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Federal Judge Limits DHS Laptop Border Searches 359

Posted by timothy
from the oh-you-wanted-the-fourth-amendment-here-too? dept.
Declan McCullogh is reporting at CNET that a federal district court judge has rebuked the Department of Homeland Security, "which had claimed it can seize a traveler's laptop and search it six months later without warrant." As described in the article, DHS policies have been stacked against travelers entering the US, including citizens returning from abroad: "There's no requirement that they be returned to their owners after even six months or a year has passed, though supervisory approval is required if they're held for more than 15 days. The complete contents of a hard drive or memory card can be perused at length for evidence of lawbreaking of any kind, even if it's underpaying taxes or not paying parking tickets." This ruling does not address immediate searches at the border, but says that DHS cannot hold computers for indefinite searching, as in the case to hand, concerning a US citizen returning from a trip to Korea, whose laptop was seized and held for months before a search was even conducted on it.
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Federal Judge Limits DHS Laptop Border Searches

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  • Revenge (Score:5, Funny)

    by Captain Splendid (673276) * <capsplendid@@@gmail...com> on Thursday June 10, 2010 @03:14PM (#32526680) Homepage Journal
    DHS to Judge: Enjoy your time on the no-fly list, sucker!
    • It still scares me to see how badly the Bush administration has damaged democracy and the American constitution. It will take years, but this is another step away from the proto-fascist path that our country had started down when the far right-wing neocons came to power.

      They are still out there. The Supreme Court has been loaded with ideologues and until one of them leaves the bench we are stuck with a judicial system that has been gamed for the sake of the wealthy and well-connected who care nothing for
      • by JesseL (107722) * on Thursday June 10, 2010 @03:43PM (#32527036) Homepage Journal

        Thank goodness Obama has done so much to fix all that.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          You forgot your sarcasm tag. It's a testament to Bush's awfulness that yet another centrist, milquetoast suit was hailed as liberal saviour.
          • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

            by Grishnakh (216268)

            The liberals happily supported Obama, even though they had many other Democrat candidates to pick from. IMO, the Democrats managed to pick the very worst candidate out of all those running in the Primaries. (I believe the Republicans managed to do the same.) Any of the other Democrats running would have been better than Obama.

            So it's not Bush's awfulness that's to blame, it's the dumb liberals who thought that Obama was their savior who are to blame. Bush is only to blame for what he did while in office

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by jbeach (852844)
              There is NO WAY that Obama was worse than Hillary (who fully approved the invasion of Iraq without looking over the evidence) or John Edwards (willing to be nominated while he was having a reckless affair, which shows how much he values honesty *and* the efforts of all working for him).

              Simply not possible.

              What I think is going on here, is that Obama is being called awful simply because he's not a savior. There are a lot of big messes going on right now, people. Any one of them would be the most notabl
              • >>>at least now the economy has been pulled back from the cliff.

                hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. Boy that was a good joke. The Euro is collapsing (due to extreme debt collapsing Member States), and the Dollar is on the brink itself. Yeah the economy is still on the edge of the cliff. What was a bad stock crisis has now become a much, much worse currency crisis.

                • by Technician (215283) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @05:21PM (#32528452)

                  The great depression was extended for years due to to the action the government took to end it. Now we are doing the same thing again with the stimulus. Expect this recovery to last a while.
                  http://newsroom.ucla.edu/portal/ucla/FDR-s-Policies-Prolonged-Depression-5409.aspx [ucla.edu]

                  Using data collected in 1929 by the Conference Board and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Cole and Ohanian were able to establish average wages and prices across a range of industries just prior to the Depression. By adjusting for annual increases in productivity, they were able to use the 1929 benchmark to figure out what prices and wages would have been during every year of the Depression had Roosevelt's policies not gone into effect. They then compared those figures with actual prices and wages as reflected in the Conference Board data.

                  In the three years following the implementation of Roosevelt's policies, wages in 11 key industries averaged 25 percent higher than they otherwise would have done, the economists calculate. But unemployment was also 25 percent higher than it should have been, given gains in productivity.

                  Meanwhile, prices across 19 industries averaged 23 percent above where they should have been, given the state of the economy. With goods and services that much harder for consumers to afford, demand stalled and the gross national product floundered at 27 percent below where it otherwise might have been.

                  • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                    by tsm_sf (545316)
                    By adjusting for annual increases in productivity, they were able to use the 1929 benchmark to figure out what prices and wages would have been during every year of the Depression had Roosevelt's policies not gone into effect.

                    Logic like that is why nobody takes economists too seriously.
            • >>>I've completely lost all hope that the American public is able to pick any type of decent leader.

              Maybe it's time to go back to how it was done in 1792, 1796, 1800, et cetera - let the States pick the president of the Union. The People already have representation in both the House and Senate, and in their local State Legislatures..... so it's not as if they won't be heard.

              • by Grishnakh (216268)

                I'm starting to think things were better back then because not everyone was allowed to vote. Only white, male landowners. This kept all the uneducated idiots from voting for bad politicians. Maybe we should re-institute something like this, only without the race, gender, and landowning requirements, and make it education-based. No one without a college education can vote, or perhaps require a high school diploma at the least.

                If we restricted voting to people who have been taught some amount of critical-

                • >>>Only white, male landowners.

                  False. Several states, especially the northern ones, allowed women to vote in the 1700s. And blacks. Some let people without property vote as well, although that was rarer. To say "only" is a distortion of history.

                  • by Grishnakh (216268)

                    Whoops, I was under the impression that it was restricted that way everywhere. Guess not. Makes sense, though: things were more different state-to-state back then than they are now.

            • The liberals happily supported Obama

              Wrong. The liberals happily supported Kucinich, but gritted their teeth and did their best when it came to Obama and Clinton, because they know the game is rigged. The only people who 'loved' them were status-quo centrists. Or, as they were known back in the 50s, Republicans.
              • by Grishnakh (216268)

                Um, no. Obama wasn't picked by Republicans, he was picked by people who registered themselves as Democrats and voted in the Primaries for him. Just like McCain was picked by people who registered themselves as Republicans. If any centrists voted in the Primaries for Obama, it's because they identified themselves as Democrats.

                The game is only rigged in the sense that the voting system sucks, by not allowing preferential choice (as other systems, like IRV do), and because it's party-based.

      • by Peach Rings (1782482) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @03:43PM (#32527044) Homepage

        It scares me how scared people are that they think this is rational behavior. The "reasonable suspicion" that the border agent had at the scene was:

        Hanson appeared nervous, the discovery of the condoms and the male-enhancement pills, and Hanson's statement that he had been working with children

        Then they searched his laptop 3 times and found [pbfcomics.com] a single image of what appeared to be an adolescent girl naked on a beach, so they arrested him for possessing and transporting child pornography, and since it's federal, he's going to PMITA prison.

      • by tophermeyer (1573841) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @03:47PM (#32527094)

        I am not going to defend the Bush administration. But it is worth noting that Obama has been President for 1 1/2 years already and he's done pretty much nothing to roll that back. Bush hating made sense back in 2007 while we was still enacting crap like this, but its only fair to also be critical of the guy who came into office promising "change" and has instead protected the status quo (in terms of fascist analogies towards government).

      • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @04:02PM (#32527274) Journal

        >>>It still scares me to see how badly the Bush administration has damaged democracy and the American constitution

        Yes George Duh Bush is a git, but Obama signed the Patriot Act Renewal bill, so now he's just as much of a git. Obama should have kept his promise and let the Patriot Act expire. Obama's other broken promises:

        1 - Stop snatching people off streets. Provide a Right to fair trial. - (REALITY: We no longer have Miranda rights even for U.S. citizens.) (Can be held indefinitely w/o trial)
        2 - Right to Privacy - (They now spy on us via warrantless wiretaps and track our cellphones) (Patriot Act renewed by Obama.)
        3 - No interrogation. Close Guantanamo. - (Revoked - now they interrogate American citizens too.)
        4 - End the war. - (Now it's been extended two more years.)

        So now we've had three shitty presidents in a row.

        • by Grishnakh (216268) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @04:25PM (#32527628)

          As a 2nd Amendment supporter, about the only thing I can say positive about Obama is that he signed the bill into law allowing people to carry firearms in National Parks. Of course, he didn't really want to sign that, but it was attached to some other crap he wanted, so he signed it anyway. So, in a way, Obama has been better for gun-rights supporters than Bush, who never signed any such bill, and also wanted to renew the idiotic "Assault Weapons Ban" (but Congress refused to renew it at the time so he never got to sign it).

          As for shitty Presidents in a row, I think it's been a lot more than 3, unless you want to try to segregate them based on their shittiness. Honestly, I can't think of the last GOOD President this country has had. It certainly hasn't been within my lifetime. Eisenhower, perhaps? FDR? Jefferson? Washington? All the ones since the 60s have sucked:
                JFK: Bay of Pigs
                LBJ: Vietnam war, welfare
                Nixon: extending Vietnam war, Watergate
                Ford: dunno
                Carter: ineffective in mideast crisis
                Reagan: massive deficit spending on military, Iran-Contra affair
                Bush I: Gulf War I, "read my lips: no new taxes"
                Clinton: not horrible, but didn't do anything good either, stupidly got caught getting blowjob from ugly intern with loose lips; signed bill overturning Glass-Steagal Act leading to Mortgage Meltdown
                Bush II: Afgh & Iraq wars, Patriot Act, Cheney, Halliburton, Blackwater, ineffective in Katrina, the list goes on and on
                Obama: extending Afgh & Iraq wars, ineffective with BP oil spill, promised "change" but everything's still the same as under Bush even though he has a Democrat-controlled Congress to work with

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Wyatt Earp (1029)

        Compared to what Lincoln and Wilson did, the Bush Administration was a minor league play.

        Hell, or what happened under Jackson.

        Indian Removal Act was far more damaging than anything Bush did or dreamed of doing.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Shotgun (30919)

        Wasn't there a few Democrats in power when all of these laws enabling this bullstuff were being passed?

  • Burned CDs (Score:2, Informative)

    by mederbil (1756400)

    A computer engineer I worked with was going through the border and was apparently not allowed to have burned CDs of software on him. He just so happened to have a very stable version of XP he didn't want to get rid of. Solution: Stick it in the CD drive, put the battery somewhere and they won't take the time to check the drive.

    • by Pharmboy (216950)

      No CDs?? I would like to see the rule on that, that would mean you can't bring music CDs, and you might as well not have CDR disks anyway, if you can't use them while you are out. This doesn't sound legit.

  • Finally ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 10, 2010 @03:23PM (#32526802)

    I'm glad to see that the law is finally curtailing some of these absurd laws. For the last bunch of years a bunch of draconian policies have been deemed legal "because we say so". It's about fucking time the courts started bitch-slapping these down.

    America has become absurd, and many people simply won't go there while it's like this.

    I think every country should start doing exactly the same things to all US citizens. Let's see how long it takes before Americans start to complain about being fingerprinted, cavity searched, and arbitrarily detained.

    I like most Americans, but your fucking government is out of control.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Sabriel (134364)

      I think every country should start doing exactly the same things to all US citizens.

      I propose the opposite. I propose we make it as nice as possible for US citizens to enter other countries, so they can see just how ugly the US border policies are by comparison.

      US tourist #1: "Yeah, it was cool! We arrived in Australia and the border guards gave us barbecued prawns!"

      US tourist #2: "And then we got back to the US and all we got was fingerprinted and a cavity search..."

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by interkin3tic (1469267)

      I think every country should start doing exactly the same things to all US citizens. Let's see how long it takes before Americans start to complain about being fingerprinted, cavity searched, and arbitrarily detained.

      I like most Americans, but your fucking government is out of control.

      I find that, in general, my countrymen and women who are most opposed to ridiculousness like this are the very ones who leave the US the most often. Those numbskulls who approve of treating all international travelers like terrorists on the other hand stay at home

      Maybe its that travellers experience security theater firsthand and then become opposed to it. Maybe it's more that people who want full body cavity searches of all people coming into the US are so xenophobic about the evil non-americans trying t

  • by Anonymous Coward

    A country has ALWAYS had the right to fully inspect or seize ANYTHING coming in across its border!
    .
    And that includes laptops. The rules haven't suddenly changed. You just noticed that you don't like the rules. And EVERY country has this right (whether or not they can enforce it is another matter).
    Customs officials ALWAYS had the right to search your bags. Now you have this magical Bag of Holding, your laptop, that can hold a God awful lot of things. They still get to search it. It is still just a bag,

    • by Trepidity (597) <.delirium-slashdot. .at. .hackish.org.> on Thursday June 10, 2010 @03:38PM (#32526960)

      The U.S. is generally a country with some notion of property rights, though, so the police cannot arbitrarily seize and keep things if no law was violated, even at borders. They can search luggage entering the country, sure, but this case was about whether the police may keep a laptop for six months or longer without any sort of forfeiture proceeding or at least some sort of showing that the laptop was contraband under U.S. law and properly subject to confiscation.

    • by hypergreatthing (254983) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @03:42PM (#32527028)

      Yeah see, that's where you are wrong. I don't mind inspecting, even reasonable searches, but seizing anything? At least there needs to be a reason like it's contraband or illegal. Seizing equipment because they can is the same thing as stealing private property, and as far as i know that's covered by the 5th amendment of the constitution. You want to take my property? Fine, just provide me with enough cash so that my property, time spent on it and sensitive information on it is completely compensated for.

    • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @04:23PM (#32527602) Journal

      >>>A country has ALWAYS had the right to fully inspect or seize ANYTHING coming in across its border!

      Where in the Constitution was the United States government given that power of unlimited property theft (or limitless imprisonment)??? MY reading of the constitution says the exact opposite (Bill of Rights, sections 5 and 9 and 10).

      • by rickb928 (945187)

        You have to BE here to be receive your guaranteed rights (assuming you get them when you're here, that is...)

        When re-entering the country, you might legally be considered to not yet be 'in' the country, and so you get limited or no rights. If you think this is bogus, Try arguing over a bottle of single-malt scotch with a Customs agent. They can strip-search you if they think there's either contraband or declarable goods on or in you. Yes, they can.

        Tax authorities get away with a lot in the US. Whether th

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by JesseMcDonald (536341)

          You have to BE here to be receive your guaranteed rights

          No, you have your rights no matter where you are. That's why they're called "natural rights"; everyone has them. More to the point, to the extent that someone is acting as an agent of the US government under the authority of the US Constitution their authority is limited to that actually granted by the Constitution. The Constitution does not grant the US government or its agents the authority to perform any search or seizure without a warrant. If anyone were to perform such a search or seizure without a war

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by rickb928 (945187)

            A friend of mine is in Turkey now. He doesn't enjoy the same rights there as he does here.

            Your rights must protected and enforced.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by JesseMcDonald (536341)

              He has the same rights there as he has here. Enforcement is a separate issue. The US Constitution doesn't grant rights, it simply states that the government is required to respect them in exchange for receiving whatever appearance of legitimacy the Constitution can provide. The rights themselves exist independent of the Constitution, and predate the Constitution.

              If rights only existed to the extent they could be enforced then it would be impossible to violate anyone's rights; the moment they were violated t

  • Those damned activist judges! Oh wait...

  • by r_jensen11 (598210) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @03:49PM (#32527130)

    The complete contents of a hard drive or memory card can be perused at length for evidence of lawbreaking of any kind, even if it's underpaying taxes or not paying parking tickets.

    Holy balls, Batman! The DHS is like the CIA, FBI, ATF, and IRS all in one! What's that? You don't even need an associates degree to join? Great Scott!

  • by dazedNconfuzed (154242) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @03:49PM (#32527134)

    PortableApps.com = move your digital life onto removable media, able to run on any PC.
    microSDHC = 1-16GB storage on a sub-fingernail-sized removable media.
    Unless they're gonna go thru all the lint in everyone's pockets, they can have the notebook.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Mod this up...
      Honestly there is absolutely no point to a laptop search, unless the physical laptop may have been tampered with (which the visual inspection already done for domestic travel would suffice). What keeps someone from putting data onto a memory card and sticking it into their phone / game system / whatever on a hidden partition? Or better yet, using the internet to simply transfer it from a public PC lab outside of the country to a server they set up inside (if they are a returning US citizen i

    • by macaulay805 (823467) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @05:08PM (#32528300) Homepage Journal
      Ironically, your tagline fits your post "-1 Wrong". The solution you're suggestion is fixing the symptom, NOT the problem. The problem is unreasonable search and seizure. That is the problem we should be tackling.

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