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High-Tech Gadgets Can Pose Problems At Mexican Border 447

Posted by timothy
from the which-jail-would-you-prefer dept.
TechnologyResource writes "Going across the border will be a more 'interesting' experience since Customs and Border Protection will now be checking laptops, digital cameras, cell phones and any other electronics on your person or in your vehicle. It's not a new authority, according to Angelica De Cima, Office of Public Affairs Liaison 'They've always had the right to inspect your person, vehicle, baggage, anything on you. Nothing has changed from before,' De Cima said."
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High-Tech Gadgets Can Pose Problems At Mexican Border

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  • by OrangeTide (124937) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @05:51PM (#29534553) Homepage Journal

    "He said anyone coming across could be a terrorist, drug dealer or someone trying to carry or take information out of the country by hiding it in a smaller device."

    Why not just FTP it. Or hide a microSD card inside a cake? It should bake okay, the chip inside gets put under higher temps than the inside of cupcake when they place them on a PCB. The plastic on a uSD might melt a little, but I suspect the information will still be there.

    • by mmelson (441923) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @05:58PM (#29534643)

      Bake it IN the cake? That seems a bit extreme. Why not just bake the cake, let it cool, insert the microSD, then frost. If they start defrosting cakes while searching people, they deserve to find it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by siloko (1133863)

        Why not just bake the cake . . .

        Bake it in a cake!? WTF!? News for Nerds my arse, we're all just wannabe housewives . . . from the thirties!

      • by Joce640k (829181) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @07:24PM (#29535451) Homepage

        SD cards are so small that have to be one of the easiest items to hide in the known universe. There's a brazillion places you could tape one to a car or hide it about your person. Dogs can't sniff them out so unless they're going to start strip-searching *everybody* and dismantling every car then they're not going to find them.

        It's just more pointless stupidity from the DHS.

        Don't even get me started on micro-SSD or FTP.

      • by RDW (41497) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @07:24PM (#29535453)

        No need to frost. Just bake the cake, insert the microSD, and _eat_ the cake. Then if they start searching people thoroughly enough to detect the card, they _really_ deserve to find it.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by bmo (77928)

          searching people thoroughly enough to detect the card

          Avi: Tony.
          Bullet Tooth Tony: What?
          Avi: Look in the dog.
          Bullet Tooth Tony: What do you mean "look in the dog?"
          Avi: I mean open him up.
          Bullet Tooth Tony: It's not as if it's a tin of baked beans! What do you mean "open him up"?

          --
          BMO

    • by baudbarf (451398) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @05:58PM (#29534645) Homepage

      Holy frijoles. You just conspired to commit a crime. See how easy that was?

    • by NoYob (1630681) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @05:59PM (#29534665)
      The border patrol is just looking for stupid criminals and terrorists - like that old guy with the young boy and the camera with the incriminating evidence. It's also for "security theater".

      On the other hand, the smart criminals and terrorists will get away with it and then there will be more infringements on our liberty to "keep us safe" - from the stupid criminals and terrorists. Then the cycle repeats.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by LoRdTAW (99712)

        A friend of mine is customs and border patrol agent at a major international airport. During the course of the day a female co-worker out of the blue points out a person that she feels is suspect of something. What she didn't know but she made sure she handled his entry. So he gets to her line and she begins to search his personal belongings and finds a large CD book. Flipping through she finds a bunch of boot leg DVD movies. He claimed the book was his and that he had nothing "bad in there. But still she c

        • by Golddess (1361003) on Friday September 25, 2009 @08:57AM (#29539047)
          And for every idiot caught, there are unknown numbers who did the smart thing and sent it encrypted via some physical mail service, FTP, or any number of other methods that such searching does absolutely jack for.

          So why, exactly, is it acceptable to toss out the 4th amendment when all we're doing is removing one of many easy methods of transferring data across the border?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anomalyst (742352)
        Calling it "security theater" gives it too much respectability and implies a venue of similar classiness, it is really "security vaudeville".
    • by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @06:00PM (#29534683) Homepage Journal
      I've lived on border cities almost my entire life. Even my hispanic coworkers agree(and those poor bastards have to wait hours at the border crossing just to make an honest living) that it's all just security theater, another half-baked escalation to justify the creation of the wasteful, ham-handed gestapo called DHS. It goes without saying that I can still get cocaine or any other drug anytime I want stateside, and that won't change anytime soon.

      So they scoop up a pic of child porn or an occasional drug bust and hype the hell out of it in the news, problem solved. A budget for next year, and no admission that the creation of the DHS was a colossal mistake. Of course, they'll have their work cut out for them when the United States becomes the next Nazi Germany and they're tasked with sealing the borders.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by drinkypoo (153816)

        Of course, they'll have their work cut out for them when the United States becomes the next Nazi Germany and they're tasked with sealing the borders.

        The NEXT Nazi germany? Pretty sure we're already unilaterally projecting our power up anyone's ass we feel like, in the name of ideology. Nobody is going to seal the US borders though. It's not necessary. I do predict some race wars in California, though, when the economy REALLY crashes. Unemployment is still going up, personal savings down, inflation up even if it's not really being admitted yet. Another great depression is imminent. I just hope we get some decent public works out of it.

    • by Threni (635302) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @06:07PM (#29534767)

      They can't stop drugs getting into prisons - why bother pretending you can stop it across thousands of miles of unguarded border? And as for information - well, perhaps some of the minimum wage pigs and grunts they hire to pose in their security theatre are stupid enough to believe "checking" a laptop is going to prevent information getting into Mexico and help them create a rival utopia, but it seems like a bit of a waste of time to me. Still, I'm sure it all makes sense to someone.

    • by noundi (1044080) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @06:31PM (#29535027)

      "He said anyone coming across could be a terrorist, drug dealer or someone trying to carry or take information out of the country by hiding it in a smaller device."

      Why not just FTP it. Or hide a microSD card inside a cake? It should bake okay, the chip inside gets put under higher temps than the inside of cupcake when they place them on a PCB. The plastic on a uSD might melt a little, but I suspect the information will still be there.

      There seems to be an absence of a certain ornithological piece. A headline regarding mass-awareness of a certain avian variety. [wikipedia.org]

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by magarity (164372)

      Or hide a microSD card inside a cake?
       
      What's this? How many illegal immigrants can fit in a 8GB microsd card, anyway? Oh, wait, that's not what they're searching for on the Mexican border? No wonder it's such a problem...

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by bertoelcon (1557907)
      What cake? In case you haven't heard its a lie.
    • by Brian Gordon (987471) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @08:52PM (#29535941)

      Smuggling information has to be the easiest "crime" ever imagined. One-time pad it and email it across the border. CC a copy to the NSA for all it matters.

  • I predict... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jaysyn (203771) <jaysyn+slashdot@ ... m minus math_god> on Thursday September 24, 2009 @05:53PM (#29534577) Homepage Journal
    ... that US customs agents will some of the first thugs against the wall when the revolution comes.
    • by Tanman (90298) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @06:04PM (#29534725)

      I predict that you need a verb!

      I mean, this isn't grammar nazi'ing. I'm genuinely interested -- what exactly were you trying to say?

      will be?
      will question?
      will throw?
      will hump?
      will tazer?
      will shoot?
      will have a tea party?
      will rave with?

      will WHAAAAAT?!?!?!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ZosX (517789)

      No revolution is successful because it always ends up in evolution. Somethings change, somethings always stay the same. We don't need a revolution, we need to uphold our constitution. A lot of this stuff should really be unconstitutional and needs to be challenged more. Didn't the supreme court rule that customs cannot do roadside drug searches inside our borders, and yet they do it anyways because it really doesn't apply within 150 miles of the border? 150 miles is a lot of land and contains a very sizable

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by SteveFoerster (136027)

        We don't need a revolution, we need to uphold our constitution.

        You mean scale the federal government back only to those things explicitly authorized in Article I, Section 8 minus those things prohibited by the Bill of Rights? If wouldn't be revolutionary, I don't know what would be!

      • Re:I predict... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by MozeeToby (1163751) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @07:00PM (#29535285)

        The problem is that it's easier to find loopholes than it is to plug them. All it takes is one guy at DHS thinking in his cubical to come up with a semi-plausible legal rational for this kind of thing. To have the rational refuted takes someone willing to sacrafice years of their life and fight it all the way to the supreme court. It takes thousands of man hours, sometimes millions of dollars to refute even the simpliest of arguments. And what happens after? The DHS says 'oh well' and goes back to the way things were before. No one is held accountable, no one is punished, and there is nothing to prevent the same worthless peon from coming up with another rational a week later.

  • Linux laptop (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Darylium (1015809) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @05:56PM (#29534611)
    I wonder what they'll do when they search my 'unusable' Linux laptop.
    • Re:Linux laptop (Score:4, Insightful)

      by tenton (181778) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @05:58PM (#29534633)

      I wonder what they'll do when they search my 'unusable' Linux laptop.

      See you in 30 days.

      FTFA: CBP is authorized to keep an item or person in question for up to 30 days, although generally this is only if the subject is put into custody.

    • Re:Linux laptop (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MichaelSmith (789609) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @06:08PM (#29534773) Homepage Journal

      Years ago I left Adelaide on a domestic flight with a laptop loaded with mandrake in my luggage. The departure was delayed 30 minutes on an excuse (said they needed to change a wheel, but I could see the plane and that didn't happen). So I got to Melbourne, unpacked the laptop and the battery was dead flat. It must have been started after I packed it, and not stopped properly.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 24, 2009 @05:57PM (#29534615)

    "Blue corvette with three gringos heading south route X should pass through your village in 20 minutes. They have laptops, top-notch cellphones, some GPS stuff and wallets full of cash. I'd say some $15k in various assets. Remember, 10% is mine."

  • by tenton (181778) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @05:57PM (#29534619)

    Searching the 9/11 hijackers wouldn't have stopped them. It's not like they had their plans saved on their computers. Why do we accept this kind of crap whenever anyone says the magic words "9/11"? We don't even need to change the policy at the airport...people are going to beat down hijackers now, on their own.

    They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety. Ben Franklin.

    • Yep, I think security on air craft would be paid for and determined by the airlines.

      That way the market can chose how secure to be.

      Maybe a pass on security if you get on naked, eating a pork sausages and say 'There is no God'.

      That would increase security immeasurably.

    • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Thursday September 24, 2009 @07:32PM (#29535493) Homepage Journal

      people are going to beat down hijackers now, on their own

      Shhh.. if you mention that the 9/11 problem was solved in a plane over a field in rural PA just over an hour after the first plane hit the towers by ordinary Americans (who can comprehend real security very well) then there's no need for massive expansion of government. Why aren't you patriotic?

      What's next, are you going to tell us that with hardened cockpit doors there's absolutely no need to confiscate small pointy objects from passengers? You one of those terrists, son?

  • by pongo000 (97357) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @05:57PM (#29534627)

    ...which is rather scary. Used to work for US Customs many years ago (before it was ICE), and we were legally permitted to basically search *anything* entering the country (including personal mail, something that is a federal crime in most other instances) other than diplomatic mail and pouches. Nothing was off-limits: If it comes from overseas, ICE has the constitutional right (backed by many years of case law) to search it.

    I'm not saying this is a good thing, but every international traveler should be aware of this. Whining about your constitutional rights being violated while standing in the "red" line at your port of entry will simply prolong the agony.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by The_Wilschon (782534)

      ICE has the constitutional right

      Since you seem to know, and I'm too lazy to hunt it down, where, precisely (article and section), in the US constitution is this "right" (I presume you really mean "power") given to the executive branch of the federal government?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by pongo000 (97357)
        Since you seem to know, and I'm too lazy to hunt it down, where, precisely (article and section), in the US constitution is this "right" (I presume you really mean "power") given to the executive branch of the federal government?

        Yes, you're right, "power" as opposed to "right."

        Fourth Amendment...courts have ruled border searches (other than body/cavity searches, which still require a warrant) do not constitute illegal search and seizure.

        IANAL, but the case law is out there for those who want to resear

    • by shoemilk (1008173) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @08:58PM (#29535981) Journal

      ICE has the constitutional right

      Actually, no it doesn't. I know I'm being semantic, but no government agency has any "rights", the have privileges. The constitution says (Article I Section I line I) "All legislative Powers herein granted..."

      The difference is important though. Rights are inalienable. Privileges can be revoked.

  • by Howserx (955320) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @05:59PM (#29534659)
    I think I've finally found a use for those virus infected disks I kept from years ago.
  • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @05:59PM (#29534669) Homepage
    I think from a Constitutional perspective they are correct that they have the right to do such inspections. However, doing them on a large scale is a really bad idea. However, stupidity is not unconstitutional.
  • by bmo (77928) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @06:01PM (#29534687)

    Captain Koons: The way your dad looked at it, this iPod was your birthright. He'd be damned if any US Border agents gonna put their greasy hands on his boy's birthright, so he hid it, in the one place he knew he could hide something: his ass. Five long years, he wore this iPod up his ass. Then when he died of dysentery, he gave me the iPod. I hid this uncomfortable piece of metal up my ass for two years. Then, after seven years, I was sent home to my family. And now, little man, I give the iPod to you.

  • apparently (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wizardforce (1005805) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @06:03PM (#29534709) Journal

    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated

    Apparently this is one of those times where the feds take advantage of that massive loo-pole in the fourth amendment effectively allowing them to disregard it in the case of "reasonable" searches and seizures...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jcr (53032)

      There's no loophole in the fourth amendment, just a sad unwillingness to enforce it on the part of the supreme court. The fourth amendment doesn't say "except at the border, or anywhere within about a hundred miles of the border."

      -jcr

  • by thewils (463314) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @06:05PM (#29534737) Journal

    Heck checking your laptop is nothing, they can probe up your ass if they really want to!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 24, 2009 @06:21PM (#29534911)

    First - this is fishing. You aren't actually accused of anything... we are going to search you till we find something. What was the famous quote - something like: "give me 6 lines from the hand of an innocent man and I'll find something to convict him".

    Second - the fact that they found something. After trampling over the rights of 221 million passengers, they found a paedophile. Is that worth the cost? How many rights are you willing to give up to find that paedophile? Having rights and freedoms means that sometimes bad guys get away. To catch all bad guys requires us to live in a panopticon.

    Third - the tone that if you object to this program, you obviously support the paedophile.

    Fourth - I'm from outside the US, but I travel there frequently for business. The entry requirements have risen from a form to being fingerprinted and photographed and carrying biometric data at all times. Is there an upper level to this? What would happen if they require DNA swabs to enter? Is that a step too far? Right now in Chicago, they take a nude photo of you using a new scanner to be able to fly. That is so screwed up.

  • The great news (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 24, 2009 @06:30PM (#29535009)

    They have extended the thickness of the border by 100 miles as well, so that now 80% of the population can be summarily stopped and searched at anytime.

    Isn't it great?

  • by MrKaos (858439) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @06:31PM (#29535029) Journal

    It's not a new authority, according to Angelica De Cima, Office of Public Affairs Liaison 'They've always had the right to inspect your person, vehicle, baggage, anything on you. Nothing has changed from before,' De Cima said."

    This is always how it is done. Pass laws that are extreme enough so that people say "no one will ever use them"...wait for a while... then use them when there is no chance to roll those laws back.

    This is why Thomas Jefferson said "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance."

  • by oldmeddler (1614805) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @06:42PM (#29535127)
    'They've always had the right to inspect your person, vehicle, baggage, anything on you.'

    No, they do not have the "right" to search. They have the power. Big difference.

  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @06:57PM (#29535259) Homepage

    It's not "High-Tech Gadgets Can Pose Problems At Mexican Border", it's "High-Tech Gadgets Can Pose Problems At United States Border".

  • Power (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fnj (64210) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @07:23PM (#29535445)

    They have the power. Not the right. There is a difference.

  • by dbet (1607261) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @07:56PM (#29535625)
    I have a 120 GB drive in my netbook that is maybe half-full. How long would it take for YOU to search the entire drive and make sure it's "clean"? Keep in mind I could have info in the meta-data of my MP3s, or in /etc/default/bluetooth or even in a small encrypted text file that I don't have the software or password to open.

    And that's ONE person's stuff. There's just no way to enforce this.
    • They just take the laptop and return it to you six months later after a thourough search through all your personal files.

      I still just don't understand how this isn't in clear violation of the constitutional protections against unreasonable search and siezure. Someone tried to explain it last time this topic came up in one form or another, but I cannot possibly believe the founding fathers intended that, no, the government cannot search your private papers/informmation. Unless, you know, it really *wants to*

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by photomonkey (987563)

      That's why they can keep your stuff for 30 days or longer.

      They're not going to go file-by-file right in front of you. Oh, no. They're going to clone every storage device on you after physically inspecting the hardware. Then, if they bother to go through it and find something encrypted, they'll likely subpoena you for the key. Don't want to turn it over? Can't remember the old password? Contempt of court.

      If they find something they think is criminal, watch US Marshals show up at your house weeks later t

  • by Yejiju (1643935) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @08:04PM (#29535661)
    As a foreign college student that has to deal with the customs every year coming back in to states from my own country, nothing is more painful than experiencing 'Customs and Border Protection'. It is fairly understandable that U.S. government is sooo strict about the incomers that may possibly possess the harm against States. But there will be some kind of loss from too much inspection such as losing elite business men's interests in visiting U.S. and I might not across the border on this spring break even if I've been wanting to visit MEXICO for so long. Just too much inspections to handle. And no, I don't do or bring or take or hide anything that threatens this country.
  • Great!! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Unknown Poltroon (31628) * <unknown_poltroon1sp@myahoo.com> on Thursday September 24, 2009 @09:12PM (#29536049)

    Time for my goatcex screen saver, and the tubgirl desktop. If they barf before they finish searching, do i win?

  • by kandresen (712861) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @09:40PM (#29536173)

    I can just imagine how happy the criminal communities will be for such news. Imagine - every single guard with proper authentication can single out people for a "screening" which include all digital identity, including your pictures, digital records which most certainly contain some references to username/passwords to banks and other web-services, business documents such as contracts, contacts, proposals, and so on and so on. Every criminals dream! All in the disguise that they are there to ensure you don't have any indecent pictures or something. How long to we get the first scandal, or has that already happened?

  • by linuxhansl (764171) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @10:54PM (#29536599)
    Of course the excuse mentioned in the article had to be the good and tried child porn excuse.
    While I find sexual acts on children despicable and inexcusable, I am sick and tired of seeing my civil liberties eroded away by the same excuse over and over again.

    It does not even help! One can put any questionable content on a memory stick and mail it across countries. If the content is encrypted one doesn't even have to worry about it being intercepted. If it is intercepted, just send another one.
    In fact that is probably what I am going to do with private photographs/movies from now on (my parents and I live in different countries). The border agents then can nose around on my laptop all the want, without invading my private life. The point is that I should not have to do that.

    Any terrorist actually caught during a border search is likely too stupid to carry out said terrorist act anyway.

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