwerty (1099091) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @08:39AM (#24478451)
    At the postal museum in Washington, D.C. a sign reads:

    At the beginning of the new America, nearly all the news came by mail. When the Constitution was signed, it was rushed by post riders to every town that had a printing press. And that's how the newspapers were able to bring the resounding news of how we were to govern ourselves. The newspapers knew of it first by mail.

    In England, for centuries, the mail was frequently scrutinized by agents of the Crown or of the Parliament. It could be worth your life to write a letter that might be seen as having the seeds of treason. This did not happen here. From the beginning, by and large, the U.S. mails have been free of eyes other than our own and those of the sender.

    To the framers of the Constitution, the mail made the engine of democracy run--along with the newspapers. And newspapers then printed a good deal of correspondence. Rufus Putnam, a key military figure in the Revolutionary War, said, "The knowledge diffused among the people by newspapers, by correspondence between friends" was crucial to the future of the nation. "Nothing can be more fatal to a republican government than ignorance among its citizens."

    As a journalist, I have sometimes been asked where my leads for stories come from. Much of the time, they come from opening the mail. Readers from all over the country send personal stories, newspaper clippings, local court decisions, and student newspaper editorials arguing for the First Amendment rights of students. There is no other way I would have known about these stories except through the mail. It is through letters that I often receive highly confidential stories about unfairness in the justice system from people who would not trust any other form of communication.

    The framers of the Constitution knew how vital the mail would be when Article I was written to protect privacy of communication through the mail.

    Nat Hentoff is a columnist for the Washington Post and the Village Voice, and the author of Free Speech for Me, but Not for Thee. How the Left and Right Relentlessly Censor Each Other.

    • by u38cg (607297)
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_Comstock

      The Wikipedia articles don't do that guy justice.

  • by speedtux (1307149) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @08:39AM (#24478453)

    is equivalent to the right to tap any and all international connections

    Yes, it is. And you can assume that all international traffic is, in fact, tapped by the US and other nations, including data, voice, SMS, Skype, other VoIP, and FAX.

    I think the real question is what kind of legal cases this information can be used in (so far, it appears, none), and which cryptographic protocols have been compromised.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by smchris (464899)

      Exactly. Confiscating laptops just syncs the Customs policy with what they are already doing with electronic traffic. Perfectly logical, citizen.

      Laptops are property? So what? Plenty of precedent for holding evidence, and for holding it forever, since the dark ages of the Steve Jackson Games raid. Actually, it seems like you can trace a lot of this legal lawlessness back to the War on Drugs.

      Me, I can't afford to personally give the government laptops. Should be great for eee sales. And Ferriss (4 Hou

  • by MikeRT (947531) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @08:43AM (#24478503) Homepage
    Here's my prediction, on record [codemonkeyramblings.com]: this policy will be a real boon for micro laptop companies like Asus. Who is going to want to travel with an expensive laptop that can get snatched up by an avaristic or paranoid border cop? It bothers me to no end that they don't need due processes for this because I have a new MacBook Pro. The thing is worth $2,000 and is precisely the sort of thing that would become a target of something like this [theagitator.com] where the cops turned seized cars into a private car rental service for their own pleasure.

    So I guess what'll happen is that people will take an Eee PC with them, and then download the data as needed from some offsite backup service. That, and the whole problem of people avoiding business travel to the United States.
    • by Atti K. (1169503) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @09:08AM (#24478657)
      That's what I thought too. If I had to travel to the US now (but I don't, so this is just theoretical), I would leave my notebook and all my data at home. I would by a cheap EEE or something similar there, go online and get my data securely from home. When I'm done, send the data back securely, wipe the thingy clean (maybe leave some tourist photos on it, not to raise suspicion), then cross the border back.

      Simple and effective. All you need is your data online (like machine at home powered on) and the ability to reach it. Except the case when you'd need to transfer gigabytes of data, this would be the best solution.

  • by rixster_uk (1216414) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @08:56AM (#24478575)
    so.... please let me know either at admin@scareports.com or at the website ( oblig. link : here [scareports.com] ) . You can post anonymously as well if you want....
    There's a few interesting ones, a few boring ones but I NEED MORE !!!
  • Whoever thought of putting such policy in place must be a moron. If I have anything worth hiding while getting into US, you can bet I am not going to carry it on disk but encrypt it, put it on a server and copy it securely via ssh once I am in.

    And if the point is just to give a false sense of security, just cornering random people and having random checks (turn on the laptop sir and enter the password) works as well without needing to keep the laptop indefinitely. Retards.

    I recently traveled to US and refor

  • by Notquitecajun (1073646) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @09:03AM (#24478631)
    The policy is over the line with the indefinite seizures; however, HISTORICALLY the government has always had the right to search anything entering its borders. I've got NO problem with that, particularly for non-US citizens. The indefinite crap has got to go, though - they need to be able to search laptop info a little better than that.
  • Too hard (Score:4, Interesting)

    by nighty5 (615965) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @09:05AM (#24478641)

    Whilst I liked visiting the USA, its increasing stance against visitors is becoming too invasive to care anymore.

    The first time I was forced to electronically store my fingerprints on your systems for an unknown period of time was the start of the end.

    How wrong we were to assume that bio passports were enough to subdue to spooks.

    Have a 'nice' day!

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      > How wrong we were to assume that bio passports were enough to subdue to spooks.

      Nothing will ever subdue the spooks. Each time we bend on something, they'll ask for more. You need to put a line in the sand and say "no further".

      I actually stopped visiting America in the last few years. Being French, I clearly felt "persona non grata" after the Iraq war started.

      As my experiences at America's borders have always been rather poor, I then just stopped going there after the increase of the security theater.

      I

  • HR6702 (Score:5, Informative)

    by Oh no, it's Dixie (1332795) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @09:11AM (#24478701)
    If HR6702 [loc.gov] is passed, this dangerous course can be reversed.

    Sec 2(a)(1) sums it up nicely:

    Except as otherwise provided in this subsection, no search of the digital contents of the device or media may be based on the power of the United States to search a person and that person's possessions upon entry into the United States, unless that search is based on a reasonable suspicion regarding that person.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kadehje (107385)
      From the parent's quote: "...unless that search is based on a reasonable suspicion regarding that person" (empahsis added)

      For my tax dollar, the wording has to be a lot stronger than that to be worthwhile, particularly when the owner of such a "device or media" is a U.S. citizen or resident alien. Replacing "reasonable suspicion" with "search warrant" would be ideal; barring that the phrase "probable cause" would be an improvement over the status quo. For non-resident aliens, the only consequence of re
  • Streetlight effect (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drgould (24404) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @09:13AM (#24478713)

    I forget where I read it, but I recently a news article that mentioned the "Streetlight Effect".

    We all know the classic joke. A man is walking down the street when he sees a drunk, on his knees, looking for something under a streetlight. The man stops and asks, "What are you looking for?" and the drunk replies. "My keys." So the man gets down on his knees to help him find his keys.

    After a half-hour of fruitless searching the man asks, "Well, where did you lose them?" and the drunk replies, "Over in that alley, but the light's better over here."

    This sort of security theater [wikipedia.org] reminds me of that joke.

    We can't find Bin Laden. We can't stop al Qaeda. We can't (won't) secure our borders with Mexico. But we damn well make air travel a living hell for millions of innocent air travelers because, well, the light's better over here.

  • by wiredog (43288) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @09:54AM (#24479161) Journal

    The NSA has had "the right to tap any and all international connections, without a warrant or probable cause" for decades.

  • by davidwr (791652) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @09:56AM (#24479199) Homepage Journal

    Intercepting electronic communications would be the moral equivalent of copying your laptop's drive if the copy could be made without depriving you of the use of your laptop and/or delaying your crossing your borders. To date you can't copy a typical laptop's hard drive in the time it takes to move through the X-ray machine. At least, not cheaply.

    If they take your laptop and as result you are without it for 15 minutes, or worse, so long that you miss your connecting flight, that's real damage over and above the privacy issues.

  • by hyades1 (1149581) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @10:12AM (#24479425)

    How many low-rent laptops could be crammed with utterly useless information and sent back and forth, back and forth across the US border? Like any basically stupid, attack-trained creature these border-control idiots occasionally have to learn the lesson that when you piss off the boss too often, there are going to be consequences.

    Thousands of man-hours wasted on trivia and the inevitable reaming they'll will eventually get from their elected masters, hopefully the loss of some upper-level jobs...now there's some consequences.

    Being held accountable is the only thing these fascist half-wits really worry about.

  • by TrentTheThief (118302) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @10:52AM (#24479985)

    Everyone quotes the Constitution and argues law.

    Perhaps it would be better to consider a quotation from the Declaration of Independence. Remember that document? The one that put the whole lot of dirty laundry out for all to see and said:

    "We Aren't Going to Stand for This Anymore"

    (quotes, ed.)

    Decades of abuse by a government out of control were a major cause of a war for independence. Could these same abuses, now at the hands of the current government be the seeds for a true revolution?

    Looking back over the decades of dirty politics and lies perpetrated by America's elected officials and their bureaucracies, I am able to see at least some glimmer of acting in the common good. I'm not saying that it was all proper and that it was not often criminal. I am saying that I see nothing in the last 20 years that was done for any purpose but to line the pockets of a politician or corporation at our expense and to our detriment.

    As though the rape of our financial well being is not sufficient, now the government seeks to remove any and all means to communicate in privacy, and to do without due process or allowing us any capability to seek redress.

    I think that perhaps you should all read the Declaration of Independence. Perhaps with a mind for a couple slight updates? I think we need to publish a new one.

    "We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

    "That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed.

    "That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is in the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient Causes; and accordingly all Experience hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security."

  • by FiloEleven (602040) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @11:09AM (#24480257)

    It should be noted that Ron Paul and Eliot Engel sponsored legislation [campaignforliberty.com] on July 31 to

    ensure that a traveler entering the United States would be subject to searches of their data and digital equipment only if a border agent has a reasonable suspicion to believe the traveler is or is about to be engaged in criminal activity.

    Oh that Ron Paul, what a whack job! It's a shame he doesn't realize that the system is already fucked beyond our control and that he's simply giving those Americans foolish enough to listen to him a false glimmer of hope.

  • by PPH (736903) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @01:04PM (#24482385)

    ... its evident that this has nothing to do with terorists and homeland security. Its all about p0rn.

    If they were really afraid of al Qaida types, they'd be looking for data going out through the borders as well as coming in.

The meat is rotten, but the booze is holding out. Computer translation of "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."

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