Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
United States Government Privacy Security Your Rights Online

Device Security: How Border Searches Are Really Used 223

Posted by timothy
from the nature-of-the-state dept.
onehitwonder writes "Newly released documents reveal how the government uses border crossings to seize and examine travelers' electronic devices instead of obtaining a search warrant to take them, according to The New York Times' Susan Stellin. The documents reveal what had been a mostly secretive process that allows the government to create a travel alert for a person (regardless of whether they're a suspect in an investigation), then detain that individual at a border crossing and confiscate or copy any electronic devices that person is carrying. The documents come courtesy of David House, a fund-raiser for the legal defense of Chelsea Manning, formerly known as Pfc. Bradley Manning." A post at the ACLU blog (besides being free of NYT paywall headaches) gives more details, and provides handy links the documents themselves.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Device Security: How Border Searches Are Really Used

Comments Filter:
  • by bogaboga (793279) on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @10:16AM (#44807645)

    The documents reveal what had been a mostly secretive process that allows the government to create a travel alert for a person (regardless of whether they're a suspect in an investigation), then detain that individual at a border crossing and confiscate or copy any electronic devices that person is carrying.

    Can some fella convince me that the government here, is any different as compared to those other governments?

    Ohh wait, those governments are not democratic but ours is...

    • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @10:29AM (#44807781)

      Ohh wait, those governments are not democratic but ours is...

      No it's not. If you're only allowed to vote for 1 of 2 people that mostly agree on everything, your vote doesn't really count. If you're voting democrat or republican YOU are the problem.

      • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @10:45AM (#44807945)

        voters are not the problem. the system, being rigged to ONLY allow D or R to get in, is the problem.

        people like you keep perpetuating the myth that american voting system matters at the national level. it does not. stop being stupid, ok? the sooner we remove this myth, the sooner we can get on with fixing THE SYSTEM.

        voters are not the main problem. we'll always have idiots who vote against their own best interests, but the last few cycles, D or R would not have mattered one bit when it comes to privacy and removing PATRIOT (etc).

        • One of the things the parties do cooperate in is making sure that no third party ever gets influential enough to threaten the duopoly at the federal level. They keep campaign spending high to maintain a financial barrier entry, and make sure that there is no media coverage for competitors by shunning any media organisation that acknowledges third parties or independents exist.

          • One of the things the parties do cooperate in is making sure that no third party ever gets influential enough to threaten the duopoly at the federal level. They keep campaign spending high to maintain a financial barrier entry, and make sure that there is no media coverage for competitors by shunning any media organisation that acknowledges third parties or independents exist.

            The R and D parties do no such thing. Voters do this. When voters have shown sufficient interest in a 3rd party candidate the media gives that 3rd party candidate coverage and access. In 1992 Ross Perot was leading the presidential race at one point with 39% of likely voters, an 8% lead over incumbent George Bush and a 14% lead over Bill Clinton. He not only participated in the debates but was considered by many in the media to have won the first debate. After a severely f'ed up campaign he still received 1

            • Perot solved the spending problem by throwing his own wealth into the campaign - no-one not a billionaire could hope to do what he did.

              • Perot solved the spending problem by throwing his own wealth into the campaign - no-one not a billionaire could hope to do what he did.

                Perot's wealth may have jump started his campaign but it was his message and how it was received by the voters that made him a viable candidate. With today's social media it is easier than ever for a 3rd party to get his candidacy off the ground. Recent 3rd party candidates have failed because of their message, it didn't connect with many voters. Unlike Perot who had a message that initially connected with voters on a very large scale.

                If it were merely a question of money Donald Trump would have been a v

              • Perot solved the spending problem by throwing his own wealth into the campaign - no-one not a billionaire could hope to do what he did.

                It should be noted that Obama rejected Federal Matching Funds in order to be free of spending limits, and spent rather more than $1 billion dollar per election.

                Which at least implies the possibility that someone "not a billionaire" could manage, since Obama wasn't, and did.

                As to whether a third-party candidate could or not, guess it depends on how good he is at fund-raisin

                • by drnb (2434720)

                  As to whether a third-party candidate could or not, guess it depends on how good he is at fund-raising.

                  Social media has changed things in this area. If a good 3rd party candidate with a good message appears he/she will find raising money far easier than any 3rd party predecessor. Again, its up to voters and only voters.

          • by iris-n (1276146)

            This is completely beside the point (although true). The problem is that the voting system allows for such a thing to happen. Ever wondered why no European democracy has a two-party state? Well, they have sane voting laws. First past the post system without runnofs is just insane. Gerrymandering, electoral college, come on. Once the US was an inspiration to every democracy in the world. Now it has become a laughing matter.

        • voters are not the problem. the system, being rigged to ONLY allow D or R to get in, is the problem.

          To a certain degree, this is correct; look at how hard many groups and organizations worked to keep Ron Paul off the ballot and out of the spotlight during the last Presidential election, for example.

          However, that does not absolve the voter from responsibility - there's a write-in slot on the ballot for a reason.

        • voters are not the problem.

          You are mistaken. Voters absolutely have the power and they squander it. Folks who say that money controls politics are mistaken. Money is just a tool to persuade those who have not made up their mind or are wavering in their commitment. The true political currency is ***votes***. This is easily proven, if a voter is resolute no amount of expensive TV ads can change their mind. Two examples. The National Rifle Association (NRA) and the American Association of Retire Persons (AARP). These are two of the most

        • by dbIII (701233)
          Then get off your arse and agitate to fix it. Your voting systems (multiple and an enormous clusterfuck) are an international joke which they should not be since US staff have very effectively supervised elections in other countries. Universal voting, not doing it on a weekday - that's two fixes that would make a massive difference and probably make third parties as viable as they are in other places.
          Cutting down on bribery ("lobbying" with cash in hand) would help make this possible.
        • I gave you the solution to your problem. Stop voting for the parties. It's as simple as that... and the parties haven't diverged on any major policy since WW2, so don't give me that shit. They disagree on some non-issues that get people hot under the collar like abortion, gun rights, carbon taxes... but nothing that would really change anything. Improve the economy and women wont need as many abortions, people wont rob as many banks and maybe we'd all be able to afford electric cars. The problems in this co

        • [T]he system, being rigged to ONLY allow D or R to get in, is the problem.

          I can tell you how to fix it, but you won't like it.

          Destroy the television network. Completely. Leave behind only internet based video. If televisions can't make spectacles out of candidates, then all the "my guy vs your guy" people would become too bored to be involved in elections. Why do you think everyone only knows about 2 candidates? It's because that is what they saw on television.

          Certain people in our country (and sometimes not even citizens) have been privileged with having exclusion access to

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @10:38AM (#44807867)

      For one thing, you are free to post on slashdot about it without serious concern that you'll be dragged away to a secret prison. Yes, there *are* government abuses in the land of the free, but realistically, they're pretty rare. It is the freedom that exists that allows you to hear about them in the first place, and to have that discussion.

      And yes, we are a democracy, but like all large organizations, the ship of state turns slowly. We do screw up, spectacularly (Dred Scott, Volstead act, etc), but on the whole, these things do get corrected. It just takes decades, not the minutes or hours that modern society working on "internet time" seems to want.

      It has been 50 years since the famous march on Washington. While there is still a ways to go, if you look at what has changed since then, it is dramatic: in the 60s, DC was still segregated: African Americans riding the train south had to get off in Baltimore and move to the "colored cars" at the back. There were riots and conniptions in the 70s & 80s about integrating schools. When was the last time you heard about people firebombing school buses in the US?

      Yes, all of this stuff about the NSA is disturbing, and it should be. But realistically, the mere fact that we are discussing it here is a good thing, and for all the grandstanding in Congress, there will be changes. They'll be slow; there will be bodies of dead pioneers along the sides of the paths of progress; but change will happen.

      And here's your chance to poke at your representatives. Ask them (or tell them) how unhappy you are. Granted, your comment will likely just wind up as a checkmark on a tally sheet prepared by an underpaid congressional intern, but the existence of those tally marks does have an effect in the long run. Politicians aren't totally stupid and beholden to their funding sources. You start seeing 90% of the tally marks in the column for change, and you start thinking.. there's not enough money in the world to buy ads to support the 10% column, I'd better start thinking about it.

      • by gstoddart (321705) on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @10:53AM (#44808031) Homepage

        For one thing, you are free to post on slashdot about it without serious concern that you'll be dragged away to a secret prison.

        The problem with everything you say is it can be countered with "for now".

        As your government gives itself more and more power to intrude on your lives, ignore your Constitution, or use one set of laws to skirt around another the abuses magnify.

        Yes, all of this stuff about the NSA is disturbing, and it should be. But realistically, the mere fact that we are discussing it here is a good thing

        So, you can say to yourself now "well, they haven't taken this away yet" and convince yourself everything is OK. But in a few years if they've taken that and even more away from you, it's too late.

        Complacently thinking everything is fine when it's increasingly not just means that by the time you've got nothing left there's not a damned thing you can do about it.

        Slowly expanding the scope of these things over time means you should be worried, because eventually that 100 mile 'border' zone can cover your entire country, and searching your digital devices or scanning through all of your information can be used for everything they feel like.

        Nobody plans on ending up in a police state, but if you don't stop the steady march while you can, it's all too easy to wake up one day and realize just how badly screwed you are. Joseph McCarthy demonstrated how easily things can change.

        "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. --Edmund Burke"

    • Can some fella convince me that the government here, is any different as compared to those other governments?

      Yes. The ACLU filed lawsuits and the judge ruled against the government. Documents were then compelled to be released.

      In those 'other' countries the ACLU would not exist (members dead or tortured and rotting in jail), the judge would not exist, or if he did and he ruled against the government he would have been shot and no documents would have been released. Oh yeah, and I would have been dr

    • The documents reveal what had been a mostly secretive process that allows the government to create a travel alert for a person (regardless of whether they're a suspect in an investigation), then detain that individual at a border crossing and confiscate or copy any electronic devices that person is carrying.

      Can some fella convince me that the government here, is any different as compared to those other governments?

      Ohh wait, those governments are not democratic but ours is...

      Let me fix that for you...
      Ohh wait, those governments are not democratic but ours WAS...

  • What's the point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sl4shd0rk (755837) on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @10:28AM (#44807777)

    Only reasons I see to examine everyone's electronic devices are:

    A) keep privatized prison populations growing
    B) revenue from confiscated electronics
    C) revenue from war on drugs

    I guess that's believable

    • by Zocalo (252965) on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @10:45AM (#44807941) Homepage
      D) Install the NSA's secret backdoors.

      In the light of recent developments, if I were to get any of my devices searched at the border of a country (any country) and it wasn't confiscated outright, my default stance now is to treat the device as compromised until I can nuke it from orbit, do a complete re-install of the OS and reload any data from backups.
      • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @10:58AM (#44808073)

        Installing backdoors would be too easily detected, eventually. But if I were running a secretive national spy agency, I'd have the border patrol grab any certificate files, credentials or VPN keys as a matter of routine to go into the big database. Never know when they might come in handy.

        If anyone objects, claim it's to fight terrorism or child porn.

        • Installing backdoors would be too easily detected, eventually. But if I were running a secretive national spy agency, I'd have the border patrol grab any certificate files, credentials or VPN keys as a matter of routine to go into the big database. Never know when they might come in handy.

          Why think so small? The blueprints for motherboard, peripherals, memory sticks, etc., all are available to any government. Not just ours. All they have to do is seize an engineer, or a laptop here and there, or intercept communications... oh, and there's always the courts too.

          If you lose physical access to your device, don't trust it again. Don't decrypt the data. It's gone. Even if you're holding it in your hands, the only thing for you to do is scrub it as best you can and put it up on eBay. It's not your

      • by mybecq (131456)

        my default stance now is to treat the device as compromised until I can nuke it from orbit, do a complete re-install of the OS and reload any data from backups.

        I know how to do an OS re-install and data restore, but can you tell me where you get the nukes?

        • by gstoddart (321705)

          I know how to do an OS re-install and data restore

          How do you do an OS reinstall on a tablet?

          Because unless you're installing your own ROMs, from what I've been able to tell the "wipe device" only deletes the user stuff, but doesn't reset the OS to what it was when you got it.

          I'm not being sarcastic, it's a real question ... because I'm not convinced that if I wiped my Nexus 7 it would actually throw away any updates I've received, just clear off some of the stuff.

          • by AHuxley (892839)
            Dont bring any device of that generation and OS type. Just bring any of the really good, second hand laptops with OSX, Win 7/8 or Linux.
            Put in the productivity software and have some VPN you trust to get your work/holiday data back, travel with the laptop but nothing thats personal on it.
            No vids, no chat logs, no IM names, no images with faces/locations/gps/name/serial numbers in the files, no web cache, no digital books with your drm.
            Just random free software and free games :)
            If your data is cloned, M
      • The smarter move for them is to clone your device onto their hardware and give it back to you. No matter what you do, you're still owned, since presumably whatever they give you back has extra stuff (memory/software/hardware) to make sure they have access to your information and possibly remote access to the device.

        This wouldn't be something trivial they would do for random people getting the standard cavity search, but for select targets it wouldn't be impossible. Surely the NSA has the leverage with App

      • by BitterOak (537666)

        do a complete re-install of the OS and reload any data from backups.

        What makes you think reinstalling the OS will get rid of the spyware? It could easily stored in the BIOS (many commercial laptop theft prevention services work this way and survive OS reinstalls, so why can't gov't. spyware?), or in some hardware modifications made to your device while in custody. They could easily install a hardware keylogger or a network monitoring device without your knowledge which phones home with all your secrets.

    • There's the reason from TFA: "Circumventing due process w.r.t. search warrants, court orders, etc."

      Also, how about industrial/commercial espionage? The US Government expects companies to do some dirty work for them, maybe they return the favor every so often so there's no hard feelings.

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      D) Harass anyone the government doesn't like, e.g. reporters who have written stuff critical of US war efforts.
      E) Find out privileged secrets by illegally searching attorneys representing defendants on high-profile cases, e.g. Chelsea Manning's counsel.

  • Does anyone really think that the government wouldn't invoke any available power to achieve it's ends?

  • by jcr (53032) <jcr&mac,com> on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @11:14AM (#44808265) 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, 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 keep looking for an exception for the government's imaginary 100-mile no-constitution zone, and it's just not in there. What the customs service is doing is a crime.

    -jcr

    • by compro01 (777531)

      The exception is an exceedingly narrow definition of what constitutes "unreasonable".

    • I believe they call it the Patriot act.
      It has been a decade or more since you(we) had any "constitutional" rights.
      you know terror, thinking of the children, ect.
      I think that the real crime has happened at a much higher level than the mouth breathers at customs.

    • by houghi (78078)

      I think it is already known that what is happening is unconstitutional. The question is what you are going to do about it.

      Look at your standard kid or dog raising show. If you forbid them to take a cookie and they still do it and you do nothing, they will take another cookie. Telling them not to take it does not impress them, because there is no reaction to their action.

      What is going on now is telling the kids in a STERN voice they should not take that cookie. And what happens? They take the cookie and laug

  • We built the largest military alliance in history, and built a massive fleet of weapons capable of destroying all life on the planet because we said that the idea that you could live in a state where you had no privacy was inherently wrong.

  • I've been wondering if the OpenBSD CDs I got in the mail are the same ones they mailed me. Seems like they're all mailed from the same place; wouldn't be too hard for the American Stasi to swap them out for compromised ones, once they got it set up.

    For some bizarre reason OpenBSD doesn't sign their releases. Way to throw us under the bus, Theo.

  • I am a US citizen and travel out of the country fairly frequently. The work I do is "innocent" and "I have nothing to hide" but I do interact with "foreigners" and with the government random collection of metadata and "six degrees of separation", I could end up in this situation and considerable inconvenience (or worse).
    I've been thinking of using a Chromebook which I could wipe before crossing the border.
    Any ideas?

  • The next time I have to travel across a border, I need to remember to leave the real laptop at home and bring the old & busted. I want to see them try and get data off of it. Maybe I'll even pull the hard drive.

"Say yur prayers, yuh flea-pickin' varmint!" -- Yosemite Sam

Working...