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Bill To Add Accountability To Border Laptop Search 495

I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property writes "Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) has introduced a bill that would add accountability to the DHS searches conducted upon the laptops of those crossing the border. Specifically, it would require the issue of receipts to those who had their property confiscated so that it could later be returned, would limit how long the DHS can keep laptops, would require them to keep the laptop's information secure, and would create a way to complain about abuse. Finally, the DHS would be required to keep track of how many searches were done and report the details to Congress. Rep. Sanchez also has also issued a statement about the proposed bill."
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Bill To Add Accountability To Border Laptop Search

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  • by TheSpoom ( 715771 ) * <slashdot@nOSPaM.uberm00.net> on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @08:38AM (#25037213) Homepage Journal

    Yep, it doesn't even mention the word "citizens". The bill itself is quite short and makes a lot of sense.

    Take a look: HR 6869: Border Search Accountability Act of 2008 [loc.gov]

  • by superid ( 46543 ) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @08:44AM (#25037273) Homepage

    Why do you assume you have this right? Seriously, this isn't trolling. It's well founded that even US citizens may legally be searched when entering the US.

    Reference: Border Search Exception [wikipedia.org]

  • by martyb ( 196687 ) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @08:46AM (#25037295)

    I found a link on Thomas [loc.gov] for the actual bill: Border Security Search Accountability Act of 2008 (Introduced in House) [loc.gov]. Haven't had a chance to read it yet, but hopefully it can clear up questions as to whether it applies only to U.S. Citizens, or to *anyone* who is crossing the border.

    BTW: This is the PROPOSED text of the bill. It's by no means a law, yet, and is certainly subject to amendment before/if it ever it gets voted on.

  • Re:no (Score:5, Informative)

    by Killjoy_NL ( 719667 ) <slashdot&remco,palli,nl> on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @08:53AM (#25037359)

    I wanted to go the US many years ago, visit New Orleans (pre-Katrina) and soak up the local culture.

    Ever since people have been treated like criminals upon entering the country I decided I would never go to the US, not even if my job demanded it.

    It's a shame though.

  • by Ihlosi ( 895663 ) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @08:58AM (#25037413)
    As a non-USian, I might be clueless, but wouldn't it be easier for congress to simply stop said department (an extension of the US government) snooping people's data?

    It's not specific for the US - making laws is usually easier than getting rid of them. So, if there's a way to make something that's allowed by law, but which you don't like impractical by saddling it with extra laws, that's usually preferred to repealing the law which allows it in the first place.

    will make a plane fall out of the sky or crash into a building.

    Since any of these searches are done by _customs_, it doesn't matter what or what not the data on the laptop might do to the plane. It has already landed.

  • by Ihlosi ( 895663 ) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @09:06AM (#25037539)
    When votes are anonymous, you have to admit it isn't exactly very hard to fake elections.

    Err ... no? If you've got a proper audit trail, it's hard to fake elections, anonymous or not. It's the audit trail that makes elections hard to fake, not the absence of anonymity.

    I don't see why voting should be an anonymous thing.

    In that case, you've probably never been the victim of death threats (or more), vandalism, discrimination or being sent to the nearest re-education facility for how you voted in the last 30 years? Oh ... right. You don't vote. So none of that is a problem for you.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @09:14AM (#25037631)

    This is all fine and good but in the bill it says this in section 2 sub section b paragraph 3:

    "A determination of the number of days that an electronic device subjected to a border security search or the information collected from such device may be retained, unless probable cause exists, that prohibits retention exceeding the period necessary to translate, decrypt, or reasonably search such device or information and that requires such information to be destroyed if in the custody of an authorized agent after such number of days."

    So it still sounds like they can keep your stuff pretty much indefinitely if you use encryption.

  • by Beezlebub33 ( 1220368 ) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @09:24AM (#25037751)

    And importantly, it's not a law until it either gets signed by the president or a veto gets overridden. Because of the current president, anything beyond the most basic of protections would get vetoed and the republicans in congress would prevent an override.

    So, a law to keep the department from doing this would not happen. Sanchez is at least moving it in the right direction. I don't have a lot of hope of this getting enacted before the next president is sworn in though.

  • Re:no (Score:3, Informative)

    by Talderas ( 1212466 ) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @09:27AM (#25037775)

    You too can be a border security agent too!

    Just pass a rigorous job placement exam, "Yup, this one's breathing," and you're on your way to joining the elite border security agent corp!

  • Re:Woohoo (Score:4, Informative)

    by mdmkolbe ( 944892 ) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @09:54AM (#25038149)

    How can a bill be amended to address several unrelated things,

    Think of a bill like a patch to source code. There is no way for the version control software to require that patches add only one feature. To enforce such a rule, you have to have peer review and a strong cultural commitment to that rule. Basically it has to be implemented as a soft rule rather than a hard rule.

    Now US politicians all seem to think the end justifies the means. And usually the ends are very greedy ends (i.e. get reelected anyway possible). With that sort of attitude commitment to any sort of soft rule quickly goes out that window. Now tacking on these sorts of things makes it easier to get them passed (people who like the bill enough will pass it anyway) and makes it easier to get the bill passed (add a pork barrel project for a senator and now he'll vote for the bill). If *ahem* breaking *cough* ... I mean stretching ... the rule helps you or your allies get ahead and ends justify means, then of course you'll do it. On top of that because it's not a hard rule no one can concretely say you've broken any rules and it never gets punished.

    It is bad but unfortunately quite common to see bills made up of a collection of unrelated compromises in order to get enough people to vote for it. What baffles me is that you say it doesn't happen in Europe (or at least not as much). Please, what is your secret to pulling that off?

  • Re:Woohoo (Score:4, Informative)

    by db32 ( 862117 ) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @09:55AM (#25038163) Journal
    It is actually pretty simple. Party A proposes "We must do X" but opposes doing Y. Party B says "Well, we will only let you do X if you let us do Y". So then a bill that was meant to address a specific issue gets a ton of compromise crap added into it, which is frequently unrelated, but it is all just bargaining chips to try and get the original bill passed by both sides. Now, of course, a great deal of those bargaining chips come down to various congress critters come down to "well if you tack on 10 million for my pet project I will vote yes" and then multiply that out by however many votes are needed to pass the stupid thing.

    The other frequent occurance is a bill that has no chance of failing. "Let us vote to declare Cancer a bad thing and that we should research ways to fight it!" well of course everyone is going to vote yes, so all those little congress critters start tacking on a bunch of crap knowing that they can add a ton of garbage before a bill like that has a chance of failure.

    The biggest problem is the naming of bills. PATRIOT ACT for example. You can't vote against it, if you vote against it you are not a patriot and you support terrorists. Or the Child Online Protection Act...can't vote against it unless you support pedophiles. Doesn't matter how aweful the language in the bill is, the name is what people here and form their own warped ideas of what the bill ACTUALLY does.

    Ultimately, this was the reason "line item veto" was proposed. Normally the President has to shoot down the whole bill or pass the whole thing. He wanted line item veto to "stop the pork and unrelated stuff" so he could veto out parts of the bill and leave the rest. Now, the reality is, for someone who has been paying attention, he has been using signing statements like they are line item vetos (or attempting to). A signing statement is just a note about "this is how I interpret the bill, and as long as it is interpreted this way I pass it". So...the real goal was to once again expand executive power so that he could line item veto out oversight clauses and the like. So he could basically rewrite any law AFTER it had passed out of congress and then sign it into effect.
  • Re:US Citizens only (Score:2, Informative)

    by Khisanth Magus ( 1090101 ) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @10:21AM (#25038571)
    I know Japan is pretty much the opposite!
    Foreigners have pretty much all the basic rights as citizens, and the people there will generally bend over backwards to help you(searching the entire building for someone who speaks English, etc).
  • Re:Yes you are (Score:3, Informative)

    by d3ac0n ( 715594 ) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @10:25AM (#25038649)

    No, it isn't. YOU are wrong, he is correct.

    While the United States of America is located WITHIN the continent of North America, (which it gets it's name from) the PROPER term for people from the U.S.A. is "Americans". It is the short form of "Citizens of the United States of America". People from Canada (also part of North America) would take exception to being called "Americans". Not because they necessarily dislike America or because they think Canada is on a different continent, but because it is INCORRECT. Citizens of the Sovereign Nation of Canada are called "Canadians".

    Also, Mexico is part of the continent of Central America. These people would ALSO take exception to being called Americans, they are "Mexicans". In case you cared, We also have "Colombians", "Peruvians", "Brazilians", "Argentinians", and many others, NONE of which think they should be referred to as "Americans". That appellation belongs solely to citizens of the United States of America.

    Intentionally using incorrect terminology in an attempt to lessen the prestige of a country by removing the continent name from which the country name is derived is INSULTING and a rather juvenile attempt at belittling citizens of that country. It makes you look petty, small, and stupid.

  • Re:US Citizens only (Score:3, Informative)

    by Rob the Bold ( 788862 ) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @10:41AM (#25038897)

    Just to be clear: I'm not pissing on USians here.

    Please don't use that term. Even those of us who agree with you don't like it. It reminds me a president who says "democrat party" instead of "democratic party" because he knows it annoys them. Granted, it's a rather minor annoyance compared to what we feel when we see what the rednecks and fundamentalists have turned our country into. Everyone will still know if you are referring to America (the USA) and America (the two continents) from your context. I know we've got to fix this place ourselves, but we'd like to feel that there's someone rooting for us.

  • Re:US Citizens only (Score:3, Informative)

    by morcego ( 260031 ) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @01:16PM (#25041317)

    It is interesting what you can come up with when you start researching. Since I have no particular stakes on this subject, from the start it didn't matter to me if I were right or wrong. My only stake on this was the fact the USA education system is seriously lacking on regarding geography, but that would be preaching to the choir here.

    As I said in another post, there are some source that mention Central America as a separated continent, including one of my high school books, which I just confirmed by calling an old teacher of mine. After talking to said teacher, and doing a little bit more research based on what he said, the one thing I can say for sure is this: what a mess.

    - In purely geographical terms, Central America is not separated from North America. Thus, it is incorrect to say, as I previously stated, that Central America is a continent. A continent is a purely geographical definition. I stand corrected on this one. (Please keep reading)

    - In a geopolitical definition, Central America IS indeed separated from North America. Thus, Central America is a separated region. There are no "geopolitical" continents.

    However, according to my teacher, based on those concepts, it would be correct to say that Europe and Asia are separated continents. In purely geographical terms, both should be considered a single continent (Eurasian Continent). The reason North and South americas can be considered separated is due to an Isthmus (he didn't mentioned which one, and that would take more research I'm willing to do). So, in the sense that the separation of Europe and Asia is geopolitical, Central America could also be considered a separated continent, which sparkled controversy for a long time (and still does, as we can see here).

    Officially, there are 7 continents:

    1) Australia (Oceania)
    2) Antarctica
    3) Asia
    4) Europe
    5) Africa
    6) North America
    7) South America

    However, there are several controversies regarding where which country stands, specially Mexico. The United Nations geoscheme includes Mexico in Central America. The European Union,whoever, excludes both Mexico from the area. Geopolitically, Mexico is frequently not considered part of Central America.

    Another geopolitical definition would have Northern America (Mexico and whatever is to the north, including USA, Canada, Greenland and Bermuda), and Middle America (Mexico plus the rest of Central America). I've also hard the designation "British America" encompassing USA and Canada. I suppose that makes sense if you also use "Latin America" as a definition.

    Some other sources mention there North, Central and South Americas are just regions of a single continent. However, as far as I could research, none of these sources are official in any capacity. It is how they teach it in some schools, tho. I can't confirm this, but I would think those same schools say Eurasia is a single continent (thus reducing the number of continents to 5). There is at least 1 other post here that says there is only 1 America continent.

    I have to say that, personally, I like the British/Latin America definitions. They make sense geopolitically. However, on that same note, Belize would have to be included in "British America". Oddly enough, it is still included in "Latin America", as far as I know (no research on this one, so if anyone could clarify, it would be appreciated).

    This was a very interesting "fun" time. Research is always interesting, even if it leave you with a headache at the end. What a mess.

  • Re:US Citizens only (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @01:19PM (#25041397)

    I'm sure there are unavoidable or expensive ways to route around USA, for example I went from Australia to Canada that required a stopover from Hawaii. It was a simple refuelling procedure but we still had to identify ourselves with a passport and get stamped through customs. There were several signs warning against joking around and that everyone who works here is serious. Upon custom's typical huge queue of sorting hundreds of people through 4 people (Cost > Passenger standing convenience), I was greatly amused by the eerie loop of TVs showing department of homeland defence guy repeatedly stating that the identification is for the security of the nation and world. Reminded me of Half Life 2 among many other cultural sayings that lead or currently leading to totalitarian regimes. Then I had to be fingerprinted by an electronic device similar to a touchpad (I initially thought I would get smudged), I wanted to kick a fuss by refusing (No where did I pay for airfares did I get warned about fingerprinting although I read about it happening) but I did not want to be tasered. If you know any polite way for refusing, short of grabbing a weapon, I didn't see one so I'm in the database.

    If you didn't see the opening point in my post, we got on the same plane again after walking again through the usual clothes-off checks just to get into a different terminal to get on the same plane. I was disgusted that this was a waste of passenger's time and sleep (It's a 26 hour trip) and made me paranoid they were going to confiscate my laptop since they can cite hidden hardware, software or tubes.

    However, upon arrival in Canada, I was greeted by TVs displaying their scenery, happy hikers, culture and to let us know we are very welcome in the country. Customs involved no fingerprinting, just world standard passport ID.

    The reverse happened on the way back. I didn't need to be fingerprinted the second time.

    US airway policies are very strange and irrational yet hostile to foreigners.

  • Re:Yes you are (Score:3, Informative)

    by Smurf ( 7981 ) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @03:41PM (#25043793)

    Wow, you've got SEVERAL facts wrong there:

    • Central America is not really a continent.
    • Mexico is NOT part of the region known as Central America [wikipedia.org].
    • Everyone in Mexico and all the way South to Chile and Argentina do consider themselves Americans (not sure about Canadians). They have separate demonyms for those born in the USA, (not all of them expletives), and use them consistently. In fact, some of them feel offended by the way the USA tries to hijack the terms America and American.
    • From the New Oxford American (oh, the irony) Dictionary:

    America (also the Americas)

    a landmass in the western hemisphere that consists of the continents of North and South America joined by the Isthmus of Panama. The continent was originally inhabited by American Indians and Inuits. The northeast coastline of North America was visited by Norse seamen in the 8th or 9th century, but for the modern world the continent was first reached by Christopher Columbus in 1492.

    - used as a name for the United States.

    Note that America meaning the USA is the last definition. Merriam-Webster [merriam-webster.com] agrees with Oxford.

    • Again, from NOA Dictionary:

    American noun

    1 a native or citizen of the United States.

    - a native or inhabitant of any of the countries of North, South, or Central America.

    2 the English language as it is used in the United States; American English.

    Thus, using the term American when referring to the other people in the landmass also known as America is perfectly correct. Merriam-Webster [merriam-webster.com] actually places "citizen of the United States" as the third entry.

    Intentionally using incorrect terminology in an attempt to lessen the prestige of a landmass by hijacking the name is INSULTING and a rather juvenile attempt at belittling the test of the inhabitants of that landmass. It makes you look petty, small, and stupid.

    Furthermore, not even making the effort of consulting a dictionary (or even Wikipedia) before making evident the flaws in your education makes you look ignorant and pathetic.

"So why don't you make like a tree, and get outta here." -- Biff in "Back to the Future"