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Bill To Add Accountability To Border Laptop Search 495

Posted by kdawson
from the is-a-receipt-too-much-to-ask dept.
I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property writes "Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) has introduced a bill that would add accountability to the DHS searches conducted upon the laptops of those crossing the border. Specifically, it would require the issue of receipts to those who had their property confiscated so that it could later be returned, would limit how long the DHS can keep laptops, would require them to keep the laptop's information secure, and would create a way to complain about abuse. Finally, the DHS would be required to keep track of how many searches were done and report the details to Congress. Rep. Sanchez also has also issued a statement about the proposed bill."
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Bill To Add Accountability To Border Laptop Search

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  • US Citizens only (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jevring (618916) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @08:15AM (#25037005) Homepage
    Her suggestion only applies to US citizens, though. What about the rest of us?
    • by AvitarX (172628) <me@brandyHORSEwi ... minus herbivore> on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @08:19AM (#25037035) Journal

      Don't visit.

      Our government is sending a clear message that we don't want you, can't you take the hint.

      Our government has made it clear, non citizens are not humans, and therefor cannot expect human rights. Is it really so hard to understand?

      • Re:US Citizens only (Score:5, Interesting)

        by CaptainZapp (182233) * on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @09:22AM (#25037717) Homepage
        Great advice, thank you.

        I got the message loud and clear in 2002 (that was before the fingerprinting started) and haven't visited the US since (that's after about 20 previous visits, on which I parted with a significant amount of my tourist Euros).

        While, depending on the airport, immigration to the US was never fun (hello! Miami) the whole affair got absolutely loathsome after DHS called the shots.

        As a matter of fact I even refuse to transfer plains to a third country through the US, since you don't need to collect your bags and go through immigration and customs in transit on just about any European hub.

        To conclude: I got the message loud and clear and here's hoping you're having a nice, slightly fascistic police state that makes all of you feel right at home.

        Just to be clear: I'm not pissing on USians here. But what this administartion pulled off with a disregard of the most basic human rights (hello Mr. Torture President) is so depicable, that I for one certainly don't want anything of it.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by nomadic (141991)
          While, depending on the airport, immigration to the US was never fun (hello! Miami) the whole affair got absolutely loathsome after DHS called the shots.

          Trust me, flying into Miami is never fun no matter what your citizenship status.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Rob the Bold (788862)

          Just to be clear: I'm not pissing on USians here.

          Please don't use that term. Even those of us who agree with you don't like it. It reminds me a president who says "democrat party" instead of "democratic party" because he knows it annoys them. Granted, it's a rather minor annoyance compared to what we feel when we see what the rednecks and fundamentalists have turned our country into. Everyone will still know if you are referring to America (the USA) and America (the two continents) from your context. I know we've got to fix this place ourselves, but

          • And frankly people are entitled to use terms that are not ambiguous.

            USian (or USan or USean) works perfectly well to describe a citizen or related entity of that country.

      • by pubjames (468013) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @09:33AM (#25037827)

        You joke about this, but it's deadly serious. I think one of the most damaging long-term effects of the current situation is that a lot of the worlds elite used to want to go live in the USA. Now many don't. The effect of that is that the USAs status in the world in multiple fields will gradually decline.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Her suggestion only applies to US citizens, though. What about the rest of us?

      Well, you're all terrorists, right? :-/

      *sigh*

      Why does government have to be so clueless?

      • Why does government have to be so clueless?

        It doesn't *have* to be. But it generally is when you put a bunch of people who despise the notion of "government" in charge of running it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by OzPeter (195038)
      Non-citizens in the US don't have anywhere the same legal protections as citizens. This is to be expected in ANY country that you visit where you are not a citizen.

      So why do you expect that this proposed legislation should be any different?

      • by TheSpoom (715771) * <slashdot@ube r m 0 0 . net> on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @08:27AM (#25037121) Homepage Journal

        Read the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Almost everything applies to persons, not citizens.

        And yes, I know border searches are thought to be an exception to the fourth amendment.

        Anyway, I think the Congresswoman's statement was a misstatement (or at least hope it is)... I doubt they'll actually say "Well, normally I'd give you a receipt, but you're an alien so fuck you," even given the interactions I've had with CBP staff.

        • by TheSpoom (715771) * <slashdot@ube r m 0 0 . net> on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @08:38AM (#25037213) Homepage Journal

          Yep, it doesn't even mention the word "citizens". The bill itself is quite short and makes a lot of sense.

          Take a look: HR 6869: Border Search Accountability Act of 2008 [loc.gov]

          • It's a good thing (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Zancarius (414244) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @11:35AM (#25039725) Homepage Journal

            While some of my conservative peers may disagree as to the utility of the bill, it proposes wide-reaching accountability which can only help us all out.

            As a personal anecdote, I travel a lot between two cities in southern New Mexico. Between them is a border patrol point through which I must regularly cross. While most of the border guards are quite friendly and accommodating, I'll occasionally run into a few who are generally in a really foul mood. I've often been asked the usual questions (where are you coming from, where you are going, etc), but from time to time, they've asked me what I'm carrying in my backpack, why I'm carrying it, and so forth. I'm all for discouraging illegal activities, but spending a few minutes answering questions adds up over the course of a month or two! Of course, I don't expect that they'd confiscate my belongings, but I would want some accountability if they did. Since I do need my laptop for working on various things between classes at university, going without it would certainly have real quantifiable repercussions.

            I also imagine that most of their questions are directed toward me because I don't look like someone who fits in well in this part of the country--I look European, not Spanish, and most caucasians in this region tend to have darker features, are ranchers (easily identifiable as such), military, or are Germans assigned here with the German air force. As such, I've always figured it was a matter of time until they wind up grabbing a hold of my laptop via random search. Since I write short stories from time to time and have an assortment of partial manuscripts (on an encrypted partition, but who's to say they wouldn't force me to release the password?), I've always been mildly concerned that seizure of my laptop could result in someone who might be less ethical than most obtaining my copyrighted work and illegally distributing it. Yes, I've heard the argument that if I don't want to lose something, don't carry it on my laptop, but that's largely impractical and precisely what encrypting a partition is intended to discourage: petty theft. Thieves who had the means available to break such encryption are probably uninterested in lowly manuscripts and more interested in corporate data or information pertaining to national security. But law enforcement, on the other hand, could potentially force me to divulge such passwords! Perhaps someone who is more familiar with law pertaining to such search and seizures could offer some advice in this particular case.

            Considering lost time, productivity, and somewhat valuable materials, it's a bit upsetting that average citizens in this nation have to worry about such ridiculous things. If someone working under law enforcement were to steal data of mine for his or her own benefit, you bet I'd want accountability! I'm sure that sort of accountability does already exist through established channels, but how are you to know that an unscrupulous individual didn't steal something from your computer for his own personal gains (software, mp3s, personal data)? The only downside I see to this bill is that it doesn't highlight an effective method of accountability and detection of theft, such as requiring multiple personnel to be present when examining data to ensure no such theft occurs. That alone could create an additional check and balance within the system.

        • by OzPeter (195038)

          Read the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Almost everything applies to persons, not citizens

          In general I agree with what you are saying, but try explaining that to some people at the holiday camp down in Cuba. Now that is probably the most extreme possible example, but to me it does counter your argument.

          • by TheSpoom (715771) *

            Yes, unfortunately at the moment my argument is true in theory, and often false in practise. That could be easily resolved were the American people to elect a leader (and Representatives like Ms. Sanchez) who actually forces the government to respect the laws that are currently on the books to protect our rights.

            Bush et al have created a set of shadow laws that aren't on the books but can be called upon a person at will when they piss off the Government. They aren't on the books because they know that the

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by neuromanc3r (1119631)

        Non-citizens in the US don't have anywhere the same legal protections as citizens. This is to be expected in ANY country that you visit where you are not a citizen.

        Seriously? I can't think of any examples of democratic countries with working legal systems that don't protect visitors. Can you give any examples (other than the US) of legal systems that treat tourists and business visitors like shit?

    • We must Learn Our Place.

    • by Swizec (978239)
      Why on earth would anyone else even want to go into the US after their recent-ish track record? There is nothing of interest there.
  • Woohoo (Score:4, Insightful)

    by db32 (862117) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @08:16AM (#25037019) Journal
    Thankfully, it will be tagged with all kinds of obscure spending bullshit so that the Dems can posture about freedom and liberty while still stealing our money. The Republicans of course will either try to tack on their own spending or stand up and blather about security while pointing out how noble they are for voting it down because of all the Democrat spending bills attached.

    Either way, we can be pretty much assured that things like this that take power away from the government will never really see the light of day and both parties will get their "cater to the base" points in for bringing it up and bickering about it.
    • Re:Woohoo (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Skrynesaver (994435) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @09:27AM (#25037765) Homepage
      That's one that, as an outsider, has always puzzled me. How can a bill be amended to address several unrelated things, I've seen it before in US politics and it's baffling. Surely legislation is supposed to address a specific issue, rather than become a way of slandering each other at election time and further enrich your legal class as they attempt to untangle the relevance from the pork?.

      Disclaimers: I an not a US citizen but I'm married to a US citizen living in Europe.
      I'm not trying to troll here, this genuinely puzzles me.

      • Re:Woohoo (Score:4, Informative)

        by mdmkolbe (944892) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @09:54AM (#25038149)

        How can a bill be amended to address several unrelated things,

        Think of a bill like a patch to source code. There is no way for the version control software to require that patches add only one feature. To enforce such a rule, you have to have peer review and a strong cultural commitment to that rule. Basically it has to be implemented as a soft rule rather than a hard rule.

        Now US politicians all seem to think the end justifies the means. And usually the ends are very greedy ends (i.e. get reelected anyway possible). With that sort of attitude commitment to any sort of soft rule quickly goes out that window. Now tacking on these sorts of things makes it easier to get them passed (people who like the bill enough will pass it anyway) and makes it easier to get the bill passed (add a pork barrel project for a senator and now he'll vote for the bill). If *ahem* breaking *cough* ... I mean stretching ... the rule helps you or your allies get ahead and ends justify means, then of course you'll do it. On top of that because it's not a hard rule no one can concretely say you've broken any rules and it never gets punished.

        It is bad but unfortunately quite common to see bills made up of a collection of unrelated compromises in order to get enough people to vote for it. What baffles me is that you say it doesn't happen in Europe (or at least not as much). Please, what is your secret to pulling that off?

      • Re:Woohoo (Score:4, Informative)

        by db32 (862117) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @09:55AM (#25038163) Journal
        It is actually pretty simple. Party A proposes "We must do X" but opposes doing Y. Party B says "Well, we will only let you do X if you let us do Y". So then a bill that was meant to address a specific issue gets a ton of compromise crap added into it, which is frequently unrelated, but it is all just bargaining chips to try and get the original bill passed by both sides. Now, of course, a great deal of those bargaining chips come down to various congress critters come down to "well if you tack on 10 million for my pet project I will vote yes" and then multiply that out by however many votes are needed to pass the stupid thing.

        The other frequent occurance is a bill that has no chance of failing. "Let us vote to declare Cancer a bad thing and that we should research ways to fight it!" well of course everyone is going to vote yes, so all those little congress critters start tacking on a bunch of crap knowing that they can add a ton of garbage before a bill like that has a chance of failure.

        The biggest problem is the naming of bills. PATRIOT ACT for example. You can't vote against it, if you vote against it you are not a patriot and you support terrorists. Or the Child Online Protection Act...can't vote against it unless you support pedophiles. Doesn't matter how aweful the language in the bill is, the name is what people here and form their own warped ideas of what the bill ACTUALLY does.

        Ultimately, this was the reason "line item veto" was proposed. Normally the President has to shoot down the whole bill or pass the whole thing. He wanted line item veto to "stop the pork and unrelated stuff" so he could veto out parts of the bill and leave the rest. Now, the reality is, for someone who has been paying attention, he has been using signing statements like they are line item vetos (or attempting to). A signing statement is just a note about "this is how I interpret the bill, and as long as it is interpreted this way I pass it". So...the real goal was to once again expand executive power so that he could line item veto out oversight clauses and the like. So he could basically rewrite any law AFTER it had passed out of congress and then sign it into effect.
  • by curmudgeon99 (1040054) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @08:21AM (#25037057)
    What a sensible and normal human response to this situation--Rep Sanchez is acting like a human being, ensuring that our rights are protected. This must mean that Sanchez is toast and will be voted out of office shortly. It always happens. Somebody in power sees the light and attempts to do the right thing. For their sins they are booted out of Washington. Just you watch... Her successor will favor total immunity for Customs.
    • by icydog (923695)

      Mr. Tinfoil, are you seriously suggesting that because of this issue, Sanchez will be voted out of office in favor of somebody who doesn't want limits on Customs? Do you really think that the people (the voters) hate their rights so strongly that not only do they want her out of office, but they want to replace her with somebody who wants to take away their rights rather than limit the government's power?

      Or are you suggesting that the entire US election system is a fraud and that the people aren't actually

      • by pla (258480) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @08:53AM (#25037367) Journal
        but they want to replace her with somebody who wants to take away their rights rather than limit the government's power?

        Nothing tinfoil-hat about it. Most people simply count as idiots and should not have the right to vote.

        I can't find the link at the moment, but a few years ago a group of (Stanford?) students caused quite a furor over a mock petition drive to revoke a few dangerous "new" laws "recently" passed - The US Bill of Rights reworded into plain English. They had around a 70% positive response rate (ie, people who supported revoking the Bill of Rights).

        Most people don't want freedom. They want TV and McDonalds.
      • Well I can see it happening, I'm just not expecting it.

      • No, it was a joke--Mr. Pointy Ears.
      • Do you really think that the people (the voters) hate their rights so strongly that not only do they want her out of office... Or are you suggesting that the entire US election system is a fraud and that the people aren't actually voting for their representatives?

        Because one or the other must be true, otherwise your tinfoil fears make no sense.

        Your view is quite limited and depressingly naive.
        It may not be the people who hate congresswhores who forget their place and actually stick up for the citizens. See, when ONE does something GOOD, it makes the others look BAD.

        If it looks like this might become, gods forbid, a habit, then you can expect it to be "discovered" that Sanchez's father's brother's nephew's cousin's former roommate was once in the same zip code as Osama Bin Laden's manicurist, and she's trying to destroy our government from within!

      • I dunno what it is like in the US but here in the UK a lot of people tend to vote primerally based on the party not the individual.

        What that means is that if a member of parliment pisses off thier party the party can kick them out. Once kicked out of the party they will find it very hard to hold on to thier seat in parliment since as well as the oposition party they will also be competing against thier old parties official candidate.

  • Good Lord! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MistaE (776169) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @08:22AM (#25037061) Homepage
    Are you telling me that currently, the DHS doesn't have to do any of these simple things that should have been required of them in the first place? This is just a pathetic showing of how out of touch Americans are with their privacy rights and how stupid we are for keeping the regime responsible for this in as long as they have been.

    Man, I got into the wrong field, I should have become a border agent so I could my hands on free laptops every day.
  • by HangingChad (677530) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @08:22AM (#25037063) Homepage

    I must be reading that wrong because it sounds like Congress doing something that makes sense. It's unfortunate that it takes legislation to get DHS to pull their collective head out of their butt. This should never have been a problem that needed solving.

    • by GaryOlson (737642) <slashdot@ga[ ]lson.org ['ryo' in gap]> on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @08:46AM (#25037297) Journal
      This solution only makes sense to a bureaucrat. This is not accountability; this is just another set of hurdles.
      1)How will the laptop be returned? Who will pay the shipping charges?
      2)Will the government pay for damage during confiscation and/or return shipping?
      3)What kind of receipt? Will I have to hand over personal information to identify myself -- which is put in a database and probably not encrypted? What data retention rules will be applied to that database?
      4)Complaints -- another black hole into which citizens communicate and no response is ever received. I suggest the bill require the DHS to pay all damage/theft claims first; then try to obtain a refund if the claim is found false.
      5)Report to Congress? What a waste of time. I want all that information on a GAO audited web page: how many items confiscated, how many were actually forensically investigated, how many returned to the owners, process time from confiscation to return, how many damage claims and how much it cost, how many arrests as a result of confiscation.

      And while they are creating the web page, I want that receipt to provide access to a web page where I and my companies lawyers can track the process of my confiscated equipment. When the item is returned, it will link to the UPS/FedEx tracking number so I can track the return of my item.
      • Simpler solution:

        Guard: Give me your laptop.
        Citizen: Give me my receipt.
        Guard: Here you go.
        Citizen: Okay, here's my laptop.
        Citizen: Hey, this is a receipt for a packet of gum!
        Guard: What about it?
        Citizen: Where's my laptop?
        Guard: What laptop?

        The End

      • by blueg3 (192743)

        Laws rarely address implementation specifics.

  • Good to know. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Deus.1.01 (946808)

    That people will be more secure when they search laptops for.....ehm...terrorists?

  • by Reality Master 201 (578873) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @08:23AM (#25037079) Journal

    Cause there's no legitimate reason to do so.

    What happened to reasonable search and seizure again? And don't gimmie the bullshit about this being the border, and thus completely outside the scope of normal legal protections. It's one thing to look for smuggled goods or potentially disease carrying goods, etc. But nothing you can carry on a laptop can't just be transmitted past customs over the internet. There's no actual reason to search peoples electronics at the border.

    • But nothing you can carry on a laptop can't just be transmitted past customs over the internet.

      That's exactly what the "terrorists" will start doing/are already doing.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Well duh. It's cheaper and easier, and there's far less chance of getting caught, and you can do it in such a way as to hide who's dropping off the information and who's collecting it.

        This is just about getting people to buckle under to arbitrary authority.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by elrous0 (869638) *
      Balderdash! The only way to stop terrorists who hate your freedom is to give up your freedom. Then the terrorists won't hate you anymore.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Koiu Lpoi (632570)
      I've traveled recently, and maybe it's different for different ports (I flew out of GRR), but I had zero hassle. I just put my laptop in the bin; didn't even have to turn it on, like I was expecting. They even forgave me when I forgot to take off my shoes. Honestly, if this is the way that border searches are normally done, I see absolutely no reason we're even talking about this. I know we hear about people's laptops being confiscated, etc, but there are also times you have to remember that those who've be
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Falstius (963333)

        It varies considerably with port, mood of the border agent, and your perceived ethnic group.

  • its start (Score:2, Insightful)

    by hesaigo999ca (786966)

    Finally , someone that sees something wrong with present day situation for abuse of power at border crossings.

    • Re:its start (Score:4, Interesting)

      by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @08:48AM (#25037321)
      Now all they need to do is curb fingerprinting of holiday-makers, pre-boarding name checking against inaccurate and ineffective no-fly blacklists, and the general criminal treatment of anybody without a US passport, currently with little more rights than cattle outside the border, who wants to spend THEIR money on YOUR culture.

      I use the term "culture" loosely. (If that gets me a troll mod, so be it.)
  • by quadrox (1174915) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @08:26AM (#25037111)
    This is not suddenoutbreakofcommonsense. The original bill should never have passed in the first place, and common sense would be to remove it again.

    While this bill is a step in the right direction it also indirectly legitimates the original bill by not outright removing it. They have no business to search my laptop should I come to the US, not in any way, and not in a limited way either. Period. :)
  • From the statement:

    "Currently federal border agents may conduct border searches and seize travelers' personal laptops and other electronic storage devices without evidence or suspicion of wrongdoing."

    It does not appear that this bill will change the reason you are targeted for a search. Since I'm an advocate of strong encryption I use TrueCrypt a lot. I can imagine that I could be flagged just because I have TrueCrypt installed, even if they cannot find an encrypted file system (hint - they won't)

  • I understand... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anita Coney (648748) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @08:29AM (#25037131) Homepage

    I understand why they have to do searches pre-flight. You certainly don't want people sneaking dangerous materials, weapons, etc. on a plane flying at high speed miles above the ground.

    And I can understand why they would want to check the hardware of laptops to ensure that they're really laptops and not disguised bombs or weapons of some sort.

    But what I cannot fricken understand is why they check data on laptops. Is someone really going to drop a plane out of the air because a laptop has porn on it?! Is someone really going to high-jack a plane because he has a hard drive full of copyright infringing MP3s?!

    Searching data on a laptop has absolutely no relationship to the reason for pre-flight searches. It will not protect anyone and is done solely as a fishing expedition get around the US Constitution. You'd think conservatives would want to protect our Constitution. But you'd be completely wrong.

    • by Splab (574204)

      As I understand it they are searching the drives when you enter the US, so in fact you are done flying, the data in question is to determine if you are a threat to national security (I guess).

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Hatta (162192)

      But what I cannot fricken understand is why they check data on laptops....

      It will not protect anyone and is done solely as a fishing expedition get around the US Constitution. You'd think conservatives would want to protect our Constitution.

      Sounds like you understand just fine.

  • Thumbdrives (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ThatsNotFunny (775189)
    Meanwhile, terrorists will just encrypt their data on thumbdrives and shove 'em up their ass.
  • by martyb (196687) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @08:46AM (#25037295)

    I found a link on Thomas [loc.gov] for the actual bill: Border Security Search Accountability Act of 2008 (Introduced in House) [loc.gov]. Haven't had a chance to read it yet, but hopefully it can clear up questions as to whether it applies only to U.S. Citizens, or to *anyone* who is crossing the border.

    BTW: This is the PROPOSED text of the bill. It's by no means a law, yet, and is certainly subject to amendment before/if it ever it gets voted on.

  • by codeButcher (223668) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @08:46AM (#25037301)

    As a non-USian, I might be clueless, but wouldn't it be easier for congress to simply stop said department (an extension of the US government) snooping people's data? It's not as if child pron (as an example) will make a plane fall out of the sky or crash into a building. And if they have good reason to believe one carries such data, aren't the normal, legal routes (warrants etc.) sufficient?

    Seems this politico does not want the state to give up it's unlawfully usurped power over the population - just make it seem more palatable without needing any real action - DHS is a branch of government after all, and who else will the complaints go to than the government?

    • by Ihlosi (895663) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @08:58AM (#25037413)
      As a non-USian, I might be clueless, but wouldn't it be easier for congress to simply stop said department (an extension of the US government) snooping people's data?

      It's not specific for the US - making laws is usually easier than getting rid of them. So, if there's a way to make something that's allowed by law, but which you don't like impractical by saddling it with extra laws, that's usually preferred to repealing the law which allows it in the first place.

      will make a plane fall out of the sky or crash into a building.

      Since any of these searches are done by _customs_, it doesn't matter what or what not the data on the laptop might do to the plane. It has already landed.

    • by codegen (103601)
      This is because of the way in which the US system is divided. The Congress can only make law, it is up to the President and the executive branch to administer the law. The only way in which Congress can 'stop' said department is by changing the law that governs the behavior of the administration.
  • Why? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kidde_valind (1060754)
    Why is this tagged suddenoutbreakofcommonsense? A sudden outbreak of common sense would be if the DHS simply stopped searching peoples laptops. It's not like the border is in any way impermeable to unauthorized and unsnooped data anyway. In a way this is just like DRM. It doesn't affect those who know how to get around it, and the rest aren't worth bothering about.
  • receipt (Score:5, Funny)

    by noldrin (635339) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @09:05AM (#25037511)
    personally I think getting a receipt for your stolen property only increases the indignity of the entire situation.

    "That is your receipt for your husband, thank you, and this is my receipt for your receipt."
  • by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) * on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @09:06AM (#25037547) Journal
    WHY are they confiscating the computers in the first place? Anyone with even the slightest bit of sense could move huge amounts of data through the interweb, encrypted to and from one anonymous point to another. and if it's encrypted more than once, it's nearly impossible to decrypt. and if you then take that and turn it into a .bmp file, then it just seems to be a collection of static-like images with precious little info. And all you have to do is dump the data to a CDR or DVDR and stick with the rest of your music collection.

    This bill is NOT a sudden outbreak of common sense. A sudden outbreak of common sense would be to abandon this idiotic practice for the security theatre it is.

    And people wonder why I left and don't like returning to the USA. California uber alles.

    RS

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jonaskoelker (922170)

      and if it's encrypted more than once, it's nearly impossible to decrypt.

      Oh, you mean with ROT26? ;)

      Or perhaps RSA? Let's see...

      Let n = pq, with e_1 * d_1 = e_2 * d_2 = 1 (mod phi(n)). Now let's encrypt m twice; we get (m^e_1)^e_2 = m^(e_1 * e_2); the decryption key is d = d_1 * d_2. This amounts to choosing d_1*d_2 randomly in a weird way, instead of just choosing d directly.

      Even worse, if you only apply one pair of keys, you get (m^e)^e = m^(e^2); you're restricting your keyspace to the quadratic residues modulo phi(n), which lowers your security.

      Depending on how you propos

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by turtleAJ (910000)

      WHY are they confiscating the computers in the first place?

      Cause they're humans.

      Small-note: I have a friend that works for DHS.
      I hadn't talked with her in a long time, so when we met-up again, I found out she was working for DHS in the airport.
      Obviously, I asked her all sorts of questions.

      Her answers were really insightful:
      She says that although there are a ton of things that can send out a "flag", they do not normally do that because for each flag, they have to fill out a 3-page 'report'.

      So I asked her why

  • This will only be a suddenoutbreakofcommonsense if the bill actually gets passed and enacted into law. I'm not holding my breath.
  • by JonToycrafter (210501) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @09:20AM (#25037687) Homepage Journal

    * Unreasonable searches and seizures must be done with a smile or the next one is free

    * Verbal abuse from border agents must refrain from using racial/ethnic epithets

    * Coupon good for a free McDonald's Happy Meal issued to every person detained without charges by DHS
    (Offer valid to U.S. citizens only. Void where prohibited.)

    * Michael Chertoff must pinky swear not to laugh when asked if any complaints submitted to DHS are actually, you know, linked to their accountability.

  • by TheMCP (121589) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:15PM (#25040319) Homepage

    This proposed law, in the guise of restricting the practice of confiscating and/or searching travelers laptops, actually legalizes it. Think about it a moment: by saying "here are the requirements for doing this," implicitly it also says "you can legally do this."

    I want it banned. My laptop contains the keys to my life: my bank account, my credit cards, all of my online shopping accounts, everything. It also contains all of my employer's trade secrets. No government staff should have access to that data without court order under any circumstances.

    If I have to leave the country, either my laptop won't be coming with me, or I'll be encrypting the contents of its hard drive and shipping it home by UPS. (Or I suppose I could leave a backup at home, transmit any new files to my server from wherever I went, and wipe the hard disk before returning to the US.)

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