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US Federal Judge Rules Suspicionless Border Searches of Laptops Constitutional 462

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the i've-got-an-inchoate-hunch dept.
AHuxley writes "The American Civil Liberties Union sought to challenge the U.S. legal 'border exemption' three years ago. Can your laptop be seized and searched without reasonable suspicion at the border? A 32 page decision provides new legal insight into legal thinking around suspicionless searches: your electronic devices are searchable and seizable for any reason at the U.S. border. The ACLU may appeal. Also note the Kool-Aid comment: 'The report said that a reasonable suspicion standard is inadvisable because it could lead to litigation and the forced divulgence of national security information, and would prevent border officers from acting on inchoate "hunches," a method that it says has sometimes proved fruitful.'" It's even legal for them to copy the contents of your laptop for no reason at all, just in case they need to take a peek later. A bit of context from the ACLU: "The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Pascal Abidor, a dual French-American citizen who had his laptop searched and confiscated at the Canadian border ... Abidor was travelling from Montreal to New York on an Amtrak train in May 2010 when he had his laptop searched and confiscated by customs officers. Abidor, an Islamic Studies Ph.D. student at McGill University, was questioned, taken off the train in handcuffs, and held in a cell for several hours before being released without charge. When his laptop was returned 11 days later, there was evidence that many of his personal files had been searched, including photos and chats with his girlfriend."
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US Federal Judge Rules Suspicionless Border Searches of Laptops Constitutional

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  • by crutchy (1949900) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @09:58AM (#45836447)

    ...i'm not American.

    • by Toe, The (545098) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @10:22AM (#45836593)

      How implausible is it to imagine that a system could be set up to suck all data off every device (especially solid state storage) as it passes through airport security?

      Since it's legal, why wouldn't the government want to do it? Ya know. Just in case. To protect us.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by SQLGuru (980662)

        I hereby announce that all personal data on my drive is copyright me. For software not written by me, I am also copyrighting the organization of the data on my drive. Copying this information without my permission is a violation of my copyrights subject to a minimum license fee of $10,000,000 USD per item copied. There is also a viewership license with a minimum fee of $1,000,000 USD per incident (each file and each viewing constitutes a new incident).

        There. Now if my laptop is ever rifled through witho

    • by john_uy (187459) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @10:45AM (#45836703)

      That's the problem. All people entering the USA have no protection as accorded to American citizens. You are treated as hostile unless proven otherwise. In the meantime, all rights are suspended with no expectation of being treated as a human being.

      Being a foreigner, I have read numerous times of horror stories happening at the immigration. It's really discouraging to go to the USA even if you have all the best intentions to go there. Good thing I don't have any necessity to go there at this point in time.

      At the end, I'm not sure it is helping thwart bad people from entering the USA.

      • That's the problem. All people entering the USA have no protection as accorded to American citizens. You are treated as hostile unless proven otherwise. In the meantime, all rights are suspended with no expectation of being treated as a human being.

        Being a foreigner, I have read numerous times of horror stories happening at the immigration. It's really discouraging to go to the USA even if you have all the best intentions to go there.

        I understand your dread of entering the U.S. (though you say you have only "read" about "horror stories" and not actually done it yourself), but this is a common misconception. The U.S. Constitution applies to every person in the country, even if they are there illegally, with some obvious exceptions, such as the right to vote.

        Yes, it's true that border security will stretch those rights (I'm not saying I think that's good), but the Constitution still applies, both to citizens and non-citizens alike.

        This

        • by mellon (7048) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @11:36AM (#45837017) Homepage

          It doesn't matter whether the constitution applies in theory or not. What matters is whether it applies in practice.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Being a foreigner, I have read numerous times of horror stories happening at the immigration. It's really discouraging to go to the USA even if you have all the best intentions to go there. Good thing I don't have any necessity to go there at this point in time.

        One nice thing about flying to the US, from Canada, is that US Customs has operations at major Canadian airports.

        So if you're at (say) Toronto Pearson (CYYZ), you're "pre-cleared" by security and customs, and then the flight is treated as it was a domestic one. If US Customs doesn't want to let you in, you can just drive home. That doesn't work coming to the US from most other countries (though there is pre-clearance at Shannon, Ireland).

        It's actually less hassle at airports than road or train crossings in

  • by sandbagger (654585) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @09:58AM (#45836451)

    At the end of the novel Catch-22 the famous rule starts to have other formulations including 'they have the right to do to us anything we can't stop them from doing.'

    Does anyone think this won't be abused?

    • by INT_QRK (1043164) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @10:39AM (#45836681)
      Of course "they have the [power] to do to us anything we [don't] stop them from doing." That's a universal human and historical truth, and subject of Benjamin Franklin's answer to a passerby's question at the close of Constitutional Convention in 1787 with the veiled warning: "a republic, if you can keep it.' It's also the reason for the Bill of Rights which can only have meaning as long as there is vigilant scrutiny and determined enforcement. My only quibble with Heller is that fundamentally only individuals can have rights; governments, or any collectivist formulation, have only have persuasive or coersive power.
      • by Kjella (173770) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @12:15PM (#45837245) Homepage

        My only quibble with Heller is that fundamentally only individuals can have rights; governments, or any collectivist formulation, have only have persuasive or coersive power.

        How about the right to due process, should the government have the right to arbitrarily hand out fines or seize assets and property just because they belong to an organization or company? I think most of these rights need to be transitive, you're not getting due process until the organizations you are member of or corporations you're a shareholder of also get due process. But then again I find the civil forfeiture laws wildly unconstitutional, how can you have "The right of the people to be secure in their (...) effects against unreasonable (...) seizures" when the government can grab them on the slimmest of excuses and demand you counterprove wild speculation? So yeah we could start by restoring indiviuals' rights.

        • "should the government have the right"

          No, only individual persons have rights. Government has no "right" to anything, not even to exist. It exists because the governed or the power-hungry created it.

          Government has power. For "free" countries, theoretically the power we delegate ti. But in practice it eventually assumes the power it can get away with.

    • by dkleinsc (563838) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @12:01PM (#45837167) Homepage

      In addition, it's worth mentioning that the US currently defines its "border" as anything within 100 miles of any land or sea border, or any international airport. As a matter of standing case law, it is legal for them to grab you in, say, San Francisco, and search your laptop, cell phone, person, papers, and effects, without providing any legal justification other than "You're in a border zone".

      And of course, Mr Abidor being a scholar of Islamic Studies had absolutely nothing to do with him being stopped, that was total coincidence.

      And what they're looking for isn't so much evidence of criminal activity as it is dirt on people, in case they need to protect America by blackmailing people like they did in COINTELPRO.

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        This is untrue. The border is the border. The 100 mile "zone" is not a constitution free zone, it is not even a 4th amendment free zone, it is just that region of "extended border" where border and customs agents are allowed searches but only after meeting strict criteria (including reasonable suspicion). At the "functional border", ie, crossings and airports, is where the warrantless searches are allowed. What has happened is that some people are confusing this 100 mile extended border with the function

  • by OverlordQ (264228) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @09:59AM (#45836453) Journal

    ~nt~

    • You know what? Even though I don't travel with my laptop, I'm thinking the same thing.

      With the recent revelations of the ability to intercept hardware en route and infect the firmware with spyware, I wonder if there's a possibility that TruCrypt could be circumvented. I suppose it could, since the data must reside in RAM unencrypted for use by the processor.

      I also don't know if whole-drive encryption is really necessary (why would I encrypt my system files?) or if it has an adverse effect on SSD life.

      • Basically, if you're targeted they have you. If you're not targeted you have a chance to cause their automated collection algorithms to have to work extra hard to collect your data, but they still have you. So Truecrypt wont help you much.

        • Re: TrueCrypt (Score:4, Insightful)

          by crutchy (1949900) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @11:33AM (#45836991)

          ...and if you encrypt your hard disk you must be a terrorist

        • Re: TrueCrypt (Score:4, Informative)

          by mellon (7048) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @11:47AM (#45837079) Homepage

          If you want to be safe from unreasonable searches of your personal data while crossing borders, keep no data (none!) on your computer when you cross borders. Anything you need, keep somewhere where you can download it using a memorized password once you're in a place where you feel you have some reason to assume you won't be searched again. When you need to re-cross the border, erase the data again. Don't even keep passwords on your computer. If there's no data on your computer, then they won't be in a position to ask you for your password.

          Of course, the police can always stop you, and the border patrol can always demand to search your computer if they stop you within 100 miles of the border (claims the administration) so you're still not out of the woods once you're on the other side of the border, but unless they are specifically targeting you, you're unlikely to be further searched. Realistically, if they aren't targeting you they aren't going to search your devices when you cross the border either, but you never know.

          Probably the most important takeaway from this story is that if you are doing anything related to Islam or the study of Islam, you should not advertise that in any way that can be found by googling you. By restraining your freedom of speech voluntarily, you can avoid being punished for thoughtcrime.

    • if you are on linux and dont want to use truecrypt binary for whatever reason,you can use zuluCrypt[1] to create and manage truecrypt volumes using a GUI solution

      [1] http://code.google.com/p/zulucrypt/ [google.com]
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Encrypting your hard drive's contents may not be such a good idea... If they decide to search your laptop (or any other device) and it's encrypted, they'll certainly ask you to provide the password. If you don't provide the password, expect being detained for as long as the law allows them to hold you. Also, if you're a foreign national, you'll probably be denied entry.

      • Re:TrueCrypt (Score:5, Insightful)

        by myowntrueself (607117) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @10:51AM (#45836749)

        Encrypting your hard drive's contents may not be such a good idea... If they decide to search your laptop (or any other device) and it's encrypted, they'll certainly ask you to provide the password. If you don't provide the password, expect being detained for as long as the law allows them to hold you. Also, if you're a foreign national, you'll probably be denied entry.

        Don't encrypt the laptop.

        Take a backup of the laptop hard drive, encrypt the backup. Upload that to an online storage service.
        Wipe the free space or get a new hard drive. Install basic operating system. Take THAT through customs with you.
        For 'extra points' create an online email account and populate it with some plausible emails, copy over some plausible photos, documents etc.
        Once at your destination, download your encrypted backup and restore it onto your hard drive.

        • Re:TrueCrypt (Score:5, Insightful)

          by ljw1004 (764174) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @12:34PM (#45837347)

          Don't encrypt the laptop.

          Take a backup of the laptop hard drive, encrypt the backup. Upload that to an online storage service.
          Wipe the free space or get a new hard drive.

          Do you really actually do all that? Or is this just some weird thought experiment of yours?

          • Yeah I'm gonna go ahead and say uploading an entire harddrive backup (for me either 129gb/400, 885/1tb, or 2.4TB/3TB) is entirely unrealistic. Upload files you might need and grab them later..

            Or just keep a second HDD with solely stuff you need that isn't sketchy.

    • So you get to spend some quality time with a rubber hose until you tell them your passwords?

    • Even if your device is encrypted, you will have to throw it away after they hand it back to you. If you boot it, you are going to be running their code and they own the machine regardless of the encryption.
      I know at least one corporation that will not let its employees travel oversees with laptops.

  • by frdmfghtr (603968) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @10:01AM (#45836471)

    Every time I read about a new attack on the Bill of Rights, I write to my Congressional representation. I also vote to replace my representation since clearly they aren't representing We, the People.

    I'm getting tired of writing these letters, yet I'll do it again and remind my "representation" of my position. Anybody else?

    • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @10:21AM (#45836591)

      I'm getting tired of writing these letters, yet I'll do it again and remind my "representation" of my position.

      Unless you include a huge "donation" check in your letter . . . your "representation" won't even receive your letter. The secretary will just toss it in the trash.

      • by Chelloveck (14643) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @10:39AM (#45836675) Homepage

        Unless you include a huge "donation" check in your letter . . . your "representation" won't even receive your letter. The secretary will just toss it in the trash.

        Nah, it'll get aggregated by subject matter. In the month-end statistics it'll just be another check for "concerned about border security", prompting the lawmaker to introduce a bill to *require* searches of all laptops. Mission accomplished.

        • by dcollins (135727) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @01:20PM (#45837597) Homepage

          This. I've gotten email responses that were the exact opposite of what I was writing about. In particular, when I wrote to my congressman against draconian copyright regimes (including my role as owner & developer of a small software business), the response was that they sympathized with my professional role, and in light of that would continue to work on strengthening copyright enforcement.

    • by Greyfox (87712)
      Why don't you run? Sounds like you have a better idea. Mount a grassroots campaign on teh internets on a shoestring and see how many votes you get! You want something done, you gotta do it yourself.
      • by cellocgw (617879)

        Why don't you run? Sounds like you have a better idea. Mount a grassroots campaign on teh internets on a shoestring and see how many votes you get!

        I'm *trying* . See my sig :-) . So far, I believe I have about 10 votes. Could use a few more to guarantee a majority...

      • Don't think I haven't considered it.

        I'm of two minds regarding politics:

        (1) I'm so sick if the Washington nonsense that sometimes I wish I could just forget the whole thing, tune it out, and just go on with my life. That usually lasts two minutes, because it does, and will, affect me whether I want it to or not.

        (2) actually run and bring back as much inside info as I can, to REALLY inform my employer (the CITIZENS I represent) of the nonsense that goes on. Really try to do some good and represent We, the P

    • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @10:38AM (#45836673)

      And here-in is the problem. The NSA has assuredly more blackmail material on every politician in this country than could ever be had by any investigative journalist or PI. When it comes to shutting down the entire NSA do you think they'd use that? Or just roll over?

    • by INT_QRK (1043164)
      Yeah, and I'm I'm probably on the same list as you are for the same reason. Looking forward to meeting you at Re-education Camp!
    • by FridayBob (619244) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @11:11AM (#45836831) Homepage

      ... I'm getting tired of writing these letters, yet I'll do it again and remind my "representation" of my position. Anybody else?

      Your pleas are falling on deaf ears, because your representatives in Congress today don't work you anymore: to them it's all about the money they need to get re-elected, so now they only work for their donors. Even Obama, who received so many small donations, got 70% of his campaign cash from big donors, mainly from people on Wall Street (which is why he will never prosecute them).

      Therefore, what we must do is fix the underlying problem first: by getting big money out of politics.

      This would be difficult in any other country with a corrupt political system, but luckily the United States Constitution happens to include Article Five [wikipedia.org], which describes an alternative process through which the Constitution can be altered: by holding a national convention at the request of the legislatures of at least two-thirds (34) of the country's 50 States. Any proposed amendments must then be ratified by at least three-quarters (38 States).

      Is anybody doing this yet? Yes. WOLF-PAC [wolf-pac.com] was launched in October 2011 for the purpose of passing a 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that will end corporate personhood* and publicly finance all elections**. Since then, many volunteers have approached their State Legislators about this idea and their efforts have often been met with unexpected bi-partisan enthusiasm. So far, 50 State Legislators have authored or co-sponsored resolutions to call for a Constitutional Convention to get money out of politics! Notable successes have been in Texas, Idaho and Kentucky.

      However, if the State Legislators are also corrupt, why are they helping us? Well, maybe they aren't as corrupt as you think. And even if they are, the important thing is that they seem to be just as fed up with the Federal government as we are -- so much so that they seem quite happy to help out with this effort. After all, it's a pretty simple proposal that speaks to both Democrats and Republicans.

      If you think this idea makes sense, you can sign this petition [wolf-pac.com], donate, or even take action by personally contacting your favorite State Legislator and asking for a meeting. It's easier than you might think and as a result we might be able to change this awful situation sooner than you think.

      .

      *) The aim is not to end legal personhood for corporations, but natural personhood. The latter became a problem following the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling, which grated some of the rights of natural persons to corporations and makes it easier for them to lend financial support to political campaigns.

      **) At the State level, more than half of all political campaigns are already publicly financed in some way, so there's nothing strange about doing the same for political campaigns for federal office.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by fche (36607)

        "Therefore, what we must do is fix the underlying problem first: by getting big money out of politics."

        Another way to do that would be to squish government back into constitutionally delimited jurisdictions. It would not interfere in economic life as much, would not spend so bloody much, so would not be a target for bribery from business/unions/individuals so much. Adjust "so much" to taste.

        But that way lies a less powerful government, something leftists like the "wolf pac" abhor.

    • by Torvac (691504)
      "representation" is about money, add cash.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The terrorists have won! No I'm not talking about the Islamic kind. I'm talking about the American government which since 2001 opted to keep its citizens in a perpetual state of fear to increase its power over them.

  • 2014: year of the hunch
    or 2014: year of the massive street protests
    • "...inchoate hunches, a method that it says has sometimes proved fruitful."

      Since even a blind squirrel occasionally finds a nut, said squirrel may rifle through your personals.

      Yep, passes the smell test for science.

  • Police is the state
  • by Ihlosi (895663) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @10:19AM (#45836575)

    ... anything else would be "inadvisable"?

  • by wbr1 (2538558) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @10:20AM (#45836583)
    If I have a briefcase full of papers at the border can that be searched without warrant or suspicion? If not, then why cana device which serves similar purpose be searched?

    Because fuck you (and the constitution), that's why. Oh sorry, because terrist bogeymen, that's why.

    My ass hurts.

    • Re:logic... (Score:5, Informative)

      by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @10:38AM (#45836671)

      If I have a briefcase full of papers at the border can that be searched without warrant or suspicion?

      Unless you have a diplomatic passport, then yes, your briefcase can be searched at the border for any reason or for no reason.

    • Actually yes it can. The DHS suspends the constitution within 100 miles of the border. They can search anything they want in the name on national security.

    • by bdam (1774922)
      The answer to your question is yes, they would absolutely search a briefcase. I'm not sure what would make you think otherwise. I cross the Canadian/US land border several times a year with the full knowledge that if the border agent wants to tear my car apart bolt-by-bolt he can do so. Once done, they'd give me the OK and leave me with a pile of car parts. I'm pretty big on civil liberties, and stories like this don't exactly make me comfortable, but at the end of the day the border guys have a tough j
      • Re:logic... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ATMAvatar (648864) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @11:40AM (#45837039) Journal

        I'm pretty big on civil liberties, and stories like this don't exactly make me comfortable, but at the end of the day the border guys have a tough job. Hundreds of thousands of people entering the country, they get a minute or two to decide if something is amiss. Should they have unlimited powers? No. However, I think there's a case to be made that if you want to enter a country you are not entitled to due-process in it's entirety. In terms of it being a fourth amendment issue ... I'm not sure it's unreasonable to be searched when entering a country ... it seems pretty standard across the world. Electronics make it feel far move invasive, sure, but the base concept of being able to search people entering the country seems pretty sound.

        This kind of opinion is precisely why we continue to see the erosion of our rights in the US.

        Suspending constitutional rights because "their job is hard" is bullshit. The border agents can suck it up and do their jobs the right way. If that means I have an order of magnitude higher chance of dying from a terrorist attack, so be it - it would still be multiple orders of magnitude lower chance than dying of many other things like cancer, heart disease, or car accidents.

        • There's no suspension of constitutional rights here. Fourth Amendment protects you against unreasonable search. Historically, border searches (then primarily to detect contraband) have been practiced since the founding of the Republic, and are deemed reasonable by long historical precedent and public good. As this has always been the case, there's no actual erosion.

          I do agree that it may well be overly broad and should be narrowed down, but it would require a constitutional amendment to codify that arbitrar

    • Re:logic... (Score:5, Informative)

      by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @10:45AM (#45836705)

      Yes it can be searched.

      The search standards at border crossings are very loose. It's been that way since 1789. The Constitution is high on defense of the nation, and tariffs were the first taxes. Obviously you cannot defend the borders or impose tariffs without being able to search at border crossings.

      The Congress shall have power:

      To lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

      "Exhibit A in the Supreme Courtâ(TM)s case for border searches is a statute Congress enacted in 1789, which granted customs officials âoefull power and authorityâ to search âoeany ship or vessel, in which they shall have reason to suspect any goods, wares or merchandise subject to duty shall be concealed"

      from: http://lawreview.richmond.edu/run-for-the-border/ [richmond.edu]

      This statute actually PREDATES the adoption of the Bill of Rights as amendments to the Constitution by two months.

      • by anagama (611277)

        The fact that the statute predates the constitution supports the opposite conclusion you are drawing because a more recent edict by a more powerful body clearly repeals prior inferior contrary law.

    • If I have a briefcase full of papers at the border can that be searched without warrant or suspicion?

      Yep. The courts have consistently ruled that it surely can. Because the border is not *inside* the US, Constitutional protections do not apply there.

  • If a computer search alters the state/contents of a machine, how would it be legal? e.g.: a naive software-based search of files, that alters metadata on files? Or: disassembling a device that wasn't designed to be disassembled, in order to clone the HD?

    If border officials order a user to boot-up and enable the same access the traveler would have: What if there's software on the machine, that is *designed* to alter file contents when they are viewed? (The precise reason doesn't matter, but: what

  • Copyright (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @10:36AM (#45836651)

    Stick a copyright notice on your laptop.

    "The contents of this laptop are copyrighted. Licensed for use by owner only."

    Then sue them.

  • Step 1 - Bitlocker etc. Encrypt your drive. They will not spend the resources decrypting it, and cannot force you to give up passwords to things without a court order. Step 2 - Pay for a server located in a country that you trust (as much as possible anyway) and sync or store files there. Accessing things you need when you need them instead of always carrying them around. If step 2 is an issue for you due to wanting access to content while without internet, see step 1. Now if you are actually doing somet
  • May the honorable judge Edward R. Korman be subjected to warrantless searches and having his personal data copied by the government as often as possible. He should be okay with it... he legalized it.

  • Sigh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ledow (319597) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @11:14AM (#45836859) Homepage

    Constitutional or not, I wouldn't risk it anyway. Please note, I'm an IT Manager - I have nothing to hide - but the machines I use contain information on how to access other machines at my workplace. Providing access to the data on those machines, sited in the UK, is considered a breach of the Data Protection Act in the UK as they hold personal information. It's even a bit more serious than that, as I work for schools.

    As such, case law prevents me even revealing those passwords to anyone without just cause or a court order. The penalties apply to ME, not just my employer. There are even cases where even the POTENTIAL to access the data (i.e. giving someone the password, even if they can't use it without being on the right system, etc.) is considered no different to direct and provable access to the data.

    My previous employer prevented staff taking data to France because they have a similar law, but it wasn't anywhere near as serious a threat to our ability to control the data under our protection.

    So, sorry, I can't take any electronic equipment holding that information into the US whatsoever. Others may interpret the situation differently, but I'm afraid the only interpretation that matters to me are the courts', and they have spoken many times on such matters and fined people heavily for doing so. I'm sure I could "get away" with it a billion times if I tried, but that's not how I conduct my professional or personal life.

    As such, I wouldn't even bother to take a computer across the border in America. And given recent revelations, I don't think it wise to just take some hidden / memorised access credentials to the US and then use them when I'm then to - e.g. set up a blank / hired laptop.

    Honestly, this is something I factored in when I was considering emigration many years ago. America pretty much ended up a no-go for me because of the attitude towards foreigners, and their casual approach to data, and their failure to sign many of the same agreements that all EU countries signed up to with regards data usage.

    I wouldn't even bother to go there on holiday again - did it once, but now I wouldn't be able to take my laptop or my smartphone with good conscious as both contain encryption and access credentials that although if law-enforcement NEEDED them, I would provide, I do NOT expect law-enforcement to store it longer than necessary, duplicate it, or fail to provide assurances on the security of that data while it's in their possession. That's all you need to do - not even stop collecting the data, just tell me what you can and won't do with it so that I can take that piece of paper to a court (if it ever comes up) and say "Look, here's the assurance I was given when requested to hand over data by law enforcement - not my fault the data got into the wild" - even then, the case law says I'll still get fined but I think I have more of a chance of having the case swing my way under "reasonable efforts" to protect that data.

    When you take my phone and laptop away, that cripples my ability to store my documentation (even my flight tickets), research my destinations, book hotels, navigate to places, etc. and I see it as unnecessary. So, basically, even as a place for a quick holiday, it's out of bounds.

    And although the places I work for aren't the poorest, they aren't the richest either - so faffing about with blanked laptops is just too much shit to put up with.

    Sorry, US. When you treat me like a prisoner, or an alien, with zero human rights, I don't want to be near you - like the bully in the playground. Have fun playing on your own.

    All for the sake of a proper receipt, with some assurances that you won't just splurge my (and my employer's) private data onto the net the second I walk out the door...

  • by EmagGeek (574360) <gterich.aol@com> on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @11:23AM (#45836917) Journal

    Sad, isn't it? We live under far worse tyranny today than we did under King George III.

    • It's all relative. Remember that the American colonists under George III were also involved in genocidal land grabs against the Native Americans. They had little moral high ground to call on, _without_ calling on the god-given rights of kings and governments and "civilized people" to support their behavior.

      It's also unclear, this far away, how much of George III's tyranny was "George", how much was his madness in his later life, and how much was the massive and necessary bureaucracy to run such a broad, g

  • by couchslug (175151) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @11:30AM (#45836967)

    I don't take notebooks I care much about when travelling so I've no concern if they get banged about or stolen. It's so easy to wipe and reinstall before travel that one should do that if you don't want your goat porn viewed by the Stasi.
    I'm not worried about Uncle Sugar reading anything I have because I don't do anything interesting to the State and if I did I'm not stupid enough to want to use a computer for it. AT ALL.
    If for some reason I had to carry vital legal-but-proprietary commercial information it takes little effort (well, on Thinkpads anyway) to stash a MicroSD card temporarily glued under the label of a WLAN card or a section of heatsink. Don't bring a screwdriver with you as they are cheap at chain stores.

  • ...or does this include the fairly common mandatory checkpoints operated by the Border Patrol inside the border and fairly common in the Southwest?

    I driven through several of the latter without more than a couple of minor questions but I always hate being forced to stop like this.

    I have a friend in Bisbee, Arizona and you literally can't drive into greater Arizona from Bisbee without stopping at one in either Sierra Vista or Tombstone but I haven't heard any stories from him about searches or more intensive

  • Dysfunctional? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by malvcr (2932649) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @11:50AM (#45837095)
    In a comment for another thread, I described US practices to be similar to North Korea and Iran ones.

    It is a shame, because I know a lot of US citizen and they are wonderful people, but each day I hear things that make my suspicion to be real. Just see the facts.

    1) In many US based online places, when you are not an US citizen having an US legal address, you can't purchase anything using a valid international credit card.
    2) If you try to store any type of data in US servers, the US authorities can, legally, ask for the information you stored there. Take into consideration that even the US citizen are involved in this "natural" seizing of data, because what is "third party" generated data in the modern information world?
    3) If you try to enter the United States with any type of computing device, the authorities have the right to seize it and you need to provide them with passwords, and they can copy your data and to do whatever they like with it.

    As they already have legal rights to do whatever they like with your digital data, the next step is to confiscate your paper notebooks. Because they could have any type of security related information. If you carry "YOUR" written poems, then they will ask you to give them the clue to acquire the hidden data, because for them it is clear that you are the enemy and that nobody enter the United States with good intentions. Why then they don't close all the airports, harbours, etc.?

    I live in Costa Rica. Our laws are very different than the US laws. In the wikileaks data about the relationship between US and Costa Rica, something was said about that Costa Rica had a "dysfunctional" government, because here everything needs to pass through a very lengthly legal process. But now I understand what dysfunctional really means.

    Dysfunctional means that they can't pass on top of their citizen minds without asking for permission. So, the authorities have the right to do whatever they like to do, without any type of control and then they are functional authorities. But when you keep their hands out of the personal privacy, you are the bad guy.

    What a shame ...
  • ... but it's Congress that needs fixing first.
  • by ridgecritter (934252) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @12:12PM (#45837225)

    If my laptop or other device is seized at the border (and not returned), do I get to claim this as a casualty loss during the tax year? What about any machine-locked software on the laptop that I would have to repurchase? If my e-device is returned and acts funny, can I deduct the cost of a forensic exam to look for dropped-in malware? Gotta be a way to monetize this idiocy in my favor.

  • by WOOFYGOOFY (1334993) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @01:14PM (#45837551)

    Well here's at least one reason this is happening. Essentially when confronted with a question of the form "should we permit X to do Y upon Z in order to keep us safe ?" the individual answering that question effectively considers whether or not they'll ever be Z. No federal judge is ever going to be stopped at an airport . No federal judge is ever going to have his laptop searched at the border. In fact none of the rulings federal judges make will ever apply to them personally or anyone with the power to pick up a phone and call that judge to complain that X is about to do Y to them.

    Essentially the way judges hear the proposition is: "would you like us to increase security for you, sir?" They know if for some ungodly oversight they were ever actually asked to turn over their laptop to a customs agent, one phone call and it all goes away before the agent can boot their Windows 8 (this is who's buying that dog btw ) installation and that agent would soon be manning the un-airconditioned , 3x5 border booth in 105 degree heat watching over some dirt road in Tumbleweed Town, Texas.

    So get real. You're asking people To Whom Nothing Adverse Is Permitted To Happen if they would like ditch the Constitution within 100 miles of any border so that he and his can feel in some nighty-night, all-tucked-in way "safer".

    I am sure the nation's judicial benches are deep with such people. I am sure that people capable of considering the effects of their decisions on a nation and on its people are few and far between. Last week's judge was citing as supporting evidence the 9-11 commission report even though the 9-11 commission report said, substantively, exactly the opposite of what he claimed in his judgement it said.

    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20131230/11062925713/judge-who-ruled-favor-nsa-relied-911-report-that-doesnt-even-mention-what-he-claims-it-does.shtml [techdirt.com]

    This is what is populating our benches. How bad is it? We're about to find out. .

  • by hacker (14635) <hacker@gnu-designs.com> on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @01:28PM (#45837665)

    If you find that your residence, automobile, or other personal effects have been entered/searched without your consent or direct knowledge, and everything "looks intact", consider that they didn't come to take something away, but to put something in.

    Once your personal effects, especially high-capacity electronics like smartphones and laptops, are out of your direct control, in some other room for hours at a time while you're in a holding cell, you can no longer trust them.

    If they can get access to the physical hardware, they can install malware, rootkits, key loggers, replace the network card with one that is known-trojaned, manipulate your certificates, trusts, replace firmware on your devices and anything else they want.

    No, once you get your gear back, immediately wipe it. Do not log into it, not even once, and just sell it on eBay or Craigslist.

    You can't trust it, so dump it as soon as you can.

"If I do not want others to quote me, I do not speak." -- Phil Wayne

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