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ACLU Sues For Records On Border Laptop Searches 337

Posted by samzenpus
from the what-are-you-looking-at dept.
TechPolitik writes "The ACLU has sued the US Customs and Border Protection agency under the Freedom of Information Act, aiming to obtain records on the agency's policy of searching laptops at the border. Under the policy, the CBP can search through financial records, photos, and Web site histories, and retain that information for unspecified periods of time. The ACLU is arguing that the information is necessary to understand whether the CBP may be violating the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable and unwarranted searches. The agency has so far not responded to requests for comment."
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ACLU Sues For Records On Border Laptop Searches

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  • by jcr (53032) <jcr@mEULERac.com minus math_god> on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @10:54PM (#29211717) Journal

    Yes, it's a fourth amendment violation.

    -jcr

    • by magarity (164372) on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @11:01PM (#29211771)

      Congrats - you're the first (of many) posts by people who have not read the entire Constitution. UNREASONABLE searches may not be conducted without a warrant, not ALL searches. It's up to the courts to determine after the fact whether someone's rights were violated with an unreasonable warrantless search, not slashdot armchair lawyers. Write to your congresscritters to let them know you think it is unreasonable so they can put pressure on the executive branch to not do the search in the first place.

      • by jcr (53032) <jcr@mEULERac.com minus math_god> on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @11:05PM (#29211803) Journal

        UNREASONABLE searches may not be conducted without a warrant,

        They're not showing any probable cause, either. Routine searches with no grounds for suspicion are unreasonable, QED.

        -jcr

        • by Atlantis-Rising (857278) on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @11:37PM (#29212051) Homepage

          It has always been my understanding that the Supreme Court has determined that the border is where the powers of the executive to order searches has been at its zenith.

          More precisely, warrants are not required at the border.

          So, within that confluence of factors, the searches were probably quite legally acceptable.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            But... aren't the laptops already across the border when they are searched? The border is a very very thin line, so either these searches are being conducted in (say), Mexico without the Mexican Governments permission, or they are being conducted inside the US. At which point has it been defined that the US border is a fuzzy line a mile wide - and why are Mexican "illegals" not permitted to step foot within this fuzzy line when apparently the laws they are trying to get to are permitted to get bent there.
            • by Shakrai (717556) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @12:08AM (#29212217) Journal

              But... aren't the laptops already across the border when they are searched? The border is a very very thin line

              For better or worse the legal system assumes that you haven't actually crossed the border until you clear customs/immigration. Otherwise there wouldn't be much point to having those functions at international airports wholly contained within the United States.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Moryath (553296)

              But... aren't the laptops already across the border when they are searched?

              Perhaps, but the US government has the authority (and exercises it) to establish "processing zones" for the examination of people and goods being transported/imported to the US before releasing them to move freely within said borders.

              Otherwise, according to your rather tortured and fuzzy "logic", we'd have to locate airports at the precise border of the US and disallow any international flights except for those which land there. But

          • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @12:00AM (#29212179)

            So, within that confluence of factors, the searches were probably quite legally acceptable.

            Indeed, the term "reasonable," as it has been permuted by the lawyers through the centuries, no longer bears much resemblance to how a reasonable man would use it.

            • "Reasonable", like the term "Reasonable Man'', has a rather precise legal meaning these days. It still makes sense... if you accept that the point of the law is to narrow as much as possible the definition of any particular word.

        • by TubeSteak (669689)

          They're not showing any probable cause, either. Routine searches with no grounds for suspicion are unreasonable, QED.

          My understanding is that Customs doesn't need any suspicion to search anything crossing the border.
          They can even open any in/outbound international mail. [loc.gov]
          Can you provide any citations that say Customs is not allowed to search [anything] at the border?

          I believe the limit is that they are not allowed to conduct invasive procedures (shoving a finger up your ass, exploratory surgery) without a warrant.
          Oh, and diplomats.

          • by aynoknman (1071612) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @12:19AM (#29212279)
            IANAL, but IAACWSTDHSTTATTTUSA*

            My understanding is that any attempt to board a plane or cross a border, implies consent, which makes the searches consensual. If you don't want to be searched, don't try to get on the plane or enter or leave the country.

            *I am a Canadian who since the Department of Homeland Security, tries to avoid traveling to the USA.

          • by jcr (53032) <jcr@mEULERac.com minus math_god> on Thursday August 27, 2009 @12:27AM (#29212327) Journal

            Can you provide any citations that say Customs is not allowed to search [anything] at the border?

            It's not for me or anyone else to prove that a given power doesn't exist. it's up to the officers who wish to exercise that power to prove their legitimacy.

            -jcr

            • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

              by arminw (717974)

              ... it's up to the officers who wish to exercise that power to prove their legitimacy....

              BS. It is up to the courts, the Supreme Court specifically, to decide what power the officers are allowed to exercise under the Constitution. Apparently they have decided not to significantly limit the searching authority of customs and immigration officials that country's borders. Apparently, the usual protections against searches do not apply at border entry points.

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by jcr (53032)

                BS. It is up to the courts, the Supreme Court specifically, to decide what power the officers are allowed to exercise under the Constitution

                Yes, that's where the proof has to be shown.

                Apparently, the usual protections against searches do not apply at border entry points.

                That remains to be seen. Cases against the border patrol are pending.

                -jcr

                • by avxo (861854) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @05:11AM (#29213795)
                  You ask for proof, so I'll briefly point out United States v. Montoya De Hernandez [wikipedia.org] , United States v. Flores-Montano [wikipedia.org] , United States v. Ramsey and of course the relatively recent cases of United States v. Arnold [wikipedia.org] and United States v. Ickes. The judicial predecent is pretty firmly established: the government has a legitimate interest in knowing who is coming into the country and what is being brought in. As a result, the government has singificant leeway (but not a carte blanche) to conduct searches at the border without running afoul of 4th Amendment. Feel free to ignore all this, but the Courts don't.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by TubeSteak (669689)

              It's not for me or anyone else to prove that a given power doesn't exist. it's up to the officers who wish to exercise that power to prove their legitimacy.

              Now you're just being obstinate without replying to what I've said.

              I'll break it down for you:
              1. The Constitution gives Congress the duty to "lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare"
              2. The Congress granted authority to Customs to conduct routine searches and seizures without probable cause or a warrant
              3. Customs has been searching and seizing ever since.

              The last two big cases were US v Flores-Montano [wikipedia.org] and US v Arnold [wikipedia.org]. In both

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                >>>The Constitution gives Congress the duty to "lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare"
                >>>

                That's only the first half of the sentence. You need to read the WHOLE sentence. To quote the Author of the Constitution James Madison - "For what purpose could the enumeration of particular powers be inserted, if these and all others were meant to be included in the preceding general power? Nothing is more natural

      • by belmolis (702863) <.ude.tim.mula. .ta. .resopllib.> on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @11:08PM (#29211823) Homepage

        The OP may be well aware of the fact that only "unreasonable" warrantless searches are forbidden by the 4th amendment. He neither states nor implies that all warrantless searches are illegal. It's quite possible that he has reached his conclusion that these searches are illegal because he believes them to be unreasonable. I think you're the one making assumptions.

        • by magarity (164372)

          He neither states nor implies that all warrantless searches are illegal

          He states it directly - read the message title straight through to the text: "It's a search without a warrant. Yes, it's a fourth amendment violation." He makes no mention of thinking it unreasonable and by leaving the word "unreasonable" out he implies he thinks the Constitution protects all searches unless there is a warrant. If he knows better, he can feel free to clarify his position in a new post. If you read his journal

          • by belmolis (702863) <.ude.tim.mula. .ta. .resopllib.> on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @11:32PM (#29212003) Homepage

            Sorry but his subject header together with the single sentence of the post still do not claim that all warrantless searches are illegal.

            What he writes in his journal doesn't really bear on his post. The point is not figuring out what his reasoning process may have been, it's whether what he states in his post is ignorant or illogical. And its not unreasonable to treat warrantless searches as by default illegal since that is a pretty good approximation to the Supreme Court's position. Within the US, there has to be either no expectation of privacy or exigent circumstances for a warrantless search to be permissible. There is somewhat more leeway at the border but when you're getting into searches of material for which there is a significant expectation of privacy and on the other hand only a very limited relevance to the lawful purposes of border inspection, the bias against warrantless searches is appropriate.

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by arminw (717974)

            ...that it's an unreasonable search...

            Honestly, if they are allowed to search all your luggage, why should they not be allowed to search through your laptop as well? Where does anybody here on /. get the idea that digital information is somehow privileged above real-world goods? If you have such super-secret information, why carry it on your laptop? Put it safely encrypted on a server either in the USA or elsewhere and then access it over a secure Internet connection. For crying out loud, is it really nec

      • by jcr (53032) <jcr@mEULERac.com minus math_god> on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @11:12PM (#29211859) Journal

        have not read the entire Constitution

        As it happens, I've not only read it, I re-read it periodically, and i'm also familiar with the debates that surrounded its ratification. This kind of routine violation of privacy was among the reasons that we overthrew our king, and was a major issue that impeded ratification of the constitution before the bill of rights was drafted.

        -jcr

        • by jhol13 (1087781)

          I re-read it periodically

          Why?

          I mean it is 200 years old document, some of it is hardly relevant today. We (Finns) have had several changes to constitution as we see the world change.

          Every time I hear argument "it is against constitution" it does sound very, very much like a religious argument. Like now, going down to an interpretation of a single word on it, just like reading the bible. Sharia comes to mind (law based on some, sometimes strict, interpretation of the koran).

          If you do relate it like to a religious writing I must apol

          • by jcr (53032) <jcr@mEULERac.com minus math_god> on Thursday August 27, 2009 @12:35AM (#29212375) Journal

            It's not a religious writing, it's a contract. It is the entirety of the legal basis for the power of our government. If we permit them to ignore it for convenience, then we no longer have the rule of law, we have the rule of men, and history has shown us many times that an unlimited government is extremely dangerous.

            -jcr

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Ihmhi (1206036)

              But the Constitution was written by men. It's still the rule of men, it's just the rule of men from 300 years ago.

              I do agree with what you're saying, though. It's something people should read more than a couple times in school and then forget about it. Such a sad state we're in these days...

              • by Jarjarthejedi (996957) <christianpinch@NosPaM.gmail.com> on Thursday August 27, 2009 @02:33AM (#29212887) Journal

                You have no idea what Rule of Men means do you? Rule of Law is when something is written down as law, immutable (to a certain degree) and applying to everyone. Rule of Men is where the only law is whatever someone says today, and it can change tomorrow.

                The Constitution is Rule of Law for the simple reason that if the president (for example) wanted to arrest someone for the crime of having a certain video game he can't do it, because it's not a legal thing to arrest someone for. Under Rule of Men that's entirely possible assuming the President determines the law.

          • Why?

            I mean it is 200 years old document, some of it is hardly relevant today.

            Too bad you're not American-born, you'd make a great modern president.

          • >I mean it is 200 years old document, some of it is hardly relevant today.

            I'd be interested to know which parts in particular you think are "hardly relevant."
          • by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @01:47AM (#29212689) Homepage Journal

            "I mean it is 200 years old document, some of it is hardly relevant today."

            I call bullshit. There is nothing in the constitution of the United States, or the amendments, that is irrelevant today. The amendment prohibiting the possession and consumption of alcohol is irrelevant, yes, BUT, there is a subsequent amendment repealing that amendment. It is a nice tidy document, which defines how government should be run. All other laws are supposed to fit within that guide.

            That very relevant document is the litmus paper used to test all other laws in this nation.

            It hasn't been necessary to change that constitution very many times, because the people who wrote it put a lot of work, and a lot of foresight into it.

            I'll thank you not to declare my constitution as irrelevant. I rely on it for my freedoms of speech, my right to vote, my right to bear arms (yes, my PERSOANAL RIGHT to bear a firearm), my right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

            That document is so relevant, that I am perfectly willing to go out and fight for it despite the fact that I'm an old bastard with sons in uniform.

            Thank you, I'll step down off the ammo box now...... (an ammo box can be used for a soapbox or a ballot box, there's no need to keep three seperate boxes around)

    • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @11:02PM (#29211781)

      The Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution:

      The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

      There is one phrase there that might of interest - "unreasonable searches and seizures". And there hangs the ACLU's case. Are these searches "unreasonable"?

      In my opinion, they probably are.

      But a good lawyer can make a lot of mileage out of one key word, and "unreasonable" will probably be the word more argued over in this lawsuit.

      • Also, don't forget this tidbit: "and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." Searching the hard drive is one thing. Imaging the entire hard drive, and keeping that image on file for an undetermined period of time, is another thing entirely.

      • by CRC'99 (96526) on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @11:26PM (#29211955) Homepage

        The fun part is - that as a non-US citizen, I look at something like this and think "What the hell is the US Government wanting to know what people have on their computer as they visit the US?".

        What happened to the whole idea of freedoms and liberty for all that every US history class tells you America was founded on?

        The more I hear about this kind of thing happening, the less I want to visit the US and chance of me doing business with American businesses gets lower and lower.

        It seems to this foreigner that the US government needs to be told to pull it's fucking head in and act like a government - not the Gestapo.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by dbet (1607261)

          The fun part is - that as a non-US citizen, I look at something like this and think "What the hell is the US Government wanting to know what people have on their computer as they visit the US?"

          They don't want to know what's on your laptop - not really. There's 3 factors here. First, they enjoy intimidating people. It makes them feel important. Not because they're assholes, but because they're human. Part of the reason for the bill of rights is to protect us from ourselves. We are all capable of terrible things.

          Second, on the off chance they get lucky and find some questionable porn, raises all around.

          Third, they probably honestly believe they're protecting the border by making sure you

          • They don't want to know what's on your laptop - not really. There's 3 factors here. First, they enjoy intimidating people. It makes them feel important. Not because they're assholes, but because they're human. Part of the reason for the bill of rights is to protect us from ourselves. We are all capable of terrible things.

            There's so much wrong with that statement it's hard to pick a point so I can coherently counter your foolishness.

            That said- I assure you that the founders of this country didn't believe we needed protecting from ourselves. That's an English thing.

            • by Chris Mattern (191822) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @07:55AM (#29214729)

              They don't want to know what's on your laptop - not really. There's 3 factors here. First, they enjoy intimidating people. It makes them feel important. Not because they're assholes, but because they're human. Part of the reason for the bill of rights is to protect us from ourselves. We are all capable of terrible things.

              There's so much wrong with that statement it's hard to pick a point so I can coherently counter your foolishness.

              That said- I assure you that the founders of this country didn't believe we needed protecting from ourselves.

              On the contrary, his statement is very, very correct. Start by Googling the Stanford prisoner experiment. Then you can go on to the Milgram experiment. It's not pleasant reading.

              And the founders were extremely aware that we needed protection from ourselves. They regarded it as the primary problem in constructing a fair and stable government, in fact. As James Madison said in the Federalist Papers, "It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary."

        • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @08:35AM (#29215131)

          What happened to the whole idea of freedoms and liberty for all that every US history class tells you America was founded on?

          when you grow older (like, when you leave junior high) you realize it was all a lie and that the US is not some wonderful disney movie where the good guys wear white hats, etc.

          the US laws, like most other countries, are REALLY setup to control and push down the populace. laws are not there to make your life better; they're there for the power guys in control to keep them in control. these days, that also means keeping a nice bit of fear always going.

          all this is RIGHT out of 1984. I read that as a child, some 40 years ago, and I'm seeing so much of that story come to life, its not even funny.

          part of the problem is that those who are making the laws have often been above the law. given the class system (lawmakers, cops, lawyers, politicians and even TSA) - there is no way regular old joe citizen can preserve his privacy or civil rights in today's world (not just US but the whole world is catching onto this anti-freedom craze).

          revolution. nothing else will fix it. sorry to say that but the system is beyond repair. we're watching it fully melt down in front of our eyes. I expect a revolution (or collapse) in the next 10-20 years, if it even takes that long.

          until then, just keep your head low. (yeah, I ignore my own advice a lot, huh?)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        People get hung up on "unreasonable" of the phrase quoted above ...

        The problem is, we forget the PURPOSE which is defined by

        The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects

        How secure are the rights of the people if simply crossing a border causes a violation of the 4th amendment's purpose?

        Sorry, but as the Federal Government of the US continues to erode all the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights, all in the name of "security" (border searches), "welfare" (Universal He

        • by Shakrai (717556) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @12:21AM (#29212291) Journal

          Oh right, totalitarianism under the rule of the Chinese (who own the US)

          Please stop repeating this myth. China doesn't "own" the US. It doesn't even own a majority or even a quarter of the outstanding US debt. Here [optimist123.com] is an interesting pie chart for your consideration. The data is a little out of date (I believe the Chinese have since surpassed the Japanese as the largest foreign creditor) but it shows that the overwhelming majority of the US debt is owned by the US Government itself.

          This is what happens when the Government borrows money from the social security trust fund and other such accounting gimmicks. The second largest holder is American citizens and institutions. Foreign creditors account for the remainder, of which China doesn't even have a majority.

          BTW, I agree with everything else you said.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by jcr (53032)

            the overwhelming majority of the US debt is owned by the US Government itself.

            You know, if any private organization replaced its pension funds with its own bonds, someone would be doing time for it.

            -jcr

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Shakrai (717556)

              Yeah, it's real cute how that works, isn't it?

              BTW, I love your sig :)

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Atario (673917)

          It seems you're ignoring the "PURPOSE" of the whole Constitution, which is defined by:

          We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility[1], provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare[2], and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

          [1] Not a lot of domestic tranquility follows when any idiot can brandish any powerful weap

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by TheMeuge (645043)

            [1] Not a lot of domestic tranquility follows when any idiot can brandish any powerful weapon he wants (thus, the liberty-crushing principles that grenades, fuel-air bombs, land mines, tanks, missiles, nukes, and certain high-output firearms should probably not be floating around the general public).

            So in your eyes, "certain high output firearms (which inevitably means ALL firearms)" are equivalent to weapons of mass destruction. Have you every considered therapy?

            [2] I don't know about you, but most people's general Welfare pretty strongly hinges on having health care without worrying about becoming an indentured servant by taking it (thus, the socialist bogeyman of universal health care enjoyed by every other developed nation in the world (and some pretty undeveloped ones too)).

            So is that why they come to the U.S. to get their surgeries done, if they can afford it? Listen, our unbridled profits lead to the lion's share of world's medical advances... and it's not unrealistic to suppose that much of the capability of other countries to provide care for cheap hedges on the fact that one country is taking it for the team

            • by Civil_Disobedient (261825) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @09:48AM (#29215997)

              Listen, our unbridled profits lead to the lion's share of world's medical advances

              This is pure, 100% USDA approved genuine horseshit. That it keeps getting trotted out as some ace-in-the-hole to forgive our ass-backwards healthcare system is symptomatic of the ignorance most Americans have of world history. Let's take a look at some of the "big-time" medical advances of the last century, shall we?

              • Penicillin: UK
              • Heart Transplant: South Africa
              • Aspirin: Germany (by way of France)
              • X-Rays: Germany
              • Valium: Switzerland
              • Antidepressants: Switzerland
              • Pap Smear: Greece
              • ...et-fucking-cetera...

              The US has certainly had its share of medical contributions, but the most visible (and shameful) has been the commercialization of medicine--pharmaceuticals in particular, and the artificial restrictions on distribution that generate such wonderful, lovely profits.

    • by digitalunity (19107) <digitalunity&yahoo,com> on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @11:05PM (#29211807) Homepage

      ACLU's kind of taking a weird angle at it, but I fully support their cause.

      The retention period of the data is irrelevant, in my opinion. The fact that they deem fit to search laptops or other electronic devices at all without probable cause, let alone a warrant, and considering the highly private nature of most peoples electronic devices, seems obviously contrary to the intentions of the 4th amendment.

      Physical searches to board airplanes, regardless of destination seem very reasonable given the public endangerment risk from terrorism like sabotage, bombs, hijacking, etc. Beyond addressing physical security risks, other types of searches should not be conducted without a warrant. If they deem someone a risk, they can detain them and obtain a warrant. If it's not worth the effort to obtain a warrant, then the search isn't justified.

      Simple as that.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by zippthorne (748122)

      Now, let's be clear here, I'm surprised that the ACLU is getting involved in this, it being a genuine civil rights issue and all, but the fourth amendment does not say what you think it does.

      The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

      I'm not sure what the underlying right this thing is supposed to affirm, but the writers seem to have left themselves some wiggle room in key phrases like, "unreasonable searches." Why did they specify "unreasonable" searches as prohibited and not just "searches." without qualifier? The tenth amendment would seem to a

      • by belmolis (702863) <.ude.tim.mula. .ta. .resopllib.> on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @11:21PM (#29211923) Homepage

        As there is no prohibition on data entering the country, I'm at a loss as to why border agents would be interested in or have authority to search laptops beyond checking that they are, in fact, actually laptops.

        Actually, some data is prohibited, e.g. child pornography. In any case, the claim is that they are looking for evidence that the owner of the laptop is a terrorist. The documents that constitute such evidence might well not be prohibited entry, but they would be useful in determining whether or not to admit the bearer. It's just like examining someone's papers. There's nothing illegal about bringing identification papers into the US, but if someone claims to be a tourist and turns out to have papers that identify him as, say, a member of an Iranian intelligence agency, that would bear on whether or not to admit him to the US.

        • by Shakrai (717556) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @12:26AM (#29212321) Journal

          In any case, the claim is that they are looking for evidence that the owner of the laptop is a terrorist.

          Ah yes, terrorism. The new boogieman that replaced drunk driving and child molesters. Wouldn't any halfway smart terrorist just buy a laptop here in the states and download whatever he needs through an encrypted connection to the terrorist data center back home in Dirkadirkastan?

          • by Atario (673917) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @04:44AM (#29213589) Homepage

            Ah yes, terrorism. The new boogieman that replaced drunk driving and child molesters.

            Oh, believe me, they weren't replaced. Child molesters are for when you find others' sexuality uncomfortable and need to pass a law against it; drunk drivers are for being able to arrest anyone who drinks or drives (covers lots of cases, and magically allows you to set up police checkpoints wherever and whenever you want); and terrorists are for Dirty Foreign Brown People who have sneakily avoided the other two.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by failedlogic (627314)

          What would be interesting to know is some figures on: # of searches, country of origin of the person (e.g. American citizen returning from vacation in England VS American Immigrant returning from vacation in England), gender - it would be real interesting to find out how many women or % of all female travelers have laptops searched.

          Likewise, how many mega-millionaires, diplomats, US Politicans, Law enforcement or Judges have been searched? I'd be willing to bet if enough of them are searched laws will chang

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        The logical conclusion is that warrants are not required in all circumstances, and national borders would seem to be an appropriate location for some amount of searching (for contraband, at least). As there is no prohibition on data entering the country, I'm at a loss as to why border agents would be interested in or have authority to search laptops beyond checking that they are, in fact, actually laptops.

        Has anyone on here heard of a thing called a "diplomatic pouch"? If not, they are a briefcase or bag or other container that contains communications from home government to an embassy in another country. They are, by international treaty, exempt from border searches. Diplomatic pouches are not a concept that was developed in the U.S., as a matter of fact, it is a concept that was developed before the U.S. was a significant player in international affairs.
        Now, why do diplomatic pouches exist? Because letter

    • by arbiter1 (1204146)
      If remember hearing right, they can confiscate your laptop for indefinite period of time.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Ian Alexander (997430)
      It's a well-established legal principle that your constitutional rights don't really apply at the border. Inside the border, of course you have rights. But at the border they can pretty much search whatever they want. If they feel like tearing apart your vehicle, piece by piece, just on the offchance you might have hidden contraband, that's legal, and there's no requirement that they compensate you in any way or put it back together. If they can do that then I figure they probably have the right to poke aro
  • by Anonymous Coward

    put a single txt file on the desktop that says something like...

    I put all my illegal materials on the OTHER laptop

    ;-)

    • by sycodon (149926)

      Who takes their laptop to Mexico?

      Limited internet connections and a high probability of being hit over the head and the laptop taken.

  • by bfmorgan (839462)
    They roll out the "We can't release this information because of National Security" excuse one more time.
  • by www.sorehands.com (142825) on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @11:01PM (#29211777) Homepage

    Why would you want to hide anything from the government? Why would you not want them to keep all your personal information indefinitely?

    What do you have to hide? You must be a communist^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h criminal^h^h^h^h^h^h^h terrorist since you want to have privacy from the government.

  • more info (Score:4, Interesting)

    by belmolis (702863) <.ude.tim.mula. .ta. .resopllib.> on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @11:03PM (#29211791) Homepage

    You can read the ACLU's press release here [aclu.org] and its Freedom of Information Act request here [aclu.org].

    I'm also curious as to what happens when information is encrypted. In the case of a non-citizen, they may be able to refuse entry if someone will not decrypt it, but they can't refuse entry to a US citizen.

  • by freedom_india (780002) on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @11:04PM (#29211799) Homepage Journal

    Legally pathbreaking but also very potentially damaging.
    If ACLU wins based on fourth amendment basis on the right of people to be secure in their persons & papers, then the border searches will be extremely time consuming as each search will need to accompanied by a warrant from a judge.
    In short people will start to hate the border patrol more and DHS will get the blame.
    OTOH, if the judge decides that People are NOT people until they enter USA and that the laws of the land do not apply to them until they enter, then it becomes much more abusive.
    Border Patrol can easily strip search every 18-yr old girl, in the presence of her parents, and easily barge through every suitcase she has. Also, they can drag a "Person of Interest" to the border, search him, and bring him back.
    This raises hackles everywhere.
     

    • by jcr (53032) <jcr@mEULERac.com minus math_god> on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @11:09PM (#29211825) Journal

      If ACLU wins based on fourth amendment basis on the right of people to be secure in their persons & papers, then the border searches will be extremely time consuming as each search will need to accompanied by a warrant from a judge.

      You say that like it's a bad thing. I for one don't consider it advantageous for violations of my right to privacy to be simple and convenient for all concerned.

      -jcr

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by belmolis (702863)

      I don't think that all of the consequences you propose are realistic. If the courts decide that warrants are necessary, the result will be the termination of most laptop searches, for two reasons. First, the burden of obtaining a warrant for each search would be prohibitive. Second, a judge will only issue a warrant if there is probable cause, which in most cases there won't be.

      As for dragging people to the border to search them, that won't happen because the US government lacks the authority to remove a

    • Not necessarily (Score:5, Informative)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @01:50AM (#29212709)

      What a judge could well rule is that the searches are allowed, but they have restrictions as to what they can do afterwords. This is rather likely. The searches themselves are probalby legal. The supreme court has ruled on the issue of border searches and said that the government has the right to secure its borders and that part of that can be to search a person and their belongings. Their view is more or less that you KNOW you can be searched at the border, so it isn't reasonable for you to assume privacy there.

      Ok, but that was back in the day when laptops and such weren't an issue. This was regarding a physical search. So while they can look through your bag for drugs, once they are done with the search you and your belongings are on their way, provided you don't have something illegal.

      The problem here is that they are taking laptops, without charge, warrant or even reasonable suspicion, holding them for indefinite times, and refusing to say what they do with them. They won't say what they are looking for, who can get a copy of the data, how long it is retained, when you get your hardware back, nothing. That is rather different than the kind of search the SC said was ok.

      So it could well come down that searches are ok, but this kind is not, or that they have to have specific limits on the data they get and so on.

      You discover it is like that in Canada. They can search your, and can seize your laptop with a reason. However there are specific limits as to what can be done and how long they can have it, and they are up front about it. You can find them online (which is how I know about them). That's real different from the US where DHS just says "We can do what we want and don't have to tell you anything."

      I would predict that is how this will go. The government will be allowed to search you at the border, however they'll be told they can't just grab laptops and hold them forever with no accountability.

  • by BrookHarty (9119) on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @11:11PM (#29211853) Homepage Journal

    Its a fishing expedition, they dont have cause other than visiting a 3rd world country. Visiting a 3rd world country = sex crimes they say, wrong.

    Myself, I'm such an asshole, I'd military format the laptop HD, with a "FUCK CUSTOMS!!!" dos bootup banner, before I come back into the USA, after I copied anything over the Internet to my home PC. Of course I'd lose my laptop, because they would take it to scan the HD for anything.

    Really, I'm already pissed I have to take my shoes off to fly, like my shoes are now a terrorist threat.

    When they hire bagage handlers at minium wages, and these fuckers steal laptops. I read that over 1000 laptops are stolen from the aiports a week. WTF? So by this logic, if there was a terrorist threat, they could just plant a bomb on the luggage.

    I'm so tired of the "Security theater" show they put on. its a scam. At least some of us are actually calling them out on this bullshit. Bravo for the ACLU for doing this. I walk a fine line at protesting and getting tazed for being a smart ass. I know one of these days my comments at "these peanuts are the bomb" are going to land my ass in federal prison. But at least I can write a book and make a million..

    Damn what a country.

  • by FSWKU (551325) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @12:10AM (#29212231)
    And the part that concerns me the most, is how they would likely defend against "unreasonable search" allegations. All they have to do is say the search is reasonable based upon suspicion that ANYONE travelling outside of the country could have been doing so for "evil" reasons. This could get them a magic "propable cause" allowance, and your stuff is still siezed/searched. So now we have the government worried that all people travelling abroad are potential terrorists, but they will hastily point out that it's only for people travelling abroad. There are no internal searches anywhere in the US (nevermind the dubious truth of that matter). Lovely choice you have their. Give up any/all information privacy, or never be allowed to leave your country. Sounds a wee bit too East Berlin to me...
  • by bezenek (958723) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @12:13AM (#29212259) Journal
    Carry a large USB stick. Back up your personal information (browser history, saved email, etc.) to it and put it in your pocket or even better, mail it home to yourself at your destination before you board the airplane. When you arrive, replace the personal information.

    Looking through browser history is equivalent to asking you to provide your personal diary in order to get into the country. Similarly, looking at your saved email is equivalent to requiring you to bring copies of all your personal correspondence for the previous 12 months in order to get into the country.

    This is really, really disgusting, and should not happen in the United States of America.

    Todd
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Looking through browser history is equivalent to asking you to provide your personal diary in order to get into the country. Similarly, looking at your saved email is equivalent to requiring you to bring copies of all your personal correspondence for the previous 12 months in order to get into the country. Todd

      If you were carrying your personal diary when you crossed the border, customs can legally read it. If you are carrying your personal correspondence for the previous 12 months when you cross the border, customs can legally read it. Just because you are carrying it on your laptop doesn't change that.

  • Flash drive! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dagamer34 (1012833)
    If you have pr0n, keep it on a Flash drive using HFS or ext3. Since all government computers are Windows, it'll ask "Please format drive." when you stick it in. BOOM! Instant win!
  • What is the point? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by lovemayo (674154) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @01:15AM (#29212571)
    What is the point of these searches? Anyone with a hint of intelligence, who are planning on doing something illegal, would just upload whatever illegal material they're carrying, and wipe the disk. Then they can just download it from the net once they've passed customs.
  • Oh really? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kilodelta (843627) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @01:18AM (#29212585) Homepage
    I setup the browsers on my computer and iPod Touch to clear history on exit. I also use Firefox and set the history parameter to zero days. I wonder what they'd do to me?

    If they look through my pictures they'll find mostly boring stuff.

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